§ Order for Committee read.
§ SIR JOHN TRELAWNY moved that the House do resolve itself into a Committee on this Bill.1420
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
said, that although he had;' given notice of an Amendment that the House do go into Committee that day Six Months, it was not his intention to trouble the, House by asking it to divide. He wished, however, to make one or two observations, particularly with reference to a letter which appeared during the last recess in The Times newspaper on the subject of church-rates, and proceeding from the pen of the hon. Baronet who had charge of this Bill (Sir J. Trelawny). In that letter the hon. Baronet called special attention to the evidence given by Dr. Lushington before the Committee which sat in 1851, adding that every one who desired to understand the church-rate question should study that learned Judge's evidence. Now, it was remarkable that the testimony adduced by Dr. Lushington on the occasion in question had no relation to the abolition of church rates, but rather to the adoption of a more simple and stringent mode of enforcing their collection, the learned Judge being in favour of allowing the same remedies for the enforcement of church rates when duly made as existed in the case of poor-rates. There was another point to which he wished to refer. When the hon. Baronet brought this subject forward in 1849 he avowed his anxiety for the stability of the Church of England. Since then, however, he appeared to have been urged on by persons out of doors who were not so friendly to the Church; and, indeed, instead of this Bill being the Bill of the hon. Baronet, it originated with Dr. Poster and the Parliamentary Committee of the "Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Control," who seemed to regard the hon. Baronet and other Members of that House merely as their instruments in passing it, for when he was asked, whether he considered the Bill which the hon. Member had brought forward in that House as the measure of that society, replied that "as far as outside action was concerned that was a fair representation of the case." Mr. Samuel Morley, another witness who had been examined before the Lords' Committee, and who was also a member of the Society for the Liberation of Religion from State control, expressed his belief that it would be advisable to proceed with great caution in that question of the abolition of church rates, and that any change in that matter 1421 would require mature thought and possibly some delay. The summary mode in which the hon. Baronet was now dealing with the question did not very well harmonize with the caution suggested by Mr. Morley, for he would immediately and totally abolish a system which had been established in this country for ages. The hon. Gentleman, however, had last year gained two important converts to his doctrine, namely, the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The latter noble Lord had given the House to understand that he had not changed his own views upon that subject, but that he had found it necessary to yield to the current of public opinion. Now he (Mr. Packe) had the highest respect for public opinion upon all matters which came within the legitimate range of its influence; but this was a religious question, and he maintained that those large towns from which the petitions that had been presented in favour of that Bill had almost exclusively emanated, were not the proper judges to decide a point of that description. He found that in the borough of Southwark three-fourths of the population attended no place of public worship, that three-fifths of the population of the borough of Oldham were in the same position, and that one-half of the inhabitants of thirty-four large towns might in the same way be held to have no religion whatever. But it surely could not be maintained that such people had a right to guide the national legislation upon a question of a religious character.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Sir, I rise for the purpose of moving the same Amendment which I moved upon this subject last year.
§ SIR JOHN TRELAWNY
rose to order, and wished to know whether he was not at liberty to make some observations in reply to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I regret that it is not now in my power to act with more courtesy towards the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock, from whom I have ever received the utmost courtesy. I assure him that I am about to take precisely the same course as that which I pursued last year, and that the very words of my Amendment are taken from the 1422 Journals of the House. Sir, it is impossible for me to agree to a Bill the object of which is totally to abolish church rates without proposing the slightest compensation, and such is the character of the Bill now before the House. The course which I am now pursuing is that which was supported last year by 100 Members, and which from a very extensive correspondence I find not only meets the approval of a great body of Churchmen who earnestly desire to see this question settled, but also the approval of large bodies of persons who entertain conscientious scruples against the payment of church rates as a personal tax, but who do not wish to see the Church of England deprived of some £300,000 a year, which is now appropriated to the maintenance of the fabrics of parish churches. I do nothing to violate the principle of the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock. So far as the abolition of church rates I accept the decision of the House that church rates shall be totally abolished. I am indeed obliged to conform to the forms of the House in framing my Motion, but I assure the hon. Baronet that with the exception of changing one or two words that may be necessary, if the House gives me leave to introduce my proposal, every word of his Bill shall re-appear, and therefore I do not ask the House to reverse the decision it came to on the second reading of the hon. Baronet's Bill; but I act upon this. It is my firm belief that—although the greater part of the Members who formed the majority on that occasion are anxious to remove the grounds of religious scruple which are pleaded against paying church rates as a personal tax, and to relieve Dissenters of the grievance of which they complain — that this large body of hon. Members do not desire to impoverish the Church of England, or to leave the fabrics of that Church throughout the rural districts without the means of support. We have it plainly acknowledged by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London that there is not reasonable grounds for expecting that the fabrics of the Church in rural districts will be adequately supported without church rates or some equivalent provision. I know it has been said of me that I am a man so obstinate that I will concede nothing; I tender this Amendment as a proof that I am willing to make wide concessions, and that I do respect religious scruples. I am asking 1423 peace for the Church of England; but not peace accompanied by what I consider robbery—namely, the transfer of £300,000 a year—for that is about the amount, although the imperfect returns before the House make it £262,000—I object, I say, to £300,000 a year being taken from the Church of England, and made a present of to the owners of real property. There is no claim in justice for such a proceeding, and I am quite sure that this is a circumstance, incident to the Bill of the hon. Baronet which he himself cannot approve. I see plainly enough that many Dissenters will never be satisfied with church rates, because they are in the form of a personal tax. They say "We think it wrong personally to contribute towards a religion to which our conscientious feelings are opposed." I may think them wrong, but I am willing to make a concession to their religious scruples, and to accept as a principle that all personal payments of church rate shall be abolished. But I do not stop there in my concession; for where during a considerable number of years real property has been exempted from this charge, as in Birmingham and other large towns, I accept the exemption of that property, assanctioned by prescription. But I affirm that, with respect to other real property, it would be an act of downright spoliation and robbery to take from the Church, to take from the poor, to take from the community, £300,000 a year, and wantonly make it a present to the owners of real property—who have never enjoyed it, and to whom it never belonged. I respect religious scruples, and would render the charge no longer personal, but I do deny the right of any man to exempt his property from this charge simply because he himself does not approve of it; for "No man brought anything into this world and no man can take anything out of this world," I cannot therefore see the justice of allowing any man to exempt in perpetuity property which he can hold only for his life from a charge to which it has always been subjected. I know it has been disputed whether church rate is a charge upon property, and last year I quoted the authority of Sir Robert Peel, and various other authorities, to prove that it has always been so accepted. In the evidence given before the Lords' Committee I find that fact stated by perhaps the highest authority now existing, and it was stated in terms so explicit, that I will lay them before the House. Mr. Coode, who 1424 was a well-known public officer of the Poor Law Board from the time of its appointment in 1834 to 1848, and is one of the highest authorities, especially on subjects connected with property and rating, made this statement before the Committee of the House of Lords. He said that he had devised the Irish Poor Law Amendment Act, under which property in Ireland is charged with half the amount of the rate, whilst the other half the rate is charged upon the occupier, and that many owners had told him subsequently that they wished that the whole charge had been laid upon them. But the point to which I wish to call particular attention is as to whether this rate is a charge upon property or not. The Chairman asks—Is it the case that the incidents of the rate, though they primarily fall upon the occupier, invariably rest upon the owner in the long run?His answer is:—Invariably. It is not by a mere consequence —it is by an arrangement that anticipates all payment of rent whatsoever. No rent is ever set but upon the consideration of all the outgoings that the tenant will have to pay or provide for. No tenant yet, in his senses, ever made an agreement for rent who did not consider, before the figure at which the rent was set was fixed, all these outgoings; amongst those, and some of the most conspicuous, and the most easily calculated of all, are the rates and taxes which the tenant will have to pay. I do not know whether the Committee have had before them the evidence on this subject, but it is very accessible—namely, in the practical experience of every surveyor and of every house-agent and land-agent, who would tell your Lordships that he never, in the whole course of his business, attempted to agree to or set a rent without first considering all the rates which the tenant would have to pay, and deducting these from the estimate of the natural or gross rent that the property was worth. It is not a question whether the incidence of such rates upon the rent is a mere consequence that may attach to it, or may be avoided; it is an inevitable result anticipated and provided for beforehand, and inextricably involved in the very fixing of the terms of the tenancy. The landlord may very well, by default of the tenant, not have his rent at all, but he is quite sure that he will pay the rate, whether he receives the rent or not; and any merely legal device you may adopt for fixing the rate on the tenant must inevitably fail, for the more stringently you fix the occupier the more certainly will you fix him with that outgoing which would become a necessary deduction from the rent be would otherwise pay. I have seen in the last discussion which has taken-place upon this subject in the House of Commons, an argument about the legal incidence of the rate, in which it is alleged that such and such an authority has said that the church rate charges the land, and that such another authority has said that it has not charged the land. That is merely a question as to the verbal terms in which the law may be made; it is merely as to whether the law compels the occupier, in the first instance, to pay 1425 the rate to the collector or not; a mere question of the terms in which an Act of Parliament or I legal precedents maybe conceived. But wherever the occupier of land or house is made liable as such to any rate, there can never be a question as to the eventual economical operation of that legal liability. You may make a rate upon the occupier or upon the owner, or say that it shall be on land and tenements; but you cannot, by any device, avoid this certain effect —that if the subject in respect of which the assessment is to be made is the subject of occupation, nobody will come into occupation as a payer of rent without taking that obligation into his calculation as an outgoing, and having the rent reduced accordingly. I feel surprised at this time of day to see a discussion which turns only upon the mere words of legal precedents, and not upon the real, practical, and economical operation of any such imposition as all the local taxes are, church rates amongst the number.That is the opinion of a person perhaps more competent than any man living to solve this question as to the incidence of church rates, and he confirms the opinion of Sir Robert Peel, and the experience of every practical man who has to deal with property, when he asserts that church rate is a charge on land. It is, in fact, anterior to rent, for no property is of any value until it is occupied; and, therefore, any charge upon its occupancy must necessarily involve a share of the value, a proposition which I was surprised to hear disputed in this House, trust the House will excuse me for having detained it for a few moments while I point out what is the true incidence of this tax. Now, I beg the House to observe that I do nothing which violates the recommendations of the Committee of the House of Lords. The recommendations of that Committee are that any one who chooses to claim at the commencement of the year exemption from church rates by sending a communication to that effect to the vestry shall be exempt. I go beyond that, for I propose that where for a considerable number of years property has been exempted from this charge, that exemption shall be accepted as sanctioned by prescription, and shall continue. Then there are recommendations defining the purposes to which this rate shall be applicable. I accept them all. I find a proposal upon the 8th Resolution which goes directly to recommend that the principle of assessing the owner instead of the occupier to the church rate is well deserving the serious consideration of Parliament in any future legislation on this subject. I act upon that principle in the substitute for church rates which I propose. For I propose to 1426 give the whole class of occupiers the same power of exempting themselves one and all from all liability for the purposes of church rates which they possess, of exempting themselves from the charge of the property tax under schedule A of the Property and Income Tax Act. I propose to acknowledge the charge for the purposes for church rate, as what it really is—namely, a charge upon property. I propose to enforce the natural incidence of the rate by making a charge upon property in lieu of it. As a landowner and a Member of this House I repudiate the idea of accepting any portion of this £300,000, which never belonged to me, to which I have no right, and the transferring of which to me would, I humbly conceive, be an actual robbery of the Church. That, Sir, is my strong feeling, and I am prepared, if the House should think fit to allow me, to lay my proposals on the table, to introduce the substance of a Bill which I have for some years considered, which I have submitted to several persons most competent to give advice on this subject, and in favour of which I have their ready concurrence and approval. I put it to the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock, that he cannot hope that a Bill involving the spoliation of 85 per cent of the parishes of this country will ever receive the sanction of the House of Lords, especially after the careful investigation they have made, and after the circumstances which have come to their knowledge illustrative of the extent of the spiritual destitution which prevails in the metropolis and elsewhere. They never will sanction the privation of the Church of England of those means which are essentially necessary for the extension of her services. But if the hon. Baronet chooses to avoid the effect of his Bill to which I have alluded, which is a consequence entailed by, but not a principle necessarily involved in his Bill—I mean the spoliation of the church to the extent of £300,000 a year—then I believe that his Bill will meet a fair consideration in the House of Lords, and I am not without hope that it will promote that which I am willing to believe is his sincere object, an amicable settlement of this question, and the ensuring of peace throughout the parishes of the country for the future. I know not what the hon. Baronet will do. He voted against me before, and perhaps he will do so again to-day but by so doing, he will affirm the prin- 1427 ciple that not satisfied by any concession which can be made to religious scruples, he is determined to deprive the Church, the poor, and the religious community of £300,000 a year. I wish to simplify this question and present it to the landowners of the country in its true bearing. I can have no hopes of conciliating the hon. Member for Birmingham and others, who avowedly desire the destruction of the Church of England as a national establishment; but I address myself to those who feel no hostility to the Church as an establishment, who appreciate at its true value, and would preserve our parochial system, which maintains in each parish a clergyman responsible for his conduct (in the great majority of cases a worthy example to all other classes), as a guarantee for social order and thns affords one of the best securities for freedom. I repeat that the parochial organization of the Church of England is one of the best if not the best security for English freedom; because that member of the Church of England, be he layman or ecclesiastic, who endeavours to force the conscience of others, violates his creed and disgraces his profession in a manner which, I am happy to say, in the case of the clergy can yet be reached by means more stringent than the action of public opinion. I act upon this belief. I hold, as I ever have done, that the freedom of England grew out of the reformation of her religion; that English freedom never was developed until her religion assumed the form it has done, and that it will never be sacrificed until her religion is corrupted. I will, therefore, join with any man to secure the purity of that religion. I will oppose all attempts on the part of the Church of England to enforce anything like an arbitrary control; but believing that the Church of England is the foundation of the freedom of this country, I consider the "Liberation of Religion Society," miscalled since it would destroy the power and resources of the Church, and under the plea of liberty is organized for the purpose of attacking that institution which is the main security of our freedom I therefore consider this society insincere in its professed objects and totally unworthy of support. I will not now enter into the details of the Amendments I would ask the House for permission to lay before them. I have said they have been carefully prepared. I feel that in abolishing church rates and removing the common 1428 law liability of the inhabitants of every parish to maintain their church, you would in some degree endanger the parochial system of England, that fundamental organization upon which the whole superb structure of our free institutions is raised; therefore I think it necessary to incorporate the clergyman and churchwardens of each parish. One of the churchwardens is always, and both might be made elective for the purpose of receiving the charge I would create on the property of each parish and benefactions whencesoever: I do this, especially with a view to provision for those parishes in which the charge which I contemplate may not be levied. I think some such provision absolutely necessary for the defence of the parochial system, for I felt the full force of the evidence given by Archdeacon Hale, that one of the dangers to be apprehended from the adoption of the Bill in all its nakedness, is the danger to the parochial system which it would entail. I would also, if the House thought fit, establish for the same pupose a correspondence between the parishes and a Committee of the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, a body not exclusively ecclesiastical, but including the mayors of towns, the Lords-lieutenant of counties, the Judges, and Queen's counsel, as well as the Bishops. This is a Board which has admirably administered the fund known as Queen Anne's Bounty for the increase of small livings; and, therefore, I propose that after the new charge has been collected with the county rate, by a purely civil process, that it shall be transferred through the borough treasurer in boroughs, and the county treasurer in counties, to the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, from whom the amount levied in each parish would be recoverable, if needed for the purposes of church rate, by the clergyman and churchwardens of each parish, or, if not needed, would accumulate in the hands of the Bounty Board for the purpose of creating an endowment in liquidation of the charge itself, which would thus be eventually merged. The difficulty of the present state of the law in respect to church rates has arisen, according to the evidence of Mr. Toulmin Smith, from the fact that church rate was originally levied by purely civil process, but the ecclesiastical authority encroached upon the civil, and then the rate became levied by ecclesiastical authority. It is chiefly from this circumstance that the objection to church rates has arisen. I would re- 1429 vert to the old state of the law in substituting the charge I propose for church rates by making the collection of the charge entirely a civil process. It would be collected with the county rate, paid by the county-rate collector to the county or borough treasurer, and until its administration was commenced no ecclesiastical authority should interfere with it any more than they could interfere with the collection of the rate prior to the encroachment of the clergy which has led to such disastrous results. I will not detain the House longer by entering into the details of a scheme which I am seriously desirous to submit to their grave consideration; but I wish to allude to one circumstance which has placed me somewhat in a false position. Last year my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) voted that I might be permitted to lay my Amendments upon the table; but the noble Lord the Member for Northampton-shire (Lord Henley) rose in his place, and condemned me and my scheme in the most unmeasured terms. I recollect he used the expression that the majority would have tie Bill of the hon. Baronet — the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. By an extraordinary blunder in a quarter in which a blunder seldom occurs—namely, in Hansard—the speech of the noble Lord was attributed to my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire, and I was perfectly astonished at finding that it was currently reported that my right hon. Friend condemned my proposal. I thought half the world had gone mad until I discovered the mistake which had been made. That mistake, led to great misapprehension, and I wish to state the position in which I stand. Having long contemplated the means of settling this much-controverted question, I thought I had hit upon a solution of the difficulty. I found a Bill in the hands of the hon. Baronet, and last year I ventured to make my proposal to the House. I was happy to find that proposal well supported, that 100 Members voted for my Motion: and having entered into communication with many persons in various localities, I found that I had generally their goodwill. Therefore, in a speech made in the country, but which was widely circulated, I stated that believing that my proposal had the sanction of high authority I should persevere in my Motion. I do so in no spirit of obstinacy, but every man has a character to hold or to lose as the representative of such a constituency as that 1430 which has for seventeen years returned me to this House—every man has a character to hold or to lose in this House. After having thus pledged myself I should deem it unbecoming of my character to yield on this question, because I am convinced that those who have heard me and those who know me would feel that I was departing from the course in public life to which I have long adhered. The offers of support which I have received from various quarters are alone sufficient to induce me to persevere. I state this because I have been told that this is a proposal which might be placed in better hands than mine. If last year I had been aware that it would have been taken up by abler men, I would have willingly resigned the matter to them. I think that a change has taken place in favour of my proposal since then, still if I am permitted to lay my Amendments on the table of the House I will willingly resign them into the hands of any abler man; but standing in the position in which I do, it is due, in justice to myself, in justice to the cause I advocate, and in justice to those with whom I have entered into communication, that I should take the sense of the House this year, as I did last, on the proposal which I now venture again to lay before the House.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, 'this House will, To-morrow, resolve itself into a Committee, to consider the propriety of establishing in lieu of Church Rates, thenceforth to be abolished, a charge on all hereditaments, in respect of the occupancy of which Church Rates have been paid within the last seven years; such charge to be levied with the County Rate at an uniform rate of poundage, the occupier being in all cases entitled to deduct the amount of the charge levied on his occupation," instead thereof.
§ MR. CROSS,
in seconding the Amendment, said that when it was brought forward last year he looked upon it merely as one of the various plans brought before the House to settle the church-rate question, and as he did not altogether approve of the plan he voted against the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. Since then all hopes of compromising the matter by any concession seemed to be at an end, and he had therefore reconsidered the matter, and on the principle alone that if they abolished church rates they were bound to provide some substitute, he should vote for the Motion. They must take care that in endeavouring to provide a remedy for a grievance they did not create one which 1431 was greater or depart from sound principles. The law of church rates as it existed was simply this—it was the duty of a parish to maintain the parish church; if the parishioners refused to perform that duty they could not compel them to do so; but if they chose to do it, then the majority in any one parish had a right to levy a rate which was binding on the minority. In the first place, they had a tax which was subject entirely to local government; and in his opinion a tax levied by the majority on the minority was perfectly sound in principle and consistent with all true principles of legislation. In the next place it was imposed upon property which had always been liable to it. It was true this was a tax in personam, but it was one imposed for the best of all purposes, namely, the support of religion, and not the religion of one sect only, but religion in its broad sense. In the evidence given before the Lord's Committee, Mr. Bunting, who it must be acknowledged was an unexceptionable witness, was asked this question:—Is not the Church of England sometimes spoken of as the church of the poor?His answer was:—It is certainly the only Church or sect which makes any permanent and general provision for the poor.Mr. Toulmin Smith, also a Dissenter, was asked:—Are you prepared to say that, looking upon the Church as having been in ancient times, and being now the Church of the people, the Dissenters, although they do not conform to the worship of the Church, may be supposed to have an interest in it, ought to be benefited by it?" The reply was—"Most decidedly; in the first place, just to clear the ground, I may say that there are many of the services of the Church, apart from the Sunday service, burial for instance, which we know the Dissenters claim; everybody has an interest in many of the services of the Church, in marriages, baptisms, and burials. But more than this, it seems to me that every person has precisely as much common interest in the Church, although they are Dissenters, as I may have in a highway at the other end of the parish in which I live—it is for the common good of the whole community. It is quite impossible that, under any conceivable state of education, the majority of mankind will be able to go into deep questions of theological doctrine; but it is important to all that there should be a religious feeling throughout society, and it is certainly more for the interest of society that there should be a Church common to all who have no very particularly decided views, than to suppress that Church because every one does not subscribe to some particular dogma; for that is what it comes to. It is said, in effect, if you do not subscribe to any 1432 particular dogma you shall not have any church. Now I may mention that my ancestors have, since the Reformation, been Nonconformists; and I yet say that every man has an interest in there being a Church which is common to the whole of the people, although they may not entertain any particular doctrine one way or the other; that it is better for the common interest that there should be some place in which all have a common right, than that every man should be obliged to tie himself to some particular sect. The Church of England does not oblige people to tie themselves to any particular sect; it is the Church of all.There was therefore no grievance in taxing the whole of the community for the Church, because it was shown that all derived benefit from it. Two particular grievances were alleged. The first was that members of Dissenting denominations were taxed for a Church to which they did not belong; the second, that the collection of church rates created disturbances in every parish. He submitted that the first objection was unjust. At all events, the only persons who could most complain were the Roman Catholics and persons of the Jewish persuasion, neither of which bodies put themselves forward as great opponents of the church rate; while the Wesleyans, the most important body of Dissenters, did not object either to church rates or to the principle of an ecclesiastical establishment. Mr. Bunting was asked—What is the reason why the members of the Methodist connection do not object to church rates, and do not exhibit the same hostility to them as the other dissenting bodies?And he said in answer—I should say, generally, because we should be sorry to injure any great religious agency. I think there is a general feeling that the Church of England is a power of essential importance to the religion of the country, and increasingly so; and we should be very sorry to destroy anything in which we thought there was a blessing.The second objection was not more formidable, because by far the greater number of the parishes in which disturbances had taken place were parishes in which church rates had been refused because they had been applied to improper purposes, or where an agitation had been got up through the instrumentality of the Liberation Society which now sought to take advantage of its own wrong-doing. He should like to see a return of the parishes which objected to church rates of their own motion, and not animated by feelings excited by the agents of a metropolitan association—which sought first to create disturbances in parishes, and afterwards brought the fact of such disturbances 1433 having taken place as a reason why the church-rate system should be abolished. He did not believe that more than 5 or 10 per cent of the parishes refused to have church rates of their own free will; and it was therefore most unjust that, in order to relieve them, the privilege which the other 90 or 95 per cent claimed, and which they had enjoyed for centuries, of supporting the Church through means of church rates should be denied to them. That was not remedying a grievance; it was absolute tyranny. He believed in truth that the object of the agitation was not to protect the conscientious Dissenters in the matter of church rates, but to destroy the Church of England altogether. With respect to the operation of the Liberation Society, he would read to the House an extract from the blue-book, which would at once show what those objects were. Mr. S. Morley, a Nonconformist of the Independent denomination, and a member of the Committee of the Liberation Society, was asked—Is not the principle which guides and actuates Dissenters in these questions—church rates taking a leading part in them, a desire to see the Church establishment placed under the same mode of Government—that is to say, on the same voluntary principle as their own body?His reply was—I quite believe that the concession of this question of church rates would not satisfy the ultimate expectations, or I will say, if you please, the requirements of Dissenters.You have alluded to ultimate objects; would you feel it consistent with your position before the Committee to state what those ultimate objects might be?—I should be sorry to misrepresent those objects, but I can state only my own impression of what they are: I believe that the great object is to separate religion from the slightest connection with the State, to put it in very brief words.Would the Dissenters feel that, church rates being abolished, and so far there being by that abolition a line drawn between the interests of the Dissenter and the interests of the Churchman, the Churchman should be left in the enjoyment of the endowments which have been provided for the sustentation of the Church?—That is a very important Question. That the settlement of the church-rate question would meet the difficulties which Dissenters make I do not believe. I think you would find that the organizations which at present exist would remain so long as there existed any form of interference by legislation with religion.You hardly meet my question as regards cases of property?—I believe that the opinion of Dissenters is, that Church property is national property, and that it would have to be dealt with according to the judgment of the nation.I think you have stated that it is the view of certain Nonconformists that they regard Church 1434 establishments altogether as things which are injurious to religion?—I do believe so.And that ultimately they may hope in the extreme future to find an opportunity of taking the property which is now appropriated to the Establishment and applying it otherwise?—That would certainly be the course of events if they shape themselves as no doubt many sanguine minds are anticipating.Nothing could show the spirit and feeling of that association better than the extract he had read; and he asked the House whether it could approve of such a body or promote its views? It had also been proposed to give the Dissenters the right to be relieved from church rates by claiming a personal exemption. He did not approve that solution of the question. It was unjust to the Church, the object of which was to include within its pale the whole community, and which, by the exemption of Dissenters, would degrade itself into a sect. The adoption of the voluntary system had been suggested as another remedy; but the voluntary system had not answered for Dissenters themselves. To show the operation of the voluntary principle he would once more refer to the evidence of Mr. Bunting, who was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury:—Do you think that the dissenting bodies generally would be sufficient to provide for the maintenance of religion in the rural districts, and in the less populous parts of the country?Mark his answer:—Certainly not; I think that all experience shows that. I may be allowed to believe that the Methodists are doing nearly all they can do in that direction, and do what we can it is impossible for us to provide for the rural populations as the Church of England in the nature of things can do. I should extend that observation also to the largo towns. I think that certain portions of large towns will never be provided for but by a parochial or a district system. Dissent never has done that, and I think there are insuperable difficulties in its way,He was then asked by the Chairman—Will you be good enough to state what you consider those difficulties to be?And he said,—I do not think that voluntaryism will ever provide missionary ministers in sufficient numbers, and at the same time pastors for congregations. "In fact," added the Archbishop, "there would be a want of support?And the reply was—Yes; a want of pecuniary support.Thus he had proved from one of their own authorities that the Church of England had a duty to perform which Dissenters had not. It was proved, by other evi- 1435 deuce taken before this Committee, that not only was the voluntary system insufficient to carry on the work of the Church of England, but that among the Dissenters themselves it led to great difficulty. Now if the voluntary system had not answered for Dissenters it certainly would not answer for the Church. He believed, in short, that the only just and practicable solution of the difficulty was to be found in the nature of the rates themselves. In some parishes, chiefly in large towns, a majority of the inhabitants had refused to levy a rate. But churches in great towns stood on a different footing from churches in the country, because there were generally rich people in great towns who subscribed liberally for the maintenance of the churches, and other means were readily found for maintaining the fabrics. Where the refusal had been persisted in for a certain number of years, no further attempt should be made to impose church rates—a principle which had received the sanction of the Archbishop of Canterbury and of several influential Members of the present Government. Again, when church rates were first established, the whole country was of one religion; but a great change had taken place in that respect, and he saw no reason why an exemption should not be made in favour of those who differed from the Established Church and conscientiously objected to the payment of church rates. He would not treat them as Dissenters, but simply as persons who objected bonâ fide to church rates. The remedy he had just suggested would, he thought, satisfy every reasonable man, unless he wanted to pull down the church altogether. A third improvement might be adopted with advantage. The common law declared that the parish churches were to be opened freely to all; but they were now encumbered with high pews for the rich, while the poor were thrust into holes and corners where they could neither see nor hear. When a poor man was asked why he did not go to church, he replied that there was no place for him; that the rich surrounded themselves with barriers, as if they wished to keep him aloof; and the consequence was that we were now obliged to have special services for the poor. In very many cases these services were instituted, not because the parish church was full, but because, under existing arrangements, the poor would not come there, and, in fact, were not wanted. In a district with which he was acquaint- 1436 ed, the rich inhabitants did not go to the parish church but to newly-erected places of worship, retaining, however, their seats in the parish church. The clergyman very properly ordered the pews to be thrown: open to the poorer frequenters; but the moment the owners of pews heard of this they came to the church, and turned out the persons who occupied their seats, for the purpose of establishing their rights to the pews. This was a state of things which ought not to exist; and the common law right on this subject ought to be distinctly declared. He begged to second the Motion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, not because he agreed with the actual mode of compensation suggested by the hon. Gentleman, but because he felt the church rates ought not to be abolished without at least some compensation.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he was anxious to put a question to the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir John Trelawny), with respect to this Measure. Last Session, when the Church-rate Question was brought forward by the late Government, two things seemed to be taken for granted.—first, that the time had come when, from the frequent discussions the question had undergone, a settlement of it seemed desirable; and secondly, that no settlement was likely to be effected except through the medium of a Government measure. The Government of Lord Derby acted on that principle and introduced a measure which, whether good or bad, was an honest attempt at the settlement of the question. That measure however was defeated by the followers of the present Ministry, and their leaders assisted in the defeat. He asked, therefore, why, when they had come over to that side of the House they had receded from the professions which had been made when they sat on the opposite benches, and why they allowed this question to remain in the hands of a private Member? He wished to ask the hon. Baronet (Sir John Trelawny) whether he had made an appeal to the Government—whether he had reminded them of the futility of every attempt made by private Members to settle the question—and whether he had shown how hopeless it was that he could, at an early period, effect a settlement of the question? If the hon. Baronet had made that appeal and had been unsuccessful, he (Mr. Horsman) thought he stood clear of blame before the House; but if the hon. Baronet had not done so, he (Mr. Horsman) did not think he had quite done his duty 1437 to the House, which had supported him so steadily on this subject. The question of church rate abolition might be regarded as one of principle, of which the settlement was desirable; but there were other par ties who regarded it rather as a political question, or, he might say, as a political clap-trap, which it was desirable to preserve. The earnestness and sincerity of the hon. Baronet were undoubted; but if the question was to be treated as one of principle, the Government ought to take up the subject as one in which the whole Liberal party were implicated; but if it were to be left to be dealt with by private legislation, the country, knowing that in such a case there was no prospect of an early settlement, might very fairly say, "You are not sincere in your endeavours. The question is a very convenient one at the hustings; it draws a distinct line of demarcation between parties; but you thereby degrade it into an instrument for unworthy purposes." He had throughout assisted his hon. Friend in his endeavour to settle the question, feeling that there were no parties so much interested in a settlement as Churchmen themselves. The injury arising to other persons from the existence of church rates was as nothing compared with that inflicted on the Church, which lost a great deal more from the animosities engendered by compulsory rates than was compensated for by any pecuniary gain. As to the argument that Dissenters bought their property with this obligation attached, and could not therefore afterwards complain, he thought it an entire fallacy. Dissenters had no option in the matter. If, indeed, there were two classes of tenements, one liable to, and the other exempt from, church rates; or if there were two quarters of every town, one separated from the other, like the Jews' quarter at Rome, and free from the impost; and if Dissenters, having a choice between the two, voluntarily purchased the property which they knew to be subject to the tax, then, indeed, it might be said they had wilfully incurred an obligation from which they could not afterwards expect to be released. But, as the fact was, they could not build or buy a house without being liable to the rate, it was hardly fair to say that any option was open to them in the matter. He would not, however, enter into any argument upon this exhausted question. He believed the time had come when a settlement of the question ought to be made; 1438 and after the House had given its determination on the subject the proposal for settlement ought to proceed from the executive Government, from whom alone the solution could be hoped. Religious questions between Churchmen and Dissenters ought, if possible, to be avoided. It was obvious that, after the course taken by the Government of Lord Derby last year, only Government could settle the question, and he regretted that his hon. Friend had been permitted to bring forward once more a proposal which, though it had been carried year after year in that House by large majorities, left the question no nearer a settlement than before.
§ SIR JOHN TRELAWNY
said, he had hoped this Bill would have been allowed quietly to go into Committee, but having been so directly appealed to, he must say a few words in reply. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) had asked him whether he had inquired what the Government intended to do on this question. Now, when he (Sir John Trelawny) returned to Parliament in 1857, having been Chairman of a former Committee on this subject, he did ask the Government, and received a distinct intimation that it was their intention to introduce a Bill with respect to church rates. He remembered, too, that that announcement created a great sensation at the time, both in the House and among the public. The Government of that day further said that they would bring in a Bill within a specified time. He waited patiently, but the time expired, and no such measure was forthcoming. Subsequently a deputation, of which he was not a member, went up to the Government on the subject. A Bill was brought in by the Government of Lord Derby; and although that Bill was not one, as he thought, which met the case, that Government were so far entitled to praise, for having at least made an attempt to deal with it. But having studied the question for many years, he saw that that Bill would not settle the question. Indeed, he was convinced that all the measures proposed on the opposite side were, from a Church of England point of view, infinitely worse than his own measure. The scheme proposed now by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was decidedly worse for the Church; since, while that hon. Member stickled for the absolute right of the Church to church rates everywhere, he would exempt all places where church rates had not been paid for 1439 seven years; and in those places he would in effect destroy the theoretical liability of parishes to repair fabrics, which liability he (Sir John Trelawny) left untouched merely abolishing church rates. Although church rates fall, the abstract doctrine of the obligation to repair churches would induce many conscientious persons to subscribe money, who would not be coerced to pay anything by the Ecclesiastical Court. That proposal, with regard to those parishes, was the same in kind with that which had been denounced as a confiscation of Church property, where church rates now existed. Again, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, having taken the tax off the occupiers, who were the persons who profited by the enjoyment of the Church, for which they had to pay, and who had the right of voting for an expenditure beneficial to themselves, then very quietly transferred it to the owners who might be absentees and derive no benefit; forgetting that it was possible that an owner might be a Dissenter also, and might have a conscience and wish for exemption as well as the occupier. What would happen in consequence of this transference? There would be an agitation to get rid of the tax altogether, as there had been a successful agitation to get rid of Ministers' Money in Ireland, and the Annuity Tax in Scotland. If his (Sir John Trelawny's) measure were confiscation the proposal of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was, in fact, a double confiscation. The hon. Gentleman appeared to suppose that the rate was charged upon lands and property, but in disproof of this it was only necessary to mention the fact that in the case of unoccupied property no rate could be levied. Indeed, it had long since been settled that church rates were no charge upon lands. If a county fail to repair a bridge, the county may be indicted. If a parish do not repair a road, the parish may be indicted. If the tithe be unpaid, there is a remedy by distress and even the land may be seized. But church rates are a tax in person and liable to be refused by a majority of parishioners. Also, an executor cannot be sued for church rates—the charge being pro salute animœ, and the executor is not interested. Then the hon. Gentleman proposed to exempt Dissenters; but the measure which he (Sir J. Trelawny) proposed was one which retained the chance of the Dissenters being conciliated, and being willing to contribute towards the support of 1440 the Church as they might perhaps be willing to do in some parishes where— what are called—Low Church doctrines are inculcated. He stood there independently of all parties; he really wished to settle this question, for he was heartily tired of it. He had presented 209 petitions upon it that day, and on an average 60 or 70 petitions each day for some days past; and it took him a whole hour to examine, and write his name on each of these petitions; he therefore wanted to get the question settled. But he could not approve of the various other schemes that had been devised, and he thought they would be treading upon very dangerous ground if those partial exemptions were attempted. If the settlement of this question were resisted, they would be losing the active sympathy of many persons who wished well to the Established Church, and they would lose the voluntary aid which might otherwise be forthcoming. As for the control of the expenditure of those voluntary subscriptions, it was not requisite to provide any complicated machinery. The Bill which he proposed would by no means abolish or supersede the old institution of churchwarden. It would be the churchwarden who must spend all the money he received for the repair and service for the church. Where a vestry meeting had been held, and a church rate had been refused by the majority, persons wishing well to the Church might be deputed to go round and collect subscriptions to the amount of what was wanted, and the churchwardens, having received such money, would be bound by the ecclesiastical law, under severe penalties, to spend it for the repair of the church. Now the best thing to do was to let the Bill go into the House of Lords as soon as possible. If it were still to be exposed to discussion and agitation for some years longer, the Church would suffer much more, for the agitation would extend itself. What had been the result of bringing the question to a settlement with regard to the Church of Ireland? He could remember how, at the time when the Church cess was abolished there, the existence of the Church of Ireland was not worth three years' purchase, and tithe could only be collected at the point of the bayonet; but now, although he would not say that nothing still remained to be done with regard to the Irish Church, we heard no more of those motions for the abolition of it which were so frequent when he commenced his public 1441 life. A great deal had been said about the Church of the people; but he regretted to find it proved that in many instances the poor were actually excluded from the churches, as in the case of Trinity Hulme, mentioned by Archdeacon Rushton in the Lords' Committee on Means of Religious Instruction, where "a poor and devout worshipper" was violently extruded from a church professedly full. For the remedy of this evil it was proposed ten years ago to build about 600 new churches, at a cost of £3,500 each, out of a fund of £2,000,000, to be created partly by sale of Chancery livings and partly by voluntary subscription: and there were said to be 614,000 people in London not supplied with religious accommodation. This plan of church building had been recommended by a Commission ten years since and yet was not carried out. He sympathised with the poor who wanted to go to church, and if nothing were done for them it would be a scandal and a disgrace. He hoped not a moment would be lost in making that phrase, "The Church of the poor," a vital fact, and not a delusion. This question of church rates was one which he earnestly desired to settle. He would give the most earnest attention in Committee to any proposition from either side; and, if he thought it would work better than the provisions of his own Bill, he would readily adopt it.
said, that as a misapprehension existed as to his views, he wished to state that he supported the proposal of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire as he had done last year, although by some mistake the speech which had been made by the noble Lord the Member for Northampton (Lord Henley) against church rates, had been attributed by Hansard to him (Mr. Henley). He must beg entirely to disown the sentiments so imputed to him; but as his votes were upon record, he need not trouble the House with further explanation. As to the proposition involved in the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, the experiment of putting the tithe on the owners instead of on the occupiers of land had been tried in Ireland, and had proved successful there, and all the agitation upon that ground had ceased there. He was prepared, therefore, to assent to the principle of making the church rate a charge on the owners of property instead of on the occupiers.
said, that he regretted that his words on a previous occasion 1442 should have been improperly attributed to the right hon. Gentleman, and he regretted more that the right hon. Gentleman had not been induced to adopt them. He opposed the hon. Member for North Warwickshire on a previous occasion, and he rose to oppose him now, because he did not see how it would be possible, if the owners in a parish were very numerous, and lived in different places, for a rate to be properly levied. It is clearly the business of the occupiers of a parish to make the rate, because they alone know the real wants of the parish. But by the plan of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire it would come to pass that the owners paid the rate, and the occupiers voted and spent it. Such a system would necessarily give rise to dissatisfaction and want of confidence. He understood that the proposal of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was, that a sum should be fixed according to the rate which was charged in the particular parish for seven years.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
No; I beg pardon. I thought that I explained my proposition fully. I propose a charge at the average amount of church rates throughout England; and if the amount raised in any parish should be found to be more than was wanted, that the surplus should be allowed to accumulate, and ultimately form a fund the proceeds of which should be appropriated to the purposes of church rate, so that when the fund became sufficient to create an endowment in lieu of the charge, the charge itself should cease.
At all events, the money voted by the occupiers would be that of the owners. Now, by the operation of the old Poor Law that was shown to be a bad system. He should certainly oppose the proposition of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Newdegate), as well as that which was recommended by the Committee of the House of Lords. By that plan it was proposed that for the future persons desirous of being exempted from the payment of church rates should give notice to the churchwardens of their objections, and that such persons should be exempted from paying the rate, and not be entitled to go to vestry. Now, he thought that such a system, though it seemed fair and easy, would occasion much heartburning in various parishes where the landlord's influence was great and powerful. He knew of many cases in which the landlord possessed the whole of the parish, and where the ratepayers dare 1443 not even sign petitions for the abolition of church rates. He trusted that the total abolition of this obnoxious impost would be speedily decided upon, believing that no measure short of that would give complete satisfaction. The Church was surely able to provide for its own fabrics, as the Dissenters did for theirs. While the Wesleyans had built chapels for two million persons, the Independents for half that number, and the Baptists for three-quarters of a million, while in England and Wales there were 20,000 churches and chapels that were independent and self-sustaining, with numerous congregations, surely the Church of England could support its own fabrics by a voluntary system similar to that of the Dissenters. He should certainly vote against the proposition of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire.
§ MR. PHILIPPS
said, the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock said he was anxious for a settlement of this question. Now, there were many ways of settling a question. A man, for instance, might be considering the kind of furniture, whether oak or mahogany, which he should put into his house, and having at length, as he thought, settled that matter, a fire took place and burned down the whole of his premises, which effectually settled the question in a decidedly opposite sense. He (Mr. Philipps) also was anxious to have the question settled, to have it settled fairly, and to give every reasonable satisfaction to the Dissenters; but he found that the opponents of church rates always found objections to any plan but that of total abolition. No plan proposed seemed to him to be quite unobjectionable, but in the absence of any alternative, save total abolition, he should support the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. Supposing even that churches could, upon the voluntary system, be maintained in repair as at present, there were two things to be considered— whether they could be secure that the subscriptions would be fairly raised from all those who could afford it, in proportion to their means and interest in the parish, and next, how they could secure against waste in the expenditure. In places where the property belonged to absentees, there was always difficulty in obtaining subscriptions; and, as an instance, he might quote his own town, where the great tithes of one of the parishes belonged to a person who lived permanently in America. 1444 Then there was the case of minors. It happened, too, that the world did not consist wholly of conscientious Churchmen and conscientious Dissenters, but there was a vast proportion of persons who did not care for any religious body at all, and he did not wish those persons to be exempted from all payment. In many cases, too, the apparent owners of property were not the real beneficial owners. He felt assured that if church rates were abolished, railway companies, clubs, and other corporate bodies would not be able to subscribe, and thus those sources would be cut off. With regard to the question of economy, he might observe that it was far more easy to raise subscriptions to build a new church or to restore a very old one than it was to procure funds to prevent an existing building from falling into a bad condition. Thus a church would be allowed to get into a worse condition from year to year, until it became ruinous, and then a subscription would be made to expend £500 to restore the building which a timely outlay of £50 might have kept in good repair. He would recommend' the Church to make large concessions to conscientious Dissenters, but when he was asked to do more, and to relieve the selfish and indolent, he thought the demand was unjust, and that it would be weakness to yield to it.
§ SIR MORTON PETO
said, he could assure the House that nothing short of unconditional and absolute repeal would satisfy the Dissenters. A great deal had been said about the ultimate aims of Dissenters, but he could assure the House that they did not desire to deprive the Church of one single shilling that rightly belonged to it, but they did and would resist an impost which affected their consciences, which was a personal tax upon them and not a charge upon property, and which they were determined should not be made so. The voluntary principle had already proved capable of providing all that was needful for the religious accommodation of the people. What had been the experience of this country within the last half century? In 1801 the total number of sittings in churches and chapels in England amounted to 5,000,000. In 1861 they exceeded 10,000,000, and of this number the increase obtained otherwise than by voluntary contributions was not much more than 200,000 sittings. Churchmen as well as Dissenters ought to put more trust in the vitality of the religion 1445 they professed. Look at the large sums that have been raised in Scotland by the voluntary efforts of less than 3,000,000 of people. Surely the Churchmen of this country would not be behind their brethren in Scotland in zeal and generosity towards the support of their religious edifices. He considered it was absurd to suppose that they would allow their churches to fall into decay, if this comparatively small sum of £300,000 a year were taken away from them. Were the members of the Church of England behind their fellow-subjects of Calcutta in fidelity towards their places of worship? It appeared that the followers of Bramah raised last year in Calcutta no less a sum than £200,000 for the building, repairing, and restoring of heathen temples in India. Surely it could not be for a moment imagined that the professors of the religion of Christ would be behind the heathens in zeal and liberality for the maintenance of their religious edifices. If the religion of this country were really of such a character— then he would say, perish that religion whose followers had shown themselves so unworthy of the character of disciples of their Divine Master, as to refuse not only their own contributions towards the preservation of His sacred temples, but to insist upon the money of others being dragged from them, to support a religion to which they were conscientiously opposed; but he knew too well the vitality of Christianity to feel any fear on its account. See how religion had thriven in Canada since the obnoxious question of the Clergy Reserves had been settled. He trusted that for the sake of religion itself the House would not stop short of the absolute and unconditional repeal of this obnoxious impost. In the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords a belief was expressed that a large body of Dissenters were not desirous for the extinction of church rates. He thought the Committee were altogether wrong in that impression. As he had before stated, the Dissenters were, in his opinion, most anxious for the total abolition of church rates, and it was his belief that if the impost were abolished a large number of Dissenters would be found amongst the voluntary contributors to a fund in lieu of them. It was idle to charge the Dissenters with the wish or intention of pulling down the Church of England. No such feeling of antagonism towards the Church existed in the minds of the great body of Dissenters.
1446 who displayed amongst themselves much fewer differences than were to be found within the precincts of the Church itself. He would remind the House of the decency and decorum observed during the religious services in the theatres of the metropolis. The aid of the police was not required there to preserve order. On the other hand, what was the conduct pursued in some of their churches? Were not some of their ministers approaching the practices and services of the Church of Rome so closely that he believed they would display their honesty only by going over to the latter Church altogether. What was the case in one of their churches? Was not the assistance of 100 or 150 policemen required to maintain order and to enable Divine service to be performed? There were no such differences amongst the Dissenters. If this impost were abolished he was convinced that the Church of England would advance with much greater strides than it had ever done before, and that the bitterness which was now increasing day by day in consequence of the present obnoxious system would completely disappear.
§ MR. PERRY WATLINGTON
said, he could not agree with the hon. Baronet who had just sat down—for he did not consider that the disposition to make voluntary contributions for Church purposes was injuriously affected by the existence of an Establishment, any more than the fountain of private benevolence was dried up by the existence and operation of a poor law. Although this question had been frequently discussed in that House, still he thought that every succeeding year added something to their practical knowledge of the matter in developing, more and more distinctly, the ultimate objects of the supporters of this Bill, and in showing the effect that would be produced upon the Established Church if the proposed measure passed into a law. He for one would admit that if it were proved that the present system imposed a heavy grievance of conscience upon any class of the community, it would be their duty to remedy the complaint as speedily as possible. But when he found a mode proposed which would benefit a few by inflicting a great injustice on the many, he thought the advantage to be gained was wholly beneath the cost of the purchase. He would not trouble the House with extracts from the evidence taken before the Committee of the House of Lords 1447 which had been so largely quoted in the last debate upon this subject; but when he found Dr. Foster, a Baptist, saying that he considered it an immoral obligation for a Baptist or Independent to contribute to the support of a church in which he does not worship, and applying this remark to tithes as well as church rates—when he found Mr. Gladding, an Independent, declaring that he does not wish to see any change in the law, and does not think the conscientious objection is so extensive as is generally supposed— and the Rev. George Osborne, a Wesleyan minister, stating that he thinks he should not be wrong in inferring that there does not exist any very wide-spread opposition to church rates; but, on the contrary, and further, when he considered that the calculations of Dr. Hume, founded upon the formula of Mr. Horace Mann, had never been disputed, by which it appeared that—
He could not resist the conclusion that as far as the conscientious objection was concerned the abolition of church rates alone would be for the benefit of but few. And when he considered the large proportion of parishes in which church rates are easily levied—the petition signed by the whole body of archdeacons in their favour—and that where these rates are abolished, Birmingham for example, the churches are out of repair, and that where they are most readily levied—there, according to the evidence of Archdeacon Sandford, there are most voluntary contributions, he could not but feel convinced that to a large mass of the people of this country who had long looked to these rates for the support of their places of worship, an injustice would be done by their abolition of very considerable extent. When we considered the length to which religious controversy is too apt to run, the extreme bitterness it generally provokes, and the want of practical Christianity with which it is too often accompanied, every one must rejoice when any question that arouses it is removed from, the arena of public discussion, and must be anxious to make the greatest concessions possible for 1448 the sake of peace. But where, he asked, was the guarantee that if they who did not regard the exaction of church rates as unjust or intolerable, were willing for the sake of peace to abandon these rates, where was the guarantee that that peace would be secured to them? Would the noble Lord, at the head of Her Majesty's Government, would the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, grant them an assurance that when this reason for agitation was removed a similar agitation would not take place upon the subject of tithes? Would they promise them that if it was so they would use all the influence they possessed in that House to oppose it? or, were they not rather to conclude from their conduct with regard to church rates that they would be too ready to give way upon the plea of expediency, end before the well-organized efforts of the enemies of the Establishment? But as he (Mr. Watlington) did not perceive the particular hardship of the incidence of church rates, he could not see that the abolition of church rates would give any certainty of such a state of peace. He doubted very much that such a measure would satisfy the enemies of the Church. He believed that the question of tithes would be afterwards raised in order to hang a grievance upon it. But it was said that the Church was rich and wealthy, and therefore did not require the assistance of church rates; and many hon. Members urged that it would be wise in her to give a portion of what she considered her rights for the sake of peace. But, he would ask, was the Church so rich, was she so wealthy? Was it not notorious that the ministers of the Established Church were much under-paid for the work required of them and the education they had received? In the Report of the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy it was stated, that out of 20,000 clergymen in England there were 10,000 receiving only on an average £100 a year whilst in actual duty, and a large proportion go through life without much if any pecuniary advancement. In a recent charge of the Bishop of London, it was stated that the average income of the minor clergy of London was only £140 a year. It was hard to throw upon such incomes the charges which the abolition of church rates would undoubtedly impose. It was argued that it would be for the interest of the Established Church to abolish those rates, and a short time ago the churches 1449 in Birmingham and other places -were referred to by the hon. Member for Nottingham as an example of the advantages of the voluntary system. It was a curious fact that two days after this statement was made by the hon. Member for Nottingham in the House of Commons, we find one clergyman from Birmingham (Mr. Yorke) stating before the Committee of the House of Lords that "the external appearance of his church is ruinous in the extreme." We find another clergyman (Dr. Miller) stating that "the present system, as carried on in Birmingham, is a perfect mill-stone round the necks of a great majority of the ministers in the town, seriously prejudicing their spiritual work;" and Archdeacon Sandford, speaking generally: "The churches in Birmingham are going into decay." Surely it is not to Birmingham that we can look in the interest of the Established Church for an example of the advantage of the abolition of church rates. From Braintree, too, a town well known in connection with this subject—a town in his (Mr. Watlington's) own county—from Braintree, where the rates are practically abolished, the Incumbent writes in November last: "Our dilapidated church presents a most deplorable aspect; we cannot now proceed for want of funds." These, surely, are not encouraging instances to churchmen in favour of total abolition. As he had before stated he did not for a moment believe that the existence of an endowed church was prejudicial to the disposition to make voluntary contributions for religious purposes, nor were Churchmen less prone than members of other denominations to recognize it as a duty to give to these objects according to their means. All were aware of the spiritual destitution of the metropolis; every one must fear that a similar destitution existed in all the large towns of the kingdom; every one must be alive to the sadness of that state of things, which admitted the possibility of an estimate being made by which 25 per cent of the population was shown to be totally irreligious—the great need of exertion was fully recognized—and if the efforts made did not meet the necessity of the case, it was owing to the infirmity of human nature, and not to the fault of the system which Churchmen upheld. Depend upon it, by injuring the Established Church, injury would be done to one of the most zealous advocates for the exercise of voluntary benevolence. He was entirely 1450 opposed to the measure of the hon. Baronet, because it was a proposition not for a compromise, but the total abolition of the church rates; but at the same time he could not support the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, which did not, in his opinion, meet the difficulties of the case. He considered that the measure already introduced by the hon. Member for Buckingham, or one founded on the Report of the Lords' Committee, would be far preferable; and he would resist to the utmost the measure now before the House.
13 per cent. of the population are Wesleyan Methodists. 9¾ per cent. Independents and Baptists. 6¾ per cent. Other sects. 3½ per cent. Roman Catholics. 42 per cent. Churchmen proper. 25 per cent. Churchmen nominal. 100
wished to say a few words lest his vote might be misinterpreted. He was not wedded to any particular measure, but was most anxious that this vexatious and annoying question should be settled. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) had called it a "convenient" question, but he thought it a most inconvenient one, for the constant agitation of it brought about ill feeling between Churchmen and Dissenters, and was most injurious to the Church itself. Having listened to the debates, and read the evidence on the subject, he must say that he did not apprehend any danger from the present measure. He had no fear for the Established Church. That Church was a rich Church, and he was certain that the Members of the Church were not less zealous than the members of other religious communities, and he believed that if church rates were abolished no difficulty would be felt in providing for the maintenance of the sacred fabrics and the decent celebration of the religious services. As to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire, he believed that hon. Gentleman was actuated by good motives. He believed the Amendment was based upon evidence given before a Committee of the House of Lords by Mr. Coode, who was of opinion that although the rate was levied, no one who objected to pay the rate should be obliged to pay it, even though the objection was not taken until the collector called for the rate. By the adoption of such a plan as this it was plain that agitation would be revived, not suppressed. He could not support the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, for it would in no manner settle the question. He had not much hope of seeing the question settled this year. He feared it would not even if passed here meet a very favourable reception elsewhere, for last year the Bill passed by a large majority in this House for the aboli- 1451 tion of Church rates was treated with very little ceremony by the House of Lords. He should be glad to see some measure devised which would meet with the approval of both Houses of Parliament, but he himself had no doubt that if the Bill of the hon. Member for Tavistock were passed into a law means would be taken to maintain the fabrics of the Church, and provide for the decent and proper performance of the services
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he was glad to observe a growing tendency on both sides of the House to settle this much agitated question in some fair and equitable manner; but the main obstacle which at present stood in the way of such a settlement was this Bill of the hon. Member for Tavistock. The hon. Baronet himself seemed to feel that the cause of which he was the advocate had become more hopeless and more vexatious than ever; and it was with considerable satisfaction he (Lord J. Manners) had heard the hon. Baronet say, that if he did not see his way to the settlement of the question this year he would not intrude it upon the House again. He was disposed to concur in the advice which the hon. Baronet had given to them—that they should pass the Bill in the shape in which it then stood, and so send it up to that bourne from which it would never return. If that course were adopted a hope might be entertained that afterwards some satisfactory settlement might be arrived at which would be accepted by both Houses of Parliament. Therefore, though he retained all his objections to the principle and details of this Bill, he was not inclined, in the present state of the measure, to support any of, the Amendments of which notice had been given—not even that of his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire, who had shown so honourable a zeal in this matter. He opposed that Amendment, not so much on a consideration of its merits as upon the general ground which he had endeavoured to explain, and because he regarded the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock as one, the principle of which had been assented to by the majority of the House, and which was inconsistent with the principle of the Amendment. He did not think any good could be effected by a proposal of the nature of that now submitted by his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire, as he was of opinion that it would be better to send the Bill to "another place" where it 1452 would receive its legitimate fate in due time. Such being the case he wished to reserve to himself perfect freedom to vote for any compromise that might be proposed for the settlement of the question, and which might be really calculated to effect that object. He was not aware whether the proposal which the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster (Sir G. Grey) intended to make in Committee with a view of imposing a charge for pew-rents was or was not to be considered as a proposal put forward on the part of the Government. He hoped it was not, but was the result of his individual opinions. He for one would rather accept the Bill without than with that so-called Amendment. He could not conceive anything more objectionable in principle than those pew-rents which the right hon. Baronet proposed to establish. He could not see how the right hon. Baronet could fairly come forward to make a proposition that would diminish the rights which the poor possessed, and send them to obscure corners of their parish churches. He believed that the proposal would be an injustice to the poor; and it should have his unqualified opposition. He regarded that Amendment as adding exclusion and unpopularity to the original injustice of the Bill of the hon. Baronet, and he would rather accept the Bill in its simplicity than cobbled, and tinkered by Amendments of that objectionable nature.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he had not intended to take any part in the discussion. He rose merely to say that having supported the second reading of the Bill, he should now vote for the Speaker leaving the chair. He would not enter into an explanation or defence of the clauses which he had given notice that he intended to move. If the House decided on going into Committee he should propose his clauses, and he would at the same time state the grounds on which he did so, and why he thought the fears of the noble Lord opposite were unfounded.
§ MR. MELLOR
said, that in this case he had long ceased to put any faith in compromises, one after another of which had been proposed from time to time and invariably rejected. He gave all credit to the hon. Member for North Warwickshire for the perfect fairness and honesty of purpose which characterised his conduct in all these matters, but he felt bound to say it was too late in the day for the hon. Member's proposition, which moreover was 1453 especially objectionable in that it sought to convert a rate, the non-payment of which was often made a matter of conscience, into a fixed charge upon land. No one now denied that church rates were not a charge upon property in the proper sense of the term. They were not a charge upon property in any parish until that parish voted a rate. It would be quite impossible, in the present state of public feeling on this subject, to work out the proposal of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. The House of Lords had examined this question, and they had made a suggestion which he was astonished to find did not appear to hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches to be the most extraordinary suggestion ever made in any assembly. The House of Lords proposed to make church rates a fixed charge on property, and in effect to double the rates on those who were willing to pay church rates, in order that relief might be given to those who objected to pay church rates, The more he considered this question, the more convinced he became that all attempts to effect a compromise would fail, and that the best thing that could be done was simply to abolish church rates, leaving to the Church free action to obtain as she might think best the means of repairing the fabrics of the Church. He had no doubt that if the Church should propound a plan for the collection of means to repair those fabrics which would require legislative sanction, the House would be disposed to sanction that plan, if it were reasonable and fair. An hon. Member had stated that he (Mr. Mellor) had said on a previous occasion that the churches in Birmingham were not now in repair, although church rates were not paid. What he did say was that the churches in Birmingham were now in as good repair as they were before church rates ceased in that town, and that the state of religion was much better. He had known Birmingham longer than the rev. Canon Miller, whose testimony had been quoted by the hon. Gentleman. He wished to speak most respectfully of that most excellent clergyman. He remembered the case of which that rev. Gentleman spoke. In the year 1841, a relative of his (Mr. Mellor's) was rector of Birmingham, and at a meeting of the parishioners he refused to put an amendment against the levying of church rates, as he deemed the amendment to be illegal. A great riot occurred in the church, and a former Member of 1454 that House was prosecuted for being concerned in that riot. The trial lasted several days. It was a spasmodic effort on the part of the Church to revive church rates at Birmingham. The prosecution entirely failed, and the rector had to pay the costs, which he believed were not less than £1,200. From that time to this, no attempt had been made to impose church rates on Birmingham. In fact, you might as well attempt to collect the national debt as church rates at Birmingham. With reference to the testimony of the Rev. Canon Brooks, quoted by the hon. Gentleman, as to the sentiments of Dissenters with regard to church rates in the constituency of Nottingham—which he (Mr. Mellor) had the honour to represent—he begged to say that exemplary clergyman was, in his opinion, entirely mistaken as to those sentiments. His hon. Colleague had recently presented a petition, containing 6,200 signatures, from Nottingham, against church rates; and he himself had presented many similar petitions from that constituency. That ought to be a sufficient answer to the opinion of the Rev. Canon Brooks that three-fourths of the Dissenters in Nottingham had no objection to maintain church rates. Canon Brooks admitted that there were district churches in Nottingham for which Canon Brooks stated that churchmen thought it was unfair to call upon them to support the parish church. Why? Because they did not attend it, but attended the district churches. Why, that was the whole argument for abolition. According to his experience he thought the church would be better supported without church rates than with them. His notion was that people valued that which they paid for much more than they did what was provided by eleemosynary contributions.
§ MR. A. MILLS
said, he had generally supported the attempts made at a compromise of this question, and he should support that contained in the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, not, however, because he thought it to be the best suggestion that could be made. He did not, however, think it was the part of the friends of the Church to propose compromises, or alternatives for the proposition which was now before the House to abolish church rates. This agitation had now lasted fifty years. The advocates of abolition asked us to annihilate an ancient and valuable machinery which 90 per cent of the parishes of England now volun- 1455 tarily used for the maintenance of divine worship. It was for those who urged a grievance to present it to the House in a practical form, so that it might be dealt with, without interfering with interests that ought to be protected. The hon. Baronet (Sir John Trelawny) and his friends had not adopted this moderate and reasonable course. And now, when Parliament was actually extending and increasing the powers of local taxation, in respect of libraries and recreation grounds, and even so far as to provide for the analysis of articles of food, yet at the same moment we Were called on to destroy the machinery by which the expenses of maintaining our churches were provided for. He thought that the plan by which Dissenters could have relieved themselves of the obligation to pay church rates by obtaining certificates that they were Dissenters and objected to the payment of church rates, had been too hastily disposed of. The objection to that plan was, that Dissenters would be ashamed of obtaining an exemption in that mode, and that they ought not, as the phrase went, to be "ticketed;" but he could not conceive why a Dissenter should be ashamed to avow his dissent. He (Mr. Mills) was not ashamed of avowing that he was a member of the Church of England, but if on the ground of nonconformity exception was claimed, let that ground be plainly stated, and let the Legislature deal with it in a fair and tolerant spirit.
§ MR. WALTER
said, there was a remark which he had met with of an eminent ecclesiastical writer of the present day and which was a very trite one, that "When people Understand each other, controversy is either at an end or hopeless." Now, if there was any one question of which it could-be said that they all understood each other, it was that of church rates; and for his part the more he heard the subject discussed the more he was convinced that there were only two modes of dealing with it. One was to repeal the decision of the House of Lords in the Braintree case; the other to abolish church-rates altogether. He saw no middle course, and he believed there was none. Believing that it was impossible for hon. Members opposite to succeed in repealing the decision of the House of Lords, he Could not see the use of wasting the time of the House and the country in perpetual discussions of the question year after year, and in endeavouring to arrive at a compromise which he considered to be unat- 1456 tainable. But of all the propositions ever made for the settlement of this question, that of the hon. Member for Worth Warwickshire appeared to him to be the most utterly hopeless. In the first place that hon. Gentleman very quietly assumed that the period of seven years was to be considered as a statute of limitations to establish a right of the Church in respect of church rates — to establish the right of the Church to levy a rate on owners of property instead of occupiers. [Mr. NEW-DEGATE dissented.] The words of the hon. Gentleman's Amendment were "to consider the propriety of establishing in lieu of church rates a charge on all hereditaments, in respect of the occupancy of which church rates have been paid within the last seven years." He presumed that meant, that in all cases in which church rate had been paid for seven years that rate should hereafter be levied as a permanent tax on the owners of the property. In the next place, it limited for all future time the discretion of parishes in respect to the collection of church rates; and it also adopted a principle which he thought was wholly inapplicable to church rates, because, if there were any one rate in connection with the Church which it devolved upon the occupiers to pay rather than the owner, it was that which wont to the maintenance and repair of the fabric of the Church. They all knew that the Church to which the majority of that House belonged was not a material fabric, but, as it was defined in the Articles of their Church, a congregation of faithful men, the fabric being altogether irrespective of the essence of the Church. The material fabric being designed for the accommodation of worshippers, surely those who used the fabric should pay for the use of it, and not the owners of property, who might be living in another part of the country, and who might have nothing to do with it Even as regarded occupiers it might be a matter of hardship. He could state the case of a tenant of his own—the tenant of a large farm—who would have to pay more than anybody else, though he had not a seat in the church, and could not get one; and a clergyman some days ago mentioned to him the case of a tenant of his who was in exactly the same position. He confessed, though as zealous a Churchman as any Member of that House, that he would have no hesitation whatever in relying wholly on the efforts of the voluntary system as a substitute for any deficiency that might 1457 arise from the surrender of this miserable contribution. When they considered how the proportions of the Church were varying from year to year—how new districts were being perpetually created—thus altering the proportion of the mother churches to the whole, the question was reduced to a very small point; and he put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite whether it was worth while contending for the retention of a rate of this kind, which would obviously be applicable to a mere fraction of the churches in this country. Even the Committee of the House of Lords, in their Report, proposed to exempt new districts from liability to the rate. On the other hand, if there were any other aid required as a supplement to the voluntary system, he could see no reason, either in theory or in practice, against the plan of a limited system of pew-rents, leaving, of course, a certain number of seats free for the maintenance of the fabric of the Church, in which the occupiers of pews had an interest. Considering that the wealthy classes invariably helped themselves to the best seats —and he did not quarrel with them for that—he saw no reason why they should not do what was done in every church on the Continent—pay for the seats which they occupied. When the House went into Committee on the Bill he should support the clauses which the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Sir G. Grey) intended to propose.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
Sir, our churches are national monuments, and the signal evidence of the zeal, piety, and munificence of our forefathers. In France the State, embracing this idea practically, maintains the sacred fabrics in repairs. The clergy who serve in our churches as ministers of the national religion (too many of them receiving a bare pittance for their incessant toil), are at all times ready to answer every call, of pastoral duty or general active benevolence. The freewill offerings of the people raised the parish church and the grandest minster: and in the humblest hamlet, or the largest town, the venerable fabric is still its chief architectural ornament, and appeals to the highest associations of our nature, the tendeest of human memories, and the most Sacred offices that have been celebrated without intermission within its walls. In such towns as Tewkesbury, Malvern, Sherborne, Beverley, Selby, St. Albans, Christehurch, and many others are noble churches, once collegiate and conventual, 1458 and amply endowed, now standing in the midst of comparatively small populations. How are such magnificent structures to be maintained, destitute of a fabric fund, if church rates are absolutely abolished, and no substitute provided? The real question at issue is—Will you dissolve the Established Church? Will you rely upon the notoriously inefficient and precarious collection under a voluntary system for the support of religion? I for my part view with the deepest apprehension any change that would affect the union of the Church and State which is interwoven with our civil institutions and is the safeguard of our social peace. The churchman justly requires that the interests of his communion should be regarded, and his principles treated with respect; all he asks is the preservation of the time-honoured maxim that it is the duty of the State to maintain and repair the fabric as the essential condition of an established Church, while all that his most scrupulous opponent and the most earnest asserter of toleration can claim, is exemption from contributing to expenses incurred in the celebration of services peculiar to those who worship within the pale of the Church. This I am ready to concede, but I do fervently hope that this House will arrive at a satisfactory practical adjustment and final settlement of a long-vexed question, indeed, too long a theme of public discussion and local animosities and difficulty, for the evil is pressing; and requires an immediate remedy. I have no fear, however, of the result, even if the Church shall be told to lean on her natural strength and be left to the affections of the people, as her last and chief resource; but that is no redress for the serious blow and wrong which are aimed against her vitality.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 222; Noes 49: Majority 173.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adair H. E.||Agnew, Sir A.|
|Adam, W. P.||Alcock, T.|
|Adderley, rt. hon. C. B.||Antrobus, E.|
|Ashley, Lord||Forster, C.|
|Atherton, Sir W.||Foster, W. O.|
|Ayrton, A. S.||Fortescue, hon. F. D.|
|Bagwell, J.||Freehand, H. W.|
|Bailey, C.||Gavin, Major|
|Baines, E.||George, J.|
|Ball, E.||Gibson, rt. hon. T.M.|
|Bass, M. T.||Gilpin, C.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Bazley, T.||Glyn, G. G.|
|Beale, S.||Goldsmid, Sir F. H.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Gower, hon. F. L.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Greene, J.|
|Bethell, Sir R.||Greenwood, J.|
|Biddulph, Col.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Biggs, J.||Hadfield, G.|
|Black, A.||Hanbury, R.|
|Blake, J.||Hankey, T.|
|Blencowe, J. G.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Botfield, B.||Hardeastle, J. A.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Hartington, Marq of|
|Bouverie, hon. P. P.||Hartopp, E. B.|
|Bowyer, G.||Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.|
|Brand, hon. H.||Heneage, G. F.|
|Bright, J.||Henley, Lord|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Hodgkinson, G.|
|Bristow, A. R.||Hodgson, K. D.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Horsman, rt. hon. E.|
|Brooks, R.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R.||Hutt, rt. hon. W.|
|Buller, J. W.||Ingham, R.|
|Buller, Sir A. W.||Ingram, H.|
|Butler, C. S.||James, E.|
|Buxton, C.||Jervoise, Sir J. C.|
|Byng, hon. G.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Caird, J.||Kekewich, S. T.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Kershaw, J.|
|Cavendish, hon. W.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Childers, H. C. E.||Kinglake, A. W.|
|Clay, J.||Kinglake, J. A.|
|Clifford, C. C.||Kingscote, Col.|
|Clinton, Lord R.||Knatchbull-Hugessen, E|
|Clive, G.||Langston, J. H.|
|Cobbett, J. M.||Langton, W. H. G.|
|Coke, hon. Col.||Lawson, W.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Leatham, E. A.|
|Coningham, W.||Lee, W.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Leslie, C. P.|
|Crook, J.||Lindsay, W. S.|
|Crossley, F.||Lindsay, hon. Col.|
|Dalglish, R.||Locke, Joseph|
|Davey, R.||Locke, John|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Lysley, W. J.|
|Deasy, rt. hon. R.||Mackie, J.|
|Dent, J. D.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Dodson, J. G.||Maguire, J. F.|
|Douglas, Sir C.||Malins, R.|
|Dundas, F.||Majoribanks, D. C.|
|Dunlop, A. M.||Massey, W.N.|
|Egerton, E. C.||Mellor, J.|
|Ellice, E.||Merry, J.|
|Ennis, J.||Mildmay, H. F.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Miller, W.|
|Evans, T. W.||Mills, T.|
|Ewing, H. E. C.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Fenwick, H||Monsell, rt. hon. W.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Monson, hon. W. J.|
|Finlay, A. S.||Morris, D.|
|Foley, J. H.||Mostyn, hn. T. E. M. L.|
|Foley, H. W.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Foljambe, F. J. S.||Noble, J. W.|
|Norris, J. T.||Slaney, R. A.|
|North, F.||Smith, M. T.|
|Ogilvy, Sir J.||Staepoole, W.|
|Onslow, G.||Staniland, M.|
|Osborne, R. B.||Stansfeld, J.|
|Padmore, R.||Steel, J.|
|Paget, C.||Stuart, Col.|
|Paget, Lord C.||Sturt, N.|
|Paxton, Sir J.||Sykes, Col. W. H.|
|Pease, H.||Taylor, H.|
|Pechell, Sir G. B.||Thompson, H. S.|
|Peel, rt. hon. F.||Tomline, G.|
|Peto, Sir S. M.||Tynte, Col. K.|
|Pigott, F.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Pilkington, J.||Vernon, L. V.|
|Pinney, Col.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Ponsonby, hon. A.||Walter, J.|
|Portman, hon. W. H. B||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Pugh, D.||Western, S.|
|Ramsden, Sir J. W.||Westhead, J. P. B.|
|Ricardo, J. L.||Whalley, G. H.|
|Ricardo, O.||White, Col.|
|Ridley, G.||Wickham, H. W.|
|Robertson, D.||Willcox, B. M'G.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Williams, W.|
|Roupell, W.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Russell, H.||Wise, J. A.|
|Russell, A.||Woods, H.|
|Salt, Titus||Worsley, Lord|
|Scholefield, W.||Wyndham, Sir H.|
|Scrope, G. P.||Wynne, C. G.|
|Seymour, Sir M.||Wyvill, M.|
|Seymour, W. D.|
|Shelley, Sir J. V.||TELLERS.|
|Sheridan, R. B.||Dillwyn, L. L.|
|Sheridan, H. B.||Trelawny, Sir J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Bernard, hon. Col.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Macaulay, K.|
|Cave, S.||Mainwaring, T.|
|Close, M. C.||Mills, A.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Mundy, W.|
|Pu Pre, C. G.||Newark, Visct.|
|East, Sir J. B.||Nicol, W.|
|Gard, R. S.||Pakenham, Col.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Papillon, P. O.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W.||Parker, Major W.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Philipps, J. H.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Graham, Lord W.||Richardson, J.|
|Haliburton, T. C.||Rolt, J.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Selwyn, C. J.|
|Hassard, M.||Sibthorp, Major|
|Heathcote, Sir W.||Somes, J.|
|Henley, rt. hon. J. W.||Spooner, R.|
|Holford, R. S.||Stirling, W.|
|Hope, G. W.||Torrens, R.|
|Hotham, Lord||Upton, hon. Gen.|
|Howes, E.||Vansittart, W.|
|Humberston, P. S.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Johnstone, hon. H. B.|
|Kennard, R. W.||TELLERS.|
|Long, R. P.||Cross, A. R.|
|Newdegate, C. N.|
§ House in Committee.
§ Clause 1,
§ MR. CROSS
said, he had several Amendments on the paper, to the effect that no 1461 church rate shall be levied in parishes unless certain proportions of the seats are free, but he was informed that he could not move to insert them in a Bill for the Abolition of church rates. He voted for the last Amendment, because he thought the unconditional repeal of church rates should not be accepted by the House.
§ Clause agreed to.
SIR MORTON PETO moved to add as an additional clause after Clause 1: —
Nor shall any expenses, payable out of the proceeds of a church rate, be henceforth defrayed out of any sum or sums accruing from any other rate whatsoever, any law or custom to the contrary notwithstanding.
The object of the clause, he stated, was to prevent churches being supported out of poor rates, as several now were under local Acts.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
fully admitted that the hon. Baronet (Sir Morton Peto) was perfectly consistent in the course he was pursuing as an opponent of all religious endowments, but he wished to make one or two observations on the present position of the question. Efforts had been made by some of his friends to induce him to withdraw the Amendment which had just been negatived. Great exertions to defeat him had been made on that (his own) side of the House. He should regret if anything personal to himself had induced this change of policy on his side of the House. But there were indications of a change of policy among the occupants of the Opposition front benches. It was a distinct change of policy; whether for good or for evil the change was distinct. The hon. Member for Tavistock's Bill proposed the abolition of church rates—a position which he (Mr. Newdegate) did not on that occasion dispute — but farther, that no compensation should be given for the abolition of these rates. Those who had abstained from again supporting his (Mr. Newdegate's) Motion this year, although they did so last year, or who had reversed their votes, must be understood as rejecting all equivalent or compensation for the abolition of church rates. He lamented this. He was naturally surprised at it. From the support he received in July last year, and feeling confident in a continuance of that support, he had pledged himself to persevere; but his supporters had diminished from 100 to 50. The House had witnessed this change of policy, and he thought that it ought to be explained. In any case he should not abandon his 1462 position, but year after year he would indicate his feeling on this subject by a Motion.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
must say for himself, and many others who sat near him, that there was no inconsistency in the course they had taken. His hon. Friend had placed those who were as attached and as zealous in defending the rights of the Church as himself in the painful position of refusing to join him in affirming a proposition which, in their opinion, was not only not conducive to the interests of the Church, but which involved even greater and more numerous objections on the part of Dissenters than even the present law of church rates. His hon. Friend had been both privately and publicly implored to withdraw a proposition which many of his friends considered objectionable, and, giving his hon. Friend credit for sincerity and consistency, he had yet no right to reflect upon the consistency of those who had voted with him last July, but who now felt it to be their duty to walk out of the House, and to give no vote upon his proposition.
§ MR. MALINS
said, he had gone even a step further than his right hon. Friend (Mr. Mowbray) for he had voted against the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. He should, however, be sorry if it were supposed that he was in favour of the Bill of the hon. Baronet. He (Mr. Malins) was opposed to the abolition of church rates. He was, in fact, in favour of their total maintenance.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that what he had stated had at all events elicited some explanation, whether satisfactory or not was a matter for the judgment of the House. He could not forget that he had acted on the distinct suggestions that he received last year. Hon. Members might assign what reasons they chose for having changed their policy. He, at least, had pursued a straightforward course, and he hoped that the House would not think him disrespectful when he stated that he should continue to pursue it.
§ MR. SELWYN
opposed the clause of the hon. Member for Finsbury, which was an attempt to repeal local Acts without any sufficient cause.
§ SIR JOHN TRELAWNY
did not think the proposed clause was in accordance with the Bill before the House, though the object of that proposal might be effected by a distinct measure.
§ Motion (by leave) withdrawn; Remaining Clauses agreed to.
SIR GEORGE GREY moved to insert the following clause:—
(Specially appropriated pews may be charged with pew rents.)
The Incumbent and Churchwardens of any parish, where, they think it necessary for defraying expenses which might have been defrayed out of Church Rates if such Rates bad hot been abolished, may, with the consent of the Ordinary, from time to time charge such of the pews or sittings in the Church of such parish as by prescription, faculty, or otherwise are appurtenant to any messuage or appropriated to the occupier thereof, or as have heretofore been assigned to or commonly occupied by the occupiers of particular messuages without payment, with yearly or half-yearly rents, according to a scale to be fixed by such Incumbent and Churchwardens, with the consent aforesaid (and such scale may be varied from time to time by the like authority); and such rents shall be payable to the Churchwardens on such yearly or half-yearly days as the Incumbent and Churchwardens, with such consent as aforesaid, shall think proper.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
explained the object of this and the other clauses he intended to propose. Although he agreed in the abolition of church rates in town parishes, he thought that in country districts the abolition of church rates without a substitute might entail hardship in parishes where there were no resident landowners, and where it might be difficult to raise the sum requisite for the decent performance of public worship. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) that the time for a compromise on this question was gone by. He had endeavoured on former occasions to propose a compromise, but without success, and now he agreed with the hon. Member, that after the repeated decisions of that House in favour, of the total and entire abolition of church rates no compromise was possible. By the clause he had proposed he thought that the hardship to country parishes might be, to a certain extent, remedied. The noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) apprehended that legislation of this kind might interfere with the free access to the parish church now enjoyed by the poor. No such result, 1464 however, could follow from this clause. If the seats in any particular church were all free, they would so remain. If two-thirds of the seats were free, his clause would not affect the right of the poor to those seats. His clause would, however, apply to that class of seats in parish churches which were claimed by any landowner or occupier, by faculty or otherwise, and were exclusively appropriated to certain occupants or parishioners, With respect to these seats he proposed to give the churchwardens and the incumbent, subject to the consent of the ordinary, the right to charge a small annual payment for them. The class of persons upon whom this payment would fall, would be those who now generally paid church rates. The noble Lord opposite had intimated an intention to oppose every Amendment that might be offered with a view to diminish the hardships likely to arise from the abolition of church rates, and the noble Lord appeared to think that if the Bill went up without such additions it would be more likely to be rejected elsewhere. He did not think this a proper course to be taken. He had proposed a practical remedy for a practical grievance, and he trusted that the Committee would adopt it.
§ MR. SOTHERON ESTCOURT
feared that the clause would go a great deal further than the right hon. Gentleman intended, for the terms were so wide that he did not see how any seat in a church was to escape. The possession of a certain seat in a church, with a legal and indefeasible title, was the exception, and if the Committee agreed to the proposition they would find scarcely a single square foot of the church really open and free to the poor. He did not think that pew rents were a good substitute for church rates, and on that ground, if there were no other, he should object to the proposal of the right hon. Baronet; but for the reason which he had just stated the clause was still more objectionable, and he should therefore object to its adoption by the House.
§ MR. WALTER
apprehended that all, or nearly all, the seats could be appropriated to particular persons only with the full consent of the persons so appropriating them to pay the tax on pews; and, therefore he did not see where the hardship would be.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
asked what should determine the sum imposed on particular pews, and how the incumbent and church- 1465 wardens should be responsible for the sum they placed on one pew as compared with another?
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that it would be done by the incumbent and churchwardens according to the statutes now in force establishing the same principle, and which no difficulty was found in carrying out. As to the observation of the right hon. Member for Wiltshire (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt), the wording meant, of course, seats legally appropriated, and he was not aware that any individual seats were exclusively appropriated to particular persons.
§ MR. WALPOLE
objected to read the clause a second time, for the right hon. Baronet did not appear to see the full scope of it, and did not intend that it should have the effect pointed out by his right hon. Friend (Mr. S. Estcourt). He observed that the right hon. Baronet used the words "exclusively appropriated;" but, if he would ask the law officers of the Crown in what way pews could be legally appropriated to any person, he would find there were very rare instances indeed, possibly there were none, in which pews could be claimed by any persons whatever, unless by faculty or prescription. The hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) said he did not see any hardship in putting a rent on pews, because no person need pay such rent unless he chose. Need not pay it! Why, the effect of this arrangement would be simply to send down a message to every parish in the, kingdom, that A B or C D, who had been accustomed to go to a particular pew all his lifetime, must pay rent for it in future, or he could not come to church. His hon. Friend (Mr. Walter) made a remark just now which certainly had some effect on the House. He said that when persons knew what they were about, there was either an end to controversy, or controversy was hopeless; but he wished to ask him—did they know what they were about? Down to a recent period the usual question in regard to church rates was this—Did it press on the consciences of Dissenters? But that was relieved, or offered to be relieved. And now did they know what they were about? According to the evidence taken before the House of Lords, the Dissenters declared that this was a step towards separation of Church and State and the spoliation of Church property and the destruction of the Church. He therefore wished to ask his hon. Friend 1466 whether they both knew what they were about?—whether his Friend (Mr. Walter) intended—he (Mr. Walpole) himself certainly did not intend—if the Bill passed in its present form, to admit the understanding upon which Dissenters were now pressing it on—namely, that it was a step towards doing away with the Church as a part of the established institution of the country.
§ SIR JOHN TRELAWNY
thought that if a palliative was to be applied, it would require to be more mature than that the right hon. Baronet had submitted to them. He was afraid that the imposition of sums upon pews would have a tendency to dry up the liberality of contributors to the funds of the Church.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
remarked that the ill-feeling and litigation caused by church rates had always been pointed out as one of the great reasons for their abolition; but it was certain that, if the clause now proposed were carried into operation, it could not fail to produce all the enmity and litigation which it was alleged to be the object of the Bill to prevent. There were at this moment societies formed through the country to put down this very system of appropriated pews which the clauses would perpetuate. Besides, it was clear, from the words of the clause, that the plan would take in the whole of the pews that by faculty, prescription, or use, had been appropriated to particular individuals. The right hon. Gentleman had overlooked the common law in this matter, which gave parishioners a right to go to the churchwardens, and ask for sittings; and the churchwarden was bound to appropriate them to the full extent of the church room. He would not go into the general question of the pew system. He had always held it in utter abomination, on social, religious, and political grounds, and would never do anything to extend a system which must be attended with such evil results.
§ MR. HORSMAN
had on various occasions expressed his objection in the House to the pew system; but he must say he thought the present proposition of even a more novel, dangerous, and mischievous character. Hitherto there had been a cause of quarrel between the Church and Dissenters; but if this clause were carried it would now be between the clergyman and his parishioners. Any arbitrary and capricious imposition by the clergyman of a sum on any particular pew might have 1467 the effect of alienating the occupier and his family from that church, and perhaps adding them to the number of Dissenters.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
hoped the House would not lightly reject the clauses of the right hon. Gentleman. He had always been of opinion that Dissenters ought not to pay church rates; and as it was necessary that the fabric of the churches should be maintained, some compromise ought to be proposed by which Churchmen might contribute to the support of the fabric. He had not seen a more favourable plan of compromise than that of the right hon. Gentleman, and therefore he supported it. He thought, however, that the imposition of sums on the pews should not be left entirely to the incumbent and churchwardens, but that the occupiers should have a voice in the matter.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
wished before the Committee divided, to have an answer from the right hon. Baronet to the question of the noble Lord (Lord J. Manners), whether the proposition before them proceeded from himself as an individual, or was one recommended by the united Cabinet, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that upon the question of church rates, it was well known that it was long since there had been an united Cabinet. Hon. Members opposite would recollect that a distinguished Member of Lord Derby's Government uniformly voted for the total abolition of church rates in opposition to his colleagues. He had no hesitation in saying that this proposal was brought forward by himself, and was not made by the Government. He had on former occasions taken part in the discussions on this question, and had felt it right to suggest what appeared to him an unobjectionable substitute in certain cases for church rates. He wished it, however, to be understood that he did not at all despair of the liberality of Churchmen in providing for the repairs of the churches, and had no expectation of seeing them allowed to fall into ruin, even though the rates were abolished. As there seemed to be a general impression in the Committee that they had not parted finally with the subject, and as it was desirable to leave some time for the passing of certain Votes in Supply, he did 1468 not wish to put them to the trouble of dividing at that moment on the clause.
§ Motion negatived.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported without Amendment, to be read 3° on Thursday April 19th.