HC Deb 22 June 1865 vol 180 cc634-63

Order for Second Reading read.


Sir, the object of this Bill is to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission appointed at the beginning of 1864 to consider and revise the various forms of subscription and declarations required to be taken by the clergy of the Established Church. This subject of Clerical Subscription is one that has recently occupied a good deal of public attention and occasioned much discussion. Motions have have been made in both Houses of Parliament on the matter. In the House of Lords two or three years ago a Bill was proposed, the object of which was to repeal so much of the Act of Uniformity as required a declaration to be made of unfeigned assent and consent to everything contained in the Book of Common Prayer. In 1863 my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Buxton) made a Motion of a more general character, asking the House to declare it expedient that the terms of clerical subscription should be relaxed. The Government met that Motion, not with a direct negative, but by the Previous Question, and that course, I think, was sanctioned by the general acquiescence of the House. They felt that in what was urged by my hon. Friend as to the number and complexity of the various forms of subscription required by law from the clergy, there was considerable force; they were not prepared to say that no alteration should take place; but, at the same time, they felt it would be inexpedient for the House to make any general declaration that the forms of subscription should be relaxed without being prepared with a specific proposal as to the forms of subscription that ought to be substituted. They also felt that before any specific alteration was proposed it was desirable that the whole subject should be considered and fully inquired into by a Commission appointed by the Crown. In conformity with that opinion Her Majesty was advised to issue a Royal Commission to consider and revise the various forms of subscription and declaration to be made by the clergy of the Church of England and Ireland on their appointment, admission, or induction to any benefice or office; and to report their opinion how far they might be altered consistently with due security for the declarant adherence of the clergy to the doctrines and ritual of the Church. The principle of subscription was not at all in question. It was assumed that the Church had a right to require from those who desired to enter the ranks of her clergy that they should publicly declare their general agreement with the doctrines of the Church and their readiness to conform to her ritual. The object of the Commission was to see how far those objections might be removed which were entertained to the great variety and complexity of the forms of subscription and declarations from time to time framed, and now by law required. In selecting the Members to constitute that Commission, it was the object of the Government that it should be so composed as to command the general confidence of members of the Established Church, and for that purpose they felt it desirable that it should be partly composed of clerical and partly of lay Members of the Church. They were also anxiou3 that it should comprise Members—I will not say of different parties in the Church—but of the different phase of opinion that we know are entertained within the limits of the Church, by persons equally attached to her doctrines and formularies. And I am happy to believe that we succeeded in attaining that object. The four archbishops of the Established Church were placed on that Commission, together with several of its bishops and clergy, occupying different grades in the Church, and with them were associated twelve laymen, the Commission being presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury. To the patience, care, time, and attention bestowed on this important subject by the Commission we are indebted for the valuable report presented to Her Majesty, and by Her Majesty's commands laid some time since on the table of this House. I am happy to say that the recommendations of that report were unanimously agreed to by the Members of the Commission—in fact the only name that is not found among the signatures to the report is that of my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir William Heathcote), and I am informed that the only reason he did not sign was because he was absent from the country, and at the time suffering from severe indisposition. We are all happy to gee him among us again, and I believe it is the intention of my hon. Friend to confirm my statement as to his entire concurrence in the report of the Commission. The Report, after setting forth the different forms of subscription and declarations now made by the clergy, and the laws under which these are required, points out some material differences existing between the subscription and declarations made by the clergy in England and those made by the clergy of the Irish branch of the Established Church. After having pointed out this, the first recommendation is that those distinctions should be removed, and that the same declarations which are required to be taken by the clergy of this country, should also be taken by the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland. Their next recommendation—the most important one, and, indeed, the main object of the Bill—is that on every occasion on which a subscription or declaration is required to be made in England or Ireland, with reference to the Articles of Religion or the Book of Common Prayer, the existing subscriptions or declarations, having reference to the doctrines and liturgy of the Church, should be discontinued; and that the following declaration should be substituted for them— I, A. B., do solemnly make the following declaration. I assent to the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, and the Book of Common Prayer, and the ordering of bishops, priests, and deacons. I believe the doctrine of the United Church of England and Ireland as therein set forth to be agreeable to the Word of Cod, and in public prayer and administration of the Sacraments, I will use the form in the said book prescribed, and none other, except so far as shall be ordered by lawful authority. With reference to these last words, they point to the power exercised by the Queen in Council of ordering special prayers for occasions of public thanksgiving or calamity, or such other like occasions. The other recommendations contained in the Report have reference to the oaths taken by the clergy. I need not go into them in detail, but they refer to the time at which these oaths are to be taken, and the substitution of a declaration in certain cases for these oaths. The main recommendation, substituting for the present system a general declaration of assent to the doctrines of the Church, and a willingness to conform to its ritual was not only unanimously agreed to by the Commission, but has also met with the general concurrence of other members of the Established Church both clerical and lay, who had had the opportunity of giving consideration to the subject. The Convocations both of Canterbury and York have signified their concurrence in the most formal manner in these recommendations, and although there is no general assembly of the Church in Ireland capable of expressing its concurrence in an equally formal manner, yet the Irish branch of the Established Church was fully represented on the Commission, the two Archbishops having signed the Report in common with the other Commissioners, The Bill also comes down to us with the unanimous concurrence of the House of Lords. There is a great weight of authority, therefore, in favour of this Bill, and I believe it is calculated to confer a great and essential benefit upon the Established Church. I will just allude to the notice of Amendments given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside). In the principle of those Amendments I entirely concur, and if they are adopted they will substantially restore the Bill to the form in which it was originally proposed by the Government. They will correct what I conceive to be a mistake which has been committed by the other House in regard to the old, obsolete oath of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration required to be taken by the Act of William and Mary, instead of the consolidated oath of 21 &c 22 of Victoria, which is the oath taken by the clergy of the Church in Ireland, although it is not at present exacted from the clergy of the Church in England. If that alteration should be made in the Bill, and if it should be assented to by the other House of Parliament, it will be, I think, an essential improvement. It is most satisfactory to know that this Bill has met with such universal concurrence, and I will only state my confident belief that if these recommendations are adopted, the new form of declaration will essentially secure the object which we all have in view—namely, that there should be a declared agreement on the part of those who enter the Church with the doctrines of the Church, and an avowal of their intention to conform to the liturgy and ritual of the Church. On the other hand, the adoption of these recommendations will remove objections of a serious character, founded upon the variety of subscriptions and declarations now required, and the use of terms on which very different interpretations are placed by men of great authority. These objections have had a tendency to prevent the entrance into the Church of men of the highest character and of the most undoubted attachment to the Church, and who were fitted to shed lustre upon the Establishment, and to discharge with the greatest advantage the high duties of its Ministers. I move the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir George Grey.)


Sir, I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman as to the value and utility of this Bill. I think that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government deserve the thanks of the House for the manner in which the Commission was constituted which was empowered to inquire into this very delicate and important subject. I have also personally to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the courteous manner in which he has considered the Amendments which I have proposed, and I am entirely content with the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to deal with them. To obtain simplicity and uniformity in the Church, and at the same time to make the Bill acceptable to the class of persons to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred is a great gain to the Church. The closing words of the Commission, to which the hon. Baronet has alluded, deserve the notice of the House. They are— These recommendations we now humbly offer to your Majesty. To carry them into effect some alterations must be made in the canons of the Church, and some in the statutes of the realm. We trust that our proposals will be willingly accepted both by the Church and by the State. These are judicious suggestions, because they point to an alteration of the canons of the Church and the effect to be given to these alterations by the Legislature. How were the Articles of the Church originally prepared and confirmed? How is that matter stated in the Book of Common Prayer? It is recited that by the General Synod of the Church, acting, no doubt, with the licence of the Crown, these Articles were recommended to the Crown and adopted by the Crown, and the declaration prefixed to them in the Book of Common Prayer points to the Convocation of the Church as the proper tribunal to consider such questions, and says that whenever it is necessary to consider matters of the same nature the same high authority should be summoned again to recommend to the Crown such alterations as the wisdom of Convocation might suggest. The subsequent ratification of these Articles in the time of Elizabeth points to Convocation again as the assembly which is to express its opinion on these subjects. I have asked the right hon. Gentleman more than once during the last ten days for the document, or a copy of it, which he in official language said was in course of preparation. It is what is called a licence to be granted to the Convocation of Canterbury or York, or either of them. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman's labours are so weighty that he has been unable to prepare that difficult and elaborate paper. The more I press the right hon. Gentleman for the paper the more reluctant he appears to be to present it, but now that Parliament is about to be dissolved, I suppose it will be laid on the table of the House. I have a serious question to ask the right hon. Gentleman with reference to this point. I do not complain of the heads of the Church in England being consulted. It was the duty of the Government to consult them. I do not complain of the Convocation of the Church being called upon to give its assent to what is originated, particularly when the Crown can suggest the subject to be discussed, and afterwards affirm it by its license. Nothing can be more temperate or more respectful than to give that power to the Church. But I do not comprehend the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman in issuing a paper which would call upon Convocation to give a political "Amen" to an Act of Parliament that had been already passed. In relation, therefore, to the question as touching the Irish branch of the Church, I beg to refer to a protest which has been laid upon the table of the other House of Parliament, and of which I have procured a copy. Now, let me say, first, that I support the Bill cordially, and I think the Amendments which I propose to introduce will make it an excellent measure. But I am speaking now of the manner in which the Convocation of England are asked to give their opinion, and of the abrupt and somewhat contumelious style in which the right hon. Baronet has snuffed out the Convocation of Ireland. The protest drawn up by certain eminent members of the Irish episcopal body was in these terms— Dissentient:

  1. "1. Because that, while agreeing that it is expedient to simplify and assimilate the Laws of Clerical Subscription in all the Provinces of the United Church of England and Ireland, and while acquiescing in the general Reasonableness of the Recommendations made in the Report of the Royal Commissioners upon which this Bill is founded, we deem it inconsistent with the ancient Customs of this Church and Realm that in a Spiritual Matter so nearly affecting the whole Body of the Clergy, Canons enacted with the Assent of the Crown, by the Bishops and Clergy synodically assembled, should be altered or annulled without a Royal Licence previously given to them to re-consider and alter those Canons.
  2. "2. Because the Course taken in the bringing in and passing this Bill, which alters, without the Concurrence of all the Bishops and Clergy of the Church of England and Ireland synodically assembled, Canons of the Church respecting Clerical Subscription as a Condition of Admission into Holy Orders, is regarded by us as not only without adequate Precedent, but without sufficient Ground of general Expediency.
  3. "3. Because we think that the passing of this Bill, with the Concurrence of the English, but without the Concurrence of the Irish Bishops and Clergy synodically convened, may appear prejudicial to their undoubted Right to a full Participation in the Common Privileges of the Spirituality of the United Church, a Right declared by the Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland to be an essential and fundamental Part of the Union of those Kingdoms."
I submit that it would he a very difficult thing, even for a Gentleman so well informed as the right hon. Baronet, to answer satisfactorily the reasons contained in that Protest. I beg now to draw attention to a petition which I have had the honour to present from the University of Dublin, and which bears the seal of the University. It states a legal difficulty upon which I should like to have the opinion of the Attorney General. What is the meaning and what can be the effect of this licence to be granted to the Convocation of Canterbury or York, or both, to deal with an Act of Parliament after the Act of Parliament has passed? It is only giving them license to say "Amen" to the Act of Parliament, and that is a thing the advantage of which I cannot comprehend. To give the Convocation of the English branch of the Church by licence a right to consider the subject matter of a canon was becoming; but the granting of such a licence as this is not very respectful to Convocation, and has no sense of significance in regard to the canons of the Church. The petition of the provost, fellows, and scholars of the University of Dublin states— That the Clerical Subscription Bill now before Parliament affects the interests of the Irish branch of the Church in the same degree as it affects the interests of the English branch, and the same reasons which have rendered it desirable to give permission to the provinces of Canterbury and York to express their opinion as to any alteration of their canons and obligations apply with equal force to the Irish provinces of the United Church. That your petitioners do not wish to oppose the progress of the aforesaid Bill, but they pray that your honourable House would be pleased to devise in your wisdom such measures as will hereafter give to the Irish clergy a power of expressing their opinion, in conjunction with the English clergy, on matters affecting the common interest of the United Church, and especially that you will preserve in its integrity the union of the Churches of England and Ireland. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman his authority for stating that there is nobody known to the law in Ireland which could express its opinion on the question, I would remind the right hon. Gentleman of a matter which occurred in the time of the Bishop of Llandaff, just prior to the union, when the necessity of introducing certain securities for the Church of Ireland was being discussed. In the memoirs of the Bishop of Llandaff there appears a correspondence between him and the Archbishop of Canterbury as to whether it would he wise or politic to introduce into the Act of Union a clause or two clauses pointing out the manner in which, after the passing of the measure, Convocation should be assembled. Convocation in Ireland had met from time to time, and Went-worth Lord Strafford drew the Article which identified the doctrine and discipline of the two Churches of England and Ireland. The Convocation of Ireland lay dormant for a time, as the Convocation of England had done for eighty years, but that was no proof of its non-existence. The Act of 1793 (33 Geo. III., c. 29), an Act to prevent the meeting of unlawful assemblies, says— Save and except the knights, citizens, and burgesses elected to serve in the Parliament thereof, and save and except the Houses of Convocation duly summoned by the King's writ. Now, what occurred prior to the Union on the subject? It seems that a communication had been addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the subject, and he, being puzzled, consulted the Bishop of Llandaff, who thought himself an ill-used Prelate because he was not made an archbishop. He seemed to have been rather liberal in his views. The Bishop of Llandaff says— The Archbishop of Canterbury bad asked my opinion relative to the Church of Ireland, and I sent to him the following letter, dated 5th March, 1860:—'My Lord Archbishop—I think the Act of Parliament proposed by the Archbishop of Cashel and Dr. Duignan to be wholly unnecessary, but I approve of the addition to the 5th Article suggested by the Lord Lieutenant (an addition relative la the mode in which Convocation was to be summoned). I approve, however, of this addition merely as it may tend to conciliate those who seem to entertain apprehensions for the security of the Irish Church, and not as thinking it in any degree requisite for that end, which is in no degree endangered by the union. A united Convocation will sufficiently unite both the Churches of England and Ireland at present and as to all future changes, if it should be ever thought expedient to make any; and, as to identification, the Churches are at present identified, not only in the leading principles of Protestantism and Episcopacy, but in doctrine, discipline, and worship. Above all things, I wish the Church of England to forbear affecting a superiority over that of Ireland, by attempting to obtain an appellate jurisdiction to the see of Canterbury. Now, that is a recommendation which I hope the English branch of the United Church of England and Ireland will take to heart. We in Ireland cannot submit to be snuffed out so unceremoniously as the right hon. Baronet proposes to snuff us out. I beg now to call attention to some correspondence of the late Primate of Ireland, in order to correct an observation made in another place by Earl Granville, who stated that the late Primate of Ireland was unfavourable to Convocation. In a certain sense Earl Granville was right, in another sense he was wrong. The late Primate was opposed to a provincial Convocation; for he was always of opinion that the only Convocation which would be of any worth would be the Convocation pointed out by the Treaty of Union, intended by Mr. Pitt, and following as the necessary consequence from the Great Compact itself. But to pass to another matter. Has the right hon. Gentleman been well advised by his lawyers when he said that the Queen could order prayers without the consent of the Church? Did I understand him to say that? I believe that it is a very doubtful matter, though I have no doubt at all that no one would be more likely to make such an order in a pious spirit, or to direct what is right. But would it be binding on each branch of the Church? Who first devised the forms of prayer? The Church is not a Parliamentary engine, to be used or laid aside by the Minister of the day. In due submission to the Crown, as the supreme Governor of the Realm, it has rights of its own, and I do not think the House will be disposed to deprive it of that ancient authority. There is another question I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman. In the case of a general canon—I am not speaking of a provincial regulation—can that general canon, establishing a general principle, and sanctioned in a general synod of the Church, be got rid of by the decision of one province of York or Canterbury? A very serious question arises when you wish to make improvements and reforms—and I admit that reforms may properly be made—namely, what is the authority by which they can be carried out? I admit that the laity are not bound by canons which may bind the clergy; but quoad the Church the canons are binding, and can the province of York or Canterbury pass a canon binding on the whole Church? Clearly not I think. Take the canon relating to sponsors, which orders that parents ought not to be sponsors for their own children, which is a general canon of the whole Church—does the right hon. Gentleman say that the sanction of a general synod would not be necessary to change the 29th canon? Could it be got rid of by an Order in Council, or by a decision of one branch, either of York or Canterbury? It is right to consider proposals of reform and improvement, and I admit that the canons require reform and improvement; but what is the lawful authority by which these improvements can be effected? When it was proposed to alter the 29 th canon, relating to sponsors, the Primate and Bishops of Ireland addressed a memorial to Her Majesty, in which they said that— The Convocation of the province of Canterbury having applied for and obtained your Majesty's licence for the purpose, has repealed the 29th canon, and in place thereof enacted a new canon, which now awaits your Majesty's sanction. And that "the convocation of York has likewise asked for and received a licence for the same purpose." They added that they understood that steps were taken by the province of Canterbury to frame new forms of prayer for thanksgiving after harvest, and for other occasions, and to regulate discipline; and they added— A new rule of sponsorship, new forms of prayer, and a new law of discipline, if introduced in the province of Canterbury alone, or in the provinces of Canterbury and York, to the exclusion of the Irish provinces, would disturb the uniformity of the Church and violate the spirit of the Act of Union. In such grave matters we conceive that the whole united Church is con- cerned and that, in such matters, the advice, not of one or two provincial synods only should be taken, but of a general synod of the United Church of England and Ireland. This was in July, 1861, and the usual formal acknowledgment of its receipt was forwarded, but it appeared then to have been forgotten by the right hon. Gentleman. The fact was, the right hon. Gentleman could not answer it, and the alteration of the 29th canon was not proceeded with, which shows that the memorial was founded in reason. In February, 1862, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the name of the Convocation of his province, acting towards the Irish Church with that kindness and consideration and brotherly feeling which from such men might be expected, wrote to the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin, communicating what had been done to obtain the authorization of a special form of thanksgiving for harvest, and to— Request their Graces to take such steps as to them may seem expedient to obtain the advice and concurrence of their branch of the United Church; forgetful that there was no mode of obtaining that concurrence. In June, 1862, the right hon. Baronet gave an answer to the Primate as follows:— As your Grace has expressed a desire to know Her Majesty's decision, Her Majesty's Government have not felt it to be their duty to advise Her Majesty to convene a general synod of the United Church of England and Ireland. They believe that no such synod ever was convened, and they are not aware that, if convened, it would have any legal power. I should like to ask the Attorney General whether, if there were such a synod, he holds that it would have no legal power? What power has the Convocation now assembled? If it be assembled by an act of courtesy, why not ask the other branches of the same Church also to assemble? If it be unlawful, why allow it to assemble at all? I should like also to ask the Attorney General what rights he considers the Irish Church has under the Act of Union? At that important epoch the Irish House of Commons passed a Resolution— That the Churches of England and Ireland shall be united into one Church, and the archbishops, priests, &c, of the Churches of England and Ireland shall from time to time be summoned to and entitled to sit in convocation of the United Church in the same manner as now established in the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the said United Church shall be preserved as now by law established for the Church of England. That was the proposal of Lord Cornwallis, and the Government referred to by the Bishop of Llandaff and the Archbishop of Canterbury, as I have before mentioned. That was amended in the House of Lords, leaving it that— When his Majesty shall summon a Convocation of the Irish clergy they shall be summoned to sit in such Convocation of the United Church. That article was laid on the table of the English House of Commons by Mr. Pitt on the 21st of April; but when the Bill was in Committee Mr. Pitt said— It was judged better to omit the insertion of any provisional article respecting the Convocation until the union actually took place, more particularly as his Majesty, as the head of both Churches, had the power to call such a Convocation when he pleased. And the clause proposed was struck out on that ground with the consent of the Irish Parliament; but the union of the two Churches was an essential part of the Act of Union. As a question of law, then, I ask again, is it possible for any other Convocation now to sit for the purpose of altering a general canon of the United Church save and except a Convocation in which the whole of that Church is represented? Three learned persons in this country were asked for their opinion on this question. The opinion was to the effect that if a Bill were to be introduced to alter a canon, the approval of the prelates and clergy of the United Church should be procured. If Convocation be required for the purpose of altering or amending the law of the Church, the policy and the legality are equally clear of allowing the Church authorities in Ireland an opportunity of joining in that Convocation. Those authorities give a hearty assent to the wise and tolerant measure now recommended to the House. I would suggest to the Lord Chancellor to consider what Convocation could be assembled to pass a canon binding on the whole Church except the Convocation referred to in the Act of Union as originally drawn For my part, I am always surprised to hear Gentleman say that they have a prejudice against Convocation, and I do not think that to be a very tolerant feeling. Every branch of the Christian Church is allowed to assemble to make regulations for the management of its own body, and I do not believe that, if the United Church of England and Ireland, which has a great history, a magnificent literature, and functions which she has discharged faithfully and well, were allowed in like manner to assemble, the heads of the Church would run counter to the sense of the nation or to the spirit of the Parliament.


said, he certainly would not venture to touch on the question as to the claims of the Convocation of the United Church to be heard on this matter, and he would not have risen at all to address the House were it not that he had regretted to observe that the importance of the changes with regard to the tests imposed on the clergy that had been proposed by the Commission which sat last year, and which were embodied in the Bill before them, had been depreciated in some quarters, as if, after all, those tests would remain about as stringent as they had been before. Now, he admitted that the change did not go so far in the way of relaxation as be could himself have wished; but, at the same time, he thought that it was one of great importance, and he also thought that the precedent now established was in itself of great value. It was a remarkable fact that a Commission, including eight archbishops and bishops, and several other dignitaries of the Church, should have unanimously agreed to sweep away the whole of the existing declarations required from the clergy, and to substitute a perfectly new form; and that this reform should also have been acquiesced in by Convocation; and he confidently maintained that the change thus unanimously agreed to was radical in its kind, though it might be too moderate in degree. The distinction between the proposed test and those now existing was this, that whereas at present those who took orders or promotion in the Church were obliged to declare that they accepted all and everything contained either in the Prayer Book or the Thirty-nine Articles, in future they would only affirm their acceptance of the doctrine of the Church contained in those books as a whole, without pledging themselves to a belief in every assertion and every dogma that the Church in those books might have laid down. Having been himself a Member of the Commission which proposed this change, he was in a position to affirm that it was the express intention of the Commission to relax the extravagant stringency of the existing tests; in other words, to make it possible for men to minister at the altars of the Church, although they might dissent from some part of her teaching, provided, however, they accepted it as a whole. To that last con- dition they had undoubtedly felt bound to submit; in fact, it was plain that if such declarations were to be preserved at all, it was essential that those who took them should be called upon to declare virtually that they were bonâ fide members of the Church whose ministers they desired to be. So far they must all be agreed. They might differ on the question whether such tests should be applied at all; but if they were to be maintained it was manifest that their tenour must be of that kind. But what the Commission had aimed at was, on the one hand, to preserve such a general concurrence, but, on the other, to afford the clergy scope for some independence of thought within those wide bounds; and they certainly conceived that that end had in a cousiderable degree been attained in the proposal to which they had agreed. Look at the difference between these tests and the old ones. In the latter the intending clergyman declared that "willingly and ex animo" he gave his unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained and prescribed in and by the Book of Common Prayer, and also that he accepted "each and every" of the Thirty-nine Articles of religion. In these words, the stringency of which had been sedulously wrought up to the highest possible point, and in a variety of other phrases astonishingly numerous and complicated, the clergyman was so bound down, that if it had been possible for restrictions of that kind to produce their intended effect, there would have been a total extinction of anything like independence of thought within the borders of the Established Church. Now, it was of the greatest importance to observe that all those phrases which indicated that the subscriber declared his acceptance of every dogma of the Church had been swept away; and this had been done expressly and of forethought. As regarded the Thirty-nine Articles, the Commission had agreed to sweep away the words, "each and every of them;" implying, therefore, that the subscriber was only to take them as a whole, even though he might disagree with them here and there. The omission was of great importance. It was expressly intended, in order that the subscriber might feel that, provided he accepted the Articles as a whole, he was not to be excluded from the ministry because be might differ from certain portions of them. As regarded the Prayer Book the change was even still more marked; for, instead of declaring his assent and consent to all and everything it contained, he only declared his assent to the Book of Prayer—that is to say, to the book as a whole; and his belief that the doctrine of the Church therein set forth was agreeable to the word of God. Observe, that he would not declare that the doctrines in the plural number, or that each and all of the doctrines were agreeable to the word of God, but only the doctrine of the Church in the singular number. It was expressly and unanimously agreed by the Commission that the word doctrine should be used in the singular number in order that it might be understood that it was the general teaching and not every part and parcel of that teaching to which assent was given. Having been in communication with the leaders of the party in the Church who were most anxious to relax the stringency of the tests imposed on the clergy, he was able to say that they regarded the proposed change as one of considerable value. And although it did not go as far as he himself and others could have wished, still its tendency went to this, that the subscriber would no longer bind himself to every particular doctrine, to every jot and tittle of the dogmatic teaching of the Church, but only to a general acceptance of that teaching. As far as this Bill tended to that result its value must be great. The time had arrived when it had become essential to allow great scope for independent thought to those who were to minister at the altars of the Church. No thoughtful man who watched the history of his own time could have failed to observe the mighty revolution that had been silently going forward in the national mind, and with accelerated rapidity during the last few years, in the growing resistance in men's minds to dogmatic religious teaching. Whether they regarded that movement with regret or with hope and satisfaction the fact could not be denied. Men of education and intelligence were more and more refusing to submit their minds to traditional teaching merely. They had grown more resolute in character and were more and more applying their own reason with force and boldness to the doctrines presented to them by their Church. This movement was doubtless looked upon by many with extravagant alarm. For his part he could not but believe that the faith of the people would become only the more high and noble under the invigorating influence of courageous thought. But whether that were so or not, it was in vain to blind themselves to these facts; and those who wished to see the Church hold her own in this land and spreading further and deeper her holy and benign influence must rejoice if she were willing in any degree to adapt herself to the necessities of the time, and to the progress of human thought, instead of engaging in a short-sighted and futile resistance to the advancing tide. If, while the intelligent and energetic youth of the country was determined to use its reason freely, and to repudiate any attempt to enforce intellectual subjection, the Church should still persist in demanding from her ministers an absolute and uncompromising submission of mind to all and every portion of her dogmatic teaching, the inevitable result must be to sever the Church from the intellectual energy of the time, to hand over to feeble and narrow minds the high function of instructing the people in religious truth, and thus to weaken her power and degrade her character. It was in that sense and with that view that, two years ago, he had called the attention of that House to this subject for the first time; and he was persuaded that this measure would not only relieve many tender consciences from a cruel burden, but would tend to maintain the connection between the Established Church and the stirring intellect of the age.


said, this was a subject of a grave and important nature, and it might have been supposed that the House would have been attended by a much larger number of Members, The hon. Gentleman the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Buxton) regretted that the alterations made by the Bill had not been carried to a greater extent. Now he (Mr. Briscoe), had paid some attention to the subject, and he was not surprised to find that the Archdeacon of Middlesex considered that this was one of the most important measures affecting the Church since the time of Henry VIII, When it was said that it had been unanimously approved by Convocation, it seemed to be forgotten that the Bishop of Lincoln had expressed his extreme regret at seeing the words "I do willingly and ex animo" altered into the feeble phrase "I do solemnly make the following declaration." The Bishop of Peterborough entirely agreed with the Bishop of Lincoln that it would be unwise to omit from the declaration the words "willingly and ex animo," which afforded a security for the Church. The hon. Mem- ber for Maidstone said that the measure would relieve tender consciences; but did it, he asked, alter a single word in any of the services of the Church or in any of the Thirty-nine Articles? Were the clergy not still to be solemnly required to use those services and teach those Articles? How could it be said that they were to consent to the whole of the Prayer Book, but not to every part? The whole was made up of the different parts, and he was at a loss to understand how a man of candour could say that his conscience was relieved by that measure. As to the words "assent and consent," though some had contended that they were synonymous, he found from Webster's Dictionary that "assent" was only an agreement of the understanding to an abstract proposition, but that "consent" was an act of the will. For instance, "assent" was given by Her Majesty to all Acts of Partiament; but Her Majesty did not thereby consent to all that those Acts contained. She assented to do that without which all Acts of Parliament would be null and void. He thought it was evident that some difference of opinion did prevail among the members of the Royal Commission, and it had no doubt led to a compromise. He was aware that there were clergymen in the Church who entertained sincere objections to certain of its services, such as that—of the burial service—the visitation of the sick—the baptismal service, &c, and he would say let their consciences be relieved; but let it be done by a revision of the parts of the service to which they objected. The clergy would still be required to use these services, and he could not see how their consciences would be relieved by an alteration in the mode of taking the oath. Then he would ask whether the 20,000 clergymen were to make this new declaration, or was it to apply only to those who should be ordained after the passing of this Bill. He wished to know whether under this Bill existing clergymen were to be allowed to take the new form of subscription, in order that their conciences might be relieved, or whether its provisions would be applied only to a new class of clergymen. Were they to have two classes of clergymen, one of which would not be relieved from the conscientious scruples they entertained, while the other would be allowed to put what interpretation they chose on the Articles to which they objected? Grave as he thought the measure, he should not have ventured, as the hon. Member for Maidstone had done, to call it a "radical change." He supposed that a difference of opinion had existed in the Commission, and that a compromise had been come to. But he had felt bound to make these few remarks on the second reading of so important a Bill, and he must say, in conclusion, that he would he glad if some means could be found for restoring to the declaration the words "willingly and ex animo."


said, he regarded the measure as an advance, although a small one, in the right direction, and as such it should have his most cordial assent. He wished to say a few words upon what had fallen from the right hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside) in reference to the Irish Convocation. It certainly appeared to him that if it was necessary in any way to obtain the assent or concurrence of the bishops and clergy of the Established Church in England, the like course should also have been taken in regard to the Irish Church. As long as that strange anomaly, the Irish Established Church, existed, the same course ought to be pursued in respect to it in such matters as was pursued in respect to the English Church, and therefore he quite agreed in what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman on that point. But he would ask the Attorney General for what purpose the assent of Convocation was required? The 9th Section of this Bill expressly enacted that no subscriptions or declarations other than those required by the Bill should be taken by any of the clergy after the passing of that Act. It appeared to him, therefore, that it was idle to ask Convocation to make a new canon on that subject, because if the canon passed by them differed from the Act it would be void—if only in the words of the Act it would be superfluous and unnecessary. The Convocation had appeared to feel the helplessness of their position, and instead of waiting for the Royal licence to make a new canon, had taken the discussion on the new subscription on application for a licence. He wished, therefore, to know whether the custom which had grown up in Convocation of discussing these matters without waiting for the Royal licence was a constitutional one. The usual course had been since the Act of Submission, commonly called the "Muzzling Act," to wait till the licence was given them before discussing any important matter connected with the Church. Perhaps he might be allowed to quote on this point a few sentences from one of the greatest authorities on this subject—he meant Lathbury—who said— From the preceding narrative it will be seen that the Convocation is assembled by the Royal writ, but that they are not properly an ecclesiastical synod until the licence for business is granted. It is merely the licence for business that is now wanting to permit the Convocation to transact any matters which the Crown might recommend or the circumstances of the Church require. Again— The Convocation has not acted as a provincial synod for many years, because the Royal licence has not been granted. As soon as the licence is issued a power is given to the Convocation which it did not previously possess, though assembled by Royal writ. It is then a provincial synod, and competent to transact ecclesiastical affairs. They are a Convocation by his writ of summons; but a council, properly speaking, they are not, nor can they legally act as such till they have obtained the King's licence so to do. He might add to this the authority of Lord Macaulay—an authority on constitutional questions of this kind of very great eminence. Lord Macaulay said— The Convocation has, happily for our country, been so long utterly insignificant that till a recent period none but curious students cared to inquire how it was constituted. The law, as it had been interpreted during a long course of years, prohibited the Convocation from even deliberating on any ecclesiastical ordinance without a previous warrant from the Crown. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Whiteside) asked what objection that side of the House had to the meeting of Convocation. Now, for his own part, he certainly had no objection to any meeting of the clergy to discuss subjects, whether at Willis's Rooms, at Oxford, or in any other place. What he objected to was their meeting to discuss in Convocation under colour of legal authority, when they had none whatever. He objected to their claims to he considered as a necessary part of the Constitution, to the extent of their consent being necessary to the legislation of Parliament. For a great many years Convocation had been entirely silent. They had heard nothing of it, and he believed nothing had been done by the Ministers of the -Crown to recall it into existence. It had been called into existence by a curious process of spontaneous regeneration. He believed he was right in stating that there had been no authority given by the Crown for Convocation to meet and discuss any such matter, and it was there- fore important the House should know why Government had submitted the new subscription for the assent of Convocation. The right hon. Gentleman had asked what objection they had to Convocation, and he could not do better than answer him from the words of the late Archbishop of Canterbury. In a debate on the revival of Convocation in the House of Lords in 1852 he said— Between independent bodies of religionists and the Church of England no parallel can be established. They are not involved in the Constitution of the country. They may meet and deliberate and resolve without constituting that anomaly in Government an imperium in imperio. The debates which will be constantly occurring will rather tend to foment than to allay dissensions, to multiply rather than to prevent divisions. On the same occasion the late Archbishop of Dublin said— He had never advocated the restoration of the Convocation as the governing body of the Church, because, besides other objections, he was of opinion that the government of the Church by the clergy could not, and should not, be tolerated in these days. The revival of Convocation, as it at present existed, or, indeed, any attempt to govern the Church by means of the clergy exclusively, he should think highly inexpedient and not a little unjust. What he objected to, as lying at the foundation of all these questions, was the notion that the Church of England consisted of the clergy only. The Church of England consisted mainly of the laity, and the clergy were only a portion of it [Mr. WHITESIDE: And the Prelates.] Well, the Prelates were also a portion of it; but the new doctrine put forward in Convocation was that the clergy only were, in fact, the Church of England. That doctrine had constantly been put forward in the debates which had recently taken place in Convocation on this subject. Considerable gratification had been expressed that the Government was ready to submit the matter to them. They did not, however, hear much of the Bill itself; there was little discussion on it but there was a strong expression of gratification that they were permitted to meet for the purpose of discussing it. He must be allowed to quote a few words from the speeches of two of the most eminent members of Convocation—Archdeacon Denison and Canon Wordsworth. Archdeacon Denison said— Convocation is the Church of England by representation, and that Church is the primary institution of this country, around which all the others revolve and revert to for precedents of authority. I congratulate Convocation upon the fact that our rulers have awakened out of that darkness which surrounded them with respect to its functions and position. Canon Wordsworth said— We can only consider it as an acknowledgment from the highest personages in the land that the Convocation is a co-ordinate member and integral part of the English Constitution. For his part he rather agreed with the opinion of that very high authority, Mr. Fox, who, in the debate on the eligibility of Home Tooke, said— He had trusted that this phantom of the Convocation had disappeared for ever, for he had long conceived all its powers to have expired. He could not refrain from quoting two lines of an English poet, where he introduced common sense as a queen governing the world by her sway:— 'Fair Common sense, while thou dost reign on earth, The Convocation will not meet again.' He could not suffer himself for a moment to believe that the national character was so degraded as ever to submit to the revival of Convocation in our land. Before sitting down he could not help observing that it was unfortunate that the Report of the Royal Commission on which this Bill was founded did not give the discussion which must have preceded their Report. It would have been interesting to know by what process unanimity had been arrived at among so many of the clergy and others differing so widely on the important subjects discussed. It was unfortunate that they had not, in the Report on which the Bill was founded, some of the reasons in support of it. He made these observations because he knew that in some quarters considerable alarm was felt lest the new subscription should alter the legal status of the clergy, and that by a side wind the Bill might be used to set aside some recent decisions of the Privy Council. He did not himself believe that it would have that effect, but he regretted that the Report had not been more full, as it would have dissipated these alarms.


said, he was much interested in the discussion, as he considered the Bill to be a most extraordinary chapter in the history of England. Two centuries ago an Act was passed—the Uniformity Act—to make people pray and preach exactly a like, when a large number of the clergy seceded and were persecuted for so doing. The preamble of this Bill declared that the subscriptions, declarations, and oaths, required to be taken by the clergy were, by the enlightened opinion of the country, deemed to be improper. Now, what would have been the result if that had been declared 200 years ago? How many Dissenters from the Church would there then have been? According to the census of 1851 the attendance at worship by Dissenters exceeded that of the members of the Church by 300,000 persons. He denied that they had shrunk from inquiry into that point in 1861. His hon. Friend (Mr. Baines) moved for the same test as in 1851, and it was refused by the House, or a larger majority of attendances might have been shown. As to Convocation, it was a great misfortune it was revived some years ago? He might ask what was Convocation? Was it for the province of Canterbury, or for York, or for Ireland, or for all three? That Convocation was an insult to the community of this country. The settlement of Church affairs existed, not in the Convocation of Canterbury, York, or Ireland, but in that House. Therefore it was that he insisted upon putting an end to that irresponsible body. If this Bill was intended to relieve tender consciences why did they not apply the axe to the root of the tree? Why did they not amend their Burial Service and their Form of Visitation of the Sick? The fact was, that they dared not undertake that work of revision. Why did they not proceed to alter the Church Catechism—a Catechism which the majority of the members of the Church of England itself did not embrace, and which parents shrank from having their children brought into contact with? It was undoubtedly true that the doctrinal articles of the Church of England were more consistently held by the great majority of the Nonconformists than by the Members of the Church itself. The members of the Church differed more from each other than the bulk of Nonconformists did from them. It was a satisfaction to him that the voluntary system had caused a revival of spiritual life within the Church of England itself. It was not disadvantageous to the country to have different denominations, and he believed that the Church had within it the power of a spiritual life which would be a blessing to I the world if duly reformed and dissociated from the State. The Nonconformists rejoiced in that fact; and what they opposed was those things which had a tendency to destroy that power and its usefulness. He would not offer opposition to the Bill. If it afforded relief to the tender consciences of any part of the clergy, let them by all moans have it. He regretted that in the Church of England there was among some of the clergy a tendency to forms and ceremonies which might be honestly and consistently adopted by Roman Catholics, but which could not be honestly and consistently entertained by those who received Protestant pay from a Protestant Church.


Sir as several questions have been addressed to me in the course of this discussion, it would have been my duty to have taken part in this debate, if there had been no other reason to induce my rising. Before, however, answering those questions I will venture to make a few observations upon the general object and effect of this Bill, and, in doing so, I may express my belief that it would be very easy either to overstate or to understate its value and effect. If any man thinks it would be a good tiling to emancipate the clergy of the Church of England from the obligations which they are under, to adhere and conform loyally to the principles and the doctrines of the Church of which they are members, he certainly could not regard this Bill as in any way applying the axe to the root of the tree. Nor does it in any way alter the substance of the doctrine, discipline, or formularies of the Church. Still less does it aim at affording any encouragement to clergymen to belong to the Church, to take part in its ministry, and to share in its emoluments, without at the same time being loyal and conscientious members of that Church—an encouragement which, if offered, I could not but regard as immoral and demoralizing. What was said by my hon. Friend (Mr. Buxton) has been misunderstood. What my hon. Friend meant was, that the end the Bill was intended to accomplish was to relieve scrupulous consciences from a restraint which seemed to them to be imposed upon the exercise of that reasonable degree of liberty which was consistent with loyal adherence to the Church, and which there was reason to believe all wise legislators for the Church, whether spiritual or temporal, had intended to permit. I cannot but think that, in this respect, the relief which this measure is calculated to afford by the change in the declarations is likely to be attended with salutary effects. In truth, we are reminded on this occasion of an argument employed in the discussion of the Roman Catholic Oaths Bill—an argument which, I believe, had a good deal of weight with some hon. Members. In that discussion it was not merely urged that the oath—the abolition of which was proposed—would be objectionable in. principle if it received this or that interpretation, but the chief objection made against it was that no one knew what the real interpretation was. If I were one of the clergy I should myself be disposed to place upon it the construction suggested by the context of the Act of Uniformity, and to hold that it merely meant that the subscribers unreservedly consented to the use of the whole and every part of the forms in question; but I cannot deny that there is a tendency in its terms to catch at tender and scrupulous consciences, and to exact, or seem to exact, a more complete concurrence of opinion and judgment, as well as practice, than could be reasonably expected of any man with respect to formularies so extensive—a concurrence which, moreover, is not necessary for the purpose of an honest and practical submission and obedience. No doubt many minds have been troubled by it, because they thought that it meant, "This is exactly the service which I like best; there is nothing in it that I dislike or would desire to see changed." I do not believe that that was the meaning of the declaration; but if any such scrupulous consciences can be relieved by this measure which has met with such unanimous concurrence, I shall greatly rejoice that such a conclusion has been arrived at. Besides, if there were nothing else in the Bill, the mere simplification which it will introduce into the declaration, by getting rid of the unnecessary variety of subscriptions which now prevail, will be a good thing; and I do not think that it will prove what an hon. Member seemed to think it might—a sort of banner of revolution to the Church. The substituted form of the declaration affords, I think, sufficient safeguard to the Church, and is not in any way inconsistent with the firmest adherence to the principle of holding its ministers bound to render strict obedience to its doctrines and discipline. If the alteration, while doing this, is calculated at the same time to relieve the difficulties which affect the consciences of some clergymen, the result is one with which we have every reason to feel satisfied; and this I believe, is the view in which the Church generally will regard the measure. I will now leave the general subject of the Bill, and come to those questions which have been put to me by some hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Whiteside) made a speech in which I understood him not so much to object to the Government consenting to the request of the English Convocation that they may be permitted to take their part in this alteration with a view to the consistency of their own canons, but to urge upon the Government, in case that request were granted, that it Would be inconsistent and wrong not to do the same thing with regard to the Irish Convocation. It would, perhaps, seem to be a somewhat technical answer to say that, in the case of the Irish Church, there is no existing Convocation or synod by whom a similar application could have been made. If there were reason to suppose that the general sense of the Irish Church might refuse to accept the proposal contained in this Bill as a desirable and salutary change, then there would be more force in the objection that they should be consulted. There is, however, this substantial difficulty in the way, that you have at this moment no Irish Convocation or synod in existence. In order to consult it you would in short have to create a Convocation in Ireland. It is not said that, for the purpose of legislation, it is necessary to ask the advice of Convocation; for everybody admits that if this Act of Parliament passes it must be obeyed. Neither is there any doubt as to whether the Irish Church regards the proposed change as desirable and salutary. The only question, therefore, is, whether the Crown should, in fact, create an Irish Convocation in order that it might show it the courtesy of asking its opinion. In England such is not the case. In this country, even when Convocation had nothing to do but to address the Crown, it was regularly elected and always met. That being so, and the Convocation, now sitting:, having signified their desire to co-operate as far as lay in their power in the change recommended by the Royal Commissioners by adapting certain of their canons to that change, there is, I consider, good reason why the Government should accede to their application. But surely this cannot be an equally good reason for calling into existence and electing solely for this purpose an Irish Convocation which has never been in the habit of meeting under similar circumstances. No disrespect, I may add, to the Irish Church was ever intended by the Government. The simple truth is that a practical difficulty was involved in the matter, arising out of the non-existence of such an organized body as Convocation in that country, actually holding session and ready to discuss the subject. The Government did not think it indispensable that this form should be gone through, and not deeming it to be indispensably necessary they did not look upon it as expedient. With respect to the English Convocation, I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) has shown in the observations which he made this evening less liberality than belongs to his character and the general tenour of his speeches; nor does he appear to me to be very well read in the history of our laws upon this subject. What was it that the English Convocation wanted to do? It might really be a matter of secondary importance, but from their point of view no alteration of ecclesiastical discipline can be considered as unimportant. There were several of their canons dealing with this particular question, embodying on the face of one of them the form of declaration you propose to alter, and then referring to that in others, so that if an Act of Parliament were passed, prohibiting the use of that form of declaration, there would be certain canons, not inoperative, which would be on the face of them in verbal conflict, and, to some extent, substantially in conflict with the law of the land. They ask, therefore, for permission to adapt all these canons to the changes which there is reason to believe Parliament is likely to sanction. And is it not, I would appeal to the House, better, in dealing with Convocation, or with any other body possessing authority in the Established Church, to have their cordial co-operation and goodwill in accepting and carrying out any changes which you may introduce, than to show disrespect for them by declining their assistance, not when seeking to do anything contrary to the inclination of Parliament or anything illiberal or against the spirit of the times, but when concurring with Parliament in a measure which points in a liberal direction, and which their concurrence will cause to work more harmoniously and more for the good of the Church than if it seemed to be forced on them by pressure from without? It would, in my opinion, be a deliberate affront and outrage to the Church, if, when so reasonable a request as this was made for a purpose so liberal and so laudable, you, for the mere purpose of giving them a slap in the face, told them you would not allow that which they asked. This leads me to some more general remarks on what fell from the hon. Member for Reading on the subject of Convocation. I do not think that on that subject he has read history aright. He doubts the authority of Convocation to enter into the consideration of a question of this kind, even for the purpose of applying for a licence to the Crown; but he seems to forget that Convocation, whether regarded as an unimportant or an important and respectable body, is as much a part of the institutions of this country as Parliament itself. It forms, and has formed from very ancient times, the particular mode by which the clergy of the Church of England have met together as a representative body, acting under the control of the State and subject to the authority of the Crown, to do that which, according to the law of the Church and State, they were entitled to do. Convocation is summoned by the Queen's writ as often as Parliament is called together and meets to deliberate on important matters. It is in the power of the Crown to put a stop to its deliberations by simply proroguing it. It is well known that, from the time of Bishop Hoadley to within a recent period, it was the regular practice to stop their deliberations by prorogation, though of late years it has not been thought expedient to exercise the undoubted power of the Crown in that respect. The hon. Member for Reading went on to speak of the Act of Henry VIII. as the "Muzzling Act," and seemed to think it would be advisable still to apply the gagging principle to the clergy. Now, a policy more unwise or more inconsistent with the maintenance of the Established Church and of the due control of the State over it I cannot conceive. Supposing the clergy sought to do anything against, or without, the authority of Parliament it would be necessary to put down such usurpation and assumption; but when they propose to do nothing of the kind—when they confine themselves to such functions as it is permitted to them to discharge—when, being excluded from Parliament, they have no power to be heard in this assembly, which is unfitted for the discussion of religious and ecclesiastical questions, and is always reluctant to enter upon them—I cannot deem it wise to refuse to them the opportunity of giving expression to their views in a body which is, after all, as much as any other one of the institutions of the country. The hon. Member for Reading talks of their meeting at Willis's Rooms or at Oxford, but such meetings would not organically represent the clergy of the Church of England; and the moment you attempt to put, as has been suggested, a padlock on the clergy, and refuse to them that freedom of speech which is accorded to the General Assembly in Scotland, without being objected to by anybody, and to the voluntary assemblies of every other religious body, with the approbation of the whole nation, you will be, in my opinion, pursuing a course at once impolitic and illiberal. What you want is to keep the Established Church in harmony with the general feeling of the people, and also that due confidence should be felt by the people in the ministers of that Church. How, I would ask, can you better secure that harmony than by having a place where, within safe limits, they may give free expression to their opinions? Do we find that such a privilege has prevented those who may hold whether extreme or moderate views from concurring as a body in support of a liberal measure such as this under discussion? My own opinion is that the policy which allows the members of the Church of England to meet in Convocation, and to give utterance to their sentiments, has been a wise policy, as tending to produce greater moderation of opinion, to soften asperities, and upon the whole to bring the Church more into harmony with public feeling. And, after all, it cannot be said that the Government has given Convocation much power. I believe that all it has asked for has been permission to alter the canon relating to sponsors, which has not yet proved successful; and now they only request leave to express their concurrence in a measure which the House will think both a liberal and a wise one. While their powers are practically restrained within such narrow limits nobody need, I think, fear that any great mischief can he done to the State. I beg my right hon. Friend (Mr. Whiteside's) pardon for omitting one part of the subject. There is no doubt of the legality of these provincial councils in England with the permission of the Crown, but their authority is confined to their own jurisdiction. Nothing that can be done by the synods of York or Canterbury can have the least authority in Ireland. But I entertain no doubt that the action of the provincial Convocations in England has been, in all respects, as legal since, as, with the allowance of the Crown, before the Act of Union.


said, the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had so well put to the House the arguments on which the Bill was founded, that he should not think it necessary to prolong the discussion if it were not that he desired to say a few words in confirmation of what had fallen from his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He had been present at all the deliberations of the Commission down to the time when the preparation of the Report was entered on; he had been a party to the Resolutions on which that Report was founded, and he certainly should have appended his name to it but for the circumstance that when the Report was ready for signature he was in the midst of a serious illness at Rome, which incapacitated him from attending to anything in the way of business, or from having papers submitted to him; and it was not till the present week that he had been able to resume his duties in that House. He was quite ready to accept his share of responsibility for the Report on which the Bill now before the House was founded, and if it had been desirable to prolong the discussion to have stated the grounds of his approval.


said, he wished to express his satisfaction at the spirit and tone in which the Bill had been introduced. The right hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey) had so clearly shown that, without removing any one of the protections which the Church was fairly entitled to claim, consideration would be extended by this measure to the views and feelings of scrupulous and conscientious clergymen that it was impossible to resist the impression created by his arguments. He had never heard a more full, clear, or satisfactory exposition than that given by the right hon. Gentleman. Into the question connected with Convocation raised by his right hon. Friend and Colleague (Mr. Whiteside) he would not enter. Accepting the statement of the Attorney General, that no insult or slight had been intended towards the Irish branch of the Established Church, he would only express a hope that on future occasions whenever consultations or deliberations were thought desirable in Convocation, measures would be taken to secure a representation of the Irish branch of the Church, the necessity for whose consent was not denied. This Bill, he hoped, would have the effect of settling questions which had long been debated, and thereby of contributing to the strength and usefulness of that Church which of late years had made such gratifying advances in the affections of the people.


said, he regretted that the measure or the Report of the Commissioners had not dealt effectually with a question so distressing and discreditable to the Church as that of simony. The spirit of the declaration against practices of this kind was violated every day in the most businesslike manner, and every auctioneer could put a client in the way of obtaining half-a-dozen livings, if necessary, on the shortest possible notice. The Commissioners had not been content to pass the question by, for they had altered the phraseology of the declaration, and, without in any way remedying the evil, had, he feared, laid a new trap for the consciences of the clergy.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Monday next.