HC Deb 12 March 1862 vol 165 cc1403-6

Order for Committee read.


said, he had placed on the paper a notice of his intention to Move in Committee of the Whole House for leave to bring in a Bill for the relief of persons in Holy Orders of the United Church of England and Ireland declaring their dissent therefrom, and he therefore begged leave to move that Mr. Speaker do leave the chair.


asked whether the right hon. Gentleman ought not first to explain his Bill, so as to show some ground for going into Committee.


said, that no Bill relating to religion or trade could be introduced except in Committee of the whole House. It would be more regular, therefore, that he should make his statement in Committee.

House in Committee.


said, it would be in the recollection of some hon. Members, that about thirteen years ago a gentleman, who had been a clergyman of the Church of England, but who had dissented from the Church, established a chapel in the West of England and conducted the service as a Dissenter. That gentleman's name was Shore. The bishop of the diocese proceeded against him for a breach of canonical discipline. Mr. Shore attempted to screen himself from the proceedings by making a declaration under the Toleration Act, which exempted Dissenters from the penalties otherwise imposed on Nonconformists. The bishop contended, on the other hand, that as Mr. Shore had once taken holy orders he could not relieve himself from the obligation of canonical obedience. The case was tried in the Court of Queen's Bench, which decided in favour of the bishop. Mr. Shore was thrown into prison, and the House allowed him (Mr. Bouverie) to bring in a Bill in 1849 to alter the law so as to prevent a recurrence of the grievance. The Bill was read a second time, and referred to a Select Committee containing some of the most eminent Members of the House, by whom the measure was produced in such a shape that it was passed by the House, although it failed in that Session to obtain the Royal Assent. Such was the Bill which he hoped he should be permitted to introduce with the view of meeting a practical grievance which had arisen. A clergyman of the Church of England could by no act of his own divest himself of the obligation of canonical obedience to his bishop; he could not engage in any course of life as a layman, or, if he did, he was liable to be proceeded against in the Ecclesiastical Court and to be thrown into prison. The House would agree with him in thinking that they should not endeavour to retain by force in the ministry of the Church those who from conscientious conviction avowed their disinclination to remain. He could mention cases of one or two gentlemen actually suffering under this particular hardship. There was a gentleman, a member of one of the Universities, who once had held an important living in a northern town; but having formed during his ministration certain conscientious opinions, he resigned his preferment. As he was a young man, he wished to go to the bar; but having been in Holy Orders, he was precluded from so doing. The canon by which a clergyman was bound said that he should do nothing in the course of life as a layman; and if he had not an independent fortune, he was shut out from the means of subsistence. That was a state of things which the friends of the Church of England could not wish to retain. He proposed, therefore, by the present Bill, to provide that a clergyman might make a solemn declaration of his conscientious dissent from the doctrines of the Church of England; that that declaration should be registered, and notice of it given to the bishop, and that he should then be permitted to engage in any other course of life.


said, that in the declaration required of a minister he would have to state his conscientious dissent from the doctrine of the Church of England. That implied that he was going to leave the communion of the Church. He thought it important that the House should be informed whether the right hon. Gentleman proposed to provide relief for those who, without leaving the Church of England, were anxious to divest themselves of their clerical character.


replied that the Bill would not deal with cases of that kind. There was a third class, however, who might make the declaration under the Bill—namely, those who entertained conscientious scruples with respect to subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles and other formulas of the Church of England, but who wished to remain as lay members of her Communion.


said, if the House were to allow a person to liberate himself from trammels which were distasteful to him, they would offer a decided premium to his going further and professing himself a Dissenter.


said, it would be very ungracious, after what his right hon. Friend had stated, to refuse leave to introduce the Bill; but the few remarks that had been just made would show that the ease was not after all so very clear.


said, he hoped it would not be thought unreasonable to ask that a considerable time should be allowed before the second reading of the Bill. It was only on the previous night that notice of the matter was given, and no one could judge from such notice what the scope of the measure might be.


said, that as the Bill was to extend to Ireland, he hoped as much time as possible would be given for the consideration of its provisions.

Resolved, That the Chairman be directed to move the House, 'That leave be given to bring in a Bill for the Relief of Persons in Holy Orders of the United Church of England and Ireland declaring their dissent therefrom.'

House resumed.

Resolution reported.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. BOUVERIE and Mr. EDWARD ELLICE.

Bill presented and read 1o; to be read 2o on Wednesday next, and to be printed [40].

House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock.