§ MR. NEWDEGATE
* Mr. Speaker, I wish at the onset, in reference to the Notice which stands in my name on the Paper, to call your attention to the fact that I propose to limit the term over which the Return I ask for should extend, in such a manner as I hope will facilitate the production of part, at all events, of the information of which I think it desirable that the House should be in possession. The Motion in its present shape is for—An Address for Return showing 'the number of Deeds or Instruments enrolled in the High Court of Chancery under the Act 23 & 24 Vic. c. 134, being an Act to amend the Law regarding the Roman Catholic Charities, and under any subsequent Act relating to or enlarging or extending the said Act, giving the names of the Trustees; the date of their execution of such deeds or instruments; and a summary or short description, together with the number of acres, of the property to which such deeds or instruments relate.And I desire, Sir, to alter this Notice by inserting the words "during the last three years" after the word "enrolled," in the second line, and trust that you will make this insertion before you propose the Notice from the Chair. The House will be glad to know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will consent to the production of this information, since I have not received any answer to a communication which I have addressed to him? In anticipation, however, of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, I beg to explain to the House that early in the present Session, on the 26th of February last, I moved for a Committee of this House to inquire into the operation of the Roman Catholic Charities Act of 1860, and also 1015 into the Burials Registration Act of 1864. I acted, Sir, in conjunction with Sir Charles Selwyn and Sir William Bovill, when Members of this House, in their support of the late Sir George Cornewall Lewis, who promoted the passing of the former of these statutes in 1860, and on the 26th of February last I made a statement with regard to the Roman Catholic Charities Act. The purport of that statement I will repeat as briefly as possible. In the year 1853, after an inquiry as to the Roman Catholic charitable property had been instituted by a Committee of this House, which extended through the Sessions of 1851 and 1852, the Government of that day determined upon introducing a Bill for the better regulation of charities generally by providing for their proper registration, with a view to prevent those great abuses the existence of which had been known to Parliament ever since the year 1818, when the late Lord Brougham moved for a Committee, which still bears his name, and thus broke the ice for future legislation on the subject. Notwithstanding Lord Brougham's exertions, however, it was not until the year 1835 that there was any serious prospect of legislation; and then an Act was contemplated to empower Commissioners to inquire concerning the state of charities generally. The difficulty which the Act of 1860 was intended to remove then first appeared. In the year 1835 the Roman Catholic Members of this House objected to the inquiry proposed to be made by the Commissioners then to be appointed by statute, because they feared the discovery of certain violations of the Act against superstitious uses in the conditions upon which part of the property connected with their religion was held; and in consequence of their re-monstances no powers of inquiry with respect to Roman Catholic charity property were intrusted to the Commissioners who were appointed in the year 1835. I think I cannot do better, Sir, than quote a few words from the speech of Lord Chelmsford, then Sir Frederick Thesiger, in the year 1853, in order to show to the House in the tersest manner possible how the Legislature arrived at a similar determination with respect to the statute of that year. On the 4th of August Sir Frederick Thesiger said—He wished to remind the noble Lord of the Bills which had been introduced from 1844 down- 1016 ward, for the purpose of establishing a Board for the administration of charitable trusts. In 1844, 1845, 1846, Bills were introduced in the House of Lords by Lord Lyndhurst. In 1847, 1848, 1849, and 1850, Bills were introduced under the Government of the noble Lord by the late Lord Cottenham. In 1852 another Bill was introduced by the noble Lord and his Government, which Bill was taken up by Lord Derby's Government, who endeavoured to pass it into a law. Now, he would ask the noble Lord if any of these Bills contained any exemptions respecting Roman Catholic trusts. If these Bills never contemplated such exemptions, surely that was an argument more forcible than any which the noble Lord had drawn from the exemptions in the Acts passed, not for the purposes of legislation, but merely for the establishment of preliminary inquiries,"—[3 Hansard, cxxix. 1256.]That, Sir, was said by Sir Frederick Thesiger, in remonstrance against the exemption of the Roman Catholic charity property from the general Act of 1853, proposed by Lord John Russell. Whilst speaking on that occasion, Sir Frederick Thesiger adverted to this circumstance—An hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Chisholm Anstey), formerly a Member of that House, who, in 1847, proposed to introduce a Bill for the regulation of Roman Catholic Trusts—on that occasion the hon. and learned Member said—'The trustees of the Roman Catholic charities may be guilty of any amount of maladministration without the Roman Catholics—for whose benefit the trust was created—daring to ask relief, because the issue of an application with that object may be a declaration that the charity was ab initio illegal, and continued illegal."'—[Ibid. 1258.]These were the words of Mr. Chisholm Anstey, who in 1847 introduced a Bill intended to obviate this difficulty. Lord Russell stated, in answer to Sir Frederick Thesiger, as his apology for excluding Roman Catholic charity property from the general Act of 1853, that, after the Bill had been read a second time, Roman Catholic Members came to him and urged that it was positively necessary that their charities should be exempted, on the same ground that their exemption was claimed in 1835. Thus, in 1853, the Roman Catholic Members distinctly claimed separate legislation with respect to their charitable -trusts, and although the House showed great unwillingness to comply with their wishes, and the granting of the proposal was carried by a majority of 11 only, still, for seven years after that date, nothing was done with respect to the Roman Catholic charities, notwithstanding that we had it upon the authority of a Roman Catholic lawyer in this House that very gross abuses existed 1017 in the administration of these charities; that fact, Sir, was proved before the Select Committee of 1851 and 1852 on evidence which was perfectly unimpeachable, the evidence of Roman Catholic priests and others, who complained that they had been deprived of their interest in, had been defeated in objects for which they had acquired property, and devoted it to Roman Catholic charitable uses, by the authority from Rome, by the exercise of influences which they deprecated, and by means which the law ought to have stayed, but which it could not reach, for the simple reason that there was no statute applying to the peculiar circumstances of Roman Catholic charity property in this country. Well, in the year 1860, as I have already stated, the two learned Members of this House whose names I have mentioned, with myself, agreed to tender our support for this purpose to Sir George Lewis, and the Act passed, with the high approval of Lord Campbell, which he expressed first to myself and afterwards in the House of Lords. Unfortunately, the then Attorney General, Sir Richard Bethell—since Lord Westbury—had introduced a clause into that Bill which, from the first, Sir Charles Selwyn warned the House would have the effect of defeating the whole object of the enactment, which was valid enrolment. I allude to the 5th clause. I will not go into its details further than to say that I am a competent witness to the fact, that the liberal intention of the House was to validate all trusts for Roman Catholic uses, which had been held for that purpose for twenty years, without inquiring at all as to whether the titles were invalidated under Lord Hardwicke's Act by any malpractices or by any circumstances whatever; but there was no intention on the part of the House to give that which was intended to be a retrospective provision a prospective effect. I understand, however, that this clause has been so construed that if any person chooses to place in the hands of any Roman Catholic trustees property for charitable uses, and that arrangement remains unquestioned for twenty years from the time of the gift; that after the expiration of the twenty years, according to this statute, there is no need for the enrolment of the uses of the property. It is only natural, therefore, to suppose that, through such a loop-hole 1018 as this, evasions of the necessity to specify the uses of the property are perpetually taking place. I am not, Sir, speaking on merely speculative grounds as to the difficulties which these ineffective non-enrolments produce among various classes of the community. One of the difficulties which have come to my knowledge concerns the tenant of a farm. He could not ascertain who the owners —that is, the trustees—really were. He had always paid his rent to an agent, but when he sought to discover the real owners, the trustee, or trustees, he found that he had no means whatever of doing so. Sir, the whole purport of this statute of the 23 & 24 Vict. c. 134, is to provide facilities for enrolment, and that a correct description of the property and the uses, with the names of the trustees who really hold it, shall be entered in the Rolls Court — that is, the Court of Chancery. Well, what happened? This happened. This Act, I am sorry to say, is so defective — and the ingenuity of some lawyer, I suppose, has discovered its defects—that it does not provide for the registration of the names of any but the first trustees. These may resign the very next week after they are appointed, appointing new trustees, and the new trustees need not be registered. The original trustees may all resign but one, and he may be a Roman Catholic ecclesiastic. And what chance of recovery would there be in an action on behalf of the unhappy tenant of some farm or an heir-at-law against a Roman Catholic ecclesiastic, who is sworn to poverty? Why, none at all. I would not have intruded upon the House had I not the support of the opinion of persons most competent to give information upon the subject; and, even at the risk of wearying the House, perhaps I may be allowed to read an extract from a letter which was intended for my instruction, and which is written by an eminent lawyer, now practising in London. I wish I had time to obtain his leave to give his name; but as I have not the House will forgive me if I read his letter to the House without mentioning the name of the writer. He writes in these terms—The law of England leans very strongly against dispositions by which land is tied up so as to be rendered inalienable. Hence the rule against perpetuities, which prohibits the settlement of real estates for any greater period than a life, or lives in being, and twenty-one years afterwards. 1019 Thus, a gift to A for life, and after his death to his unborn son for life, and after the death of such son to his eldest son—the latter limitation is void. The Legislature has, at all periods since the Reformation, set its face against alienations in mortmain, and whenever a corporate body has been authorized to purchase or take land the quantity has been restricted. Thus, to pass over numerous other instances—By the 4 & 5 Vict. c. 38, being ' An Act for further Facilitating the Acquisition of Sites for Schools,' no more than one acre could be acquired for that purpose, though this was afterwards extended by the 14 & 15 Vict. c. 24, and the 15 & 16 Vict. c. 50, by the powers of which a gift might be made of one acre to each ecclesiastical district of one parish, and by the latter of which the quantity was enlarged from one to two acres. By the Literary and Scientific Act, 1854 (17 & 18 Vict. c. 112) one acre of land only can be acquired by gift or purchase for sites. And by the Companies' Act 1862 (25 & 26 Vict. c. 89), no company formed for the purpose of promoting art, science, religion, charity, or any other like object, not involving the acquisition of gain, is allowed to hold more than two acres of land without the sanction of the Board of Trade. The Roman Catholic Charities Act, 1860, loses sight of these principles of our law and legislation, and without inquiry, has made valid large and unascertained dispositions of land in mortmain, much of which was vested in unknown persons upon secret trusts created by parole, and has even given effect to dispositions of land actually void in law (being given for superstitious uses), by declaring that such dispositions shall be held upon such of the trusts of the charity as are valid in law. The quantity of land now held in mortmain by the Roman Catholic Church can only be known by a searching inquiry into the number of deeds enrolled under the Act of 1860, which there is every reason to believe, from the enrolments which have taken place, and particularly during the first year after the passing of the Act, is of considerable amount. It is true that enrolment is necessary to give validity to deeds of trust; but this affords no security against the acquisition of land by Roman Catholic institutions, through the medium of trustees, for the benefit of monasteries, convents, &c, the deeds relating to which are never registered, the trusts upon which they are held being secret. The trustees, it is true, may die, but upon the death of each of these another person is chosen in his place, so that ultimately the property is dealt with and governed by persons who have not, and care not to have, the legal estate vested in them.'Then comes the point to which I have also adverted—They can lease and let, as owners, and there is no one to dispute their title; but even if upon the death of the trustees, or any of them, a conveyance were made to any new and surviving trustees, or to the new trustees only, as the case might be, no enrolment of any such deed is necessary, as has been decided in the case of ' Ashton v. Jones,' 28 Beaver's Reports, 460, nor would any lease to be granted by the trustees for the time being require enrolment.It is singular that such was the laxity of the law far back in mediaeval times, and 1020 that it should have occurred again in our days.'—v. Glyn,' 12 Simon's Rep., 84 (a case in equity), and ' Walker v. Richardson,' 2 Meeson and Wilsby, 882 (a case at law). The fiscal aspect of the subject is of no little importance as regards the welfare of the country. Lands acquired in mortmain, whether under deeds enrolled or by secret means, are taken out of the market for ever; they cease to be the subject of conveyance, mortgage, settlement, and testamentary disposition, and thus the revenues of the country are and will be continually lessened. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that after the first payment of £10 per cent under the Succession Duty Act, in the case of gifts to charitable uses, there will be no further duty payable; so that, in respect of the several duties before referred to, the land may be said to be abstracted from the country.Now, Sir, I can vouch for that being the opinion of about as competent a lawyer as could be consulted on the subject; and I am prepared to show, from circumstances that are daily occurring, that the law of mortmain, which is held in force against all other denominations, and against scientific and other societies, is almost totally evaded through the defects in the provisions of this Statute, defects which have been remedied in the Bequests Act applying to Ireland, under which Roman Catholic charity property is held in that part of the United Kingdom; and in this statute defects somewhat similar to those I am describing have been provided against by a subsequent enactment for the improvement of that statute. One object, then, which I have in view, by moving for this Return is to show that we have this Act of 1860 nominally applicable to the whole of the Roman Catholic charity property in this country; but that the provisions of that Act are so defective that there is not sufficient enrolment to enable a tenant who has held a farm on lease, when he comes to the end of the term, and has a claim against the owner to discover an owner, a trustee, against and from whom he would have a fair chance of recovering—the fact being that he has only known the agent. That is a case in point; and, with the permission of the House, I will now proceed to show that there are very large masses of property annually devoted to these purposes. When I had the honour of addressing the House on the 26th of February last, I called to the recollection of hon. Members the case of Mr. Hutchinson, who died at the Oratory at Brompton, and at whose death a sum of £40,000 passed to 1021 Father Faber, the head of that establishment. That was proved before the courts of law, and it was held that Father Faber was personally as an individual entitled to the money; but it was mistakenly held that he did not take the benefaction or bequest on the part of the community. It is a very singular circumstance that the Oratorians declared that they did not hold their property in common; and that declaration has been accepted by the courts in England. A similar declaration was also tendered to the Italian courts, and at first accepted by those courts; but the Italian courts have finally decided that the plea of non-community of property is invalid in the case of this very Order, on account of the discipline and arrangements of the Order, although no actual vow of community is exacted from the members of the Order; but that such is the discipline that their property is practically held in common. In the sense, then, of the decision of the Italian courts, therefore, £40,000 went in that case to the Order of the Oratorians. I also recited to the House the case of Miss Thompson, who, after she had become a nun, left property to two learned gentlemen, who are well known in our courts, for Roman Catholic uses. In that case the learned Master of the Rolls decided that the bequest was made under duresse and was, therefore, invalid, and so £40,000 escaped from being devoted to Roman Catholic uses on account of the discovery being made that duresse had been exercised on the testatrix. I have also here the particulars of a case which has recently occurred, and for the accuracy of which. I can vouch. This letter has been addressed to me. I know the writer of it well, and I can vouch for his accuracy. He says—Allow me to give you one single case which has come within my own personal knowledge. A friend of mine one day lately said to an old man who had become a pervert—'Surely you are to leave your property to some national object. I know you have no near relatives, and I know your peculiar religious views; but surely you might find some national object which your wealth would advance—our country needs it. For example, the endowment of some chair in our University.' "(He was a Scotchman.) "'No, no!' was the answer, ' I find that my property at one time belonged to the Church of Rome; my priest tells me it is only right I should be an honest man and return all the property to the Church; hence, after my death, it shall go to the Church.' I was curious to know how the property had been disposed of. The old gentleman died, and I am told 1022 the property was sold on behalf of the Church of Rome, and was purchased for £200,000. This is in poor Scotland. What, therefore, must be the amount of property fast accumulating in wealthy England?As I can vouch for the accuracy of this statement, I think it would be needless to read long calculations—as I did in my speech of the 26th of February—in order to show, from the vast increase which has taken place in Roman Catholic institutions, particularly convents and monasteries, that large masses of property have been accumulated, and are accumulating for their support. Lest, however, it should be said that I have slurred over this part of my case, I will adduce the authority of the late Cardinal Wiseman, and no one will dispute the account which he gave at Malines as probably containing something like the truth with respect to the increase of these Roman Catholic institutions. The Cardinal said—Allow me now to present to you, by means of statistics, a rapid view of the effect produced by these different measures. The Census gives the population in England — for the year 1831, 13,896,797; for 1841, 15,914,178; for 1851, 17,927,609; for 1861, 20,906,224; an increase of about 2,000,000 in each decennial period. From 1831 to 1841, the population, therefore, increased 14 per cent. In the same period the number of priests increased about 25 per cent, or nearly double. During the following ten years the population increased 13 per cent, the number of priests 45 percent. Lastly, from 1851 to 1861, while the population increased 12 per cent, the number of priests increased about 37 per cent. Here, again, are the precise statistics which will allow you to judge of the continued increase of the Roman Catholic Church in England. In 1830 we numbered but 434 priests for the whole of England. At present we have 1,242, that is to say, three times as many. The number of our churches, which was 410, has now increased to 872; from 16 convents which we possessed in 1830 in the United Kingdom, we have now, in 1863, 162. Lastly, in 1830, we had not a single religious house of men, in 1850 there were 11, and to day their number is 55.Such is the account which was given by Cardinal Wiseman in 1864, and he, I suppose, must be held an unimpeachable authority; but I have some other statistics here, which are taken from Roman Catholic sources, the accuracy of which I have no reason to doubt. These represent that—The increase of Roman Catholic institutions has recently been very great. In 1829 there were no monasteries nor convents publicly announced, and there were but 447 priests, and 449 chapels and stations. In 1841 there were I monastery, 16 convents, and 9 colleges. In 1851 there 1023 were 17 monasteries and 53 convents. In the present year there are in England and Wales, 1,122 churches, chapels, and stations, 18 convents, and 67 communities of men, altogether illegal, with inmates probably amounting to 3,000 males and 13,000 females. In connection with such institutions, real or personal property to a very large amount is, no doubt, fast accumulating, as well as for masses for the dead and other superstitious uses of the Romish religion. If each inmate of a convent bring a dowry of, say, £250, this would amount above to upwards of £3,000,000.I cannot give the exact amount of this property; but this we know, that it is accumulating very rapidly; that it is, moreover, accumulating in mortmain; and under circumstances as regards the law of mortmain, different from the circumstances which are allowed by the law with respect to the religious or charitable property of any other community. The history of this country, as well as of others, tells us of the dangers which arise to the national welfare from allowing this property to increase to such an extent as this without restriction of any kind—such restrictions as are in force with respect to the property of every other denomination against its increase in mortmain—that, as this description of property is not subject to the same laws as similar property, affords, at least, an argument that exceptional facilities ought not to be afforded to one particular communion such as are granted to no others. Because the history of this country proves—the history of almost every country in Europe proves, that it is the policy of the Church of Borne to acquire an amount of property altogether inconsistent with the welfare of the States in which it obtains influence. I can assure the House that the opinion I have read to it is one among many which I could produce if necessary in order to show that the operation of the Act of 1860, instead of tending to ensure due enrolment and publicity—instead of giving the same securities to those who may deem themselves interested in or entitled to property left for religious uses, whether as heirs, tenants, or otherwise, for the discovery of the real owner, as are afforded by the statutes which are in force in Ireland. Under the Bequests Act and the Act amending the Bequests Act, the enrolment is complete and effective; but under the statute of 1860 it is so imperfect that, to my certain knowledge, without great expense, no one can obtain the in- 1024 formation which is often necessary for the regulation of property. I almost fear that I shall be told by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that the objection to the Return for which I shall move is that the register of the Rolls Court is in such a state that it would take years to separate the property held under this Act of 1860—an Act distinct and separate, made to differ from the general law at the desire and by the will of the representatives of the Roman Catholics in this House, who insisted upon this separate and exceptional legislation. All that I want to obtain by means of this Motion, is, that the same information as regards the three last years should be afforded as to the accumulation, disposition, and ownership of this Roman Catholic Trust property in England as is furnished in Ireland through the medium of the Commissioners appointed under the Bequests Act. I can assure the House that I am not the author or originator of this request. I have the highest legal authority for assuring the House that this information would be most valuable for the purpose of securing many families and many persons from the effects of maladministration and of uncertainty of ownership with regard to this property. It was, in fact, admitted when the Act passed, that there was a necessity for legislation, which arose from want of adequate information as to the actual ownership by trustees. It was in consequence of this belief that the Legislature passed the statute of 1860. The information for which I now apply will, if produced, test my accuracy and that of my informants when I declare my belief that the object of that measure —the due enrolment of trustees and easy discovery of the property held in trust— has been defeated, and in a great degree through the defects in the statute itself, some of which I well remember hearing Sir Charles Selwyn from that Bench in 1860 describe by anticipation and strongly deprecate whilst the Bill was being debated in this House. I beg, therefore, Sir, to propose the Motion which is now in your hands, with the insertion in the second line, after the word "enrolled," of the words "during the last three years."
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "there he laid before this House, a Return showing the number of Deeds or Instruments enrolled during the last three years in the High Court of Chancery under the Act 23 and 24 Vic. c. 134, being an Act to amend the Law regarding the Roman Catholic Charities, and under any subsequent Act relating to or enlarging or extending the said Act, giving the names of the Trustees; the date of their execution of such deeds or instruments; and a summary or short description, together with the number of acres, of the property to which such deeds or instruments relate,": — (Mr. Newdegate,)
said, the hon. Gentleman had correctly supposed that he intended to oppose the Motion, on the ground that the time which it would take to prepare the Return for which he asked was incommensurate with the value of the Return. He held in Ms hands a letter from the Secretary to the Master of the Rolls, who informed him that the Return could not be made out without great inconvenience and delay to the Public Business, and that it would occupy the clerks in the Public Record Office two years to get it ready, or, as the Motion was now limited to three years, he might perhaps put it at eight months, or one-third of that period. But, apart from that, he objected altogether to the Motion, because there was, in his opinion, no sufficient ground for making the bequests of Roman Catholics the subjects of special inquiry. The law of England, however different it might be from the law in Ireland, was the same with respect to devises in mortmain made by Protestants and Roman Catholics. His hon. Friend had mixed up with the question a great many others in a most invidious manner. He had cited the cases of bequests to which the Return for which he moved did not at all apply—bequests of money, such, for instance, as that of Mr. Hutchinson, of which no enrolment was required by law. The hon. Gentleman must be well aware that all devises made secretly were not-enrolled at all, and that the inquiry would throw no light on such bequests, which might be set aside at any time. The House had here to deal with deeds enrolled under the sanction of the Act of Parliament. For upwards of three centuries the Roman Catholics had been exposed to disadvantages far greater 1026 than those which attended the operations of any other religious sect. Their funds were not protected by the law, and every obstacle was placed in the way of their promoting and maintaining their religion. Of late years, however, they had been put on a footing of equality with other sects, and the complaint of his hon. Friend was that they had availed themselves of the liberty which had been accorded to them. Being a good Protestant himself, and believing that his religion was the best, he (Mr. Bruce), of course, wished that all persons were of his way of thinking; but people would hold their own theological opinions, and every good citizen must wish that every religion should experience just and equal treatment, and develop itself in its own natural course. The Roman Catholics had, it was true, made great efforts of late years. No part of the population was formerly so neglected as the Roman Catholics. While in Ireland crime was not more prevalent, but rather less so than in England, the proportion of crime committed by the Irish in this country was four or five times as great as that committed by the English population. This was owing to the circumstance of the Irish population being more exposed to temptation and less carefully looked after than the English were. The efforts of the Roman Catholic gentry and priesthood had for many years past, and especially of late years, been directed to the removal of this evil, and he had no doubt that considerable endowments had been made by them, some legally and some perhaps illegally, for the purpose of improving the religious and moral condition of their poor Roman Catholic brethren. Those efforts, so far as they were legal, all liberal-minded men ought to applaud, and what ground had the hon. Gentleman for endeavouring to cast this slur on the Roman Catholics? His hon. Friend had shown, or, at least, attempted to show, that our legislation in respect of enrolments of deeds in England was less perfect than that in regard to Ireland. Possibly this might be the case; but, if so, the way to remedy the evil was to introduce a Bill to assimilate the English law on the subject with that of Ireland. He hoped, however, that the House would never consent to put the Roman Catholic and Protestant endowments on a different 1027 footing. Good reasons might perhaps be adduced in favour of assimilating the laws of the two countries; but, in. the meantime, he objected to the Motion of his hon. Friend, on account, not only of the vast amount of unnecessary labour which it would entail, but also, and chiefly, on account of the injustice it would inflict on our Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen.
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had said, with considerable truth, that there was no reason for dealing specially with any particular class of persons, but he would ask whether, by refusing his assent to this Motion, the right hon. Gentleman was not dealing specially with one particular class of persons? Almost weekly there was now placed in the hands of hon. Members a thick book which dealt with all the charities in England county by county. This was done in pursuance of a recent statute, which conferred the power of dealing with those charities. He thought it was therefore only a fair question to ask why the charities of one particular class of persons were to be exempted from the scrutiny required by the Act? The right hon. Gentleman had stated no reason for that exemption. He did not know what was going to be done with these charities. Large powers had been taken under the Act of this Session, and, in his opinion, we ought to have the means of seeing at a glance an account of all the charities in the kingdom, whether they belonged to the Established Church or other denominations. To this proposition, it appeared to him, the right hon. Gentleman had not addressed himself. Speaking from information given by the Master of the Rolls, the right hon. Gentleman said there were difficulties in the way of making out the Return asked for by his hon. Friend. But, admitting this, it was, in his opinion, the duty of the Government to overcome these difficulties. It was neither fair nor just that the charities connected with one particular form of religion should be exempted from the scrutiny to which all other charities were submitted. If the enrolment under the Act of 1860 were so defective that the required Return could not be made, the Government ought to have the matter looked into and set right.
§ MR. SHERLOCK
said, the right hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House 1028 had argued the question on very different grounds from the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). The hon. Member had urged that this Return was necessary, because certain tenants did not know who their landlords were. Now, it appeared to him that the enrolment of these deeds under which the property was conveyed to trustees afforded to the world at large, and to the tenantry in particular, rather more information than was ordinarily imparted when property was privately conveyed from one party to another by deeds which were not registered. The Return asked for by the hon. Member would not give the tenants one particle more of information than they might obtain by looking at the enrolments. It might be right that a Return should be made of all Roman Catholic charities, with their amount and application, but this Return would give no such information, although it would involve an immense deal of trouble in its preparation.
§ MR. G. GREGORY
said, he hoped the speech of the hon. Member who had just resumed his seat might be taken as an admission that the charities of the Roman Catholics ought not to be made the subject of exceptional legislation, but ought to be subjected to the same publicity and inquiry as those of other denominations. It could not be said that the Roman Catholics laboured under any disabilities now, as they were in all respects on the same footing as other denominations, and all their endowments, gifts, and donations were under the same laws. He had been surprised to hear the Secretary of State for the Home Department say that large endowments had been made by the Roman Catholics for the maintenance and propagation of their religion, and that, though some were legal and some illegal, still all liberal-minded men should be disposed to protect them.
explained that he had made that statement on the authority of the hon. Gentleman who brought forward the Motion. He knew nothing of it himself. His statement had entire reference to the present Motion, which dealt with nothing except deeds regularly and legally enrolled. He had charged the hon. Gentleman with mixing up with this subject other matters which had no reference to it.
§ MR. G. GREGORY, in conclusion said, 1029 he rejoiced to hear from the hon. Member for King's County (Mr. Sherlock) an admission that the charities of all religious faiths ought in that matter to be put on the same footing.
§ MR. SINCLAIR AYTOUN
said, he thought the grounds alleged by the Secretary of State for the Home Department for declining to accede to that Motion were calculated to induce the House to vote for it. That right hon. Gentleman refused them information on a very important point, although, as far as he had observed, it was a most unusual thing for the Government to refuse the House and the country the means of acquiring information through a Return on any matter which was of national importance. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had shown very conclusively that it was very desirable that the Return now in question should be produced. And what were the Home Secretary's reasons for withholding it? The right hon. Gentleman had accused the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, in asking for that statistical information, of casting a slur on the Roman Catholics. If to move for Returns was held to be casting a slur on the body of persons to whom those Returns referred, there would be an end to all inquiry on public matters. Then the right hon. Gentleman said the Irish Roman Catholics who came to this country committed four times as much crime as the same number of persons not belonging to that nationality; but that was a most extraordinary argument for opposing the Motion. The Home Secretary also stated that there was great need for improving the lower order of Roman Catholics in this country, and that gentlemen holding that religious belief had very naturally and commendably devoted a portion of their property to that purpose. No Protestant denied their right to do so, nor by asking for information on that subject did any man throw any imputation on the members of that communion. The right hon. Gentleman further urged that the Return could not be given because the Secretary to the Rolls Office told him it would take a long time to give it. Were they never, then, to get any information when its production would cause trouble to officials? In reading the Guide to the Civil Service he was astonished to find how 1030 little time the members of that service devoted to the public advantage. He did not know whether it was so in the Rolls Office, but those gentlemen, it seemed, went to work about ten o'clock and left at four, and between those hours they generally spent an hour at lunch, and another hour in reading The Times. Again, if the right hon. Gentleman was correct in saying that it would require two years to make out this Return, what an enormous amount of property of that description there must be. The documents relating to that property ought to be so arranged in the Rolls Office that information respecting it could be readily furnished whenever it was called for. If the hon. Member for North Warwickshire divided the House, he would certainly go into the same Lobby with him.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he could not quite agree with his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) as to the value of the Mortmain Act. But that was not the question they had then to consider. The speeches which had been delivered against the Motion presented to his mind no good reason why it should not be adopted. The hon. Member for King's County (Mr. Sherlock) objected to the Motion because it did not go far enough, and would not give them all the information that was desired; but there was no reason why, after having got that Return, they should not move for further details in reference to the same subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department told them that within the last few years the Roman Catholic gentry of this country had devoted much of their time and wealth to the promotion of the moral and religious welfare of the poorer members of their Church. Now, that was an excellent and admirable work, and those gentlemen deserved the greatest credit for having engaged in it. But then the right hon. Gentleman said that to institute an inquiry into what had thus been done would be casting a slur upon those labours. That was one of the most extraordinary arguments he (Lord John Manners) had ever heard. He could easily understood that those gentlemen should be unwilling to publish their good deeds, but he was at a loss to imagine how they could be injured or insulted if a public investiga- 1031 tion were to be instituted into the subject. He had to state, therefore, that unless he should hear some better arguments against the Motion than those advanced by the right hon. Gentleman, he should feel bound to vote in its favour.
MR. HINDE PALMER
said, the House ought not to assume, from the fact that the making out of that Return would involve great labour, that therefore there was a very large amount of property dedicated to Roman Catholic charities. The difficulty in making out the Return arose from the circumstance that these enrolments were enrolments made indiscriminately in regard to all charities, Protestant as well as Roman Catholic, and not merely in regard to all kinds of charities, but also all enrolled patents and enrolled deeds. Therefore, when a Return as to Roman Catholic charities was asked for, of course there was the difficulty to be encountered of selecting the information required from the vast mass of other enrolments which had nothing to do with Roman Catholic charities, or even with any charities whatever. Moreover, what the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Newdegate) wanted to arrive at would not be obtained by any Return of that description, because the hon. Member himself alleged—and no doubt with truth—that there was a large amount of property in this country given to persons under secret trusts for Roman Catholic purposes. There was in this country no record or enrolment of those secret trusts which would afford the hon. Member the information he required. If, therefore, the Government were to grant the Return as moved for, the hon. Member would find it comparatively useless.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, it occurred to him that a good deal of explanation was still needed. If Parliament wished to have a Return of all the charities of England and Wales he could not, for the life of him, see why those of one particular sect should be exempted. A short time ago a Bill had been before the House for improving endowed schools, and it was proposed that certain charities should be applied to the purposes of the Bill, many persons believing that those charities were not only useless but pernicious. If that were the fact it was a good reason for ascertaining the amount and particular purposes of those charities, and that had been ascertained; but 1032 the Return did not include the charities of a particular body of Christians. If a Return was wanted it should be a Return of the charities belonging to all Her Majesty's subjects, not the charities of Protestants or Catholics, Jews or Gentiles. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) now proposed a mode of supplementing the Return, and all that was said against the Motion was that what he wanted would be difficult to get. But that could be said of many other Returns. There were many Returns ordered by the House which were not produced for one or two years, because information was to be obtained, perhaps, from India, the colonies, or other distant places. Suppose this Return were to take two years, that would be no great matter, because there was no measure of legislation waiting for it. It was merely a piece of statistical information required to show the aggregate amount of all the charities of this country. And although the present Motion might not bring out the whole, some other hon. Member might discover a mode of getting at another part of the remainder. He had not a particle of feeling against his Roman Catholic fellow-subjects in this matter, but he thought it desirable that the State should have information of all the charities in the kingdom. Suppose the Prussian Government were to call for a similar Return, would it be thought a good answer from one province that the people there were nearly all Jews, or from another, that they were nearly all Catholics, and so on? The Government would say—"We don't want to know anything about your religion; what we want to know is about your charities." In his opinion the desire of the hon. Gentleman was a reasonable one.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 58; Noes 50: Majority 8.