HC Deb 07 March 1866 vol 181 cc1632-95

Order for Second Reading read.


I wish to express to the House in the strongest manner in which I am able my sense of the great responsibility which I incur in attempting to deal with this question, and I trust the House will grant to me some portion of that indulgence which they are usually willing to grant to persons who do not often presume to interfere in their debates—an indulgence of which I assure the House I feel greatly in need. This question has been so often debated in previous Parliaments, it has been a subject of so much interest to the country at large, that I think it cannot be expected, after thirty years of discussion, that I should be able to adduce many facts or arguments having the charm of novelty. At the some time, as this is the first Session of a new Parliament, and as there are many hon. Gentlemen present who have not had a seat in this House before, I think I should hardly be doing justice to those Gentlemen if I did not enter at rather greater length into the general merits of the question than I should otherwise consider it necessary to do. It is, I believe, now more than thirty years since the question was first debated in this House. Soon after the abolition of a similar grievance in Ireland called church cess the English Nonconformists naturally hoped that something might be done for them of a similar nature, and I think it was in the year 1834 that the first discussion took place in this House on this question. I am not going to weary the House with a detail of all the numerous debates which have taken place upon it from that time to the present, but I may remind those hon. Members who have not taken the trouble to ascertain it for themselves, that there have been thirty-six different attempts to settle the question between 1834 and the present time. Those attempts have issued in twenty divisions; and to show the amount of public interest taken in the question I may state that the smallest number of Members who have been present at any of those divisions was 395, while on one occasion 577 Members recorded their votes. And I think no one will contradict me when I say that neither at the present time nor at any time past has there been any want of interest on the subject, particularly on the hustings. I think we shall all agree that there is no question on which we have been, on both sides of the House, so resolutely and pertinaciously catechized as on the question of church rates. At the last general election the public interest was quite as great as on previous occasions. I will not enter into details of the various proposals that have been submitted for the settlement of this question. Suffice it to say there have been proposals to settle this question by putting the charge on the land tax, by putting it on the Consolidated Fund, by having it paid out of the poor rate, by its being made a charge on the land in the parish. Besides these, there have been proposals for voluntary commutation and for exemption, to exempt Dissenters as such, to exempt all persons objecting to pay, to exempt those who alleged conscientious scruples, and other exemptions. Then, last of all, there has been a proposal which has been repeated and carried through this House over and over again for the entire abolition of the compulsory church rate, and which I trust will make one more step to day. I think I may say that it has been more and more felt in the country at large, and also in this House, whatever it may be necessary to do besides, that the abolition of the compulsory nature of the rate is the very thing that we shall have to do on this question. That principle—the abolition of compulsory church rates—is the principle which my Bill includes. The proposals which have been made at different times for dealing with this question seem to me to resolve themselves into three great classes—commutation, exemption, and entire abolition. As to the proposals for commutation, they have been either in respect of compulsory or voluntary commutation. So far as the compulsory commutation of church rates is concerned, I think that none of those proposals have been regarded, at all events of late years, with much favour in this House or the country, and I think it is hardly worth while to take up the time of the House with discussing them. The proposal for voluntary commutation has this defect, that it does not meet the evil. We say that the payment of a compulsory church rate is the evil to be dealt with. But the mere diminution of the charge by a rent charge derived from the property in each parish does not remedy the evil, because the evil does not consist in the amount of the charge, but in the fact that the charge is compulsory; and I think this is a fatal objection to any proposal for voluntary commutation. Then with regard to the proposals for exemption, it seems to me that they are all of them I liable to one objection, that the Dissenters who are the weaker party in a parish are to sign a declaration. It must be remembered that in those parishes where the anti-church rate party are the majority it is not necessary for them to make any declaration whatever, because all they have to do is to attend the vestry and oppose the church rate, and it is only in the cases where the anti-church rate party are in a minority that they would be compelled to sign a declaration which would he likely to bring them into collision with their more powerful neighbours. Now if the House will consider the question, I think they will see that all these schemes of exemption have reference, in practice, not to town parishes, but to small country parishes, where the anti-church rate party are in a minority. The large town parishes, where the Dissenters and those who object to the rates are the majority, have mostly settled the matter for themselves; and in the small country parishes just see how it would act. On the one side you have the supporters of the rate, the majority of the parishioners, including the squire, the clergy of the parish, and other residents, who in the County Directory are called the gentry. On the other side you have what, on the same authority, are called traders; you have the small farmers, the small village shopkeepers, and other persons in a lower grade of society. It is from this second class that the opponents of the church rate are mostly drawn. Then what you do by any scheme of exemption is to compel this dependent class to do an act which is sure to be most unpopular with those on whom they are dependent for their living. But of all schemes for exemption it appears to me that the scheme which I believe will be introduced by the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Beresford Hope) is the most objectionable. He proposes that a statement of a conscientious objection to the payment should be a reason for an exemption from the payment of church rates. Well, now, first of all I object to the proposal, because it only relieves a very small number of those who are likely to object to church rates. I may object to church rates, though I am a Churchman; and therefore could not say I objected on conscientious grounds. I may say it is unfair that I should be compelled to contribute to the repair of the fabric or the maintenance of a service carried on in a building which from circumstances I am unable to make any use of. It was my own case to live five years in a parish in which I paid church rates, and in the parish church of that parish I never had the most distant opportunity of obtaining a place, simply because the church was full and there were no vacancies during the time that I resided there. The hon. Member's scheme would not relieve me. Then I might object to certain items in the rate, or I might object to the amount of the rate, or I might object to pay because I saw it was a pressure on the consciences of some of my fellow parishioners that they should be made to pay. In any of those cases I should not be relieved. The only man who would be relieved would be the man who made a confession of a conscientious scruple. Now I think that this confession of a conscientious scruple would have a great tendency to foster religious hypocrisy, and moreover it would have a great tendency to induce a profession of dissent. I do not know whether the hon. Member wishes to thin the ranks of the Church and strengthen the ranks of Dissenters, but I am sure that any scheme of this nature would have that effect. I come now to the proposal of the Bill which is to be read a second time this day—the proposal for the abolition of compulsory church rates. I think it possible some hon. Members may do me the honour to say that my observations have induced them to consider that my objections to the plans for exemption and commutation have a certain weight, and yet they may feel disinclined to support a measure for the total abolition of the rate. If this be so, I think it will be on one of two grounds. They will object to total abolition on a theoretical ground, believing that it would weaken the connection which they desire not to see weakened between Church and State; or they will object to it on the practical ground, that without this compulsory contribution it will be impossible to repair the fabric, and carry on the service of a country church in small parishes. I deny that the abolition of church rates would weaken the connection between Church and State. Has the abolition of church cess in Ireland weakened the Irish Church? The Irish Church exists at the present moment; some people are perhaps surprised that it does. The church cess had been abolished thirty years. I may ask what would have been the chance, if it had not been abolished, of the state of the Irish Church being what it now is? The commutation of tithes has not weakened the English Church; and, as a general principle, the reform of an institution does not weaken that institution, but rather strengthens it. Seeing that the abolition of church rates is in fact a reform, I think there is no fear of the union between Church and State being in any way disturbed by it. I may be allowed to observe that there is a great distinction between church rates and any 'other payment with regard to the endowments of the Church of England. The church rate is in the nature of a tax, whereas tithe and all other Church endowments are in the nature of rent. Then there is another observation which I wish to make, and it is this. The granting of a church rate is the only internal part of the Church organization in which a Dissenter can interfere. At the present moment the Nonconformists, if they are the majority of a parish, can paralyse the action of the Church. Now I should like to know how the change which we propose will do anything except strengthen the action of the Church. It is clearly understood by hon. Gentlemen opposite—I certainly understand it myself—that there is no desire whatever on the part of Dissenters to interfere in any way whatever in the application of any voluntary rate which might be raised for the purpose of the Church. Well, then, I come to the practical objec- tion to the abolition of the rate. We may be told that without this quarter of a million it will be impossible to repair the fabric or carry on the service of country churches. Now, let me just ask hon. Members to consider for one moment what is done among Dissenters. Of course, we all know that the Church of England belongs to the richer classes, and that the Dissenters are generally to be found in the lower middle classes and the lower classes. In 1722 there were only 1,160 Dissenting chapels in England and Wales; in 1850 there were nearly 20,000. All these chapels have been built, and throughout that time have all been kept in repair by voluntary effort, and of course the building of these chapels involved the building of many school-houses. I believe that I shall not be wrong in saying that for the purpose, not of building, but of repairing chapels, for the payment of the salaries of the ministers, for the payment of the expenses of public worship, and for contributions to religious societies connected with those chapels, not less than £3,000,000 annually are expended by Dissenters. I will not there fore waste the time of the House in asking hon. Members if they think there would be any difficulty in raising a quarter of a million by Churchmen for the repair of the fabrics and the carrying on the service of the Church of England. I may be told that I have not shown the evils of the present system. Of course, unless the evils of the present system are manifest, there can be no reason why we should alter them. Perhaps it would be enough for me to ask, if there are no evils in the present system, what have people been debating about within and without the walls of this House for the last quarter of a century? I would say first there is the evil of the uncertainty of the present law. Perhaps that is an evil hon. Gentlemen opposite feel more than we do, but still it is an evil that any law should be uncertain. Again, I think it an infinitely greater evil that so long as a compulsory church rate exists there will be a root of bitterness in every parish in the kingdom ready to spring up on the slightest provocation. Then, Sir, I say, and I do so most heartily, that church rate seizures are great evils. I am not going to trouble the House with long statistical details, but there are one or two cases which I should like to bring before the notice of the House. Here is a case which occurred about two years ago in the parish of Broseley. I do not know whether the sup- porters of the Church of England, good Churchmen, think it any advantage to have a placard like this posted about the walls of a parish— Cruel Distraint for Church Rates by the Broseley Churchwardens.—On Thursday last a distraint was made on the goods of James Clark, a poor labouring man, with a wife and seven children, a bed-ridden mother, 83 years of age, and an imbecile sister. The amount of church rate was 1s.d., for which, with the costs, the Churchwardens have caused to be taken a clock, an oak chest, and an oak cupboard, two tables, seven chairs, a tea-tray, a looking-glass, a smoothing iron, and a straw mattrass, the taking of which caused some of the children to lie on the floor on the following night. I say the possibility of such occurrences would do more in a year to weaken the hold which the Church of England has on the affections of the people than would the existence of ten Liberation Societies in a century. The case I have mentioned is not one of very rare occurrence. Here is another case, which I mention because it illustrates another view of the hardship of church rates. It is a case of excessive distress, in which the amount distrained for is very small in comparison with the amount of property seized. It occurred in the Isle of Thanet and in the parish of St. Peter's; the amount distrained for on three separate ratepayers was 18s. 1d., and the value of the property taken for that sum and costs was £26 16s.; being some thirty times the amount of the rate. I will not trouble the House with more cases of this kind which have occurred, some of which are of a ludicrous character, such as seizing the pig of a defaulter just before Christmas, which bring ridicule and odium, as well as great discredit, on the Church. But there is one more case I must refer to, because there is something novel in it. I mean the case which is generally known as "the ten men in limbo." This case occurred at Staplehurst. Mr. Henry Hoare, the parish Churchwarden, discovered a new remedy for non-payment of church rates. Instead of taking the usual course, he summoned one of ten men who had refused to pay the rate before the magistrates at Cranbrook, under a criminal charge, the charge being that of disobeying the order of a magistrate. It so happened that Captain Oakes, who, I suppose, is Chairman of the Cranbrook Petty Sessions, declined to commit the postmaster of Staplehurst, who was the victim selected, and who, I may incidentally say, would have been ruined if he had been sent to prison. So the attempt failed, and "the ten men in limbo" were never in "limbo" at all. Now this is a case that might happen in any parish. This Staplehurst rinderpest might be a very contagious disorder, and supposing all the Churchwardens of England were seized with this disorder, we should have to ask the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Hunt) to come forward with another Bill to stamp out the disease. I have pointed out the objections which exist to the continuation of church rates, and I have endeavoured to show that no form of exemption will meet the evil of which we complain. I believe that nothing will meet the evil except the total abolition of the compulsory rate. I believe that the compulsory church rate is an anomaly and injurious to the best interests of the Church, and on these grounds I move the second reading of this Bill.


said, that he hoped that in the course of the few remarks which he should address to the House he should say nothing calculated to cause a hostile feeling between the opponents and the supporters of the measure. It was fitting that on that, as on former occasions, the Motion for the abolition of church rates should be brought forward by a Member of the Church of England, and his hon. Friend (Mr. Hard-castle) had worthily performed the duly which was formerly discharged by Sir John Trelawny. It was with great gratification he saw that the Member who was to oppose the Bill was the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Walpole), a gentleman who had won for himself the esteem of every man in the House by his honourable and upright conduct. His character was such that any man would be glad to meet him as an opponent, feeling assured that he would meet the subject with consideration and fairness. They had nothing to complain of on the last occasion, and the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) who led the Opposition to the Bill made the best of what he must be allowed to call a bad cause. He did not intend to go over the ground already occupied by the hon. Member who moved the second reading of the Bill. He desired to allude to what had been the working of "Christian willinghood," and he would only ask what must be the opinion held by other religionists of a Church whose members either could not or would not perform for themselves the duties performed for themselves by the members of all other religious communities. In the course of a former debate he had stated that the furni- ture in a meeting house belonging to the Society of Friends had been seized for church rates. An hon. Member then said that he must have alluded to some past occurrence, that such a thing would not be done at the present time. Now, in the year 1865 a meeting house of the Society of Friends in London was entered, under a warrant for church rates, and thirty-six chairs seized. On a former occasion one table and twenty-six chairs had been seized. In the Isle of Thanet, during the present year, the goods of James Creasy were seized for a church rate of 4s. 3d. The costs incurred were the following:— Magistrates' clerk's costs, 16s. 1d.; levying, 3s.; possession seven days, 17s. 6d.; removing goods to store and from store to place of sale, 3s.; broker's charges, 3s. 10d.; appraisement stamp, drawing same, &c, 2s. 6d.; constable swearing brokers, 1s.; drawing notices and attendance, offering goods at broker's valuation, 2s. 6d.; auctioneer's expenses of sale, advertising, Ac, 10s.; auctioneer's commission, 4s. The cash repaid was 11s. 4d., making a total taken of £3 19s. In another case in the Isle of Thanet the amount of the rate was 3s. 6d., and the total amount distrained was £4 6s. 6d., of which 19s. 4d. was returned. That very day, on entering the House, a paper had been put into his hands stating that a labourer of seventy-five had been summoned before the magistrates in the country for nonpayment of a rate of 1d. If he could show that voluntary effort had produced a certain result amongst Dissenters, it might be assumed that there was equal ability within the Church to pay for her ministrations. It appeared from the Census of 1851 that there were 3,500,000 persons attending Nonconformist chapels, and the number might be taken now as at least 4,000,000. A very careful examination showed that, taking town and country congregations together, the average contribution towards the support of religious worship in Nonconformist chapels was 10s. per annum for each occupied sitting. That gave an aggregate of £2,000,000 raised by these chapels for the celebration of Divine worship alone. But there were religious and educational institutions which the Nonconformists supported with a liberality equal to that of their Church brethren. He would read a list of some of these institutions, and their incomes in 1861— Congregational Home Missionary Society, £6,000; Colonial Missionary Society, £6,402; Baptist Home Missionary Society, £4,000; General Baptist Mission, £2,689; Baptist Irish So- ciety, £2,137; Bible Translation Society, £1,815; Particular Baptist Fund, £2,604; Baptist Missionary Society, £33,000; Moravian Missionary Society, £13,000; London Missionary Society, £85,500; Wesleyan Missionary Society, £140,000; Primitive Methodist Missionary Society, £8,673, The aggregate amount raised by these twelve institutions was £305,000. The Nonconformists supported equally with their Church brethren the more catholic societies, such as the Bible Society and the City Missionary Society, but the institutions to which these details referred were supported by Dissenters as Dissenters. They supported Sunday schools as well as churches. From a Return made to the Mouse of Commons in 1861 it appeared that the average income from each Baptist Sunday school was £7 19s. 3d., and from each Congregational Sunday school £10 12s. 10d. In 1851 there were 12,710 Sunday schools unconnected with the Established Church. If the average income of these schools equalled only the smaller of these sums there was raised in that year for the support of Sunday schools alone more than £100,000. Taking the increase of schools into consideration, probably not less than £120,000 was now raised for this purpose—a sum equal to half the amount raised through the kingdom for church rates. Any allusion to offerings made for Christian purposes would be imperfect if he did not allude to the glorious example of the Free Church of Scotland, when something like 500 ministers voluntarily gave up their means of livelihood, relying upon the free-will offerings of a loving and devoted people. The result showed that their reliance was not misplaced. In the year 1843 no fewer than 478 ministers and professors of the Established Church of Scotland left that Church because they would not submit to the terms which were imposed upon them. In the sixteen years following—namely, from 1843 to 1859, they built the following:— 1. 800 churches, at an average cost of £918 6s., total £734,641 1s. 2d.; 565 manses, at an average cost of £600, total £339,000; 620 schools,.at an average cost of £335,total £207,700. 2. Edinburgh College, total cost, £38,879 5s. 1d.; Glasgow College, total cost, £11,220; Aberdeen College, total cost, £2,360. 3. Edinburgh and Glasgow Normal Schools, £22,564 9s. 6d. 4. Assembly Hall and site, Edinburgh, £8,500; Church offices in Mount Place, £7,500.;5. Churches, manses, and schools erected at the expense of individuals, not appearing in the public accounts, £50,000. Aggregate cost of buildings, £1,422,364 15s. 9d. In 1843 the number of ministers who seceded was 478; in 1861 the number was 844. In 1843 the Free Church began with literally no revenues or resources of any kind; its income for the year ending May, 1861, was as follows: — Local building fund, £37,034 3s. 8d.; congregational objects, £100,197 9s.d,; sustentation fund, £113,462 17s. 7s.; home missions, £6,717 4s. 5d.; education, £16,723 11s. 4d.; college, £3,773 6s. 4d.; foreign missions, £18,035 10s. 3d.; colonial missions,£3,912 14s. 7d; Jewish mission, £4,580 12s. 6d.; building fund, £2,190 4s. 8d; Continental fund, £3,060 1s. 1d.; re-disruption ministers, £3,493 19s. 3d.; total, £329,941 2s.d. These were the proofs of what voluntary effort and Christian willinghood could accomplish, where men gave in support of what they believed to be the truth. Could not Churchmen do for their Church what the Dissenters, without difficulty, did for their churches? They were not without proof of what Churchmen could do and had done. The Church, when thrown upon its voluntary resources, had done as much as any other sect, and it was only because the Church admitted the enervating, torpedo touch of State control and aid and enforced maintenance, that it appeared in the humiliating position of applying to the House to maintain the imposition of so miserable and obnoxious an impost. To show the readiness of Churchmen to support voluntary effort he would refer to a speech made by the Bishop of Lichfield, who presided at a meeting of the Propagation Society just after the withdrawal of the Parliamentary grant. The Bishop of Lichfield at that meeting acknowledged that the society had lost nothing by the withdrawal of the Parliamentary grant. He said— When first he became connected with the society it had a Parliamentary grant of £15,000, which was opposed year after year by a great economist—no longer among us—but a man of whom all should speak with respect, and it was withdrawn. At the time that was regarded as a heavy blow to the society, and so it was, as the withdrawal of Parliamentary confidence; and as the connection between Church and State was one of the best and holiest which could exist, the withdrawal was a loss in that sense; but, as a pecuniary loss, it was made up by the voluntary offerings all over the country. After the withdrawal of the grant a Queen's letter was obtained, and he would now read a brief extract from the speech of the association secretary at Sheffield, in 1860— For many years they had the 'Queen's Letter,' which collected about £30,000 every three years. It had pleased the Minister of the Crown to withdraw that Queen's letter, and it became likely that the society would fail for want of funds. He thought they had reason to thank God that the Queen's letter had been withdrawn, and that they had got free trade in the matter. Last year they got £70,000, and he hoped that next year they would not get less than £100,000. If he were an enemy of the Church of England he should desire nothing better than that this discussion should be revived year after year, and Session after Session; that one party should be banded against the other and make a party fight of it until the "drum ecclesiastic" was beaten in every pulpit in the country, and the question brought up at every parish vestry. To the Church of England he was no enemy. To her supremacy he was. To her efficiency, her ministers, her institutions, so far as they did not interfere with Christian equality, he was no enemy. On a former occasion a noble Lord, whom he did not now see in his place, said of the supporters of abolition that they "would not be satisfied with toleration; they wanted equality." The noble Lord bad stated the truth. They neither wanted nor would accept toleration, and the difference between them was that the opponents of this Bill claimed supremacy, and the Dissenters demanded equality. Freemen should take nothing less, freemen should ask nothing more. If the members of the Church continued to depend upon the forced, unwilling, and begrudged contributions of those who differed from her, her course of usefulness would he a halting course, but if she relied on the love, prompted by the exertions of a faithful ministry in a faithful Church, her course would be blessing and blessed. So long as the Church depended upon this forced maintenance, there would be the fly in the pot of ointment, the worm at the root of the gourd; but if she relied on Christian willinghood she would find abundantly sufficient for herself, and there would be abundantly sufficient for those who differed from her.

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


Sir, there are one or two points in the speeches of the hon. Gentlemen who have just spoken which seem to require some remark before I offer any observations on the Bill itself. One circumstance is that there was a peculiar omission from the beginning to the end of the speech of my hon. Friend who first addressed the House (Mr. Hardcastle)— an omission of all allusion to the agitation and the causes on which that agitation has proceeded—namely, the agitation for the abolition of church rates. The other circumstance for which the speech of my hon. Friend was very remarkable is the use throughout of a particular adjective which is not to be found in the Bill itself. From first to last my hon. Friend was careful to say that he proposed to this House the abolition of "compulsory" church rates. In the Bill itself there is no allusion to the word "compulsory," but what was passing in the mind of my hon. Friend, who core-fully weighed his words, seemed to indicate that he has some misgiving about his own Bill, and that there ought to be some provision in it as a substitute for church rates before they are compulsorily abolished. I notice that, because I do not wish Members on this side of the House to be exposed to a taunt once thrown out to us from the Treasury Bench, that to measures of this description we are always offering an indiscriminate resistance. My answer is that there are occasions when, from the very nature of the propositions set before us, indiscriminate resistance is a necessity and a duty. When, therefore, I have this Bill before me, which asks the House to agree to the absolute and unqualified abolition of church rates, I must deal with it as I find it, and I cannot deal with the Bill according to the sentiment which appears to be dwelling in the mind of the hon. Member who proposes it, and which, if it were dwelling in his mind so strongly as it appeared to be, we ought to have had submitted, and specifically, to the House. I am the more anxious to make this remark in consequence of the course that has been observed in measures of this description. My hon. Friend is quite right in saying that for twenty-five years—or, as I believe I may call it, thirty-five years—this question of church rates has taken every variety of phase. You had the proposition, originally made, I think, by Lord Althorp, then the leader of this House, to substitute for church rates a charge upon the land. You had a proposition, made by another Minister of the Crown, to substitute a charge upon the funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. We have had an intimation from no less an authority than the late Sir Robert Peel that the charge might be thrown upon the Consolidated Fund; but that Minister remained in office not less than five years and made no attempt to settle the question, when he certainly could have done so. You have had other propositions for substituting pew-rents, and for compulsory and voluntary contributions. When all these miserably failed, in the last Session of Parliament, the question being agitated again, and it being proposed that Parliament should come to a deliberate decision, notwithstanding the abolition of church rates was supported by the noble Lord then the First Minister of the Crown (Viscount Palmerston), and also by Lord Russell, who had previously opposed it, the House came to the deliberate conclusion that some just and expedient mode should be discovered to provide a substitute for these church rates before they were abolished, As that is a most important circumstance, I may be forgiven for reminding the House of what then took place. On the 14th of May, 1862, the second reading of the Church Rates Abolition Bill came on, and an Amendment was moved by Mr. Sotheron Estcourt, which I will read to the House— That it is unjust and inexpedient to abolish the ancient customary right, exercised from time immemorial by the ratepayers of every parish in England, to raise by rate among themselves the sums required for the repair of their Church, until some other provision shall have been made by Parliament for the discharge of those obligations to which, by custom or statute, the Churchwardens, on the part of the parish, are liable."—[3 Hansard, clxvi. 1690.] That Resolution was carried by a majority of seventeen. What I wish to ask the present Parliament is, whether it is going to reverse the Resolution arrived at by the last Parliament? I wish to ask the present Parliament, on the first occasion which has occurred for doing so, whether it is not reasonable, according to the terms of that Resolution, that this ancient and customary right, which has existed from time immemorial, should not be absolutely taken away until some other substitute has been found by means of which the obligation resting on persons in respect of their property to support and maintain the fabric of the Church and to provide for the decent celebration of Divine worship, shall be discharged. This is not, as the hon. Mover and Seconder of this Motion would make it out to be, a mere question of voluntary effort. These charges had their origin in the voluntary offerings made by the people of this country long, and long ago, by means of which they charged their property for the express purposes to which the rates are now applied, and every owner of property around me, whether he hold his property by purchase or by inheritance, is subject to that charge for the benefit of the Church. I admit that the rate is liable to be controlled by the parochial vestry, but the charge has been levied according to the intentions of the ancestors of those who now possess the property itself. The question then is, whether it is just and expedient to abolish church rates without some equivalent, merely for the purpose of putting the amount of that charge into the pockets of the landed proprietors? Is it just or expedient to deprive the people of this country of that to which they have such an ancient right— the maintenance of their churches and the celebration of Divine and Christian worship in every parish and hamlet in the kingdom? That is the question we have to decide, My hon. Friend who proposed the Bill, and the hon. Gentleman who seconded it, alluded to some of the objections which they entertain, and which they tell us are entertained, to the continued imposition of church rates. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hardcastle) stated that the law was uncertain, that the mode of levying the assessment might be improved, and that there were inequalities in the allocation of the rate. Let us, however, draw a distinction between those objections which are capable of remedy and those which are not. All the objections to which I have just referred are capable of a remedy. If the law is uncertain, let us make it certain. If it can be shown that the law is oppressively exercised, no man in this House would justify the oppression. But, as far as my experience goes, I know nothing of the kind. There may be exceptions, but the general mode in which this law is put in execution is not oppressive to the people of this country. I entirely agree that these rates ought to be reduced to the minimum of what is necessary for the repair of the fabric and the maintenance of Divine worship. I agree that it is a hardship—I think it is the greatest hardship of all—that on the creation of new districts you subject those new districts to a double charge. If you meddle with this law, let these things be remedied. But these are not the only objections or the real objections that are urged on the present occasion. I may class the objections which are raised to this law under two heads—namely, the religious objection and the political objection. Now, I quite agree that the religious scruples entertained by some persons to the payment of this rate have some founda- tion—perhaps I might say some good foundation to rest upon. I cannot forget that when this rate was originally imposed it was not a charge, like the tithe, actually arising upon land, but it was a charge arising on persons in respect of their property, and that at that time all those persons were of one mind as to the necessity and value of a national religion. Therefore, the liability imposed upon them was commensurate with the benefit which they derived from it. As long as that was the case, there was and there could be no hardship in every person contributing to the national religion. But I am quite willing to admit that when a great change took place in the circumstances of the country in this respect—when toleration encouraged, and the law sanctioned, all those diversities of religious worship which the consciences of different men preferred, there was and there is a kind of hardship in calling upon them to contribute to one form of worship when they do not derive any benefit from it. But what has occurred in regard to that religious objection? For the first twenty or twenty-five years that was the main argument used for getting rid of church rates. But when the offer was made of relieving or exempting those who did not attend the worship of the Established Church, we were told at once, I hope not scornfully, but we were told at once, that that was an insult to the Nonconformists. But when that offer was fairly made to relieve those persons from all difficulty upon the ground of religious scruple, and when they would not accept that relaxation of the law, it is a little too much to say that their religious scruples were not fairly respected. If, therefore, the argument rested upon the religious objection, and upon that only, I should say that a complete offer was made to get rid of that objection, and consequently that we need not now have a Bill of this description. But, Sir, the religious objection is not the only one. There is also a political objection urged, which was first taken, as far as I am able to judge, in the year 1851. A Committee was then appointed to inquire into church rates and the mode of levying and collecting them. Before that Committee Mr. Courtauld was examined. He was, I think, a Unitarian, and an inhabitant of a parish of which we have heard a great deal in connection with this subject— namely, Braintree. He was regarded at the time as, and was, I believe, the chief leader in the opposition to church rates. He was examined twice before that Committee, and towards the close of his first examination he said that the church rate question was part of a much larger and far more important question—namely, the connection between Church and State, and he added that no mere settlement of the church rate question would be satisfactory. I think his words were to the effect that church rates were looked upon as the best field of controversy for carrying on an antagonism against the Established Church. Sir Charles Douglas, himself an advocate of the abolition of church rates, asked Mr. Courtauld this distinct question— From the general tenour of your observations, am I correct in stating that your object is to give power to the majority; that it would satisfy you if the majority of a meeting had the power secured to them by law—is that all that you would desire? The witness replied— I should be satisfied with that pretty well— far better satisfied than with any compromise. But then I would wish to be clearly understood that, while I should regard with complacency such a condition of the law, it would be because I feel that the great antagonism of Dissenters is better fought in church rate controversies; they afford a better and more advantageous mode of exciting popular attention to the subject than any other. Thus, we have it intimated by Mr. Courtauld in 1851 that by means of this question the first parallel, if I may so call it, was to be drawn with a view to making hostile attacks upon the Established Church. In 1859 a Committee of the House of Lords sat on this subject, and before it a gentleman of great ability—as I am told, for I have not the honour of his personal acquaintance, but his evidence shows both ability and sincerity—was examined as a chief member of the Liberation Society. I allude to the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Morley). I should be sorry to misrepresent a statement made by any person, whether present or absent, but I think it is an advantage to have that hon. Gentleman present at this debate. If I may summarize the hon. Member for Nottingham's evidence, he said that the Liberation Society objected to all compulsory provisions with reference to Church or religious matters, that no exemption of Dissenters could satisfy them, and that if that exemption were offered he would prefer— (I here quote his own words)—that"the question should remain as it is." I mention this for another reason—namely, because my hon. Friend in his opening address to us to-day said he did not object to Churchmen taxing each other for the benefit of the Church. But is that the opinion of the Liberation Society? Is that the opinion of the hon. Member for Nottingham? Is that the opinion of the large muster which I see in this House who take the same view as the Liberation Society? In his examination before the Lords' Committee of 1859 the hon. Member for Nottingham was asked (Question 843)— Supposing Parliament were to pass a law which exempted Dissenters from the payment of church rates, and which gave Churchmen only the power of rating themselves, would the persons whom you represent feel it to be their duty to endeavour again to obtain the repeal of that law? The answer was— Certainly. I doubt very much the power of the House of Commons. I mean by that, that that kind of law would excite an amount of opposition which would occasion some difficulty. In other words, the Dissenters would rather that the question should remain as it is than that it should so be dealt with. When that answer was so given it really became almost hopeless to devise any scheme by which Churchmen who wished an amicable settlement of the question should be enforced, while the Dissenters were exempt, still to continue to pay church rates, and for that purpose so he enabled to tax themselves. Nay, more, it indicated that the religious objection was no longer insisted upon, but that the political objection had taken its place. The political objection was commented upon on that occasion by the hon. Member for Nottingham; but perhaps it was stated more strongly, and I will add, more clearly by Mr. Foster, the chairman of the Liberation Society. Let us have no mistake upon this matter. Is this, or is it not, the view of those who are seeking the abolition of church rates, or do they wish for a fair and amicable settlement of this question? If I recollect rightly, Mr. Foster said before the Lords' Committee that the Liberation Society was a body which thought that all property held in trust, either by the United Church of England and Ireland or by the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, should be appropriated to secular purposes. That was an answer given by him to a question put by the Bishop of London. But not only did Mr. Foster, when he came to deal with the question of church rates, say, like the hon. Member for Nottingham, that no exemption would satisfy him, but he added —I give the effect of his words—that that would not go to the root of the matter; and, in fact, he further stated that there would be no peace between the Church and the Dissenters as long as the Established Church existed. That I may not misrepresent Mr. Foster, I will take leave to quote from his evidence before the Lords' Committee. The following questions, 1691, 1696, and 1697, were put to him:— I think the Committee understand that you give it quite as your impression that if the church rate question were settled to-morrow, it would not tend to produce what I may call peace between the Established Church and the body of Evangelical Dissenters? His answer was— It could not be considered as settling the question, in which we feel that we have an interest. He was then asked — You think that any idea of collision between the two parties would subside by a settlement of the church rate question is a short-sighted view? He replied— Yes, I think that the question at issue is a principle which must involve much more than that. The next question put to him was— And as long as the Established Church exists there will be the same point of difference as there is now—it is a mere question of detail? He answered — That is my judgment. The answers thus given by the members of the Liberation Society did make the settlement of this question almost hopeless; and it is upon that ground, and with that view, that I hold the last Parliament came to the conclusion that it would not be just or expedient to settle this question without providing some substitute for church rates before taking them away. If I am right in these inferences, I ask the House with the utmost seriousness and earnestness to consider how far we shall be justified in casting away all that the far-seeing wisdom, all that the far-reaching benevolence and charity of those who went before us have done for the benefit of the religion of this country and the good of the community who need the ministrations of the Church without substituting some provision in lieu thereof. Shall we throw it all away for nothing? For the answers which I have quoted do not point merely to church rates, but to all the revenues and resources of the Church which hare been voluntarily given —which have been laid, I may say, by our pious forefathers upon her altar for the benefit of the people. But perhaps my hon. Friend who moved the second reading of this Bill would tell me that he is not mixed up with the Liberation Society or its schemes. I dare say he would tell me that he does not agree with its opinions. Whether he does or does not I do not pretend to say, but I will assume that he does not, and then I ask him whether he does not make himself a party to that Society, or at least to its schemes, when he musters his forces and arrays his ranks as I now see them mustered and arrayed before me to get rid of church rates on the only ground on which the active opponents of the Church oppose them? But my hon. Friend says, "Look at the parishes in which these church rates are already abolished, and look at the bickerings and the strife that take place where they are retained. Have you no confidence in your own Church; have you no confidence in the voluntary efforts of her own adherents for the promotion of her interests without requiring a compulsory rate to support it?" Sir, I tell my hon. Friend that I have as much confidence as he has in the voluntary efforts of the members of the Church, and I think I shall be able to convince him that, unless he will find proper remedies for those inconveniencies of the law which now exist, the present Bill for the total abolition of church rates ought not, even upon his own showing, to be passed. My hon. Friend has not gone into the statistics of the case, but I should like to mention to the House just a few of them. In a Return which was laid before Parliament in 1859 by command of the Queen there was a statement relating to certain other Returns that were also laid before this House in the Sessions of 1852 and 1856. From the Return presented in 1852 of the number of rates required, made, or refused between the Easter of 1833 and the Easter of 1851, it appears that out of the 10,047 parishes from which Returns were sent in there were only 216 in which church rates were actually refused during that whole period of eighteen years. In the Session of 1856 a similar Return was made of all the parishes in which during the last preceding fifteen years church rates had been refused, and since their refusal had ceased to be collected; and it then appeared, I think, that there were only 365 parishes in which they had been so refused. I have looked into the local taxation Returns for the last year, and also those for this year, which were delivered to Members only yesterday. I have not been able carefully to analyze these last, but I have obtained some curious results, which I will briefly state to the House. The total number of the Returns for 1865 is 12,074; the rate collected amounts to £241,960; and if you add the proportion of rate for those parishes from which no Return is made—namely.£28,977 —you have a total sum of £270,937. But in that Return there is a statement with regard to nils, as they are called, which has been taken hold of by a certain Nonconformist newspaper. Among those nils are 2,888 places in the Return for 1854, which may be explained as chiefly relating to chapelries where no rates can be levied at all. Yet these nils were treated in the newspaper to which I have referred as so many refusals of church rate. Although have not had time to analyze these Re- turns, I am told that the parishes in which church rates are refused do not exceed 10 per cent of the whole, and I believe it is nearer 6 per cent than 10. The result is, that in 90 per cent of your parishes at this moment church rates are imposed by the voice of the parishioners. And when you speak of the bickerings which take place in consequence of this impost, I venture to say that all that strife arose in the parishes that have ceased to pay church rates—namely, the populous towns— and that in those other parishes where they are paid it would be the greatest deprivation to take away from them this means of repairing their churches. Yet even with regard to the populous town parishes where the bickerings take place, these frequently are the very parishes for which the voluntary principle would be least suitable. But there is another Return for 1859, which my hon. Friend would find very applicable to that which I think he has in his mind when speaking of the abolition of compulsory church rates, and intimating that something might be substituted for them. The Return to which I now refer gives a rather curious analysis of the different sources from which the funds for the repair of churches had been derived. Out of a total of 10,749 parishes, there are 5,544 in which those funds are derived from church rate alone; 737 in which they are derived from church rate and endowments; 386 in which they are derived from church rates, endowments, voluntary rates, and subscriptions; and 1,892 in which they are derived from church rates, voluntary rates, and subscriptions. These parishes together make a total number of 8,559 in which church rates are levied. I ought to add that there are 320 parishes in which the funds for the repair of the Church are derived from endowments, voluntary rates, and subscriptions, and 835 more in which they are derived from voluntary rates and subscriptions only. These last taken together make 1,155; so that there were, according to that Return of the year 1859, no fewer than 9,714 parishes which were really enabled, partly by church rates and partly by voluntary rates raised by that parochial machinery which it is desired that the Church should have the power to use for its benefit, to provide for the repair of their fabrics. This shows two things most distinctly —first of all, that the great mass of the parishes do not object to the payment of church rates; and secondly, that the machinery for collecting church rates might still be made available, even if they were refused as a compulsory impost. But then it is said by my hon. Friend, "Will you not trust to the voluntary exertions of the Church and her members, and get rid of that which engenders so much animosity and strife?" Sir, I think I am about the last man in this House who ought to be insensible to the value of the voluntary principle. I say that because I have week by week—I might almost say day by day—proofs without number of the immense advantage of that principle when brought in aid of the National Church. As a member of the Ecclesiastical Commission, I may say that by the help given us in that way we have been enabled to overtake to a great extent the pressing wants of the masses of our population. Unconditionally we have made grants for raising the incomes of clergymen to £300 a year in parishes containing a certain population. Concurrently with that we have made conditional grants to meet benefactions; and the benefactions go offered during the last ten years amount to a million of money. In this very year in which I am speaking the offers of benefactions to meet grants amount to £250,000. These are the modes by which the Church of England does act and will act through the voluntary principle as well as by means of the national endowment, and one will materially aid the other. The Church may be described as combining the endowment and voluntary principle, and it is in consequence of that that we are now able to have religion taught in every part of the land. The funds of the Church have been talked of sometimes as if they were the creation of the State, but, with the exception of a million of money given by Parliament at the end of the French Revolutionary War, I do not believe this House has ever granted anything to the Church. It has all come by voluntary donations. That voluntary principle will continue to influence the people of this country, and to multiply the endowments of the Church while there is a want to be supplied, and Heaven knows there are many at the present moment, and such wants must increase as our population increases. I speak of the endowments of the Church together with her other sources of revenue, because it is the object of the Liberation Society to separate them; and I say that if you were to take away those endowments from the Church, it would follow that the voluntary principle must fail in the very places where you desire for it most success. The voluntary principle is a grand principle in cases of emergency, and in localities where there is sufficient zeal and money to promote religion among the people; but that principle without endowments is not adequate to provide for all the requirements of distant parishes and secluded hamlets. Unless you have endowments—which are in fact the creations of the voluntary principle—to aid you in this great and important work, you will leave great gaps in the country totally unsupplied with the ministrations of religion and opportunities of attending public worship. I cannot allow it to be said that we on this side of the House at all distrust the voluntary principle. I believe that the Church is founded on that principle, and is still sustained by it to a great extent; and as long as she shall retain the purity of her worship, the constancy of her faith, the soundness of her doctrine, her fostering care for those who are within and a charitable consideration for those who are without her pale— is founded on a rock which nothing on earth can ever shake. While I believe this, however, I believe also that this is no reason why you should diminish her means of doing good, and still more that it is no reason why you should spoliate any portion of her property, or take away any of her resources without providing some other means that will be adequate to meet all the wants of the Church. Were these the last words I should ever utter, I would beg and entreat you to consider that unless you fully provide for the population now so rapidly multiplying, they will sink into ignorance and heathenism. Nay, more; I am confident that if you take away the means of providing for the religious instruction of the poorer classes in every part of the country, then it will follow that where ignorance is darkest, where vice is greatest, and where, consequently, religion is most needed, your voluntary principle will not, cannot succeed. But if you continue your present endowments, with voluntary assistance, you have a chance of supplying all the wants of the country. I have previously quoted the great moralist, Dr. Chalmers, on this subject, but I cannot refrain from doing so again. He says— Christianity must go forth in quest of human nature. Human nature uninstructed and unassisted never will go forth in quest of Christianity. That one sentence contains the whole principle on which a national Church is founded; it is the principle, it is the object, it is the mission which the Church of England has most at heart. Believing as I do that this measure, as one of its immediate effects, would impair the efficiency of the mission of the Church, I cannot consent to it; but when I find, according to the best consideration I have been able to give to the subject, that the ultimate consequences of the Bill would be the subversion of the Church as a National Establishment, I feel it my bounden duty to move that this Bill be read a second time on this day six months.


Sir, I rise to second the Amendment. But I wish, in the first instance, to tender my thanks, and, I may add also, the thanks of those who sit around me, to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University for the admirable and effective speech he has just delivered against the second reading of this Bill. I also have to express my gratification that we are called upon by a direct issue—aye or nay—to affirm or reject the Bill, and not to entertain the question of compromise. I have no wish to express any opinion in the abstract adverse to a fair and equitable compromise of this question. I am as ready as my right hon. Friend to acknowledge and as frankly as he has done to admit the imperfections of the existing law, and I will most gladly at the proper time give my support to any measure which might really remedy them, and render the law of church rates more in conformity with the relations which the Church at present bears to the great body of the people of this country. I have supported before this in this House more than one fruitless measure of compromise embracing the principle put forward by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke (Mr. Beresford Hope), and under certain conditions I am perfectly ready to do so again. But it has always appeared to me something of a paradox to attempt to engraft any measure of compromise on a Bill which simply affirms that on and after such a day the collection of church rates shall wholly cease and determine. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Hardcastle) has said that before any measure of compromise or settlement should be entertained it is absolutely necessary that the House should do away with church rates altogether. I entirely disagree with my hon. Friend. I think if you pass a sentence of death upon a man, and proceed immediately to carry that sentence into execution, it is rather too late to go into the question of settlement or compromise over his dead body. I have always thought it the first essential element of compromise in this question that the House should in the first instance by its rejection of a measure similar to the present affirm that church rates ought not to be abolished. And I further think we have gathered from past experience that any measure of compromise to have a fair chance of passing this House ought to be brought forward, not by a private Member, however high his position or great his talent, but that it ought to be brought forward by all the weight and authority of the Government itself, a Government determined to stand or fall by its measure, and possessing also a clear majority in the House. From the manner in which the present Government has dealt with this question in former Parliaments I doubt whether they possess a sufficient amount of determination; I doubt, also, from what we have seen this Session, whether they possess the necessary majority in the present one. And so far as this side of the House is concerned, I may fairly say, "We have done all that can be expected from us in bringing forward fair and equitable measures of compromise." The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds said that the question had been the subject of discussion for the last thirty years, and that during that time thirty-six measures of compromise had been brought forward. I should like to know how many of those measures have not emanated from this side of the House. In point of fact, we have held out the olive branch in this House till our arms have fairly ached from the extension, and it cannot be matter of surprise, looking at the great change which came over the spirit of the House in the last Parliament, that at the beginning of the present we are not inclined to repeat the process. I should like to know how many times have we, on this side of the House, said to the Dissenters, "You tell us you have a conscientious objection to contribute to the rates of a church from whose religious opinions you dissent?" Then we say, "Sign a declaration to that effect, and we will henceforth exempt you from that impost." But the answer of the Dissenters is, "That is not what we want at all. What we want is this. We object to church rates; and because we, as Dissenters, object to church rates, you, as Churchmen, shall not have church rates either. Because we in a few towns have a majority, and therefore we have no church rate grievance (church rates not being levied), therefore the whole bulk of the rural parishes of the country, where the rates are levied and cheerfully and gladly paid, shall be deprived by this Bill of the only means of sustaining the fabric of the Church." This is what the Bill now before the House goes to affirm; and it cannot be a matter of surprise that, so far as compromise is concerned, we are disposed to rest on our oars, and wait till the olive branch waves from the other side of the House. I now venture to approach a branch of the subject which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmund's treated very delicately, and which the hon. Seconder never mentioned at all. I fear the plain truth is, that, after all, there is that in this cry of church rate abolition "which passeth show," that all those pathetic stories of conscientious grievances—about the poor man of Broseley, and the "ten men in limbo," who never went to limbo at all, —that all these stories are "but the trappings and the suits of woe" to serve as cloaks to the real object of the cry. Every one of those conscientious grievances, all these hypothetical church rate martyrs, would have been amply dealt with seven years ago by the measure of the right hon. Member for Cambridge University. But the real truth is, that we must not look above the gangway for the real object for which the question is brought forward; we must look below the gangway to get at that object; and we must look a bit lower than where sits the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Gilpin). The plain object is to be found in the open, frank, and straightforward avowal of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), who told the people a few years since that he looked on a Bishop in the House of Lords as a creature of monstrous birth, and that this question of the abolition of church rates is but one of a series of measures to be brought forward, with a view to test the supremacy of the establishment. This also is avowed in the evidence of Mr. Miall, Mr. Morley, and Mr. Foster, upon a Committee of the House of Lords, where they said that what they aimed at was the separation of Church and State, and the appropriation to secular purposes of every religious endowment. I am very well aware that the views of the Abolition Society are not shared in by many hon. Members above the gangway. I do not believe they are shared by a majority of the Cabinet. I am pretty sure that unless a more rapid conversion has come over him on this point than on others, they are not shared by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I further believe that there is no statesman who has held stronger language on this subject than the noble Lord at the head of the Government (Earl Russell), who, only a few years ago, told this House— We have a National Church, an hereditary Monarch, an hereditary aristocracy; and my belief is that all these things stand together, and that as they stand together so they must fall together. I therefore must oppose the abolition of church rates as having a tendency to subvert the best institutions of the country. It is very true that since that time a change has come over the noble Lord's convictions on those subjects; but I well remember that in the last speech, I think it was, he ever delivered in this House, at all events his last speech on the subject of church rates, he told us that he supported the abolition of church rates simply and solely because he thought that by the total surrender of the rates the Dissenters would agree to act upon a favourite maxim of his, of "Rest and be thankful," and that a truce of thirty years at least might be purchased against any further attack on the property of the Church. That, I believe, is the opinion entertained by several hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite to us, and who advocate, quite conscientiously I admit, the total abolition of church rates as friends of the Church and its best interests, and who steadily disavow all connection with the Abolition Society. But I do not think that the National Church in this country is reduced to such an extremity by the attacks which have been made upon her as to talk of purchasing a truce by the surrender of her rights. I would ask the House to look at the evidence of Mr. Morley and Mr. Poster, the speeches of Mr. Miall, and the articles in the Nonconformist newspaper, and then to say how long, if church rates be once abolished, the most active, the most rigorous portion of the political Dissenters, composing the Liberation Society, will be inclined to act on the maxim of "Rest and be thankful." I will venture to prophesy that it would last only as long as that doctrine of "Rest and be thankful" shall be maintained, in spite of Earl Russell, in another matter. So long as there is no change in the elective franchise I do not believe the Liberation Society, with all its ability and activity, will be in a position to carry out any further its programme. But let a Reform Bill once be passed; let there be a further infusion of the democratic element in this House, and then the case will be very different. The warfare against every species of Church property will then be instantaneously renewed with augmented strength and vigour by the enemies of the Church. The Liberation Society are perfectly wise in their generation, and this is the reason why in all their writings they have placed Democratic Reform at the head of their programme. In 1857, Mr. Fox, the late Member for Oldham, at the annual meeting of the Liberation Society told the meeting that this question of church rate abolition was, in point of fact, nothing but a political agitation; and he added— Political Reform is the broad highway on which we must march to religious freedom and equality. He further explained that by religious freedom and equality he meant the expulsion of the Bishops from the House of Lords, and the abolition of any tax which makes one man pay in any form for the religion of another. A few years after that, at a similar meeting, Mr. Miall said— Help forward the abolition of church rates and the separation of Church and State whenever you can. If you cannot do that, help forward the suffrage, and the rest will follow as a matter of course. I think that is the reason why, of late years, we have witnessed the intrusion at all times, in season and out of season, of that single barrelled Reform Bill of the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines), and why we had the declaration which was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the introduction of that Bill. We now stand within four days of the bringing in of a Reform Bill by the statesman who made that memorable declaration, and we stand committed to a Reform agitation for a considerable downward extension of the suffrage. We know with what views on Church matters this agitation is commenced by the leaders of it, and I would ask the friends of the Church, with all frankness, is this a time to talk of purchasing a short and hollow truce by the total and unconditional surrender of church rates? It may be a matter of opinion whether the expulsion of the Bishops from the House of Lords, the separation of Church and State, and the appropriation of all Church property to secular purposes are desirable objects; but 1, for one, do not hesitate to say that I think it would be a disastrous day for the best institutions of the country if ever one-third of such a programme should be accomplished. I do not hesitate to say, further, that at such a time, when such a Reform agitation is coming, for the friends of the Church to sanction the total and unconditional abolition of church rates would be very materially to assist in carrying out that programme. It would be tantamount to handing over the keys of your fortress to the enemy and bidding him walk in. The separation of Church and State is the real question at issue in this matter. I believe that beneath the union of Church and State more perfect liberty, both civil and religious, has been preserved and confirmed to this country than has been witnessed in any other age or in any other country. For these reasons I, for one, shall give my hearty support to the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge, and shall join with him in saying a hearty "no" to the Motion for the second reading of this Bill.

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

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


Sir, I do not rise to address the House on this occasion in virtue of my connection with Her Majesty's Government. The Government, up to the present time, have not perceived such a state of facts and circumstances in relation to this question as would have justified them in making a proposition to the House. I think we must all feel it is not desirable that the Administration of the day, whatever it may be, should recommend to Parliament any plan dealing with this subject until there is a reasonable prospect of success. I speak now simply in my capacity as an individual Member, as one who has taken part in some scores of these debates and divisions in relation to church rates which have distinguished the annals of this House, and occupied no small portion of its time for more than a quarter of a century. The great majority of us must feel that if it is possible it is desirable to have a settlement of this question. I think from what has been said in the debate that there are Members on both sides of this House who do not concur, or at all events do not emphatically concur in that opinion. To those who prosecute the interests of Dissent, it is not a very inconvenient thing to have in existence a discussion which raises so many points of soreness in the different districts of the country. On the other hand, there may be those who think that resistance to the abolition of church rates is not a bad standard round which to rally their followers. But however that may be, the impartial good sense of this House sincerely desires, I am sure, to arrive at some decision on the subject. Our legislation with respect to this question of church rates seems to me to have undergone something like a paralysis. I doubt whether any other public question has occupied for so many years so many hours of our time— has been debated so often with the necessary repetition of the same arguments— with such a total absence of legislative progress. Let us see whether it be possible to achieve such progress, or to make a single step towards it. I have spoken advisedly of legislative progress, for as far as moral progress is concerned—I mean the preparation of the minds of hon. Members both on one side of the House and the other to deal with the subject—I think it is clear very considerable advance has been made. I am not going to charge my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Walpole) or the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Du Cane), who so ably seconded his Amendment, with indiscriminate resistance in this matter, but I feel, I confess, somewhat bewildered by the magnitude of the topics which formed the staple of both their speeches. The speech of my right hon. Friend turned mainly on the discussion of the questions whether State endowments are permissible, or whether we ought to pass to the fulfilment of the designs of a body which is called the Liberation Society. The hon. Gentleman who followed him has further widened the field—why, it does not appear to me very clearly—by introducing into the debate the subject of the Parliamentary franchise. On that point I must observe that I dissent entirely from the remarks which fell from him, and I dissent from them above all as a Churchman. The interpretation to be put upon the latter portion of his speech may, I think, very fairly be given in these terms:—"The Church is safe within these walls so long as you keep the nation out of them." I object, on such an occasion as this, to enter into a thorough discussion of the question of Church and State. I do not deny that there is a considerable relation between the theory of church rates and the right to tax the entire community for the maintenance of the edifices and the welfare of the State religion; but surely my right hon. Friend must see that whatever the advantages of such a system carried out in its integrity may be, its bearing on the question of Church and State, and its value for strengthening the system of Church and State, is fatally impaired by two circumstances, one of which he recognizes, and the other he is ready to recognize. The first is, that the inhabitants of every parish may, if it pleases them, by means of agitation reduce this great theory to nothing in their own case; the second is to be found in the fact that my right hon. Friend is ready to make one great stride in advance of that state of things, and to allow every individual to do for himself that which the law as it stands permits in the case of every parish. There is another view of the matter bearing upon this question of Church and State. There can be no doubt that the abolition of church rates would remove the occasion of controversy on many sore points, not merely within the arena of the House of Commons, but in a very large number of parishes throughout the country, nor am I at all prepared to say that the Church would in consequence he less secure. No answer has been given to the views which were so mildly stated, perhaps understated, on this particular part of the case by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmund's, He tells you that you have abolished church rates in Ireland, and I ask whether there is a single man who can say that the result of that abolition has been to weaken the Established Church in that country? On the contrary, there are, I suspect, a great many hon. Members in this House who are of opinion that the result has been to strengthen it a great deal too much. Sir, I look upon this question of church rates as lying practically within very narrow limits. It is very generally admitted that it is desirable the existing state of the law should be altered. I think we must all feel that it is as it stands so difficult of execution as to be primâ facie open to great objection. The mover of the second reading of the Bill and his seconder have quoted cases of recent suffering consequent on the levying of church rates, but they do not, I apprehend, rely upon those cases as being fair samples of that which usually takes place when a church rate is levied against the wishes of a reluctant minority. My belief, at least, is that when the charge is 90 made the majority in nine cases out of ten escape or decline payment. The conflict arising out of the present law, the many points of form that can be raised, and the facilities afforded for every kind of resistance prevent in fact, in a vast number of instances, the compulsory application of the law. But then it may be said, "This very circumstance shows that the amount of suffering is, after all, very small." I believe it to be small, but then the existence of such a state of things as that of which I am speaking clearly proves that the operation of the present law, regarded as a law for enforcing on the whole community, in deference to the connection between Church and State, a general rate, is exceedingly vague and uncertain, and is practically reduced to the very skeleton or shred of a compulsory system. I object to the law as it stands, on the ground that it does a great injustice to the Church, for nothing can be more injurious to the position of the Church than that its affairs in those cases in which a church rate is refused should remain liable as before to be dealt with by a dissenting majority, and that the burden of settling matters should be cast upon the clergy, who have to become beggars to a great extent, because no appropriate fund on which to draw under the circumstances is provided. My right hon. Friend himself very fairly admitted that the Dissenters had a real grievance of which to complain. He says, "It is true, but then they will not accept the remedy we offer." I think I may say he evidently sees that the case is not thus satisfactorily disposed of, otherwise he would not make the admission I have just mentioned. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment (Mr. Du Cane) claimed distinctly for his party the credit of having held out the olive branch on this subject. His statement on that point, however, is not perfectly correct. If we want to know the history of the proposals with regard to the exemption of Dissenters, we must go back to the time when such a proposal was first made. As far as my memory serves me, that was about the year 1848, when, if I mistake not, Sir William Page Wood, sitting on this side of the House, brought forward a Motion on the subject which was immediately denounced by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, whom I have now in my eye. I grant that since then there have been proposals emanating from the other side of the House rejected by the Dissenters. In this instance we have had, after all, merely a repetition of the old story; a proposal as soon as it is accepted by one side is rejected by the other, and when the side from which the rejection came express their readiness to make a concession, their opponents, finding themselves stronger, change their minds and say "No." There is one injustice wider than any that have been mentioned involved in the law with regard to church rates as it stands, in reference to the populous parishes throughout the country, on which I should like to say a word. The old law of church rates never proposed to impose a burden without providing a corresponding benefit. The burden was the liability to levy and to contribute to a rate; the benefit a right to accommodation in the parish church. What has become of that right? In the rural parishes, strictly so called, I am happy to say it still exists. But in the great mass of populous parishes, where a rate is refused but where the law, it must be remembered, is not abolished and only remains in suspense, the right of accommodation in the parish church—which belongs alike to Dissenters and to those who are members of the Church of England—has become in many instances a mere shadow and a name, while the legal liability continues. That is a radical injustice in the operation of the law quite distinct from the grievances of Dissenters and not to be met by any mode of dealing with this question which would touch nothing but their exemption. I confess that I am, and have always been, one of those who are not prepared to consent to the simple abolition of church rates. The machinery by which it has been the usage from time immemorial for the people of this country to assess themselves for the purpose of levying that charge is of the utmost value to this country. I do not think the arguments of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Gilpin), though it is impossible not to admire their spirit, with regard to that deep inexhaustible fountain of Christian benevolence which exists in this country, sufficiently take into account the changes at once in the habits of the population and especially of the rural population. I am bound to say that, looking at the question in connection with the position of the Church as a National Church, which aims not merely at providing religious accommodation for those who come to it with ready formed convictions in their minds, but which professes to have open doors for any man who wishes to enter. I think the simple abolition of the rate would not be a satisfactory settlement. I think the practical result of the simple abolition of church rates would be to throw the rural parishes upon the clergy—who are already in many respects overburdened—who have but limited stipends, but I must say, generally, unbounded liberality. In the absence in many cases of aid derived from other resources, this would be a charge which it would be most unjust to impose on them, and would have the effect of making a fresh demand for secular objects on time which ought to be at the disposal of their parishioners for spiritual purposes. Lastly, I object on principle to the management of the affairs connected with the maintenance of the fabric of the Church, the performance of its services, and the keeping up of the churchyards, by those who decline to bear any share in the necessary expense. It seems to me that if you abolish the rate and give the right to the parishioners to take part in the disposal of a fund to which they do not contribute, you would be introducing a new and a great injustice. I am glad to find that my hon. Friends the Members for Bury St. Edmund's and Nottingham concur in that view, and to perceive the opposing parties drawing nearer to each other. It may be impossible altogether to bridge over the gap, but let us note the attempts that have been made to that end. The proposal made in 1859 was one which I admit, if you put a strict interpretation upon it, appears to be limited, but "conscientious objections" are not to be determined upon by any public authority; each man interprets it for himself. He might say that he thought a rate wrong and adverse to the public good, although he might not feel it as a great personal hardship, and so have "conscientious objections." It was said with great force by the hon. Member that these phrases of doubtful construction ought not to be introduced into laws. We have, indeed, of late years had experience of the great inconvenience of introducing ambiguous words into the most solemn public formularies. I confess that I am reluctant to take that course; but, still, I apprehend that the practical effect of the proposal of the hon. Member would be to exempt from the rate any person that might choose not to pay it. But if that is to be so, it will leave to pay the church rate no persons except those who wish to pay it; and why may not that method of proceeding be adopted, and why should we not hope that if it were accepted by the opposite side of the House, it would also be accepted by this side? We should then abolish the compulsory process, which, as far as my knowledge goes, is in the vast majority of cases unavailing, but which, still existing as it does in theory, operates in some cases effectively, and necessarily rather rashly and oppressively. I can see that if a measure were adopted with that basis, or if the terms of the measure of my hon. Friend were modified with that view, the principle on which we should proceed would be this, that the participation in the administration of the church rate would be confined to those who are willing to pay it; while there would be a distinct admission—nay, a distinct enactment—that we should exclude those who declined to pay, from the management and application of a fund to which they refused to contribute. It seems to me that we might then come to a solution of the question which would not be unsatisfactory to any one who desires to see it settled. My right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge underrated, I think, the difficulty of its solution, when he referred to the declaration of the late Sir Robert Peel on the proposal of Sir William Page Wood, and when in terms that appeared to carry a reproach—which I am sure he did not mean to convey—be said that Sir Robert Peel, after having declared that this question ought to be settled, and having in his hands the power of settling it, remained five years in office without making any attempt to accomplish that object. Now, I venture to think that the motives which prevented Sir Robert Peel from making that attempt were of the most palpable and tangible character. There was no man who had a better eye for measuring the chances of the success of a measure in Parliament than Sir Robert Peel; and I apprehend that it was his conviction of his inability to prepare a measure which, consistently with his sense of justice, he could carry through this House that deterred him from engaging in that attempt, even at the period of the greatest strength of his Government. And let it be observed, that with the single exception of the Government of 1837 no Administration for more than thirty years has made what I would call a serious or determined attempt to arrive at a solution of this question. I think, however, that it is hardly creditable to this country—that it is hardly creditable to the Legislature, or to our good sense, and that it is not in conformity with the mode in which practical questions are usually dealt with by the people of this country that the subject should continue from year to year to be battered about and tossed backward and forward without our arriving at any practical result. I am not able, as I said before, to vote for a simple abolition of church rates, and if my hon. Friend means—which, however, I do not gather from his speech—that this is and will continue to be a mere Bill for the abolition of church rates, I am not prepared to vote for it in that sense. My right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge having moved an Amendment, it will of course be competent to my hon. Friend to address the House again, and, I hope, that as the speech he has already made seemed to open a door for the settlement of the question, he will consider himself under a certain obligation to modify his proposal. It appears to me that if the compulsory powers are abolished in this case, the first effect will be that the fund can only be administered by those who contribute to its creation. In the second place authority ought, in my opinion, to be given to the vestries to determine that if the churchyards are to be maintained solely at the expense of one portion of the community they should have the power of compensating themselves by ordering that other persons who may think proper to use the churchyards should be liable to some equitable charge for the accommodation which they would thus receive. I do not think that I need detain the House any longer. I hope the suggestion which I have ventured to make will be taken for what it is worth. I trust that hon. Members' will believe it has been offered simply from a desire to attain that which may be the best practical solution of this much-vexed question. It is evident that we have to deal with a country where an immense difference of circumstances in different parishes creates the greatest difficulty in devising a system which would be adapted to our general requirements. The proposal I have made, including that of abolishing the compulsory power of collecting church rates, while provision is made for obtaining the amount required for making all necessary repairs from those who are willing to give it, appears to me to involve on the part of the Church a sacrifice of little beyond the enjoyment of a power which is at once vexatious and ineffective, while it promises great practical good, will conciliate a numerous and influential body, and offers the hope of a settlement of this question more satisfactory than, so far as I can see, can be obtained in any other mode. I see no reason, therefore, why it should not meet with the general approval of the House.


said, he could scarcely express the pleasure with which he had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer since in it he saw, or at least he thought he saw, daylight breaking on this vexed and cloudy question. In that speech was a declaration of a desire on the part of the right hon. Gentleman that this question should be settled fairly and equitably for the Church, and fairly and equitably for Dissent. He rejoiced to hear such a declaration from one who possessed not only the goodwill but the power to carry such a settlement into effect. Similar settlements had often been proposed before, but they were advocated by those who possessed the will but not the power to induce the House to assent to them. They must not forget that the right hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill that morning had himself, in 1859, when on the Treasury Bench, moved a Church Rate Settlement Bill, which involved the exemption of those who were undesirous of paying the rate. But the Government of which, if the right hon. Gentleman was not the leader, he was, at all events, a most prominent Member, had not a majority of the House at the time, and his Bill contained, unfortunately, certain provisions of commutation, which prevented the clear issue being tried. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Hubbard) and the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Viscount Cranbourne) had also brought in a Bill upon the subject for a like exemption early in the following Parliament, but it also fell through; while in the same year, 1859, in which the hon. Member for the University moved his Bill, a Committee of the House of Lords—the Duke of Marlborough's Committee—sat, before which the now historic evidence of the hon. Member for Nottingham and of Dr. Foster was given, to which he would not then allude, as his object was peace and not war. That Committee having itself just heard that evidence, and having no doubt been much struck with it, for all that inserted the following recommendation in its Report, dated on the 19th of February:— That for the future persons desirous of being exempted from contributing to the church rates in any parish may give yearly notice to that effect to the Churchwardens prior to the meeting of any vestry for the making of a church rate, and that such persons shall not be entitled to attend any such vestry and to vote upon the making or the application of such rate, or to act as Churchwardens, in any matter relating to the Church, or to retain any seat appropriated to them in the Church during the time of such exemption. That was identically the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That clause in the Report did not pass without a division. The Peers who were "content" were the late Archbishop of Canterbury, the present Bishop of London, the Duke of Marlborough, the Marquess of Salisbury, the Earl of Derby, Earl Stanhope, the Earl of Romney, the Earl of Powis, and Lord Wensleydale. Those were great and weighty names no doubt, and all of them with the exception of the two Bishops and the last noble Lord belonged to the side of the House on which he sat, so let it not be said that the proposal of a compromise on this question equitable to the Dissenters had not been upheld by those who felt themselves bound to vote against a Bill for the total abolition of church rates. He was sorry to hear the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Du Cane) say that he had held out the olive branch until his arm ached—in a work of peace and justice the arm should never tire. He desired to see a settlement—he would nut call it a compromise, but rather a fair treaty between two equal belligerent parties, each of which was conscious of the strength of its own cause and was willing in the course of that settlement to assume that the other side had an equally good case. He was willing to admit that there was a great deal in the objections of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmund's and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the terms of the Notice which stood on the Paper a few days ago in his name. He did not stand to those words, which he had merely put down as a short and clear method of expressing the kind of settlement of the question which he believed was the only proper and possible one. But the definition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the same proposition was quite satisfactory to him, and he was willing to adopt the words of the right hon. Gentleman as the exponents of his meaning, and he was willing to adopt them as the basis of a negotiation such as they never yet had had the opportunity of carrying out. He believed no other terms than those would he successful. He looked upon pew-rents, which some persons had thought of introducing even in parishes in which they had not been levied before, as mere impediments, and as adding to the existing confusion and vexation of the question. The instincts of the House revolted against pew-rents, which appeared to have been instituted for the purpose of making the Church an easy place of worship for the genteel middle classes to the exclusion of the poor, whose ancient right in their common church was thereby imperilled or lost. Again, he very strongly objected to the compromise which confined the impost to a fabric rate, exclusive of any payment for the worship, whereby it was in effect declared that the fabrics were not the property of the community who worshipped therein, but were rather the property of the State itself which would thereby acquire a contingent right to hand them over to any body of Christians, or, indeed, to any one. They all knew the tyranny which bureaucracies abroad exercised over every form of Christianity, Protestant and Roman Catholic alike, and if that system were adopted in this country, we should soon have cause to repent its introduction, of which the fabric rate might be the insidious commencement. He was, therefore, glad not to have heard one word uttered in the course of the debate on the subject of the fabric rate, as it would be far better at once to abandon the church rates altogether than to attempt to levy a rate on terms that would be a practical surrender of the property of the Church to the Executive power. After all, the most valuable thing which was left to the Establishment was its own clear right to its property; and it was better to secure that property at the sacrifice of all rates, than make good the name of rate with peril to the property. Another of the palliatives proposed, that of crystallizing the extinction of church rates in parishes in which they had for a certain term of years ceased to be levied, would also be very objectionable, as this would tend to divide the country by hard geographical lines into two provinces, containing respectively two establishments— the one an establishment which embraced, and the other an establishment which rejected church rates; this would be but the prelude to the speedy abolition of the rate all over the land. The best solution in an ideal commonwealth would be the religion tax, in which each man was rate-ably assessed, but had the power of saying to which form of worship he desired his money to be paid over. But that arrangement he did not think practicable as things stood in this country. He then came to the last and most practical proposition that had been suggested, which kept the machinery of the now non-compulsory church rate as it then was in the parishes wherein it was still levied, and where, from a point of honour, the existence of old traditions, and other circumstances, it would be likely to be retained; even if it were not revived in parishes where it has been lost, which he was willing to think possible, as in them the Dissenters could have no motive for objecting to such a revival, which left them out. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said emphatically that those who did not pay must not interfere with the conduct of divine worship in the Church of the use of which they had voluntarily deprived themselves. On this principle hinged the acceptability of the scheme among Churchmen. That proposition had been thrown down on the table by the leader of the House, and it had certainly been received with very great favour on that (the Opposition) side of the House. Each Member would, doubtless, support his own principles, but no one who had noticed the cheers with which the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was received could say that that proposition had not obtained a more than candid consideration from the hon. Members on both sides of the House. But, unfortunately, there stood in the way of a peaceful solution of the question the Bill which they were now considering. He was quite satisfied that the hon. Gentleman who introduced it was not one of those who would be content to act as the "cat's-paw" of the Liberation Society. The hon. Gentleman was a Churchman, an earnest and a liberal man, and he was sure he had brought forward this Bill with the sincere hope of remedying that which he considered to be undesirable for the interests of the Church. He therefore appealed to the hon. Gentleman, in the face of the opinion that had been expressed from the Treasury Bench, and after the manner in which that opinion had been received by Members on both sides, not to throw discord where peace was about to come by forcing the House that day to a hard and dry "Aye" and "No" division upon a Bill of which the principle was the total, the immediate, and the unconditional abolition of church rates. Of course, before the day was over the hon. Gentleman would rise and state his intentions upon the subject. But he put it to the hon. Member's good feeling as to what was right and beneficial for the Church, whether he would not at the proper time, if not altogether, withdraw his Bill— ["No no!"]—which, he must say, appeared to him to be the fairest and most equitable step that could be taken—["No, no !"]—at least postpone it to some later day—[No, no!"]—so that both sides of the House might have an opportunity of weighing the statesmanlike words that had fallen from the Treasury Bench and from the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge in his most admirable speech, and of seeing whether they could not agree to a Bill which, if not carried unanimously, would at least pass after one of those sham divisions which naturally followed in the tail of a moderate settlement of a great question which had for many years distracted the attention of the House. He trusted that the question would now be settled once for all, and saying that, he would not trouble them with many more words, for he did not envy the man who came into the House to take part in a church rate debate without a wish that the subject should be put at rest. The question was never before so nearly being settled as it was that day, and it could be only by violence on one side or on the other, by indulging political passions instead of honestly endeavouring to heal the great breach of Christian charity—it could only be by the interference of the extreme section of either party, that a fair and just settlement of this question would now be frustrated.


I had no intention of offering any observations to the House, but after the course which the debate has taken, and after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I should like to occupy the time of the House for a few minutes only. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not in the House at the present moment, and he perhaps may not come back. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen are unfair if by this expression they suppose I mean to insinuate that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not be here at the division; because in his speech he has stated explicitly the course he intends to take, and the conditions under which he will vote, and the conditions on which he will not vote for this Bill, The hon. Member who has just sat down says we are nearer the settlement of this question than we ever were before. As a matter of time I presume that is the truth. I recollect our being exactly at this point some three or four years ago. When on the Motion of the late Member fur Wilt shire (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt) we were discussing this matter we thought we were almost entirely agreed. But from some cause or other the parties drew apart again. I believe hon. Gentlemen opposite found on a division they could get a majority of! one or two, which made them less disposed to compromise than when the majority was the other way. However, I am very glad to observe that now nobody wishes much to retain church rates. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, who made as good a speech as could be made on the subject, evidently felt a great deal of difficulty in defending his case. He admitted the grievance that this tax is to Dissenters, but he laboured under this great difficulty: he wanted to maintain in this matter the present supremacy of the Church and at the same time to do justice to the members of the free churches and the dissenting bodies in this country. For my part I believe the two things simply impossible, and I would advise the right hon. Gentleman not to attempt it. I am prepared to say in the most express manner possible that anything like compromise of the principle upon which this Bill is brought forward is absolutely impossible. But without compromising principle there may be a mode of dealing with the question which may be convenient for the country, may be satisfactory to us, and in no degree offensive to hon. Gentlemen opposite, I do not myself understand very clearly the plan proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Beresford Hope) appears to have understood it most clearly, because I think he says it agrees with his own views as set forth in the Amendment he proposed some days ago to move to this Motion. Three or four years ago I made a proposal to the House on this subject which I think is not a long way from that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has proposed. I find the Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench in a few years generally come up to something very nearly the same in principle to what I propose. The same may be said of Gentlemen opposite, only they take a longer period. Now, what I proposed to do was this, that in regard to church rates, and the law of church rates, we should abolish the magistrate, the summons, and the bailiff. In point of fact, the compulsory power of collecting should he abolished. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Grey) knows how I have argued this question before. There are many instances—Manchester is one, Rochdale another, with which I am particularly familiar— where after incessant squabbles— fights at elections of Members of Parliament are merely times of pleasant recreation in comparison—it has been found impossible to collect the rate even after it was voted by the vestry. The result in Rochdale was that the Church party said to the other party, "If you will allow us to appoint our own Churchwardens we won't trouble you for church rates." There were two parties amongst the Church people, each with a list of Churchwardens, and each party appealed to the Dissenters, saying they would never again enforce the collecting of the church rate from those who objected to it. From that time I believe Dissenters have taken no interest in the matter. The Church people collect whatever they think right from the friends of the Church, and anybody who will give, and I can assure the House that the Church has been in very much better repair than it was before, and the peace of the parish has never since that period been disturbed. Now suppose we were to allow the Bill of the hon. Member to be read a second time. Such a course would be quite compatible with the view of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Beresford Hope), and also with the view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and when the Bill comes into Committee it can be so changed as to get rid of the compulsory power of collecting, leaving all the other powers as they now are—that is, the vestry could meet and determine upon the sum proper to expend, and the rate also could be fixed. Those who were interested in the question of course would attend and manage the affair, and then they would collect a rate from all the ratepayers of the parish who thought fit to contribute. I am not at all certain that there would not be a good many Dissenters that now pertinaciously refuse to pay the rate who if Such a plan were adopted, would be willing to do something in contributing towards the sustentation of the fabrics of the Church, We know there are many men in this country who go to Church and who give regularly to other places of worship, to schools and so forth; and no doubt there are many Dissenters having surplus means who would contribute to the support of the Church. I have no doubt such an arrangement as this would change all that bitterness of feeling of which we hear so much; and the very fact of Churchmen giving to a Baptist or Independent Chapel, and a Baptist or Independent giving a similar contribution to the building or repair of a church, would have a very excellent effect upon Churchmen and Dissenters alike. It would lead them to find out that although they call themselves Churchmen, and Baptists, and Independents, after all these are but temporary and unimportant divisions, and that they are all brethren in the same common and universal Christianity. And I believe nobody would gain more by it than Churchmen themselves. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made an observation on the subject of graveyards. But cemeteries— I mean public cemeteries—have been established very extensively in the neighbourhood of the towns. His objection could not apply to them. With regard to churchyards in the rural parishes, the population is generally very thin. I should suppose there would be no difficulty there. There are great numbers of the chapels having graveyards. Therefore, I would not advise the House to mix up the question of graveyards with this church rate question, as it affects Dissenters. There would be no greater difficulty than has existed in times past. If you simply abolish the compulsory power of collecting the rate, I have not the slightest doubt —I was never more certain of anything in my life—you would all admit five years hence that your churches were in as good condition as before, that your clergymen were not a hit more burdened than now, and we should get clearly a valuable result so far as this House is concerned— we should not have to spend some half-a-dozen days every Session as we have done for the last five or six years in discussing this, in some degree, miserable question, and which if we were a little more reasonable we should have got rid of a long time ago. I was glad to observe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer dwelt very little to-day on what formed his principal argument once before. I believe it was the last time he spoke on this matter. He now has no fear of the towns, but he has great fear with regard to rural parishes. I believe that is the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Well, I will not trouble the House with what has been done in Scotland and in England on the voluntary principle; but I was looking this morning over an admirable letter in reference to the educational and social condition of Wales, and the facts stated therein are so extraordinary, and apply so exactly to the case of the rural parishes, that I think the House will forgive me if I re-produce them. The population of Wales, according to the Census of 1851, is about 1,100.000. The places of worship belonging to the Church number 1,180; to the Nonconformists. 2,826; the sittings of the Church, 302,000; of the Nonconformists, 692,000 —that was 30 per cent of the population Church, 70 percent of the population Nonconformist. Now, when Mr. Horace Mann made his calculation as to the number of sittings necessary for the population to make full provision for public worship, he estimated them at 58 per cent. The Church in Wales is short of that number by 387,000, while the Nonconformists have exceeded it by 2,770 sittings. The Church, therefore, is only provided with accommodation to the extent of 25 per cent of the population while the Nonconformists provide 59 per cent. On the 31st of March, 1851, the Church worshippers amounted to 134,000, or 21 per cent of the population; the Nonconformist worshippers were 490,000, or 75 per cent. There is only one other fact to which I would call attention, and then I will leave the subject to the consideration of the House. The writer of this letter gives an account of the number of places of worship existing in Wales at different periods; and I beg the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to it, because I am very anxious to strengthen his faith as to what his friends could do in rural parishes by voluntary subscription. In the year 1742 there were only 110 dissenting places of worship in Wales; in 1775, 171; in 1816, 993; in 1861, 2,927; in 1866. 3,107. The enormous increase dates from the time of the great revival of religion in this country through the efforts principally of John Wesley and George Whitfield. The result is that in that country, where the people are, as compared with England, poor and scattered, where they are shut out from the sympathies and the knowledge of their wealthier Nonconformist brethren in England by the exclusiveness of their own language, and where the proprietors of the soil belong to the Established Church and have little sympathy with Nonconformity—in that country, so poor and so isolated, and so little reckoned in the compass of the United Kingdom and in the greatness of the Empire, these dissenting bodies on the voluntary principle have done all I have described, I have said before, and I say it now, that I regret I cannot speak to the House as my hon. Friend (Mr. Hardcastle) has spoken, as a member of the Established Church. If I could I should beseech the members of that Church, by every argument I could use, to get rid of this miserable cause of contention. That you can sustain your churches is proved by all the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) has shown of the voluntary efforts in your own Church. It has been proved abundantly by what has been done in the Free Church of Scotland, by the Roman Catholic Church of Ireland, and by those poor people in Wales, If this question were once put an end to, as has been shown is so much desired by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham (Mr. Morley), of whom the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) seems to have so great a terror, although a better nature or a more just man never entered the House—if this question were put an end to we should then, I say, see what voluntary effort could accomplish. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks my hon. Friend would damage the Church because he advocates the abolition of church rates, he never made a greater mistake on any question upon which he has thought or spoken. The fact is, that although this matter of church rates is a matter connected with the Established Church, yet the settlement of it does not, in my opinion, so disadvantageously affect the question of the Church as appears to be thought by the hon. Gentlemen opposite. As long as you have a majority of the people of this country, or nearly a majority belonging to the Church—so long as the Church of England has within its churches thousands of excellent and zealous men doing its work—you may rely upon it that Church will not be overthrown by the Liberation Society or by my hon. Friend. I know there is a great question—it is the question of Church Establishments—behind this of church rates. That is a question which in time to come—may I not say it?—probably will not sleep. But that is a question which in no degree will be affected advantageously for us by the abolition of the church rate. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) and hon. Gentlemen opposite should not imagine that they can stamp finality upon a great question of that nature. In Canada our countrymen have solved that question in a way adverse to the views of the right hon. Gentleman. The United States, when they separated from this country, solved it in the same way. The Australian colonies have taken the same course, and the time may come when the people of this country will follow their example, Whether it will be so or not I shall make no prediction. At present there is no danger that your Establishment will soon come to an end. I am not speaking of it as a Church; I am speaking of it merely as a political Establishment. You tell us, sometimes with a plaintive and at other times with an angry voice, that your Church is always in danger. I do not in the least believe it. As a political institution, in all probability it is destined to many years of life. As a religious institution, I hope it may live so long as it has the power to convey the truths of religion and teach the morality of the New Testament to one single humble citizen of this country. Well, now I come back to what I proposed three or four years ago, and what I understood Mr. Sotheron Estcourt was willing to accept— namely, that we should abolish the compulsory powers (one clause in the Bill would be sufficient for that purpose), and that we should leave all the rest to work as it now does. I would stake any small reputation I have in this House, or in the country, in regard to political matters, upon this—that I believe in two, or at any rate, in five years hence there would be a sort of universal sentiment on that (the Opposition) side of the House that my pro-position had been a wise one, and that, when carried out, it had acted well for the country. I am happy to say there is now a general admission that some things I recommended to Parliament in past time were not so foolish as they were then declared to be. The hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Beresford Hope) is a friend of peace. He spoke in that sense and I believe him. I think there was much that was rational and right in what he said. Let him then, and those who think with him, join with us just in putting an end to this little matter of compulsion. Any of us could in five minutes put it in a clause that would be perfectly well understood throughout the country. The question of church rates would be settled for ever. Peace would be restored in scores, perhaps hundreds, of parishes, and, for aught I know, the ghastly spectre of the Liberation Society might not appal the minds and disturb the senses of hon. Gentlemen opposite.


Sir, in addressing the House on a subject so well worn I feel that I ought perhaps to apologize for speaking at all but though I have taken an interest in it on former occasions I have only once addressed the House upon it. I am therefore, perhaps, in some respects, entitled to take part in the present debate. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) has addressed us in lamblike accents, as if he now sought to coax us to follow him having vainly endeavoured to drive us. But he appears to have forgotten that on the occasion to which he alludes, as on this, we resisted the proposition he made, because the Bill then before the House embodied the same principle as this Bill. The proposition which he then made and now again makes was not brought forward in the shape in which it ought to be in order to have the acceptance of the House—in the form of a Bill, but as something that was promised if the Bill was read a second time. The second reading of this Bill, however, involves the principle of doing away altogether with compulsory rates for sustaining the fabrics of the Church and its services. The hon. Member for Birmingham says that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt) was prepared to accept the proposition he made. I think that most be an error of recollection on the part of the hon. Member for Birmingham. I can speak positively, having had much conversion with Mr. Estcourt on the subject, and I am confirmed in this by the fact that in 1861 he put on the table Resolutions which he had prepared with regard to church rates, and in justice to my right hon. Friend I may be allowed to read one of them which certainly does not support the statement of the hon. Member. The second of those Resolutions was in these words— That the law relating to church rates may be beneficially settled by combining in one measure provisions for each of the following objects:—1. To enable vestries specially summoned, and in which owners shall have a vote by proxy, to transfer from occupiers to owners so much of their liability as regards the repair of their parish church and churchyard; and to make such special rate, if voted by a majority, recoverable by the same process as a rate for repairs of highway. So far, then, from doing away with the compulsory rate, Mr. Estcourt's proposal was not to leave the collection of church rates on the present footing, which has some difficulties connected with it, but to place it on the footing of the poor rate and highway rate, which we all know are collected with little difficulty. The mode in which they are now enforced is that to which the hon. Mover of the present Bill adverted —namely, by distress. That is the only way in which, practically, you can enforce such a rate. The only other means is spiritual censure, which involves such difficulties that it is never in any ease resorted to. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us, I know not on what authority, that minorities were not called on to pay the rate. That, from all I have heard, is not the case. The minority yield to the majority; and though persons who like the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Gilpin) belong to a peculiar sect, require a seizure to be made, in all ordinary cases the minority yield. In those cases in which church rates are voted, I venture to say, that but for emissaries sent down from London to sow discord in parishes the rates would be collected with as great facility and readiness as the poor or highway rates. I cannot help saying, when special instances are brought forward and the names of persons are held up to execration in this House for having enforced obedience to the law, that instances occur in which as much tyranny is exercised on one side as is ever charged against the other. We are told that the rights of conscience ought to be protected, and I heard with great pleasure the hon. Member for Nottingham, a few nights ago, allude to the Lord Mayor, a member of the Hebrew persuasion, as an eminent instance in which the rights of conscience had triumphed. Let me call attention to an instance where the rights of conscience are concerned—the case of a Churchwarden who took a great interest in the welfare of his church and attended a meeting where it was determined to raise a rate for the restoration of the church. A gentleman who was in the minority—his landlord—a strict and strong Dissenter, wrote to him as follows. The letters are signed by the name of Smith; the writer is not, therefore, likely to become so conspicuous as he otherwise might have been— Aslackby, Oct. 2. Dear Sir,—On due consideration on the subject of property and its responsibilities, I am obliged to come to the conclusion that it is the duty of every man to use the influence his property gives for the welfare of society at large, as well as for his own personal interest. In the great struggle now going on between what is called the Established Church and the Dissenters, the latter being the weakest, and having been so long oppressed, cannot afford to lose any influence they possess, and as you cannot remain neuter, I must request you to give up the occupation of the tenure you hold of me in Bicker. In taking this step I feel that I am but doing justice to myself, my family, and the public; nor can you complain of either injustice or hardship, seeing you have a sufficiently large occupation and ownership of land, and that you also expect your tenants to vote in support of your own principles. Hoping you are quite well, with Mrs. T. and family, and with every wish for your welfare, I am, dear Sir, yours truly, E.SMITH. Aslackby, Oct. 4. Dear Sir,—Were I to consult only my own feelings I should make no change at Bicker, but when I consider principles and responsibilities I am constrained to think and act differently. When I gave up business some eighteen or nineteen years back you were young, and wanted to start in the world, and being a relative of the family, I willingly helped; Mr. Jervis, also, seeing your industrious and business habits, favoured you, and eventually left you his property, which he never would have done to an untried man. As time passed on I had many scruples in conscience as to the right of you retaining the double occupation, especially as you had ownership in half. You know it has always been against my principles to add farm to farm. Then, again, I have always had a wish that the superstitions and delusions of the Established Church should be exposed to the poor and ignorant, and that they should not be deceived upon the all-important point of regeneration. I have, in fact, all along desired that the Gospel should be simply preached in Bicker, but have never had firmness to act upon these convictions. Late events have brought the subject more prominently before me, and I am persuaded it is my duty to use my utmost endeavours for the spiritual as well as the temporal welfare of those who from their locality had a claim upon every enlightened landowner, and this I cannot do while you occupy my land. As a member of the Established Church you have acted consistently, and I hope you will continue so to do while you attach yourself to that party. As a Dissenter I have not been so consistent hitherto, but I hope henceforth to carry out my principles with due energy, I have to thank Mr. Fletcher and yourself for arousing me to duty. As you have served Mr. Fletcher so faithfully, no doubt he will do what he can to find you further occupation if you need it, as you imagine, for your increasing family. But if you need it, what must some thousands in this land need who are wanting land and cannot get hold of a few acres even? I hope your mind will be brought quietly to accept this new state of affairs as necessary to me, and not injurious to yourself. I once more repeat what I said to you yesterday, that it is from no change of feeling towards yourself personally, nor from reports of others, or management of the land, that I have done this, but for the aforesaid reasons, brought to a crisis by late events. That it is not the common practice of landlords thus to carry out their principles must not prevent me from doing what I believe to be right towards myself, my family, and society at arge.—I am, dear Sir, yours truly, E. SMITH. Aslackby, Oct. 13. Dear Sir,—Will the afternoon of Tuesday next be a convenient time to meet you at the feu house? I may see you at the fair, and can arrange about any further day if the above-named time will not suit you. You must be aware that no part of the restoration of Bicker Church would have fallen upon me in the event of the money being borrowed, so that my brother's proposal does not meet the difficulties of the ease. It the principle I object to, as it affects other tenants and the public. On principle I cannot allow any part of my property to help in upholding a false eastern of worship which I detest. I am sure no Churchman would allow any part of his property to uphold any of those to him odious schismatic conventicles which are such an eyesore to him in the land. As our principles differ so widely upon this point, as well as upon the large occupation of land, it is best we should part as landlord and tenant. I shall always respect your integrity and independence, and shall be ready to help you in any way consistent with principle. I do not like your parson's interference in the matter. Please tell him to mind his own business and get the church repaired. I hope Mrs. T. is well.—Yours truly. E. SMITH. Aslackby, Oct. 24. Dear Sir,—I do not intend settling anything about the land at present, but cannot hold out hope of further occupation as you desire. This will depend upon circumstances which at present I need not explain to you. I am quite satisfied with your management of the land, and feel sure you will do what is right. I only wish our principles were not so antagonistic. Hoping Mrs. T. and family, with your mother and sister, are quite well, I am, dear Sir, yours truly, E. SMITH. Now, I am far from saying that this is a common case; but when hon. Members single out certain persons, and bring their cases forward as the representatives of a whole class, and the mode in which the law is administered, I only offer it to the consideration of the House, in order that they may know what is done by single individuals on the other side which professes to be so tenacious of the rights of conscience. The hon. Member for Birmingham says he does not believe the Church is in danger. When I last spoke I said the Church was never less in danger, because the Church never discharged her duty better; but I cannot see how it would be for the advantage of the Church to give up the right she has of raising a fund for the maintenance of her fabrics and services because she possesses the power, and I fully believe in her power, to raise to any extent funds for spiritual purposes from the contributions of her own members. I never heard of Dissenters giving up any endowments their Church might possess in order to increase their voluntary contributions. On the contrary, I have found, when there was any dispute about such endowments—for instance, in the case of Lady Hewley's Charity—there was no one more keen, no one more eager, to get some portion of the spoil, than the hon. Member for Sheffield, the great Voluntary Apostle (Mr. Hadfield.) In upwards of 9,000 parishes in England £270,000 is raised in the form of church rates. The burden of sustaining the great bulk of the local charities falls already in these parishes on the clergymen, and I must must say I do not see how you could get rid of the rate without imposing a burden on the clergy which they are unable to bear. The question of church rates has undergone a great change since it was first argued in this House. Formerly but few grants were made of the public money for any religious purposes not connected with the Church of England, but now those grants have been largely increased. The hon. Member for Birmingham has mentioned some striking facts connected with the Principality of Wales with which I was certainly not acquainted. There can be no doubt that much religious enthusiasm pervades the Principality, and where such enthusiasm exists you will rarely find any great difficulty in obtaining means for the erection of fabrics and other purposes connected with Divine worship. But, if I am rightly informed, much of the money employed for the erection of chapels in Wales is not given, but is lent by speculative individuals on the mortgage of the pew-rents in those chapels. That is certainly a totally different thing from voluntary contributions for the building of churches in England. In the one case the money is a free and absolute gift; in the other it is regarded purely as an investment at a high rate of interest to be paid off by degrees, So profitable are these investments, yielding oftentimes as much as 7 per cent, that I am informed those who have lent the money are no sooner paid off than they transfer their capital, and so provide by re-investment for the building of other chapels. Then, again, with respect to Dissenting chapels. They are not open to the poor as churches belonging to the Established Church are ["No, no !"] but are let out in pews, and are supported and frequented by seatholders. Really I do not wish to say anything that can be regarded as disagreeable or offensive by Gentlemen who differ from me in religious opinions, but I have always understood this to be the fact, and I believe it has been shown by Dr. Hume that Dissenting chapels will not answer in poor districts where the population cannot afford to support a seat rent. I understand it is a fact, and a fact easy to be proved, that Dissenting chapels have not been found to answer in impoverished neighbourhoods, and that where such have been established they have in very many instances been removed to more prosperous places. The hon. Member for Birmingham has promised peace as the result of the abolition of church rates, and says that in Rochdale and Manchester that result has been secured. But I apprehend that in Rochdale and Manchester this peace was secured under the present law— by the majority refusing to concur in the church rate.


The majority was in favour of the rate, but such was the state of feeling against it that it was found impossible to levy it. The rate was, therefore, abandoned.


It was then in consequence of the generally hostile spirit exhibited towards the collection of the rate that circulars were issued stating at the top that the rate was voluntary and not compulsory. But then the same process is open to any parish that chooses to adopt it. What we protest against, however, is the tyranny of one part of the country over another. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hardcastle) says, "There are many large parishes where church rates are abolished." We reply, "There are many small places where they are collected, and collected with facility;" and we ask, "Why do you come and seek to force us by your tyranny to act as you do?" Why interfere with local government, the government by majorities, which I believe to have been so conducive to the liberties of this country? But the question has to-day assumed a rather remark- able aspect. I understand the position of the hon. Member for Birmingham. He puts before us a plan which he put forward four years ago. But then the Chancellor of the Exchequer has also placed before the House a plan which the hon. Member for Birmingham does not understand, but would be glad to interpret as agreeing with his own. But, then, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer announces his plan in the capacity of a private Member. He has, however, ceased to occupy that position. He is the representative of the Government, the acknowledged leader of the House, and as such ought to frame his scheme into a Bill so that the House may have a fair opportunity of giving it consideration. It seems extremely inconvenient to debate a scheme not before the House on a Bill proposing the abolition of church rates, and to be told that the vote of the leader of the House depends not upon the nature of the Bill itself, but upon some statements which may be made by the Mover of the Bill at the conclusion of the debate. We are to be left at the mercy, not of the right hon. Gentleman who is to guide us in our deliberations, but at that of the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Hardcastle), who, with all due respect, cannot expect or claim to be treated as the leader of this House. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer by his speech, as I understood it, was opposed to the present Bill for the simple abolition of the rate, acknowledging that the abolition of church rates would entail grievous burdens upon the clergy of the smaller parishes, and the right hon. Gentleman went on to shadow forth something which I regarded as akin to the proposal of the hon. Member for Birmingham, but which was expressed so ambiguously that I could not be certain that I had understood it correctly. I think, therefore, that, if the leader of this House believes there is a plan by which a settlement can be arrived at in a matter of so much importance, he ought to frame that scheme into a Bill and submit it to this House for consideration. The hon. Member for Bury will certainly be—if I may use so vulgar an expression—the greenest of mankind if he does not at the conclusion of this debate say something that will secure for his proposal the vote of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Member endeavours to get a decision of the House that nothing could be done towards the settlement of the question till church rates are abolished. That is what we can never consent to. I must point out, however, that the decision of the House, if this Bill be read a second time, will practically amount to the declaration of the principle that nothing can be done for the settlement of this question until church rates are abolished. That I repeat is a principle to which we can never give our concurrence. I have no hesitation in admitting, with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that where there is no religious accommodation for the people there ought to be no church rates. Where room does not exist for the accommodation of those who desire to go to church, church rates, if levied at all, would, in my opinion, be levied unjustly. My impression is, that if the time should come when more room is wanted without resorting to church rates, you will find persona willing to put the churches in a fit condition to receive the population by contributing for that purpose. I will not, however, admit that there is any injustice in the present mode of levying church rates. I contribute without hesitation or scruple to the public funds from which grants are made for the support of Roman Catholic colleges, schools, and for religious endowments unconnected with the Church of England. If I were residing in Scotland, though I should still retain my attachment to the Church here, I should not scruple to contribute towards the support of the Established Church of the country, and should do so without any violence to my conscience. I wish to know from hon. Members opposite, who are going to vote for the second reading of this Bill, whether they are sincere in their opposition to church rates? Is their support given to the measure in order to redeem pledges which they have made to their constituents, or do they support the Bill because in their consciences they believe church rates to be prejudicial to the welfare and success of the Church of England? If they believe church rates to be prejudicial to the Church of England, I want to know why for these many years their voices have never been raised against them in their own parishes for the purpose of getting rid of them. I want to know why on every occasion you can rely on each hon. Gentleman in his own parish as a supporter of rates if he believes church rates to be prejudicial? I believe they are as much attached to the Church of England as I am—that they sincerely desire her welfare and desire to promote her interests. But when their conduct here is in opposition to their conduct at home, I have a right to ask them whether it arises from hustings' pledges or conscientious convictions, With respect to the Church of England I have no fear of her. It is not the trumpery £270,000 a year on which the Church depends. We have been told that this is not a question between Church and State, that it is but a stepping-stone in that direction, and that it will require enormous strides to get to a more distant place. But it is a step; and I now call upon hon. Members who know and who feel that the abolition of church rates would not advance the cause of truth and righteousness to advocate in the House of Commons the principles which they advocate in their own homes and in their own


said, he must apologize for trespassing, however briefly, on the attention of the House. He wished to say however, that if he were apprehensive that the vote he was about to give would be prejudicial to the interests of the Church of England, of which he was an attached member, no political considerations, however urgent, would induce him to do so. If, moreover, he believed that this measure was but a step towards the separation of Church and State, he should be the last man in the House to consent to it. But there were two considerations which influenced him on the present occasion—first, the interests of the Church herself; and, next, the question of justice to the Nonconformists of the kingdom. It was an anxiom of sound legislation that for the maintenance and well-being of existing institutions Parliament must be prepared to redress any well-grounded grievances which might be shown to exist. The question then arose whether church rates were really a grievance? In his opinion they were. He admitted that this had not always been the case, for, at the remote period when church rates were first instituted, there was a practical uniformity of belief throughout the kingdom. Some millions of our fellow-subjects now dissented from the Church of England, and he would ask the House whether it was for the interests of the Church that they should allow a rankling sense of injustice to remain in the minds of this numerous class, and from want of timely concession number among the Church's foes those who, under different treatment, might have been retained as friends? There were those who regarded church rates principally as an honourable badge of distinction in connection with the State, and who maintained that if church rates were abolished the Church would he ruined. Now, he granted that at no previous period had the Church of England a greater hold on the affections of the people, but this he attributed not to external ornament, but to her intrinsic worth, to the beauty of her Liturgy, the comprehensiveness of her Articles, and he would add to the piety and activity of her clergy. The House might feel interested in hearing a few statistics connected with the county which he had the honour of representing (Cardiganshire.) The population of the county of Cardigan was for the most part poor, and numbered 97,614. There existed religious provision for 97 per cent; of that the Dissenters provided 70.4 per cent, the remaining 27.8 being provided by the Church of England. The proportion of Dissenters to Church people was nine to one; the number of chapels 192, the number of churches 68. The free-will offerings of the Nonconformists for religious purposes might be fairly estimated at an annual sum of £13.000. He merely cited these figures to prove the zeal of his countrymen for their religious belief. There had been of late rumours of approximation between the Church of England and the Greek and Roman Churches, but a much more practical approximation might be effected at home, and if Parliament decided to abolish church rates, a great barrier would be removed to the union of the various Protestant communities in this great country.


said, he desired to say a few words to the House as he had been particularly alluded to during the debate. He earnestly desired that the olive branch held out might be accepted. The vast majority of the Dissenters of this country regarded this subject, not as a political, but purely as a religious question, and thousands of the Nonconformists throughout the country would, he believed, hail with pleasure such a settlement of the question as that proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Allusion had been made to the evidence which he gave before the Committee of the House of Lords, and he might state that when summoned before the Committee he had no knowledge of the precise subject upon which he was to be examined. He was met on appearing before the Committee by the Bishop of London with the report of the Liberation Society in his hand, and, without desiring to impute any motive to that distinguished personage, the whole thing appeared to be done for a purpose. A great number of the Dissenters of this country regarded, as he did, the property of the Church as the property of the nation—property with which the House was entitled to deal, but he did not believe that one Dissenter in a thousand desired to touch a shilling of the Church property. The question that not only Dissenters were asking, but others, too, with an emphasis which could not long remain unanswered, was, How, with a Church confessedly the richest in the world, millions of our population were living beyond the influence of religion? He was glad to acknowledge that at no former period in the history of the English Church had she among her clergy so many true-hearted and earnest men as were now preaching her doctrines and ministering to the spiritual and religious welfare of the people. But such men for the most part knew little, and cared little, about church rates; they were men who loved the flock more than the fleece, whose sole aim was to preach the Gospel, and tend to the religious instruction and guidance of the people, and who in furtherance of that object had, by invoking the co-operation of the laity, resorted to organizations which might almost be regarded as non-ecclesiastical. Dissenters would be delighted to see the Established Church taking the lead in efforts for promoting the spiritual good of the people. Religion had been marred in this country by the interference of the civil power, and it was a great question that was being discussed by the public, whether the Church was to continue her work through organizations, the outgrowth of her own religious life, or through organizations provided for her by the civil power. The House would excuse his speaking warmly upon a subject in which he felt deeply interested. He would accept with pleasure the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if hon. Members were honest in desiring to see an end to the conflicts which had continually arisen upon this subject they would support the second reading of the Bill, and so secure for themselves an opportunity of considering the proposal which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman.


said, he would consent to no proposal which should in the slightest degree interfere with the main principle of his Bill. That principle was, the abolition of church rates; but if that were sanctioned he would, at a future stage of the Bill, entertain, with the greatest respect and consideration, any proposal that might be made embodying what had been foreshadowed in more that one direction that day. If the second reading of the Bill were passed and the principle of the Bill affirmed he would be glad to take into consideration any suggestion which might be made to him.


Sir, I only rise to warn hon. Members not to fancy they are voting on one issue when they are really voting on another. The question before the House is the second reading of a Bill for the total, immediate, and unconditional abolition of church rates. That is the real and only issue. The speech of the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Morley), which, for its frankness, does him great credit, acknowledges that there is another issue before the House worthy of consideration, and, from the cheers that expression received from the friends of the hon. Member, I assume that they adopt that interpretation of the position in which the matter stands. If that be the case, the consistent course for the hon. Member for Bury to adopt is to move the adjournment of the debate, and take an opportunity that the sense of the House may be had on the real proposition before it, and not on one which, at the very time when the question is called to a division, is explained with so many versions that there exists a variety of opinions as to its exact import. I will not offer my own interpretation of the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because they really have nothing to do with the question now before the House. If the scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer be worthy a decision of the House, let it be placed before the House in a manner which cannot be mistaken, and, coming from such a quarter, I am sure it will meet with a full consideration and adequate discussion. But I protest against schemes of that character proceeding from the highest authority in the House being introduced to disturb the debate and distract the House from the real issue—an unwise issue, I believe, on the part of those who raise it, but, being raised, it must be accepted and met—namely, the proposition for the total and immediate abolition of church rates. That is a policy to which I am entirely opposed, and it is the only question before the House.

Question put, the House divided:—The Tellers being come to the Table, Mr. Walpole, one of the Tellers for the Noes, stated that Mr. Percy Wyndham, one of the Members for the Western Division of the County of Cumberland, had not voted, though he had been in the House when the Question was put; Whereupon Mr. Speaker directed the honourable Member for the Western Division of the County of Cumberland to come to the Table, and asked him if he had heard the Question put, and the honourable Member having stated that he had heard the Question put, but found the door locked before he reached the Left Lobby, and having declared himself with the Noes, Mr. Speaker directed his name to be added to the Noes:—The Tellers accordingly declared the numbers, Ayes 285; Noes 252: Majority 33.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Wednesday 9th May.

Acland, T. D. Cavendish, Lord F. C.
Adair, H. E. Chambers, T.
Adam, W. P. Cheetham, J.
Agar-Ellis, hon. L. G. F. Childers, H. C. E.
Agnew, Sir A. Cholmeley, Sir M. J.
Allen, W. S. Clay, J.
Andover, Viscount Clement, W. J.
Anstruther, Sir R. Clifton, Sir R. J.
Antrobus, E. Clinton, Lord A. P.
Ayrton, A. S. Clinton, Lord E. P.
Aytoun, R. S. Clive, G.
Baines, E. Cogan, W. H. F.
Barclay, A. C. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Baring, hon. T. G. Collier, Sir R. P.
Barnes, T. Colthurst, Sir G. C.
Barron, Sir H. W. Colvile, C. R.
Barry, C.R. Cowper, hon. H. F.
Barry, G. R. Craufurd, E. H. J.
Bass, A. Crawford, R. W.
Bass, M. T. Crossley, Sir F.
Baxter, W. E. Dalglish, R.
Bazley, T. Davey, R.
Beaumont, H. F. Davie, Sir H. R. F.
Biddulph, Colonel R. M. Denman, hon. G.
Blake, J. A. Dent, J. D.
Bonham-Carter, J. Dering, Sir E. C.
Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P. Devereux, R. J.
Brand, hon. H. Dilke, Sir W.
Brecknock, Earl of Dillon, J. B.
Bright, Sir C. T. Dodson, J. G.
Bright, J. Doulton, F.
Briscoe, J. I. Duff, M. E. G.
Bruce, rt. hon. H. A. Duff, R. W.
Bryan, G. L. Dundas, F.
Bulkeley, Sir R. Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.
Buller, Sir A. W. Dunlop, A. M.
Butler, C. S. Ellice, E.
Buxton, C. Enfield, Viscount
Buxton, Sir T. F. Erskine, Vice-Adm. J. E
Calthorpe, hn. F. H. W. G. Esmonde, J.
Candlish, J. Evans, T. W.
Cardwell, rt. hon. E. Ewart, W.
Carington, hon. C. R. Ewing, H. E. C.
Carnegie, hon. C. Fawcett, H.
Cave, T. Fenwick, E. M.
Fildes, J. Leeman, G.
Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W. Lefevre, G. J. S.
Foley, H. W. Lewis, H.
Foljambe F. J. S. Lloyd, Sir T. D.
Forster, C. Locke, J.
Forster, W. E. Lowe, rt. hon. R.
Foster, W. O. Lusk, Alderman A.
Fortescue, hon. D. F. MacEvoy, E.
French, Colonel Mackie, J.
Gaselee, Serjeant S. Mackinnon, Capt. L. B.
Gavin, Major Mackinnon, W. A.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Maguire, J. F.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. M'Laren, D.
Gladstone, W. H. Marjoribanks, D. C.
Glyn, G. C. Marsh, M. H.
Glyn, G. G. Marshall, W.
Goldsmid, Sir F. H. Martin, C. W.
Goldsmid, F. D. Martin, P. W.
Goschen, G. J. Merry, J.
Gower, hon. F. L. Milbank, F. A.
Gower, G. W. G. L. Mill, J. S.
Graham, W. Miller, W.
Gregory, W. H. Mills, J. R.
Grenfell, H. R. Milton, Viscount
Greville, A. W. F. Mitchell, A.
Greville, Colonel F. Mitchell, T. A.
Gray, Sir J. Moffatt, G.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Monk, C. J.
Gridley, Captain H. G. Monsell, rt. hon. W.
Grosvenor, Earl Moore, C.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Morley, S.
Grosvenor, Capt. R. W. Morris, M.
Gurney, S. Morris, W.
Hadfield, G. Morrison, W.
Hamilton, E. W. T. Neate, C.
Hanbury, R. C. Norwood, C. M.
Hankey, T. O'Beirne, J. L.
Harris, J. D. O'Brien, Sir P.
Hartington, Marquess of O'Conor Don, The
Hartley, J. Ogilvy, Sir J.
Hay, Lord J. Oliphant, L.
Hay, Lord W. M. Onslow, G.
Hayter, Captain A. D. O'Reilly, M. W.
Headlam, rt. hon. T. E. Otway, A. J.
Henderson, J. Owen, Sir H. O.
Henley, Lord Padmore, R.
Hibbert, J. T. Parry, T.
Hoare, Sir H. A. Peel, A. W.
Hodgkinson, G. Pelham, Lord
Hodgson, K. D. Philips, R. N.
Holden, I. Pim, J.
Holland, E. Platt, J.
Howard, hon. C. W. G. Portman, hn. W. H. B.
Hughes, T. Potter, E.
Hughes, W. B. Potter, T. B.
Hutt, rt. hon. Sir W. Power, Sir J.
Ingham, R. Price, W. P.
Jervoise, Sir. J. C. Pryse, E. L.
Johnstone, Sir J. Pugh, D.
Kennedy, T. Rawlinson, Sir H.
King, hon. P. J. L. Rebow, J. G.
Kinglake, A. W. Robartes, T. J. A.
Kinglake, J. A. Robertson, D.
Kingscote, Colonel Rothschild, Baron M de
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. Rothschild, N. M. de
Knatchbull-Hugessen, E Russell, A.
Labouchere, H. Russell, H.
Laing, S. Russell, Sir W.
Layard, A. H. St. Aubyn, J.
Lawrence, W. Samuda, J. D A.
Lawson, J. A. Samuelson, B.
Leatham, W. H. Schneider, H. W.
Lee, W. Scholefield, W.
Scott, Sir W. Traill, G.
Scrope, G. P. Trevelyan, G. O.
Seely, C. Verney, Sir H.
Seymour, A. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Seymour, H. D. Vivian, H. H.
Shafto, R. D. Vivian, Capt. hn. J. C. W.
Sheridan, H. B. Waring, C.
Sheridan, R. B. Warner, E.
Sherriff, A. C. Watkin, E. W.
Simeon, Sir J. Weguelin, T. M.
Smith, J. B. Western, Sir T. B.
Speirs, A. A. Whalley, G. H.
Stanley, Lord Whatman, J.
Stanley, hon. W. O. Whitbread, S.
Steel, J. White, J.
Stock, O. Whitworth, B.
Stone, W. H. Williamson, Sir H.
Stuart, Colonel C. Winnington, Sir T. E,
Sullivan, E. Woods, H.
Sykes, Colonel W. H. Wyld, J.
Synan, E. J. Wyvill, M.
Taylor, P. A. Young, A. W.
Tite, W. Young, R.
Tomline, G. TELLERS.
Torrens, W. T. M' C. Hardcastle, J. A.
Tracy, hon. C. R. D. H. Gilpin, C.
Adderley, rt. hon. C. B. Cole, hon. J. L.
Akroyd, E. Corry, rt. hon. H. L.
Annesley, hon. Col. H. Courtenay, Lord
Anson, hon. Major Cranbourne, Viscount
Arkwright, R. Crosland, Colonel T. P.
Baggallay, R. Cubitt, G.
Bagge, W. Curzon, Viscount
Bagnall, C. Cust, hon. C. H.
Baillie, H. J. Dalkeith, Earl of
Baring, hon. A. H, Dawson, R. P.
Baring, T. De Grey, hon. T.
Barnett, H. Dick, F.
Barttelot, Colonel Dickson, Major A. G.
Bateson, Sir T. Disraeli, rt. hon. B.
Bathurst, A. A. Dowdeswell, W. E.
Beach, Sir M. H. Duncombe, hon. A.
Beach, W. W. B. Duncombe, hon. W. E.
Bective, Earl of Dunne, General
Beecroft, G. S. Du Pre, C. G.
Bentinck, G. C. Dutton, hon. R. H.
Benyon, R. Dyke, W. H.
Bernard, hon. Col. H.B. Dyott, Colonel R.
Bingham, Lord Earle, R. A.
Bourne, Colonel Eaton, H. W.
Bovill, W. Edwards, Colonel
Bridges, Sir B. W. Egerton, hon. A. F.
Bromley, W. D. Egerton, E. C.
Brooks, R. Egerton, hon. W.
Bruce, Lord C. Elcho, Lord
Bruce, Major C. Fane, Lt.-Colonel H.H.
Bruen, H. Fane, Colonel J. W.
Buckley, E. Farquhar, Sir M.
Burghley, Lord Feilden, J.
Burrell, Sir P. Fellowes, E.
Butler-Johnstone, H. A. Fergusson, Sir J.
Cairns, Sir H. M'C. Ferrand, W.
Campbell, A. H. Fleming, J.
Cartwright, Colonel Floyer, J.
Cave, S. Forester, rt. hon. Gen.
Cavendish, Lord G. Gallwey, Sir W. P.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G. George, J.
Clive, Capt. hon. G. W. Getty, S. G.
Cobbold, J. C. Gilpin, Colonel
Cochrane, A. D.R.W.B. Goddard, A. L.
Cole, hon. H. Goldney, G.
Gooch, D. Miller, T. J.
Goodson, J. Mills, C. H.
Gore, J. R. O. Mitford, W. T.
Grant, A. Montagu, Lord R.
Graves, S. R. Montgomery, Sir G.
Greenall, G. Mordaunt, Sir C.
Greene, E. Morgan, O.
Gray, Lieut.-Colonel Morgan, hon. Major
Griffith, C. D. Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.
Guinness, B. L. Naas, Lord
Hamilton, Lord C. Neeld, Sir J.
Hamilton Lord C. J. Neville-Grenville, R.
Hamilton, I. T. Newdegate, C. N.
Hardy, G. Nicol, J. D.
Hardy, J. Noel, Hon. G.J.
Hartopp, E. B. North, Colonel
Harvey, R. B. Northcote, Sir S. H.
Hervey, Lord A. H. C. O'Neill, E.
Heathcote, hon. G. H. Packe, C. W,
Heathcote, Sir W. Packe, Colonel
Henley, rt. hon. J. W. Paget, R. H.
Herbert, hon. P. E. Pakington, rt. hon. Sir J.
Hesketh, Sir T. G. Palk, Sir L.
Heygate, Sir F. W. Parker, Major W.
Hodgson, W. N. Patten, Colonel W.
Hogg, Lt.-Colonel J. M. Peel, rt. hon. General
Holford, R. S. Peel, J.
Holmesdale, Viscount Pennant, hon. Colonel
Hood, Sir A. A. Percy, Maj-Gen. Lord H.
Hope, A. J. B. B. Phillips, G. L.
Hornby, W. H. Powell, F. S.
Horsfall, T. B. Read, C. S.
Hotham, Lord Repton, G.W.J.
Howes, E. Ridley, Sir M. W.
Hubbard, J. G. Robertson, P. F.
Humphery, W. H. Rolt, J.
Hunt, G. W. Royston, Viscount
Jolliffe, rt. hn. Sir W. G. H. Russell, Sir C.
Jolliffe, H. H. Sandford, G. M. W.
Kearsley, Captain R. Schreiber, C.
Kekewich, S. T. Sclater-Booth, G.
Kelk, J. Scott, Lord H.
Kelly, Sir F. Scourfield, J. H.
Kendall, N. Selwin, H. J.
Kennard, R. W. Selwyn, C. J.
King, J. K. Severne, J. E.
King, J. G. Seymour, G. H.
Knight, F. W. Simonds, W. B.
Knightley, Sir R. Smith, S.G.
Knox, Colonel Somerset, Colonel
Knox, hon. Major S. Stanhope, J. B.
Lacon, Sir E. Stanhope, Lord
Laird, J. Stanley, hon. F.
Langton, W. G. Stirling-Maxwell, Sir W.
Leader, N. P. Stuart, Lt.-Colonel W.
Legh, Major C, Stucley, Sir G. S.
Lefroy, A. Sturt, H. G.
Lennox, Lord G. G. Sturt, Lt.-Colonel N.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Surtees, F.
Leslie, C. P. Surtees, H. E.
Liddell, hon. H. G. Sykes, C.
Lindsay, hon. Colonel C. Taylor, Colonel
Lindsay, Colonel R. L. Thorold, J. H.
Long, R. P. Thynne, Lord H. F.
Lopes, Sir M. Tollemache, J.
Lowther, J. Torrens, R.
Lytton, rt. hn. Sir E. L. B. Tottenham, Lt.-col. C. G.
M'Lagan, P. Treeby, J.W.
Mainwaring, T. Trefusis, hon. C. H. R.
Manners, rt. hon. Lord J. Trevor, Lord A. E. H.
Manners, Lord G. J. Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.
Meller, W. Turner, C.
Miller, S. B. Tyrone, Earl of
Walcott, Admiral Woodd, B. T.
Walker, Major G. C. Wyndham, hon. H.
Walrond, J. W. Wyndham, hon. P.
Walsh, A. Wynn, C. W.W.
Walsh, Sir J. Wynne, W. R. M.
Waterhouse, S. Yorke, J. R.
Welby, W. E.
Williams, Colonel TELLERS.
Williams, F. M. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Wise, H. C. Du Cane, C.