HC Deb 25 March 1868 vol 191 cc224-37

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of this Bill, thought it right to offer a brief explanation of its provisions and some account of the charity itself. He observed, by the way, that he specially appeared on behalf of Christ's and Caius Colleges, Cambridge, peculiarly benefited as they were by the institution; and that the Bill which he had brought in was substantially the one of last year, originally introduced by his noble Friend the Vice President of the Committee of Council (Lord Robert Montagu), and then amended by a Select Committee. The founder of the institution was a certain Mr. Tancred, a Yorkshire squire of strong prejudices, one of which was an objection to heirs female. Early in the last century, this gentleman executed a trust deed, settling the largest portion of his property (of which the principal seat was at Wixley some dozen miles from York), on a trust which would, no doubt, had he had issue male, have made an entail for ever; but which, as the case was, created a charity, speaking roughly, divided into two parts—one an almshouse situated in the town of Wixley for twelve decayed bachelor gentlemen, and the other an establishment of twelve studentships—four for law, to be taken at Lincoln's Inn and the residue at two Colleges of renown at Cambridge, at either of which it was a privilege to enter; four for divinity at Christ's College; and four for medicine at Gonville and Caius College. Several years later Mr. Tancred executed a will, leaving his remaining property in augmentation of the settlement. Still a bachelor, he died a few years afterwards, and his will became the subject of a Chancery suit; for his sisters and their representatives naturally objected to it. The then Lord Keeper Henley pronounced a decree, in which he established the settlement with certain modifications; and in consequence of this judgment a Private Act, 3 Geo. III., incorporated the charity in conformity with Tancred's arrangements, appointing as its governors the Treasurer of Lincoln's Inn, the Master of the Charterhouse, the Governors of Chelsea and Greenwich Hospitals, the President of the College of Physicians, and the Masters of Christ's and Caius Colleges, Cambridge. At the same time, Christopher Tancred's whimsical provisos of keeping up for ever a deer park at Wixley was abrogated; and the estate placed on so satisfactory a fooling that instead of yielding something under £1,000 a year, it produces, at the present day, upwards of £4,000. He need hardly observe how the selection of these trustees was wisely designed to secure the proper fulfilment of the second object of the charity—the maintenance of the twelve studentships, four in law at Lincoln's Inn, four in medicine at Caius College, Cambridge, and four in divinity at Christ's College, Cambridge. He should observe that both with regard to these studentships, and the pensioners of the "Hospital" at Wixley, the beneficiaries were strictly enjoined to be members of the Church of England. He was not now concerned with the question as it affected Wixley; but so long as the Colleges retained their connection with the Church he saw no hardship in the provision. The Church of England offered a most ample area, when the benefits to be conferred were so limited; and Christ's and Caius Colleges were foundations which it was an advantage, and not a detriment, to enter, particularly when £100 a year was the result of the transaction. As to the Wixley Hospital, he must confess that it had proved a failure. It would be easy to conceive the evils which would result from twelve bachelors of fifty, afflicted with an inability to get on in life—or otherwise they would not have offered themselves as candidates for the Tancred benevolence—living together on a common income barely sufficient to keep one gentleman in decent circumstances, in little rooms cut up out of a small country house, touching which the founder had the vanity to propose that the buildings should never be enlarged or altered. Having to dine together and live in community without any special occupation, religious vocation, or manly sports, soured in temper by the degradation of being regarded as recipients of charity, and with nothing to do but to kill time, these masculine old maids would naturally take to smoking, eavesdropping, and quarrelling, if not something worse. In 1865 the case of the Hospital became so flagrant that its governors submitted a scheme to the Charity Commissioners, proposing to reduce the number of the pensioners from twelve to six. Some other reforms were suggested; but the whole proposal was manifestly too timid and compromising to command success, particularly when it was remembered that the estate, which when Tancred died, was worth something less than £1,000, had now increased in value to more than £4,000. The Charity Commissioners were accordingly solicited from various quarters to take vigorous measures, and they did so with a vengeance. As a first step, they sent their assistant Commissioner, Mr. Martin, to report on the condition of the Hospital. He made a very minute examination of its internal arrangements, in which he was assisted by the fussy ingenuity of the inmates, men of, perhaps, a once large experience, who had withdrawn their powers of observation from the world to concentrate them within the narrow limits of their own circle. The Commissioners came to the generally approved conclusion that the Hospital as an almshouse should be done away with, and that the income should be dispensed in the shape of out-door pensions, supplementary to other sources of income, to educated gentlemen, so that no recipient should run a risk of collision with any brother in misfortune. The scheme also provided that when the number of inmates had been reduced to four, these should be withdrawn from the building and the establishment broken up. The charity would thus in time have assumed a shape similar in organization to the Royal Literary Fund and similar institutions. Embodied as this plan was in the original scheme, and consequently in the Bill as it first came before the House last year, it was also accepted by the Select Committee, and therefore was embodied in the Bill of the present Session, so he hoped it would be cordially approved by the House. Regarding the studentships, Tancred had laid down these three conditions:—First, that the beneficiaries should be natives of Great Britain, thereby shutting out Irishmen, colonists, and the whole world beside; secondly, that they should be members of the Church of England; and, thirdly, that they should, as students, be educated at the particular institutions, in relation to which the list of governors had been settled. The limitation to members of the Church of England was objected to; but surely, for an endowment limited in amount and in the number of possible recipients as this was, it opened a field of distribution sufficiently wide to secure an unquestionable power of selection among excellent competitors. What better schools of law, of medicine, or divinity existed than those which this testator had selected? Of Lincoln's Inn he need not make himself the advocate. As to Caius College, it had, from the days of its second founder, been a renowned school of medicine; while the fame of Christ's College as a seminary of divines was incontestible. Yet the Charity Commissioners, for some reason of their own, wished to make a clean sweep of all restrictions, leaving the governors of the charity to elect the students out of the wide world; and whether these would, in consequence, take their degrees in England, in France, in the United States, or in China, was to be a matter of the most complete indifference. The Bill introduced by his noble Friend the Vice President of the Council, as the mouthpiece of the Charity Commissioners, for giving effect to their scheme, appeared in a shape which might have become usual with regard to enactments brought before Parliament to give legislative sanction to such proposals, but against which he felt bound to protest. Instead of the scheme being cast, in proper legal language, into a Bill, which might in time become a statute, it was with all the amplifications and fine language incident to a report, and out-of place, in a law, transferred just is it stood within the four corners of the Bill, with a few words of prefatory enactment, professing to give validity to the subsequent essay as the scheme of the Charity Commission. This Bill was referred to a Select Committee, which altered the scheme in various particulars; and yet, the Preamble having been, by the forms of the House, first adopted, it still professed to state what had become an untruth—that the scheme so propounded and proposed to be enacted was that of the Charity Commission. His Bill, which substantially embodied all the alterations of the Committee, did not follow this bad example, but adopted the ordinary form of other Bills. The Select Committee of 1867 restored the vested rights of Lincoln's Inn and of the two Colleges as recipients of the gift, together with the limitation to members of the Church of England of these studentships. In this he cordially concurred; but there were other points embodied in the amended scheme, with which he could not so thoroughly agree, although he felt it was most respectful to the Committee to introduce the Bill in the shape in which they had cast it, leaving it to the House to amend it in Committee if they pleased. Mr. Tancred had devised the advowson of Wixley to the charity; but Lord Keeper Henley pronounced this devise illegal. Consequently the patronage of the living had since continued in alien hands, although a small provision had been made to the clergyman who was constituted warden of the Hospital. The scheme proposed a permanent addition to the living, consequent on its being purchased by the governors, and then the advowson being sold with the estate. The Committee retained the whole of the land, probably looking upon it as the best security on which the charity fund could be put; and yet owing, he hoped, to the misadventure of the provision for the increase of the living having come earlier in the scheme, rejected the proposal of augmentation, with the view, no doubt, of subsequently rejecting the complex transaction affecting the sale of the estate. He would be glad, if his Bill got into Committee, that this provision would be reinstated, without prejudice to the retention of the estate. It was absurd to argue that the purchase of the living was contrary to Tancred's intentions. In the first place, Tancred wished the living to belong to his trust; and, in the second place, regarding the pension portion of it as a provision for meritorious gentlemen outworn by work, he would ask, who could be so meritorious a recipient of its benefits as a clergyman broken down by devoted services in some overgrown town or unhealthy colony? In fact, the vicar of Wixley might and ought to be the first Tancred pensioner. The Committee also struck out the extension of the pensions to women. Tancred, no doubt, was a misogynist; but he thought this a poor reason, now that the Hospital was to be extinguished, to refuse this concession. Such was the Bill of which he moved the second reading. All agreed that the Hospital, as it stood at present, was a crying evil. The Bill proposed a remedy for this offence. Its other details might or might not be open to discussion; they could, however, be taken in hand in Committee. For the sake, however, of abating the Hospital, he contended that the House ought to give the second reading now. If it refused to do so, it would render itself responsible for all the evils which were making Wixley a byword.

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


seconded the Motion.


said, the hon. Member had not stated precisely the nature of the scheme recommended by the Charity Commissioners, which, although of a comprehensive character, did not go as far as he himself wished. The Charity Commissioners proposed that the Hospital should be done away with; that the pensioners should be increased from twelve to twenty-four; that women as well as men should be admitted to the benefit of the charity; that this should be thrown open to all British subjects; and that restrictions upon the religion of the pensioners should be wholly done away with. They further proposed that the allowance of the students should be increased to £100 a year each; that these should not be obliged to belong to airy particular College or Inn of Court; and, further, that the estate, consisting of 2,500 acres in Yorkshire, and possessing a considerable residential value, which non-residential trustees were incapable of fully developing, should be sold, and the proceeds invested in Consols. A Bill for carrying out the scheme of the Charity Commissioners had been brought in last Session by the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council; in doing so, however, he never told the House that he disapproved of the provisions of that scheme, but referred the Bill embodying it to a Select Committee composed of five Members chosen from his own side of the House, and but two taken from the Opposition Benches. Bearing in mind that the Liberal party had a decided majority in the House, the preponderating influence ought to have been exactly reversed. The Committee at once proceeded to cut out all the liberal parts of the Bill, and so completely altered its character that nobody could any longer recognize it. On its return to the House he had endeavoured to restore it to its original condition, and gave notice of Amendments for that purpose. The noble Lord endeavoured to force the Bill through the House; but, in order to prevent its being discussed in a thin House, he (Mr. Lefevre) had stayed up night after night till three in the morning, and eventually the Bill was dropped. But now, in the present Session, his hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, fresh from the honours of an Election, in which he had received considerable Liberal support, re-introduced the Bill in the same reactionary form, instead of leaving the matter to be dealt with by a Government measure, introduced with the concurrence of the Charity Commissioners. In its present shape he thought it was really impossible to amend the Bill. It would be better to throw it out, and to leave it in the hands of the Government to bring in a measure dealing in a wider spirit with this charity. Here was an estate, producing something like £5,000 a year, which might be turned to very useful purposes of an educational character, such as had been pointed to by a noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) in "another place" when he accounted for the delay which had taken place in producing the educational measures of the Government by the hope which he had entertained of getting hold of some of the waste foundations of the country. He thought that when there was such a cry for technical education this charity might be used for that purpose. He believed that, in Yorkshire, there was not at present a single school for technical instruction the scheme of the Select Committee, as embodied in the Bill of the hon. Gentleman, was most illiberal; as he hoped the House would not sanction it, he moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

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. Shaw-Lefevre.)


said, the hon. Gentleman had attempted to give this Bill a thoroughly party aspect, and had started some theories on the subject of endowment, which were almost as novel to Members of his own party as they were to those who sat upon the Ministerial Benches. He really failed to gather what were those "liberal provisions" which the Committee had so wickedly struck out. He found that widows and daughters had given way to decayed and necessitated gentlemen, and that the restriction to British subjects had been omitted. Was it part of the creed of the Liberal party that the widows and orphans of pensioners should share in the endowments? Had the Liberal party any objection to "decayed and necessitous gentlemen?" He was also puzzled by the statements which he had heard as to the party composition of the Committee; for, as it happened, the two Liberal Members did not vote upon the same side. If he were compelled to determine between the purity of water of the Liberalism of Gentlemen opposite, he should say that the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Dent) was, on the whole, more orthodox than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe). The principle now laid down by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) could not be narrowed to a particular case. If the intentions of a man who mode his will with the full knowledge that there were members of the Church of England, Roman Catholics, and Dissenters, and who discriminated between them, were to be deliberately set at nought, why, in fairness to testators at the present day, these principles of action ought to be declared. At one of those three o'clock sittings which the hon. Member had alluded to he startled the House by the declaration that it was ridiculous for anybody to suppose that the testator could care for the Church of his baptism. That might, of course, be the hon. Member's own view of the case. But there were, nevertheless, large numbers of individuals who did attach importance to their religious belief, and were prepared to help more earnestly those who agreed with them in religious belief than those who did not; and if that were the place to quote Scripture, passages might be adduced in support of that view.


begged the noble Lord's pardon. He had never used the words attributed to him on any occasion at three o'clock in the morning.


Well, then, it was at half-past one.


said, he had never, at any time, made use of any such expression.


certainly had understood the hon. Gentleman to say that he felt no individual preference for those who belonged to the same religious body as himself; but was glad to find that he had misconceived what was actually stated. The hon. Member, however, must admit that he had now advocated the conversion of this endowment to purposes of primary education—purposes which were wholly foreign to those which the testator had in view.


had the authority of the Charity Commissioners for stating that they had never been consulted with regard to the Bill that was now before the House; and he certainly thought it a rash and hazardous proceeding, in a matter of this nature, for private Members completely to ignore the Commissioners, and take the disposal of the revenues into their own hands. Me hoped the Bill would pass, and that such Amendments, as to the wisdom of the Committee might seem fit, would be introduced. Its broad features would, however, no doubt, remain as an embodiment of the will of a deceased benefactor, whose views they were bound to respect and give effect to. He therefore should vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Reading, although unable to agree with him in all the views that he had expressed.


said, he did not think that the present was the time in the history of the country when a desire to increase the comforts of old and decayed persons could be legitimately regarded as out of date. In Bradford there were collections going on in favour of various asylums devoted to the purpose. The question involved in the opposition to this Bill was, whether, when there was an endowment in favour of a religious communion, the members of that religious communion should be allowed to enjoy the property devised for their benefit. The issue at stake in this case did not affect one religion alone, but the endowments and bequests of all bodies of Christians in this country. He must adhere to the broad principle that a man could spend his money as he liked, and so leave it after his death. The Report of the Middle-class Schools Commission was in favour of this Bill, which, he trusted, would be read a second time. Any alterations which it was desirable to make in the details of the Bill could be effected in Committee, while its broad principles were preserved.


thought the discussion showed the necessity there existed for some efficient representative of the Charity Commissioners in that House. There was at that moment no Member of the Government on the Benches opposite to say a word in favour of the Report of the Charity Commissioners, or to give any explanation with regard to the Bill. It would be more satisfactory if such measures as this were introduced by the Government, instead of being left to private Members. It could not, he thought, be said that the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) factiously opposed the Bill. What the hon. Member asked was, that action should not be taken in the matter until the Charity Commissioners expressed their opinion with respect to it, and until the Government thought fit, on their own responsibility, to bring in a measure on the subject. He supported the Amendment.


said, there was a large charity to be dealt with. It was admitted that great inconveniences had arisen from its existing condition. In consequence of the state in which it was represented to be, Commissioners were sent to the spot to inquire, and upon their Report, which contained much valuable information, the Charity Commissioners framed schemes,—not, however, in strict accordance with the Report of the Commissioners who had made the inquiry—and submitted to Parliament a Bill to carry them out. The Bill was referred to a Committee, of which he had the honour of being a Member. It so happened that all the parties interested, without exception, were opposed to the scheme of the Commissioners. Those who were rich enough appeared by counsel; those who were not rich enough were allowed to appear and state their own case. It happened that one of the pensioners had been formerly a Member of this House. What had the Committee to do? They had to sit a few hours every day to devote to a consideration of what was just and liberal. The House had received that day a definition of what liberality, or rather Liberalism, really was according to the view of a Liberal Member. They were told upon that authority that it was a Liberal thing to do away with everything that a founder had in view when he made a specific bequest, and to substitute something entirely different. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) said the intentions of the testator should be disregarded, and that the revenues of the charity should be applied to general educational purposes. But the Legislature had come to the conclusion with regard to endowed schools that, if the words of the bequest were precise, the advantages of the endowment were to be confined to persons of that particular form of religion which the testator indicated. The same principle should be applied in the present case. It was quite clear that the testator had done all in his power to secure his charity for members of the Church of England; and another circumstance was that if nothing were done there would be a Chancery suit to settle the different interests. The Committee shrunk from ordering a sale of the estate; and from doing this in order to obtain an increased present advantage with the certainty of a less income in the future. They thought that in reference to the questions that had been raised they should rather be dealt with by a general change in the law than by legislating for this particular instance. The Committee had come to the conclusion, that the advantages of the charity should be confined to men, and not extended, contrary to the obvious intention of the founder, to women. They differed from the Commissioners also on this question. The founder said that his charity should be divided into two equal parts—one for pensions to needy persons, and the other for educational purposes; and the Committee saw no good reason why this limitation should be broken through; and they also saw no reason for extending the area beyond the locality to which the testator had limited it. Another thing that weighed much with the Committee was the consideration that the Bill would have to go to the other House; and they desired such a measure as would have a fair chance of passing there; and the more especially so when it was admitted on all hands that legislation was necessary to remedy the state of confusion into which the charity had fallen. If money left for one purpose was to be diverted to another it ought to be done directly, and not incidentally. He hoped that the House would agree to the second reading, and if any Amendment were thought necessary, that matter could be considered in Committee.


said, that, while he agreed in the desirability of removing existing inconveniences, he could not but think that the Bill could not be considered apart from the general principle which applied to endowments. The Legislature had committed certain duties to the Charity Commissioners, who were empowered to devise schemes for improving and promoting the efficiency of charitable institutions; and it was intended that such schemes, if they were approved of, should be submitted to the Legislature by some Member of the Government. It was the practice, in the first instance, to place them before the Vice President of the Committee of Council, whose duty it was, if he saw anything objectionable in them, to refer the measures back to the Commissioners for further consideration. In the present case no such objection was made to the Bill as prepared by the Commissioners last year; bin when it came back from the Committee it was submitted by an independent Member, and not a word had been said in support of its principle by any Member of the Government. The question whether the recommendations of the Bill were such as should receive the approval of the House deserved much consideration; and he did not think it ought to be read a second time, unless the House was prepared to sanction the principle with respect to endowments, that, in all cases and under all circumstances, whatever restrictions were imposed, the will of a testator should be adopted and carried out. He did not deny that the first recipients of the benefits to be derived under the will in question should be members of the Church of England. They were to live together, and it was perhaps right therefore that they should belong to the same denomination; but the question was whether, now that they were no longer to live together, but to be scattered, the same restriction should be maintained. Again, they could not be quite sure that if Mr. Tancred had seen the ritualistic tendencies of the day, and the other alterations that had taken place, he would have been so anxious to limit the charity to members of the Church of England. And with respect to the scholarships, it was worthy of consideration whether, after the lapse of 100 years, the will of the testator should be in nil respects adhered to. If the limitations with reference to residence were disregarded, why should not the limitations with regard to religion? At any rate the tendency of Parliament was now to take such restrictions into consideration; and the School Commissioners had recommended that every fifty years such endowments should be considered by some competent authority, which should determine whether the will of the testator should in all respects be adhered to. He thought that a Bill of this importance should be brought forward on the responsibility of the Government; and, under all the circumstances, he should support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Reading.


said, that he was by no means indifferent to the propriety of respecting the general intentions of testators who aimed at forwarding great and good objects; but it was quite another thing when the House was called upon to assist in placing restrictions around institutions, and where the testators were selfish men and wanting in natural affection for their relations. This Mr. Tancred had been described by the Judge who gave a decision in reference to his will, as a man who seemed to have cast off all natural affection; and the Judge regretted that he was bound by precedents to assist in carrying out his intentions. He had surrounded his estate with a wall, and had erected certain buildings and out-buildings, and he ordered that no one should pull down the wall or buildings, or should erect any new buildings. His first object seemed to be to cheat his sisters. He also ordered that forty deer should be kept in the park. Were those who opposed the extension of the benefits derived under the will to a few ladies anxious that those directions should be held sacred? He (Mr. Acland) thought that important principles and main objects should be respected and upheld; but that the whims and fancies of such a testator, at the moment of death, ought not to be allowed to prevent Parliament from applying the charity for the benefit of the greatest number possible. It was true that the testator named members of the Church of England; but circumstances had greatly altered since the founder directed that the residents in his cenobite house were to be members of the Church of England. His views about the Church of England might be very different from those which were now entertained; he might have looked upon the Church in a much wider sense than was supposed; and certainly they ought not to put the narrowest construction upon his words. What they were bound to do was to see what the main object was, and to give effect to it, and not to limitations which had a smack of religion about them, perhaps for the purpose of making them look respectable. It ought also to be considered that the testator was doing for persons, who lived 150 years after his death, what the law would not allow him to do if the bequest had been applied to his own immediate descendants—that was, regulate the terms upon which they should hold the property. He hoped the House would not adopt the broad principle involved in the Bill, which was one which should be dealt with on the responsibility of the Government, and that they would not allow the Bill to be read a second time.


said: The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has certainly formed no very high opinion of the character of the late Mr. Tancred; but I did not gather from anything he said that he felt the slightest objection to fingering the money of the departed; and I must say, Sir, that it is rather hard to take a man's money for upwards of a century, and then abuse him at the end of it. At half-past one o'clock this morning, "while men slept," the Church of England was suddenly deprived by Bill of dues and rights she has enjoyed for centuries; on Monday next it is proposed to rob the Irish Church by Resolution; and to-day, I presume to keep the Liberal party in wind, the disposition is evinced of setting aside the intentions of a Church of England testator and diverting the uses of a Church of England charity. But hon. Gentlemen opposite should remember that, in thus acting, they are forging weapons which may be used against their own endowments, and which, if we cannot defend our own possessions, when the time comes, we shall not be slow to use against theirs. Motions and speeches of this kind are two-edged swords which will not always be allowed to cut one way. In the next place, Sir, if these endowments had their origin in the religious sentiment—if without it they would never have existed — I would ask, how much honesty there is in diverting them to uses secular, and disconnected with the profession of any religious faith? It seems to me, Sir, very like obtaining money under false pretences; but then we are told, Sir, that dead men should not be allowed to govern the living from their graves; but there is one thing, at least, you cannot prevent their doing — they can warn the living from their graves; and, unless this House more scrupulously respects the intentions of founders, we shall soon have heard the last, I fear, of bequests for religious and charitable uses. On general grounds, then, and because, as a Cambridge man, I feel a deep interest in this particular instance, I trust that the House will not refuse a second reading to this Bill.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 69; Noes 83: Majority 14.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.