HC Deb 10 May 1865 vol 179 cc74-97

Order for Second Reading road.


Mr. Speaker, I find that the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Charles Douglas) has given notice of his intention to oppose the second reading of this Bill, as he had done on two former occasions. The object of those Bills was the same as that for which I now ask the consideration of the House. I have referred to the records of the speeches of the hon. Baronet on these Bills, and I must say that, although they have one merit—that they were not long—their length is out of all proportion to the matter which they contain. I know not, Sir, whether the hon. Baronet wishes to imply, by this renewal of opposition, merely that he dislikes the consideration of the subject contemplated by this Bill; perhaps that is the reason why his opposition is very persevering. I remember that the hon. Baronet was once a Tory; but he now seems to have changed his party, and to have joined the Ultra-Liberal section of the House; but I am not aware of any great change in his opinions. The hon. Baronet, however, serves the purpose of a political weathercock, and shows whence the opposition to this Bill emanates. Nothing-appears to be more conspicuous than the excessive liberality of the Ultra-Liberals on some points, and their excessive illiberality upon others. It was only the other day that hon. Gentlemen of that party were anxiously supporting a Bill which would have lowered the franchise to £6 in all boroughs, and which would, in fact, have reduced the franchise upon which a clear majority of this House are returned to something very like household suffrage. And now these same hon. Gentlemen appear as my opponents, when I come forward—after having for many years listened to their complaints against the present system of church rates, chiefly founded on the conscientious objections which the personal liability to the church rate excites amongst their constituents. I seek to remove that personal liability of which their constituents complain; to give an exemption from personal liability from the cost of maintaining the fabric and the services of the Church to the whole class of occupiers, yet these Gentlemen now come down to the House and threaten me with the most determined opposition. During the long contests, Sir, in this House relating to church rates, which have extended over a period of thirty years, the only element which rendered the opposition respectable was the fact, that it pretended or purported to be founded upon the conscientious objections of certain Dissenters to the payment of church rates—forced payment towards the maintenance of a Church to which they object. There is no other respectable ground for this opposition, unless we are to understand that the desire to uproot the Church Establishment itself ought to command the respect of the House. I am inclined to think, from the opposition now threatened to this Bill, that the opposition to church rates has become one phase of a dangerous agitation seeking the disestablishment of the Church—aiming at the separation of the Church from the State. The proposals of this Bill fully meet the conscientious objections which are entertained; but it is directed absolutely against the attempt to despoil the parishioners of this country of their right to a portion of the real value of the property within their parishes used for the purpose of maintaining the fabric and the services of their churches, which they have possessed from time immemorial. A proposal for the settlement of this question ought to have this effect—it ought to separate those who are actuated by a desire to satisfy conscientious scruples from those who desire to use the anti-Church agitation for the purpose of uprooting the Establishment—for the purpose of changing the Constitution of this country—for the purpose of assimilating it to the Constitution of the United States, which has this great misfortune, foreseen by Washington, who was justly characterized as the father of his country, that their Constitution recognizes no form of Christianity. Washington desired to establish among the States those principles of charity, those peaceful principles of mutual goodwill which have, thank God, through the influence of the Church of England, ever prevailed in this country as the basis of our Constitution, which exemplifies the feelings which prevail among the great body of the people of this country. There is nothing, Sir, in history more remarkable than an incident, which has been much overlooked—than a circumstance which occurred during the formation of the Constitution of the United States. Washington was most anxious to establish the Protestant form of religion. He was most anxious upon this subject, that our former colonists should copy from the mother country the wise provision by which, under the form of an established religion, the ministration of a pure Christianity and the opportunities for a true worship should be afforded to every citizen. The proposal was, however, opposed by Jefferson, the disciple of Voltaire, at the instance of Carroll—a Roman Catholic—whose brother was a Jesuit, and who afterwards, by a process then unusual in his Order, became Bishop of Baltimore. And, Sir, when we see the condition of the United States—when we witness the bitter feelings which have generated the war—when we see the convulsions which these States are undergoing—when we remember that their President has been murdered—when we see that the life of the Prime Minister has been attempted—may we not regard with distrust the objects of those who would remove the characteristic of the Constitution of the country which is embodied in the union of the Protestant Church of this country with the State, in order to induce us to adopt the principle of the Constitution of the United States, which is now illustrated by so dark and so lamentable a page in the history of the world.

Let me now, Sir, advert to the immediate object of this Bill. The principle of the Bill is this—that this House shall sanction the substitution of a charge of twopence in the pound upon real property in this country, in lieu of church rates, as they have hitherto been levied; that this provision shall, in the first instance, extend to no property but that which has been assessed to church rates within the last seven years, and to those parishes only the inhabitants of which have not manifested their opposition to church rates by three successive rejections of church rates upon a poll. Therefore, what I ask the House to do is this—to give the inhabitants of those parishes who have manifested their desire for the supply from real property which church rates have up to the present time afforded them, the means which twopence in the pound on real property will yield for purposes of church rate—that is, for the maintenance of the fabric and the services of the Church. During the last Session, Sir, after I had made this same proposal to the House, in a Bill very similar to the present—although the present Bill has been, as I think, greatly simplified and improved—the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone rose in his place, and told me that I was guilty of proposing to the House a mere political juggle—a mere financial juggle. He said that I proposed that the owner, not the occupier, should pay this twopence in the pound—that, so far as this amount (the average of the church rate throughout England) was concerned, the change which I proposed would make no difference, for that the owner would immediately charge upon the occupier an amount equivalent to the charge imposed upon him. Now, Sir, that appears to me to be a very specious objection; but the noble Lord forgot this, that the operation which I proposed is illustrated by the property and income tax; and if he is right, and it makes no difference whether the owner or occupier is liable to the charge, the difference between Schedule A of the property tax and Schedule B of income tax has no effect upon the incidence of taxation; for it is clear that, if the argument of the noble Lord against my proposal is good, and that the change I propose will not affect the positions of the owner of property and the occupier of property in this respect, it is perfectly clear that the whole amount levied under Schedule B of income tax—that is to say, the whole amount paid by the occupiers of land—constitutes a charge upon landed property, as direct as is the charge under Schedule A, which is called the owners' tax; the distinction between these two schedules is as much a juggle as the scheme I propose. Now, Sir, I refer to this point because it is important. I never yet was guilty, I hope, of proposing a Parliamentary or financial fallacy to the House, and my proposal is this—to give an exemption from personal liability to any payment for the purposes of church rate to the whole of the occupying body. In order to effect that object, I adopt the principle of the property and income tax, which allows the occupier to deduct the charge under Schedule A from his rent. I propose that the charge which I would substitute for church rates shall be levied on the same principle as the tax is levied under Schedule A of the income tax, abandoning the principle of Schedule B in the income tax, which is similar in its incidence to the church rate as now levied in parishes, with this difference only, that the one being a local tax and the other a general tax, the church rate is always levied by the churchwardens and overseers of parishes, whereas, under Schedule B, the tax is levied by the Commissioners of Income Tax appointed by the Government. Sir, I hope the House will excuse me for having endeavoured to meet this objection.

I will now, Sir, proceed to deal with another class of objections. After a long contest in this House—after having been in a minority, the defenders of church rates and of the Church, now that this House has decided by a majority of ten that church rates shall not be abolished without compensation being given, seem to think it quite needless to take any notice of the former opposition of the former majorities of the House. They would, I suppose, have it believed that the opposition was merely fictitious, a factious movement on the part of the Liberal party in this House. It appears, Sir, to me that they totally forget that, in the year 1862, this House—and a very full House—passed an important Resolution. The House, perhaps, will allow me to refer to the terms of that Resolution. In a House of 559 Members, the House came to a Resolution by a majority of seventeen, to the effect— That it would be unjust and inexpedient that church rates should be abolished until some substitute for them has been supplied. It is upon that Resolution that I found my proposal. The House, in 1862, was evidently dissatisfied with the state of the law respecting church rates, and after having decided by former majorities to sweep away church rates altogether, on mature consideration, came to the decision that church rates should be maintained provisionally, until some substitute for them should be suggested which might meet with the approbation of the Legislature. Therefore, the real state of the case is this: that the law of church rate is acknowledged to be in a most imperfect condition; that the law exists provisionally, and provisionally only, until such time as the Legislature shall be satisfied, that some substitute can be found whereby the parishes of this country may not be despoiled of that public property which has hitherto been applied to the purposes of church rates. Now, Sir, what is the feeling of the country on the subject? There may exist in this House a feeling that the matter had better be left for the consideration of another Parliament. But, I would ask, is it wise to leave this question in the state of uncertainty, in which it has been for the last thirty years? I remember that, more than thirty years ago, the Government proposed a substitute for church rates; that, in the year 1834, Lord Althorp proposed a substitute for church rates; that his Resolution for a substitute for church rates passed this House by a very large majority; and that, for thirty-two years, the state of the law of church rates has generated a chronic discontent—a chronic agitation; that it has served as the means of separating Protestant Christians from one another; that it has ever been a source of bitterness; that successive Governments have acknowledged the difficulty; but for thirty-two years this House has remained impotent to provide a remedy for this acknowledged grievance.

I feel, Sir, that I am a humble Member of this House, but I have felt so discontented, so dissatisfied with this state of things, that, as hon. Members know, I have for some years laboured to discover some common ground upon which Church men and Dissenters may agree to remove this cause of strife without committing that gross act of injustice which this House has condemned by a majority—the deprivation of the parishes throughout this country of this power of local taxation—of this right in the property of the parishes which they inhabit, from whence they have drawn the means of providing for the ministration of religion to the poor. I know, Sir, it may be said that an independent Member should not venture to propose such a measure as this. But I ask, Who proposed the Church Rate Aboli- tion Bills, which met with the support of majorities of this House? Always independent Members? Sir James Clay, and Sir John Trelawny, the Member for Tavistock. These Bills have always been proposed by independent Members. I ask, Will the House sanction this principle, that an independent Member shall be entitled to propose a destructive measure, but that an independent Member shall not be entitled to submit to the House a measure for the maintenance of one of the institutions of this country, for reconciling differences, for removing causes of strife, for producing peace amongst his fellow-subjects? Sir, I do not believe that the House intends to adopt any such principle as that; and in that belief I am encouraged again to urge their attention to the necessity of dealing with this subject, which is no less important now than it was when I first, seven years ago, ventured in another form, by Resolution, to submit the matter to the House.

I refer those, Sir, who say there is no occasion for a substitute for church rate to the Resolution of 18G2. But they may say that was the state of things two years ago—that the House acted upon the circumstances of 1862—but that the circumstances, which then existed, no longer exist in the year 1865. Sir, I have made it my business to ascertain the state of the agitation which exists in the country, and I find it recorded that between the 1st of May, 1864, and the 1st of May, 1865, there have been contentions with regard to church rates in England and Wales, either in vestries, before magistrates, or in the courts at Westminster, to the extent of 109 cases. I think, Sir, after that statement, it cannot be pretended that the strife has ceased. On the contrary, it seems to me that the strife is aggravated in its bitterness; for on looking through the accounts in the Liberator and the Nonconformist—the two periodicals which are specially devoted to this subject—I find statements of strife between the incumbent and the parishioners in one case—I really do not like to dwell upon such subjects—resulting in the imprisonment of the rector in the vestry, and his deliverance by the police. In another very disagreeable case I find the triumph of a church rate party, the roasting of an ox in the street, public rejoicings, and the next day a serious vestry was convened for the purpose of impugning the accounts entered by the rector in the parish books. Sir, I could multiply these instances of bitterness and strife. I could show how the present state of the law of church rates leads to the degradation of religion by mixing it up with these miserable considerations of petty payments—these petty subjects of strife, which generate a bitterness that scarcely any political contest in a larger area can produce amongst the people. The state of the law, in this respect, is such as to produce bitterness and strife amongst neighbours. Can you have a worse state of the law than that? Why, Sir, it has been condemned by the highest legal authority extant upon the subject. I presented to the House a petition from the Tamworth Union, praying for the adoption of the principle of this Bill. And on what was that petition founded? On the fact that, in Tamworth, there had been a contest respecting church rates—that the cases had been taken from the magistrates before the superior courts—that the rate had been overthrown by the decision of that court. Dr. Lushington declared that the churchwarden had done his best in the assessment of the parish, and repeated the substance of the evidence he gave before the Committee of the House of Lords, that the law of church rate as to assessment is in such a condition that it is scarcely possible for a churchwarden to make an assessment that will bear the investigation of the court. Can you have a higher authority for the necessity of a change in the law than that of the eminent Judge who has been engaged during the last sixty years in deciding eases under that very law? In his evidence before the Lords' Committee, Dr. Lushington declared that, in his opinion, the first process of amelioration necessary was, that the whole jurisdiction as to levying any sums for the purposes of church rates should be removed from the Ecclesiastical Courts. The Committee of the House of Lords came to a Resolution in accordance with that evidence. They declared that the process ought to be purely civil, and assimilated to the process for the levying and recovery of poor rates. Sir, the Bill which I now submit to the House embraces that recommendation of the House of Lords. Well, Sir, I do not expect that I shall hear in this House any dispute as to one fact, and that is, that church rate in its average amount is a direct deduction from the rent paid by the occupier to the owner of the property, the occupation of which renders the occupier liable to church rates. I think it unnecessary to enlarge upon that point. I might quote the authority of the late Sir Robert Inglis in the debate of 1834; I might quote the authority of the late Mr. Hume in the same debate; I might quote the authority of the late Mr. Whittle Harvey, the representative of the Dissenters of that day; I might quote the authority of the late Sir Robert Peel in 1837, in favour of the outline of this Bill; I might quote the authority of Sir Robert Peel to this effect, that church rate in its average amount is a burden upon land; I might quote his authority, in 1849, supported by that of the late Mr. Goulburn, and illustrated by that of the present Earl Russell; I might quote the authority of the late Sir James Graham, but I do not like to trouble the House with these quotations. I have quoted these authorities before, and they are all supported by the authority of Mr. Coode before the Committee of the House of Lords on church rates so late as the year 1861. I, therefore, ask the House to admit that I am not seeking to inflict any novel burden upon real property, but that I am merely about to do that which the Poor Law Commissioners, so far back as the year 1843, recommended. I am about to ask the House to enact by law that the burden that the incidence of the average amount of the rate shall be recognized in its true character as a charge upon property, and not as a charge upon the person. Now, Sir, in order that I may prevent any misconception on this subject, let me show why church rate, to a certain extent, does operate as a charge upon the person, and not, to its full amount, as a charge upon property. It does so for this reason. It is variable in its amount. The occupier, when he takes a farm or house, calculates the average amount of rates and taxes, and makes a deduction from the rent which he offers—a deduction which is recognized in almost every agreement for the taking of property in this country in one form or other, constantly recognized in terms, always implied. Where you have a variable payment—as in the case of church rate, which on the average has been twopence in the pound, but is sometimes raised to sixpence—that difference of amount is beyond the calculation of the occupier when he entered upon the holding, and therefore that difference falls as a tax upon him personally; and it is to that personal liability that all the objections to church rates made in this House apply. I only ask the House to remove this grievance by a process which has been successful in the case of tithes—first in Ireland, and then in England—the process of substituting a charge on property for a personal liability, which has this great recommendation, that you can commute a charge, and you cannot commute a personal liability until you have reduced that personal liability to an average, by means of which process I have calculated the amount of charge which is proposed in this Bill. You cannot commute until you have ascertained the average, and I think the commutation is a most desirable object. As long as there is a charge upon the person there will be a disposition to object. There are many cases, and particularly the eases of Dissenting owners of property, in which the commutation of the charge is desirable—in the cases of these Dissenting owners commutation is as desirable as it has proved to be in the case of the tithe-rent charge. Well, then, I ask the House, by commuting the church rate, to give to the Dissenting owners the opportunity of ridding their property of that liability, if it shall so please them. But, Sir, I cannot admit, with regard to the owner of property, that a charge upon that property is a grievance to himself; for no man brought the land of this country into the world, and no man can take his acres out of the world with him when he dies. And, therefore, I agree with Sir Robert Inglis, I agree with Mr. Harvey, the representative of the Dissenters, who, during the debate of 1834, declared that no Dissenter could plead a conscientious scruple with any honesty against a charge which did not attach to himself, as an individual, but to the property to which he had become entitled under the sanction and protection of the laws of this country. Therefore, I say this—that by the change I propose, I give this liberty to the Dissenting owner, that if he objects to his property (and no man can hold property, except during his life) being charged for church rate, he may commute that charge. He cannot do so at present. I, therefore, tender to the owners of property in this country a privilege and an opportunity which has never been tendered them under the existing law. But, Sir, I wish to meet another objection. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, has repeatedly contemplated the possibility of a substitute for church rates, and, with the ability which has raised him to the high position which he now holds, has sanctioned the principle of the substitution of a charge in lieu of church rates. He did so during the debate upon the Bill introduced on the part of Lord Derby's Government by the then right hon. Member for Cambridge. I will not intrude by quoting the words of the right hon. Baronet, although I have them here. Again, in the debate on the Resolution proposed by the right hon. Member for Wiltshire, the right hon. Baronet sanctioned the principle of the substitution of some payment for church rates of some direct charge upon property in lieu of church rates. In doing so, the right hon. Baronet merely adhered to the principle enunciated by the Whig party in 1834. Again, two years ago, the right hon. Baronet thought it his duty to vote for the second reading of the Bill which was introduced for the commutation of church rates by the hon. Member for Surrey. Therefore, the right hon. Baronet has sanctioned two of the objects of my Bill—the substitution of a charge for the church rate; and has also recommended, as highly desirable, the commutation of that charge.

Sir, I am perfectly aware of the difficulties of my position as an independent Member; and, although I sit on this side of the House, I am as independent a Member as any one. The right hon. Baronet may think it his duty to oppose mo. I am one of those who do not undervalue the force of party connection. I can only say that if I am to suffer from the operation of party connection, I shall deeply lament it. But let the House understand what I ask. This Bill has been considered, has been framed, has been re-framed under the advice of those whom I am not entitled to mention; but I think it right to say this, that it has been approved of by authorities as high in equity and in law as any that exist in this country. It contains no dangerous principle. The principle which it contains is the principle of tithe commutation; the object which it contemplates is, that property shall provide for the maintenance of the fabric of the Church. It is by a charge upon property that the manses and the churches of the Kirk of Scotland are maintained. Therefore, the Bill proposes no new, no dangerous principle. I believe that it tenders the same hope of peace that has been realized in the case of tithe commutation—first in Ireland, and then in England. I do trust that the Liberal party will not manifest such illiberality as to oppose this Bill, which is the largest tender towards the removal of religious scruples which they have for years represented that has come from this side of the House. I do not ask the House to adopt the measure exactly as it is drawn. I have sent copies of the Bill to every Board of Guardians, to every Clerk of the Peace, to many of the clergy, and to many well-informed independent persons, and they have generally admitted to me that the Bill, as drawn, is worthy of its object. But I do not ask the House to adopt anything but the principle of the Bill. I ask them only to sanction the object of the Bill—the commutation of church rate—and to allow the Bill to be referred to a Select Committee of this House. The right hon. Baronet, in particular, has, during these discussions, declared that the substitution of some means for maintaining the fabric in lieu of church rate is desirable. The right hon. Baronet has sanctioned the principle of commutation. I only ask the right hon. Baronet, and I ask the House, to have a Select Committee appointed, and to make the principle of commutation the basis of their inquiry.

I hope, Sir, that the House will allow me to show them that there is grave occasion for their interference. I have recently been looking over the proceedings of the Liberation Society, and, as they have been the successful promoters of some change in the law, I think their opinion on the present state of things worthy of the attention of the House. Mr. Miall, who was once a Member of this House, bears high office, has great influence in the society called the Liberation Society, and in a speech delivered by him the other day, and reported in the Nonconformist of the 4th of May, he says— In one respect only is there any striking difference between the society of 1844 and that of 1865. That is in its name. The Conference which met in November 1853 substituted for the title of The British Anti-State Church Association,' that of 'The Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and Control.' It certainly did no harm. I will not affirm that it did much good; but unquestionably it is its later designation, or rather the abbreviated form of it, 'The Liberation Society,' that has won for it a conspicuous place in the history of the country.' Now, Sir, I hope the House will observe this: that the Liberation Society is likely to treat the church rate agitation as a means to an end—that this influential officer of the society declares that its present name does not convey so clearly the object of the Association as its former name. I think this will induce the House to understand the real object of the Association—the purpose for which it is working this anti-church rate agitation. Now, Sir, this objection to National Churches is not confined to the Liberation Society. I find in the Syllabus of Errors condemned by the Papacy attached to the Encyclical Letter of the 8th December, 1864, No. 37, "National Churches can be established after being withdrawn and separated from the authority of the Roman Pontiff." Now, here is a direct coincidence in object between the anti-State Church movement and the Papal declaration. And what does Mr. Miall go on to say? He says— Is our movement tending to narrow, sectarian, or false issues? Is not the issue—towards which it is manifestly making progress, marvellous progress—broad, national, religious? To what is this owing? Not to the transcendent wisdom of those who have been intrusted with the guidance of the society's affairs, but to the force of that irresistible current of events of which the committee had sought to take 'advantage. They have acted all along on the principle that to obey is better than sacrifice.' And now, Sir, I should like to know whom it is intended by this passage that they are to obey. We know that the highest authority in the Papacy has declared, that they are serving the purposes of the Papacy, as enunciated in that decree, and we have Mr. Miall declaring that he is obeying. I wish the House to consider "whom"—I wish the Members of the Liberal party to consider to whom that obedience is rendered? Mr. Miall seems to imply that the movement is not altogether in a satisfactory position; and in the report of the Liberation Society for 1865 I find these observations— Conservative candidates everywhere express a willingness to assent to any measure which will meet the objections of its (the church rate's) opponents, without endangering the existence of the Establishment. I am thus supplied with the fact, which I wish to impress upon the House, that the general feeling of the electors throughout the country—at all events, of the Conservative electors—is, that some substitute should be found for church rates. Well, Sir, the report goes on to say— Under such circumstances, the work which will devolve upon the society's friends in connection with this particular object is not likely to be less arduous than it has been, They have not only to exert themselves to insure the election of a Parliament which will again and again pass an abolition Bill, they have to multiply the number of parishes in which rates cannot be obtained without vigorous and persevering opposition, they have to defeat attempts to revive rates where they have ceased to be levied, but where the progress of parochial division may encourage the hope of reviving the abandoned impost. Such exertions, however, will scarcely be rewarded with success without a determination to make this agitation an effectual means of leavening the public mind with sentiments favourable to the higher and broader purposes of this organization. Now what are these "higher and broader purposes r" The separation of the Church from the State—the disestablishment of the Church—first of the Church in Ireland, and then of the Church in England. They go on to say— The Committee do not conceal from themselves that their difficulties are likely for a time to keep pace with the activities of the supporters of the existing system, And let the House mark this— And will increase in proportion to the extent to which the controversy passes from the region of abstract speculation into that of practical statesmanship. Now, Sir, I think these last words explain the opposition which I met with from the other side of the House. The rulers of this Liberation Society are opposed to any settlement of this vexed question short of the total abolition of church rates, involving—and this is their point—the spoliation of the parishes of those means of supporting their churches which from time immemorial, from Saxon times, they have possessed. And, Sir, when the House considers this subject, I hope they will see clearly that I am opposed by the opponents of the union of the Church with the State, who will be satisfied with nothing less than the spoliation of the Church.

Sir, I beg to apologize to the House for having so long detained them; but, perhaps, they will allow me, as briefly as I can, to review the object of this Bill, which are—first to remove all personal liability in respect of church rate; secondly, to acknowledge and confirm the right of the parishioners to that portion of the gross value of real property which, being beyond the rent paid to the landlord, has always been reserved for church rate; thirdly, to exempt from the charge on real property reserved by the Bill to the use of the parishioners elsewhere, all parishes in which no church rate has been levied for seven years. And here let me observe, that in making this exemption, I do not bar the right of the inhabitants of those parishes in which there has been no church rate for seven years again to claim, for their own purposes, whenever two-thirds of them shall think fit—again to reclaim their right to this charge. On the contrary, the Bill provides, that if, at any time, two-thirds of the inhabitants of any parish which has been for seven years without a church rate shall think fit to petition the Court of Quarter Sessions, the Court shall, as a matter of duty, declare the charge to be substituted for church rate, imposed at the instance of the inhabitants of that parish. Perhaps they may never exercise the right. If it is a large parish, such as in Birmingham and the parishes in London and other large towns, it may never become subject to this charge; but I, for one, will not bar the inhabitants from that which I hold to be their inalienable right. I reserve their right to claim, whenever they shall think fit, this provision for the maintenance of their worship. The next provision is, therefore, to give two-thirds of the inhabitants of parishes, exempt as above, power to claim that the exemption shall cease, and thus to bring their parish within the charge. The Bill then provides for the eventual commutation of the charge thus substituted for church rate into an endowment for each parish, the proceeds of which shall be applicable as those of church rate. Provision is also made that the charge substituted for church rate shall cease on the creation of an endowment. Now, Sir, these are the objects contemplated by the Bill. And further, there is certain machinery attached to the Bill, which has been carefully considered, constituting what would virtually be a commission for the purpose of commutation. But upon these subsequent provisions I do not dwell. All I ask the House to do is this—to act in the spirit of its Resolution of 1862, and to consider the means of substituting for church rate, which has for thirty years caused so much discontent throughout the country, a charge similar in its nature to the Tithe Commutation Bent Charge, and to supply the means of commuting that charge into an endowment to be held to the credit of each vestry of each parish to be at the disposal of the vestry of each parish. For think not I would deprive the parishioners of the liberty of disposing of the fund intended to supply the arrangements of their church. I would invest them with liberty so far as the expenditure for their church is concerned—liberty to secure that the arrangement of their church shall be in accordance with their own feelings. As I respect the right of any Dissenting body to regulate its own chapel, so would I respect the right of the parishioners to regulate their own parish church. My object is not to break up the parochial system; my object is to confirm the parochial system. My object is to secure the due control of the parishioners in vestry assembled over their own place of worship so far as all the accessories of worship are concerned. My object is, as I have said, to strengthen the parochial system—to secure the rights of the laity of the Church of England, and to prevent an act of spoliation which, after due consideration, the House has condemned; and therefore, Sir, in the spirit of the Resolution of 1862, I beg that the House will consider the principle of this Bill.

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


rose to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. He thought the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire was not justified in the unprovoked attack which he had made upon him, and ho should decline to notice personalities; but was willing to give the hon. Gentleman credit for honesty of intention, steadiness of purpose, and a desire to do that which he believed to be just and right. The hon. Gentleman, however, must excuse him for differing altogether in opinion with him as to the utility of introducing this Bill at that stage of the last Session of a moribund Parliament. When, therefore, the hon. Gentleman gave notice of his intention to move the second reading of his Bill, he (Sir Charles Douglas) felt it equally his duty to give notice of his intention to move its rejection—thus taking precisely the same course this Session as he had adopted in the last. It appeared to him that it was the general desire and feeling of that House, as well as of those who took an interest in the question, that it should be submitted at the general election to the hustings, and that it was useless to attempt any such settlement as that now proposed in the last days of an expiring Parliament. He disclaimed any such intention as that which was imputed to him—namely, that he was threatening an hustings agitation on the subject—all he de- sired was that this question should be submitted to the decision of the electors at large. He was, however, of opinion that the best and most satisfactory solution of the question was to abolish the compulsory power of collecting church rates altogether. He indignantly repudiated the idea of wishing the destruction of the Church. It was not reasonable to expect that House to discuss an important question of this kind at the present period of the Session, when everybody knew that it was not intended to advance the measure another stage: and therefore he should move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.


seconded 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 Charles Douglas.)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, before the Question was put, he wished to say a few words on the subject. He was desirous of stating that there was no foundation whatever for the anticipation of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) that he (Sir George Grey) would oppose the Bill simply because it was brought in by a private Member sitting on the other side the House. He thought, on the contrary, it would be most unreasonable to oppose the measure on any such ground. He could assure him that there was no person to whose opinions he was ready to listen to with greater respect, being convinced that, uninfluenced by party motives, he was actuated by a sincere and earnest desire to settle this vexed question. His advice, however, to the hon. Gentleman was, to press this Bill no further upon the consideration of the House, as there appeared to be a general desire that this question of church rates, which had been made the subject of many warm debates in that House in former Sessions, should be allowed to rest as it is for the present; and it appeared to him that that would be the wisest course for the hon. Gentleman to take.


said, from the appearance of the House at that time, there was very little chance of the question of church rates being settled in the way proposed; at the same time if his hon. Friend should go to a division he (Mr. Scourfield) I should certainly support him, inasmuch as his Bill recognized a principle which he believed to be a sound and just one, that when property was subject to a certain charge that charge should not be taken off it without adequate compensation. In supporting the Bill of his hon. Friend he did not, however, wish to be misinterpreted. He could not certainly disguise from himself the conviction that no measure of this kind would prove a final settlement of this question. Although some persons were disposed to anathematize pew rents and the payment for seats in churches, he did not think that any measure for the settlement of church rates likely to be assented to would be altogether free from the recognition of such practices. It would not do to repudiate any principle which might prove, after all, absolutely necessary for the maintenance of churches. For example, he should not be disposed to reprobate the practices of bazaars and other abominations resorted to frequently, for the purpose of obtaining funds for a church, because, however objectionable they were according to his views, nevertheless, if a greater amount of good than harm arose from them he would be willing to submit to them. At a large meeting of churchmen held at Bristol this year, called the Church Congress, all those questions connected with the maintenance of churches were discussed. Some vehement denunciations were hurled against the present pew system; but the majority of those present refused to anathematize that system, accepting it as a choice of difficulties the least objectionable or inconvenient. Amongst the individuals who expressed such an opinion was that great supporter of the Church and distinguished nobleman Lord Lyttelton. It was only right that those who made a payment towards the expenses of a church should have a prior claim to seats in the church over persons who made no contribution; and he confessed he saw no great evil in pew rents.


said, he was opposed not only to the manner in which this tax was levied, but to the tax itself, and it would be inconsistent with the views entertained upon the subject by most of those who sat on the Ministerial side of the House to agree to a measure that would, no doubt, improve the mode of imposing the tax, but which was designed to perpetuate it. It would have the same effect upon this question that the change with regard to tithes had had on the Irish Church. The opponents of the Irish Church had lost much of their strength because the burden of support had been shifted; and so in regard to church rates, if they shifted the burden they would increase the difficulty of getting rid of it.


said, he hoped the right hon. Member for North Warwickshire would not press the Motion to a division—if he would consent to withdraw it he would meet with the unanimous support of both sides of the House. If the hon. Gentleman went to a division, he (Mr. Collins) should be obliged to divide against him, though he should do it with reluctance. And he should do so for this reason—the hon. Gentleman had brought forward the Bill in the full belief that it would materially strengthen the Church, while he (Mr. Collins) believed it would have just the opposite result. He was opposed to the odious system of pew rents, which was nothing better than having private boxes in the Church. At present the ratepayers had the option of making or opposing a church rate, and it would be tyranny to deprive them of that power and privilege. The present system had this other advantage, that it operated as a check upon clergymen having peculiar notions, who might not otherwise be so conciliatory as they might be. It was hopeless to expect that the Bill would receive the sanction of the House, and, therefore, he hoped it would not be pressed.


said, he agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire that before they abolished church rates it was necessary that a substitute should be provided, and the hon. Gentleman had done his best to do so, and had made a good, though not a successful, suggestion to meet the difficulty. The onus of providing a substitute rested, however, with those who wished to provide a substitute, and not with those who were opposed to the present system. He was disposed to admit, which the Liberation I Society and many others did not, that the Church of England was entitled to the I benefit of some special organization for enforcing this claim on its own members; but it rested with the Church to suggest such an organization. The House should remember that the reason why the church rate question was left in its present unsatisfactory condition was because the great Conservative party had not come forward with any measure to deal with it.


said, that as the Church had a claim on the land, the observations of the hon. Member for Knares-borough (Mr. Collins) were unjust. So far from its being tyranny towards the ratepayers, the object of the present Bill was to relieve those who considered this an obnoxious impost from its payment, and to substitute another and a better mode of raising a church rate. While he was ready to acknowledge the reasonableness of the proposal of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, he could not vote for any measure which contained any further endowment of the Church of England, till by some means or other they should better understand what were the principles and doctrines of that Church, and by what means these doctrines could be enforced on persons receiving the emoluments of the Church. At present, when he came to consider what really was the Church of England, he was in a state of great perplexity. All sorts of strange doctrines and practices were heard of as being indulged in by clergymen professing to belong to that Church, and in one journal supposed to represent a certain section of that Church there was a weekly record of the numbers that had passed over to the Church of Rome.


said, that the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Neate) was in error when he said that no steps had been taken by the Conservative party to propose a satisfactory settlement of the church rate question. The hon. Member, he thought, must have a very short memory. In the first place, he must observe that it was not exactly the duty of the Opposition side of the House to initiate any measure on the subject, but it was rather the duty of the Government to do so. It could, not, however, be said that those on his side of the House had sat silent, and had done nothing in the matter. During the Administration of the Earl of Derby, the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Walpole) had proposed a conciliatory plan, and the late right hon. Members for Preston and North Wilts (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt) had also proposed a plan which, had it been met in a fair spirit by the Government opposite, and with a sincere desire to settle the question, would have done so long ago. The real truth was, that this church rate question was a valuable one for Gentlemen opposite. With regard to the present proposal, he believed that the only settlement of this question must rest on the principle on which the Bill of his hon. Friend was founded—upon the principle that property should eventually be chargeable for the support of the Church. However, as there was no chance of such a settlement this Session, he thought his hon. Friend would do well to withdraw his Bill.


hoped the hon. Member for North Warwickshire would not put the House to the trouble of dividing on the question, as it was quite clear that neither party had the least intention of accepting his measure as a settlement of the question. A division would not represent the opinions of the House on the question. It was clear that in order to effect a compromise of this question, they must, on the one hand, satisfy the friends of the Church that the proposal would be a better arrangement than church rates; and, on the other, the great majority of those who objected to church rates. The present measure did not satisfy the friends of the Church, and would not conciliate Dissenters. It would, therefore, be a waste of time to renew the discussion of a question upon which they had had such long and such warm debates on former occasions. It had been said by the hon. Gentleman opposite that the Conservative party had made no attempt to settle this question. His hon. Friend near him (Mr. Heygate) had shown the injustice of the imputation, but he (Lord John Manners) begged to remind the House that the Conservative party had endeavoured to deal with the question in what he believed to be the only right manner—namely, by introducing a Bill on the authority of the Government. But the proposal made by the Government of Lord Derby was rejected by the very party with whom the hon. Member who made that unfounded charge acted. The measure of Lord Derby's Government on the question, was exactly that which the hon. Member had expressed his desire to see introduced. But the fact was proposals for the settlement of the question had been made by that side over and over again, and the rejection of them had always been by the friends of Dissenters. Political Dissenters were probably satisfied with the present state of the question, and as a member of the Church, he (Lord John Manners) did not regret that they had succeeded in defeating the various proposals made on the subject. By maintaining their present po- sition in reference to the church rate question, until Dissenters showed unequivocally that they were prepared either to propose, or to accept when proposed, some conciliatory and equitable settlement of the question, he believed they should arrive at a far better position than any they had yet occupied as to the question of church rates. He was prepared to say "No" to any proposal for altering the existing law if it did not maintain the rights of the Church, and if it was not proposed on the authority of the united Cabinet. He hoped the hon. Member for North Warwickshire would not feel it to be his duty to press the second reading of his Bill, for if he did he (Lord John Manners) should feel it to be his duty to vote for the Amendment.


said, he willingly joined issue with the noble Lord who last spoke. The noble Lord said that the present state of the question of church rates was satisfactory for the interests of the Church. He was quite willing to allow the noble Lord to judge as to what was for the interest of his Church, and on that point he (Mr. Gilpin) would not pretend to give an opinion. But he disavowed for himself and for his friends the insinuation of the noble Lord that they, the Dissenters, were disposed to maintain this grievance for their own purposes. He regarded church rates as a grievance, and no settlement would be complete or satisfactory, or ought to be satisfactory, which did not provide for the entire abolition of compulsory church rates. He gave the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegato) credit for a sincere desire to settle the question on what he supposed to be equitable grounds. But hon. Members had been brought up in different schools, and he did not himself recognize the justice of his own place of worship being despoiled of its furniture for the sake of furnishing and decorating the Established Church—of his own church in Houndsditch having its furniture annually carried away on trucks to deck the Church of the noble Lord opposite.


thought that the real question was, whether the minority in the country should prevent the majority from voting a church rate if it chose. At one time he had felt very desirous of having this question settled; but when he saw a minority using this question for political purposes, and not desiring to have it settled lest they should lose the advantage of a grievance, he quite agreed with the noble Lord that they on that side of the House need not fear going to the country on the question. He was quite prepared to let the agitation go on, and to leave to the country to decide without the slightest doubt as to what its decision would be.


said, that the opponents of church rates objected to pay one farthing to the maintenance of a worship which they did not approve. The maintenance of this injustice was a harm to the cause of religion. The Nonconformists had always distinguished themselves for their loyalty to the present ruling House, it was from the party who had always supported the ecclesiastical supremacy that any danger had arisen. Neither was it with Nonconformists that the prisons were filled, but with those who were claimed as members of the Established Church. The Established Church asserted that they were the wealthiest portion of the community. Why, then, did they seek to extort from their less wealthy brethren the small sum of money required to support their own worship? But this impost was maintained not for the sake of the money but as a badge of superiority, and the Nonconformists working for this Bill asked for justice and equality.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 42; Noes 126: Majority 84.

Words added:—Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill put off for six months.

Bentinck, G. W. P. French, Colonel
Bentinck, G. C. Gard, R. S.
Booth, Sir R. G. Grey de Wilton, Viset.
Bourne, Colonel Hardy, J.
Bovill, W. Hodgson, R.
Bramley-Moore, J. Humberston, P. S.
Bremridge, R. Knightley, Sir R.
Brooks, R. Langton, W. H. G.
Bromley, W. D. Lopes, Sir M.
Bruce, Sir H. H. Lowther, Captain
Buxton, C. Rose, W. A.
Cobbold J. C. Scourfield, J. H.
Cole, hon. H. Selwyn, C. J.
Damer, S. D. Shirley, E. P.
Du Cane, C. Smith, A.
Du Pre, C. G. Somes, J.
Fergusson, Sir J. Torrens, R.
Floyer, J. Treherne, M,
Forester, rt. hon. Gen Vansittart, W.
Verner, Sir W. TELLERS.
Verner, E.W. Newdegate, C. N.
Waldegrave-Leslie,hnG. Hamilton, Major
Williams, F. M.
Acton, Sir J. D. Kennedy, T.
Adam, W. P. Kinglake, A. W.
Adderley, rt. hon. C. B. Kinglake, J. A.
Agnew, Sir A. Knatchbull, W. F.
Antrobus, E. Knatchbull-Hugessen, E.
Aytoun, R. S.
Bagwell, J, Lacon, Sir E.
Baines, E. Lawson, W.
Baring, T. G. Leatham, E. A.
Baxter, W.E. Lee, W.
Bazley, T. Lennox, Lord H. G.
Beach, W.W.B. Lewis, H.
Black, A. Locke, J.
Blackburn, P. Mackie, J.
Brand, hon. H. Mainwaring, T.
Briscoe, J. I. Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.
Butler, C. S. Marjoribanks, D. C.
Carnegie, hon. C. Martin, J.
Clay, J. Matheson, A.
Clifford, Colonel Moore, C.
Clifton, Sir R. J. Morris, W.
Collins, T. Morrison, W.
Colthurst, Sir G. C. North, F.
Courtenay, Lord Padmore, R.
Cox, W. Paget, C.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Pease, H.
Dalglish, R. Potter, E.
Davey, R. Potter, T. B.
Denman, hon. G. Powell, J. J.
Dent, J. D. Price, R. G.
Dering, Sir E. C. Pryse, E. L.
Dillwyn, L. L. Repton, G. W. J.
Dunlop, A. M. Ricardo, O.
Egerton, E. C. Robertson, H.
Enfield, Viscount Scholefield, W.
Evans, T. W. Seely, C.
Ewart, J. C. Seymour, W. D.
Ewing, H. E. Crum Shelley, Sir J. V.
Fellowes, E. Sheridan, H. B.
Fenwick, E. M. Smith, J. A.
Fenwick, H. Smith, J. B.
Finlay, A. S. Stacpoole, W.
Foljambe, F. J. S. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Forster, C. Steel, J.
Foster, W. O. Talbot, C. R. M.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Taylor, P. A.
Gilpin, C. Tomline, G.
Goldsmid, Sir F. H. Tracy, hon. C. R. D. H.
Gower, hn. G. W. G. L. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Greenwood, J. Vivian, H. H.
Grenfell, H. R. Walter, J.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Western, S.
Gurney, S. Whitbread, S,
Hadfield, G. White, J.
Hanbury, R. White, hon. L.
Handley, J. Wickham, H. W.
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Headlam. rt. hon. T. E. Wyld, J.
Henderson, J. Wynn, C. W. W.
Hennessy, J. P. Wyvill, M.
Heygate, Sir F. W. Yorke, J. R
Hibbert, J. T.
Humphery, W. H. TELLERS.
Ingham, R. Douglas, Sir C.
Jackson, W. Henley, Lord
Jervoise, Sir J. C.