HC Deb 04 March 1863 vol 169 cc1043-55

Order for Third Reading read.


said, that he supposed the comparatively large attendance of hon. Members was to be attributed to he opposition which was intended to be given to this Bill. Four times this Bill sassed this House, and had been supported on each occasion in both Houses by Her Majesty's Government; and he was in the position so unusual to a private member, of asking the House, for the fifth time, to read this Bill a third time. It had also been supported by no less than seventy-two Peers of the realm, including many persons highly honoured in the land. The noble Earl who was at the lead of the Conservative party had said the declaration which this Bill sought to abolish was of no real importance to the Church, and the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Cambridge lad admitted the same in that House. The declaration which persons were at present obliged to make on taking office afforded really no protection to the Church, and was irritating alike to friends of the Church and to Nonconformists. "Was there to be one law for one class and another for another class of Her Majesty's subjects? Did the Ministers of the Crown sign this declaration? The Home Secretary of Her Majesty's late Government had stated that he had not signed it, and he (Mr. Hadfield) believed that nine persons out of ten who took office did not subscribe unto it. Two years ago he had the honour of moving for a Return of all persons who had taken office within the last ten years who had not taken this declaration, but the Motion was opposed on the ground that those who had omitted to do so might be subject to the penalties prescribed by law. He held in his hand the Indemnity Act, 1858, introduced by the right hon. Member for Cambridge, which enlarged the time for making this declaration for the benefit of those who had neglected to do so, through ignorance of the law, absence, or other unavoidable cause. He would not ask the right hon. Member whether he had made and signed the declaration. He would presume he had done so; but he would assert his belief that none of the right hon. Member's colleagues (except Judges and Magistrates) had done so; and even Gentlemen learned in the law had had the benefit of being ignorant of the law, to escape the obligation of signing this obnoxious and offensive declaration. He believed that among those who had not so subscribed were Members who had held the highest offices in the State, and who were yet about to oppose this Bill, and to perpetuate the obligation on others. Magistrates and members of municipal corporations were obliged to subscribe to the declaration at once, but Ministers of the Crown did not make it at all, and were supposed to be indemnified. Therefore, there was one law for one class and another and offensive law for another class. He trusted that this remnant of intolerance would be swept away. The rejection of this Bill, he believed, would cause much dissatisfaction among the great body of Dissenters. He warned hon. Members that it was the reverse of wisdom to rouse a spirit of religious discord by rejecting this Bill, and evoke a crisis to be deprecated by all.

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


begged to second the Motion, and said that hon. Gentlemen opposite might not only gracefully but safely and wisely grant this small measure of relief to those who felt this declaration to be derogatory and oppressive. He could not understand how men of high feeling and great talents could sustain a declaration like that in question. The persons to whom the Bill applied would have no ecclesiastical power whatever, and it was worse than useless to maintain a declaration which, while it was no defence to the Church of England, was offensive to a large portion of the community. He had never known a Dissenter being prevented by the declaration from taking office, except one, and he was one of the most conscientious men he had ever mot with. Every concession made to Dissenters only added to the strength of the Church of England, while every unnecessary restriction that was maintained tended to weaken her. He hoped, therefore, the House would consent to the reading of the Bill a third time.


begged to move that the Bill be read a third time that day six months. He rejoiced that the hon. Member for Sheffield had at last broken the silence he had so long maintained. But he found that, previous to the second reading of this Bill, a statement which he held in his hand, which contained the substance of the speech of the hon. Member, had been widely circulated. He opposed this measure, on the ground that it proposed, by abolishing the necessity for the making and subscription of the declaration contained in the Test and Corporation Act, to break a compact made thirty-five years ago, and which had been renewed in all the Acts of Parliament which had since passed, for granting relief and privileges to Dissenters, Roman Catholics, and Jews. In 1828 Lord John Russell said— After deeply considering the declaration proposed, I feel bound to say that I do not find it imposes any restraints on the religious liberty of individuals. It merely restrains them from exercising any influence which they may obtain, by virtue of any office to which they may be appointed, to weaken the Established Church, or to subvert its legal rights and privileges. I therefore am of opinion that it would be extremely unadvisable in me to propound or to maintain any objection to the declaration which has been proposed. On the contrary, it would be extremely wrong in me not to admit it into the Bill as a very essential means of pacifying the country on this most important subject." [2 Hansard, xviii. 1330.] This was the opinion of the leader of the the Liberal party when he entered into the compact. Now, it might be asked, were the circumstances in the moral condition of the country so changed now that this declaration had become unnecessary? The reverse of this was notoriously the case. There were two classes of Dissenters; one were satisfied with the religious liberty they enjoyed; the other aimed openly at the destruction of the Established Church, and wished to deprive her of a great part of her property. Lord Teynham, in 1860, said the great objection to the declaration was— That the words were ambiguous and ensnaring to the conscience; and some doubted whether, after having taken such an oath, they could with an easy conscience petition for the abolition of Church Rates, on the ground that such abolition might be considered as tending to injure and weaken the Established Church; and others, who could enter a corporation with a good conscience, and petition against Church Rates, thinking that their abolition would be an addition to the strength of the Establishment, might have it unjustly imputed to them that they had violated their oaths." [3 Hansard, clvii. 1009.] After this announcement from the noble Lord, who in that year moved the second reading of the Bill in the House of Lords, the Peers awoke; for it had then become evident that the object of abolishing the declaration was not to relieve the conscience of individuals in their private or in their corporate capacities, for in such capacities the declaration does not affect them, but to enable persons in corporations to use that corporate power to attack the Church of England. The Bill for the Commutation of Church Rates which stood in his name afforded sufficient proof that he was actuated by no other spirit than a desire as far as possible to consult the feelings of his Dissenting fellow countrymen. In the year 1859 hon. Members left him alone in opposition to the measure; he rejoiced to see that the benches, then so empty, were now so full.


begged to second the Amendment.

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


Sir, I am unwilling to give to this measure only such support as is accorded by a silent vote, because I confess I not only feel myself bound by former acts and present convictions to vote in its favour, but I cannot help expressing my very great regret at the error which I think the hon. Gentleman opposite has committed in opposing the Bill. The hon. Gentleman who has moved that the Bill be read a third time this day six months has founded his objection on this ground —that the present arrangement is an arrangement in the nature of a compact. I do not deny that there are certain Acts of Parliament which may more or less approximate to the character of a compact, but that doctrine, even in its application to particular cases, ought to be treated with great jealousy, because the effect of it would be to throw into abeyance the whole power and responsibility of the Legislature for the time being. It is a very difficult and dangerous doctrine to hold that there may be arrangements made by former Parliaments in matters of general legislation. I do not refer to Acts which contain particular promises to particular persons for particular purposes; but it is exceedingly difficult to contend that it is competent for the Legislature, at a given moment, to tie up the hands of the Legislature of a subsequent period, which must always remain under the paramount obligation of determining what is for the interests of the country at that period. I must say, I have rarely known a case in which the argument of a compact has been more hardly dealt with than in the present instance. The hon. Gentleman has quoted the words of Lord John Russell to show that this is a matter of compact. I cannot admit that it was in the power of my noble Friend (Earl Russell), even if he had the inclination, to give the character of a compact to such a declaration; but there is not the slightest evidence that such was his intention. The words simply amount to this—that the arrangement then proposed was a fair arrangement for the then Parliament to make. There is no evidence that he accepted it as a perpetual and unalterable settlement, in which light the hon. Gentleman now urges it as an objection to the Bill. But if there be nothing in the nature of the case that affixes to it the character of a compact—and I, for my part, would say that the nature of the case almost defies the idea of a compact— I ask the House to consider the policy of the question. And here I place myself in the position of one, who in addition to his general duties as a Minister of the Crown and Member of Parliament, has a special duty as the representative of a large portion of the clergy of the Church of England; and I confidently say, holding the language I have held ever since I had the honour to represent them—now a period of fifteen years—that no benefit accrues to the Church of England from the maintenance of such a declaration. For what does this declaration do? I do not deny that in 1828 it was wise of Lord John Russell, or of those who supported him, to accept the declaration; but the circumstances of 1828 were different from those of 1863. Look at the changes which have occurred in our legislation—the admission of the Roman Catholics to Parliament, the admission of the Jews. Look at the manner in which, since 1828, the whole system of the administration of the State has been altered—how it has been founded upon the general recognition of the equal civil rights of the members of all religions. I admit this declaration does contain in it more or less an acknowledgment of civil inequality. It does constitute a civil inequality when certain persons are singled out to make a declaration limiting, or tending to limit, the discharge of their obligations as Members of Parliament, or as holders of any other office of trust. But lot me look at this declaration as a security. If it be a security, it is one which each person may interpret for himself; and I must confess it appears to be such that, while it may possibly fetter the hands of a very scrupulous man, those persons who assume to themselves an ordinary freedom will find very little difficulty in exercising under the pressure of it nearly all the liberty which they would exercise even if there were no such restraint. Now, it is not good policy to depend upon, declarations the whole force of which depends upon private interpretation, and is not sufficient to bind many persons, though it is sufficient to bind the more scrupulous and conscientious men. But, Sir, I do not admit that the Church of England has any occasion to take a security of this kind. It is admitted that the pressure of this declaration is intended to be upon Dissenters; but I do not see any danger to the Church of England arising from Dissenters or Roman Catholics. If the Church of England has dangers—and I fear she has—they arise from internal dissensions. I most sincerely trust she may outlive and overcome them, for, in my opinion, it would be a sad thing for the nation, and for all persons, Dissenters included, if she ceased to exist. But for the last thirty years I have not been able to trace any danger to the Church of England arising from the political acts of the Dissenters. If Dissenters have shown on special occasions a particular desire to secure privileges for their own bodies, the effect of that is to create a reaction favourable to the Church on the part of the immense majority of the nation. The great increase of the anxiety to defend the Church of England for several years past is due to the fact that some pressure has been attempted to be exercised on the Church by particular members of Dissenting bodies in measures which they have promoted or introduced. But if that be so, we have, I think, a security for the Church of England in the zeal of its own members, as indicated by what has taken place in this House, and proved by sure experience—a security of a thoroughly natural and wholesome character because produced by the very action of free discussion, because it implies no inequality, because it affixes no brand but is a sound and legitimate part of our Parliamentary system, by which the tendencies to excess (of which every party must be conscious) are checked and controlled by the reaction which they create. It is manifest that a strong feeling of zeal does prevail among many Members of this House for treating any measures that may be introduced in a manner favourable to the Church; but I must say that a vigorous indication of that feeling would in the end prove unfavourable, unless it were mildly and temperately used; and there is no mode in which it could be more mildly and temperately used than in dealing with such a measure as this. If this be a declaration not involving any security to the Church, but if, on the other hand, it be felt to be painful to an important part of the community, and if we long ago recognised the truth that there is no use in imposing in any shape civil disabilities on account of religious opinions, then I think the mode in which the House deals with such a Bill as this would afford the country no fallacious test of the way in which those who are attached to the Church of England are disposed to use their strength. At any rate, having myself for so many years represented a large body of the clergy of the Church of England, and having on various occasions submitted my claims to represent them to their revision, I have no hesitation in saying, that although on certain other occasions I may be called upon to differ from my hon. Friend who is the proposer of this Bill, and the hon. Gentleman who has seconded the third reading, they are, by the course which they have taken, in point of fact acting the part of true and prudent friends of the real interests of the Church of England.


— Sir, I am well aware that the House is anxious to come to a division, and there has been, I believe, a sort of understanding that a division without a discussion was likely to take place upon this occasion. But unfortunately, as I think, that understanding has been broken by the promoter of this Bill; and after the discussion which has taken place, and after the remarkable speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I think the debate ought not to be terminated without some answer being attempted to that speech. The hon. Gentleman who moved the third reading quoted myself, as having, on a previous occasion, said that the declaration which this Bill seeks to abolish was no great security to the Church. I am of that opinion still. I think this Bill is of an insignificant character, either as regards any relief to be given to Dissenters on the one hand, or as regards danger to the Church on the other. Then, it will be asked, why oppose it? My answer is, why do you propose it? That would be the first answer, and I believe the legitimate one, for I do think that this declaration was a compact made at the time when the Test and Corporation Acts were repealed. I do think it is in the nature of a compact, in this sense at least, that when you grant a great measure of relief and propose to append to it any conditions which are considered as securities, whether they be so or not, those who receive the benefit of that relief ought not to come to Parliament to be relieved of the conditions upon which the measure of relief was granted. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer says truly, that no compact can he made by one Parliament which is to bind another. That is perfectly true; but there are understandings with respect to measures of this description which, unless adhered to, will prevent us making those reforms which may he desirable, but which will not be made unless conditions like those in question be maintained. It is in that sense that I think the compact ought to be maintained, and I think also that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the very last person who ought to use the argument he did; for if ever a compact was made by man, it was made by my right hon. Friend—I allude to the repeal of the income tax. So much for the maintenance of compacts. Well, why wish the law to be maintained? My right hon. Friend said, and said truly, that the Church of England is in some danger from internal dissensions, but in none from free discussion. But what is it that has provoked these discussions? Is it any attack on the part of the Church of England? Have not the members of that Church on every occasion manifested the utmost desire to give in the fullest, freest manner, all that my right hon. Friend calls religious liberty? Well, then, what has provoked these discussions? Unhappily, I think I may say they are owing to this:—That the Dissenters, in a series of measures, advocated by some from good and conscientious motives, by others with the avowed object of attacking the Church, have brought forward Bill after Bill until they have raised a resistance which they will not easily quell. But my right hon. Friend says, that this declaration partakes of the nature of civil inequality. But was that the language used by Lord John Russell in 1828? That noble Lord said, that the object of the declaration was simply this —that those who made it should not use the power which they derived from any corporate office to the prejudice of the Church of England. If there be any civil inequality in that, then the argument of my right hon. Friend comes to this—that the Dissenters ought to be freed, that they may be at liberty to act to the prejudice of the Church of England. Sir, every argument that I have heard in support of the Bill becomes of serious import, because it shows, or tends to show, that there is something more in the background. I will add only one word more. I was not in my place last evening, but I see that a certain measure was resisted then by so high an authority as the First Minister of the Crown upon the ground that it might lead to another measure which he always opposed. If that be a legitimate ground of opposition, and if the argument of the noble Lord which opened up the question of ulterior measures be good, can there be a stronger reason for treating this Bill as something very serious, something more than appears upon the face of it? I shall therefore cordially support my hon. Friend in his Motion for the rejection of this Bill.


said, that in his opinion the declaration was of no advantage to the Church of England, but was a practical evil. Most able men—men of conscientious views—were prevented from serving in a corporate office, owing to the operation of this declaration, which deprived corporations of their services. In the borough he represented a gentleman who, of all others, was most fit to be in the corporation, was prevented from joining that body because he had a conscientious objection to take this test. In moving the rejection of a similar Bill in the other House, Lord Chelmsford said the object was to obtain from Dissenters on entering office an acknowledgment of the predominance of the Established Church; but he submitted there was no advantage conferred on the Church of England by obtaining this acknowledgment of its predominance. He had no feeling whatever against the Established Church—he wished its usefulness might be preserved—but he would say to its friends, if you wish to preserve the substance, do not fight so hard for the shadow. The friends of the Established Church should not insult those who were opposed to them by contending so strongly for that which is a mere sign of supremacy.


said, that in reference to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he begged to be allowed to explain that he (Mr. Newdegate) had stated on the second reading of the Bill, that the compact, of which the terms of the declaration were the effect and the evidence, had been renewed at the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Act, on the passing of the Act with regard to Quakers and Moravians, and within the last five years on the passing of the Act by which members of the Jewish religion were admitted to seats in that House. Therefore, it was not a compact thirty-fire years old; but a compact renewed from time to time, and renewed on the last occasion within the last five years.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 175; Noes 172: Majority 3.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 3°, and passed.

Adair, H. E. Ellice.E. (St. Ands.)
Agnew, Sir A. Enfield, Viscount
Alcock, T. Evans, T. W.
Anson, hon. Major Ewart, W.
Antrobus, E. Ewart, J. C.
Ayrton, A. S. Ewing, H. E. Crum-
Aytoun, R. S. Finlay, A. S.
Barbour, J. D. Forster, C.
Baring, A. H. Forster, W. E.
Baring, T. G. Fortescue, hon. F. D.
Barnes, T. Gaskell, J. M.
Baxter, W. E. Gavin, Major
Bazley, T. Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.
Berkeley, hon. C. P. F. Gilpin, C.
Biddulph, Colonel Gladstone, rt. hon. W.
Black, A. Goldsmid, Sir F. H.
Blake, J. Gower, G. W. G. L.
Blencowe, J. G. Greene, J.
Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P. Grenfell, H. R.
Brand, hon. H. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Briscoe, J. I. Grosvenor, Earl.
Browne, Lord J. T. Gurdon, B.
Bruce, H. A. Gurney, J. H.
Buchanan, W. Hanbury, R.
Buller, J. W. Handley, J.
Buller, Sir A. W. Hardcastle, J. A.
Butler, C. S. Hayter, rt. hon. Sir W. G.
Butt, I.
Calthorpe, hon. F. H. W. G. Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.
Henley, Lord
Cardwell, rt. hon. E. Hibbert, J. T.
Carnegie, hon. C. Hodgkinson, G.
Cavendish, hon. W. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Clifford, C. C. Ingham, R.
Clifton, Sir R. J. Jackson, W.
Clive, G. King, hon. P. J. L.
Cobden, R. Kinglake, A. W.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Kinglake, J. A.
Coningham, W. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Cox, W. Knatchbull-Hugessen, E
Craufurd, E. H. J. Layard, A. H.
Crossley, Sir F. Langton, W. H. G.
Dalglish, R. Lanigan, J.
Davey, R. Lawson, W.
Davie, Colonel F. Leatham, E. A.
Denman, hon. G. Levinge, Sir R.
Dent, J. D. Lewis, H.
Dering, Sir E. C. Locke, J.
Dillwyn, L. L. Lowe, rt. hon. R.
Divett, E. Lysley, W. J.
Dodson, J. G. M'Cann, J.
Douglas, Sir C. MacEvoy, E.
Duff. M. E. G. Mackinnon, W. A.
Dunbar, Sir W. M'Mahon, P.
Dundas, F. Maguire, J. F.
Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D. Marjoribanks, D. C.
Dunkellin, Lord Martin, P. W.
Martin, J. Shafto, R. D.
Massey, W. N. Shelley, Sir J. V.
Merry, J. Sheridan, H. B.
Mills, J. R. Smith, J. B.
Mitchell, T. A. Smith J. A.
Moncreiff, rt. hon. J. Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W. M.
Morris, D.
Morrison, W. Stacpoole, W.
North, F. Staniland, M.
Ogilvy, Sir J. Stansfeld, J.
Onslow, G. Steel, J.
O'Reilly, M. W. Stuart, Colonel
Packe, Colonel Sykes, Colonel, W. H.
Padmore, R. Taylor, P. A.
Paget, C. Tomline, G.
Paget, Lord C. Trelawny, Sir J. S.
Pease, H. Turner, J. A.
Peel, rt. hon. Sir R. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Pender, J. Walter, J.
Peto, Sir S. M. Warner, E.
Pilkington, J. Wemyss, J. H. E.
Potter, E. Western, S.
Powell, J. J. Westhead, J. P. Brown-
Pritchard, J. Whalley, G. H.
Raynham, Viscount White, J.
Robartes, T. J. A, White, L.
Robertson, H. Wickham, H. W.
Roebuck, J. A. Williams, W.
Russell, A. Wood, W.
St. Aubvn, J. Wrightson. W. B.
Scott, Sir W.
Seely, C. TELLERS.
Seymour, H. D. Mr. Hadfield
Seymour, A. Mr. Baines
Adderley, rt. hon. C. B. Dutton, hon. R. H.
Addington, hon. W. W. Edwards, Major
Arbuthnott, hon. Gen. Egerton, E. C.
Bailey, C. Egerton, hon. W.
Barttelot, Colonel Elcho, Lord
Bathurst, A. A. Fane, Colonel J. W.
Beech, W. W. B. Farquhar, Sir M.
Beecroft, G. S. Farrer, J.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Fellowes, E.
Bentinck, G. C. Fergusson, Sir J.
Benyon, R. Ferrand, W.
Beresford, rt. hon. W. Forester, rt. hon. Gen.
Bovill, W. Gard, R. S.
Bramston, T. W. George, J.
Bridges, Sir B. W. Getty, S. G.
Brooks, R. Gilpin, Colonel
Bruce, Major C. Gore, J. R. O.
Bruce, Sir H. H. Grey de Wilton, Visct.
Burghley, Lord Grogan, Sir E.
Burrell, Sir P. Haliburton, T. C.
Butler-Johnstone, H. A. Hardy, G.
Cartwright, Colonel Hardy, J.
Cave, S. Hay, Sir J. C. D.
Cecil, Lord R. Heathcote, Sir W.
Chapman, J. Heathcote, hon. G. H.
Clive, Capt. hon. G. W. Henley, rt. hon. J. W.
Cochrane, A.D.R.W.B. Henniker, Lord
Codrington, Sir W. Hesketh, Sir T. G.
Cole, hon. H. Heygate, Sir F. W.
Collins, T. Hodgson, R.
Cubitt, G. Holford, R. S.
Cubitt, W. Holmesdale, Viscount
Curzon, Viscount Hornby, W. H.
Dawson, R. P. Horsfall, T. B.
Disraeli, rt. hon. B. Hotham, Lord
Du Cane, C. Howes, E.
Duncombe, hon. W. E. Humberston, P. S.
Hume, W. W. F. Peel, rt. hon. General
Hunt, G. W. Pennant, hon. Colonel
Jermyn, Earl Pevensey, Viscount
Johnstone, J. J. H. Phillips, G. L.
Jolliffe, H. H. Powell, F. S.
Jones, D. Powell, W. T. R.
Kennard, R. W. Ridley, Sir M. W.
King, J. K. Rolt, J.
Knatchbull, W. F. Rowley, hon. R. T.
Knightley, E. Salt, J.
Laird, J. Scourfield, J. H.
Langton, W. H. P. G. Soymer, H. K.
Leader, N. P. Smith, Sir F.
Lefroy, A. Smith, A.
Legh, W. J. Smith, S. G.
Leighton, Sir B. Somerset, Colonel
Lennox, Lord G. G. Somes, J.
Lennox, C.S.B. H. K. Spooner, R.
Leslie, W. Stanhope, J. B.
Liddell, hon. H. G. Stuart, Lt.-Col. W.
Lindsay, hon. Gen. Stracey, Sir H.
Lovaine, Lord Start, H. G.
Lyall, G. Sturt, Lt. Col. N.
Lygon, hon. F. Talbot, hon. W. C.
M'Cormick, W. Taylor, Colonel
Macdonogh, F. Tempest, Lord A. V.
Mainwaring, T. Thynne, Lord H.
Malcolm, J. W. Tollemache, J.
Malins, R. Torrens, R.
Manners, rt. hon. Lord J. Trefusis, hon. C. H. R.
Miles, Sir W. Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.
Mills, A. Turner, C.
Mitford, W. T. Vance, J.
Montagu, Lord R. Vandeleur, Colonel
Montgomery, Sir G. Vansittart, W.
Mordaunt, Sir C. Verner, Sir W.
Morgan, O. Walcott, Admiral
Morritt, W. J. S. Walker, J. R.
Mowbray, rt. Hon. J. R. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Mundy, W. Walsh, Sir J.
Murray, W. Watlington, J. W. P.
Noel, hon. G. J. Whitmore, H.
North, Colonel Woodd, B. T.
Northcote, Sir S. H. Wyndham, hon. P.
Packe, C. W. Wynn, C. W. W.
Pakington, rt. hon. Sir J. Wynne, W. W. E.
Palk, Sir L. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Papillon, P. O.
Parker, Major W. TELLERS.
Patten, Colonel W. Mr. Newdegate
Paull, H. Mr. Selwyn