HC Deb 07 June 1871 vol 206 cc1637-67

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


rose to move—"That this House will, upon this day month, resolve itself into the said Committee." The hon. Gentleman expressed his belief that the Bill, instead of promoting harmony, would inevitably produce increased acrimony and ill-feeling amongst the different religious denominations in this country. He would admit that there was a grievance, though not to the extent that was represented; and he was prepared to do that which he believed to be right with a view to the removal of that grievance. But this Bill went much further than dealing with anything like a real grievance. The so-called grievance which the Bill sought to remedy was one resting on what the Dissenters called the denial of the right, on their part, to perform any religious service whatever within the parochial churchyards. He held that the recognition of such a principle was utterly inconsistent with the existence of an Established Church in this country. If it were true that every parishioner had a right of interment in the parish churchyards, and that the relatives of a deceased person had a right to have their own religious service performed in the churchyard, then the claim would not stop there, but the Dissenters would assert a right to have religious services in the churches themselves. The principle involved in this Bill could not be limited to churchyards. [Mr. HADFIELD: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member for Sheffield cheered that remark; but he (Mr. Cawley) did not believe that the opening of the churches to all denominations for religious services would tend to promote Christianity or good feeling amongst classes in this country. He ventured to think that the proper remedy for the grievance complained of was to carry forward the legislation of the last 20 years, and increase the number of public cemeteries. The Bill would not be general in its application. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) did not seek to extend it to every parish churchyard in the kingdom—and why? Because in a large number of parishes provision had been made for cemeteries, which obviated the necessity of the remedy which the hon. and learned Gentleman now suggested. In those cemeteries portions were appropriated to the burial of the bodies of those who differed from the Church of England. These cemeteries now amounted to 541, and nearly all the principal places in the country had one or more. The number of Petitions which had been presented in favour of the Bill was only nine, containing 503 signatures, while the number presented against it was 237, containing 7,934 signatures; and there were 17 others praying for alterations in the law, but against this Bill. If the House was to be guided in any way by public opinion, surely it must come to the conclusion that there was no strong feeling in favour of the Bill on the part of the Dissenters throughout the kingdom. ["Oh, oh!"] He repeated that there was no general feeling in its favour. He suggested that this Bill—which proposed to give any person the right to perform services in the parish churchyard—should be postponed until the question of extending the establishment of cemeteries could be thoroughly discussed. The extension of that system, as proposed by the Burials Act Amendment Bill, which stood for its second reading that day, would largely diminish, if it did not absolutely remove, the grievance on which the hon. Mover of the present Bill rested his case; and, by giving Notice of his intention to oppose the second reading of the Burials Act Amendment Bill, the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Osborne Morgan), in effect, said—"Don't limit the area over which the grievance of the Dissenters extends, because if you do you will cut away the ground from under me." For himself, he was prepared to go further in the direction of the establishment of Burial Boards than the Burials Act Amendment Bill went, and to support in a great majority of cases the compulsory establishment of those Boards. Again, as church rates had been abolished, and there no longer existed a legal fund for the maintenance of parochial churchyards, he thought it was unfair that Nonconformists, after having been relieved of that legal obligation, should now claim the right, not only of interment within the parish churchyards, but of performing any funeral service they pleased there. With the views he had thus expressed, he should move that the Speaker leave the Chair that day month; and he proposed that period, instead of six months, out of respect to the House, which had granted a second reading of the Bill, and also to allow of the discussion of the measure that he had himself introduced.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day month, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Mr. Cawley,)—instead thereof.


said, that having addressed the House on the second reading of the Bill, he did not now propose to go over the same ground again; but the accuracy of some of his statements having been questioned, he had communicated on the subject with leading members of the various Dissenting Bodies in the Principality, and the information he had thus obtained showed that, although the figures he had given were not strictly correct, yet his general statement that a large number—in fact, an overwhelming majority—of the Dissenting chapels in Wales were not provided with graveyards was perfectly true. The following statistics represented the real state of the case:—In Carnarvonshire, the Calvinistic Methodists, the Independents, and the Baptists had. 240 chapels; of these 35 had graveyards, and 205 had none. In Anglesea, the same three bodies had 147 chapels; of these 25 had graveyards, and 122 had none. In Merionethshire, the three Denominations had 173 chapels; of these 46 had graveyards, and 127 had none. In Flintshire, the Calvinistic Methodists and Independents had 113 chapels; of these 13 had graveyards, and 100 none. In Denbighshire, the Calvinistic Methodists and Independents had 133 chapels; of these 27 had graveyards, and 106 had none. In Montgomeryshire, the same two bodies had 155 chapels; of these 27 had graveyards, and 128 had none. The Wesleyan Methodists had in North Wales 210 Welsh chapels; of these 3 had graveyards, and 207 had none. In South Wales, the proportion of those which had graveyards was considerably larger; for instance, in Glamorganshire, there were 332 chapels, of which 162 were without graveyards; but still the majority were without, and for that reason, therefore, the Bill of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbighshire would be a great boon to the Nonconformists of his native Principality.


In supporting the present Motion, I must point out that it is not one to reject the Bill altogether, but merely to defer it for a short time; in order, in the meantime, to advance the Bill of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley), which proposes to treat the main grievance, so far as it is a grievance, in a different manner. My wish is to see that Bill read the second time, in order that it may, together with the present Bill, be sent to a Committee upstairs, with a view of seeing whether it be not possible out of the two to frame some measure which—if we could hope for so Paradisaical result—might become law before the end of a Session which is, as we are told, to last without limit of time. By such an arrangement an opportunity would be afforded for considering what points may fairly and reasonably be conceded on both sides. Something has been said about the comparative number of Petitions both ways; but the fact is, that the number which have been laid on the Table on either side are really insignificant, and cannot be quoted as any true gauge of public opinion on the subject. Stripped of its accessories, the question has narrowed itself to this issue—Shall we or shall we not admit in that certain number of parishes, where other provision does not exist in the shape of cemeteries or parish burial grounds, a burial service in the churchyard different from the burial service of the Church of England, for the use of that portion of the non-Church world who desire a service at the grave itself? From this category must be excluded both the Presbyterians of Scotland who deposit the remains in silence, and the Roman Catholics who perform their service over the body in the Church itself—and so the residuary grievance, as I need hardly show, is still further diminished. Now, the time has come when Churchmen would be fighting under false colours and crying peace where there is no peace, if they do not state in clear and positive—yet, I hope, not offensive—language, that, while they are very anxious for a settlement of the question on the most liberal footing, yet they must make a stand on this matter, and declare that the one point of different burial services in the churchyard is a claim which they can never concede, but which they are prepared to oppose in every possible way. The forces which we see in action—the so-called spirit of the age—may be apparently against us, and we may ultimately be beaten; this will be the fortune of war, but we cannot condescend to purchase a precarious peace at the sacrifice of principle. Still I do not think so unfavourably of the future. I do not only believe that our course is right, but I anticipate that we shall ensure the justice of our claims being felt. The Established Church—that Church which, until that religious census is granted which the Dissenters have so pertinaciously refused us, and in refusing it confessed their own fears as to the revelations which must ensue of those inflated numbers on which they have been living since 1851, I will say is the Church of the decided majority of the people of England—is willing to make any concession in the most generous and conciliatory spirit to our Dissenting brethren, except that of alien services performed in our churchyards. Will any Churchman get up and tell the House that a clergyman of the Church of England has the right to obtrude into a Dissenting churchyard and to perform the burial service of the Church there, thus throwing down the apple of discord and outraging good feeling and good sense? Well, as Churchmen will not violate Dissenting graveyards by services repugnant to the feelings of Dissenters, they claim to reserve their own churchyards for those services only which they can themselves accept. Why do not our opponents regard the controversy in that light? The reason is, because they hold that the Church, being established, should be made to pay smart money in some form or other for the privilege of being established. I do not want anybody to contradict me on this self-evident proposition. You all know that I am stating the truth. I do not blame the opponents of the Church for taking up that position; it is a very good one for the hustings or the stump; but we have not yet reached the state of things in which Churchmen can be put in the dilemma into which the junior Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) and all those who work upon his lines would fain drive them—namely, that they shall either forego their position as an Established Church, or shall retain it only on condition of accepting the intolerable burdens which the liberationists try to lay on their shoulders in virtue of her establishment. If the Church of England were not so deeply rooted in the traditionary affections of the people as she shows herself to be; if she were a bigoted and intolerant body, and stood on the same lines of defence as in the days when George III. was King, our opponents might have some right on their side. But everybody must acknowledge that the character of the Church in relation to its spiritual functions has undergone a most remarkable and very salutary change since a former generation, and that it now relies much less on its State privileges and much more on its spiritual and moral claims to the respect of the whole people. By its revived energy and zeal it had regained its hold of the hearts of a vast portion of the nation. The Church of England now goes forward conquering and to conquer, and why should it at this moment be asked to surrender one of the few bulwarks which it still possesses for its property, its possessions, and its legal rights? That property is now administered for the general good, those possessions are devoted to the spiritual improvement of the people, and those legal rights are not used for anyone's oppression. It is not too much to say that Roman Catholic Emancipation and the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts have been the salvation of the Church of England. In the Endowed Schools Bill and the Elementary Education Bill it has parted with its last claim to anything like an exclusive control over the education of the country; while in its system, its doctrine, and its administration, it admits of as wide differences of opinion as any religious body, still retaining a corporate existence and possessing a definite belief, can possibly be expected to concede. After what was done two years ago in the case of Ireland we must, as honest men and as politicians, see that the property of the Church of England in the fabric of its churches and the soil of its churchyards is unassailable, at least for a very long time to come. The Irish Church was a weak body. It did not reckon more than a sixth of the population of Ireland, and yet it was strong enough to secure the possession, under easy conditions, of its churches, its churchyards, and its glebe-houses. The Church of England is as strong as the Church of Ireland was weak. It is the Church of the majority, as the Church of Ireland was the Church of the small minority, and àfortiori, therefore, viewing the precedent of Ireland, the Church of England, has the right in theory and the determination in practice, to retain church, churchyard, and parsonage. The necessary corollary of this secured possession is, I contend, that the Church itself must be the judge as to the kind of service which should go on within its churches. Are we, then, to say that the property in the burial-grounds surrounding those buildings, and of which, in fact, they form, both in law and by reason and common sense, an integral part, should not only be assailed but surrendered by that Church which has so abundantly established, by the precedent of its weaker counterpart in Ireland, its own right to the continuous possession of those inclosures? It could, hardly be denied that the right to the churchyard for alien services would, by an easy process, involve the right to the use of the Church itself. The rainy-day argument is an unanswerable one. A single thunderstorm will give our opponents the precedent they want; grievances will follow the hailstones on these "rainy days," and will, I doubt not, be specially prepared for production in Parliament. In fact, this argument is almost unanswerable in proof that it will be impossible to introduce alien services into the churchyards without, in a short time, introducing them into the churches. But if the latter question ever be raised it will be fought â outrance. The Established Church and the Dissenters follow what are almost antagonistic systems of Christian worship, and so the attempt to blend them can only result in miserable confusion. If the Dissenters are pleased to use the Church of England's graveyards they must, as we propose, do so upon the easy conditions of performing their own Burial Service over the deceased, either in their own place of worship, or in the deceased's own house. It has been argued that the Bill provides against scandals occurring in the churchyards under its provisions by requiring that the services performed should be of a religious character. I contend, however, that the argument is wholly fallacious. What can "religious" imply but that which the person directly interested himself considers, or affects to consider, to be "religious." The blasphemy of one credo is the religion of another, and there is hardly any test common to differing professions. I may therefore safely assert that the requirement offers no safeguard whatever against any fanatic or enthusiast—whether professing deism, positivism, or Southcoteism—taking advantage of the burial of one of his own faith to deliver a lecture expounding the merits of his creed. Is it just or decent that any chance minister of a Sporadic body should have the right to promulgate his wild theories in the graveyards of the Church of England? Indeed—by the fact of their suggesting the occasion—the so-called safeguards offered by the Bill will be absolutely an invitation to persons to commit acts which would give rise to the very scandals the occurrence of which it is sought to prevent. This question of the Burial Service is exciting a deep feeling among the earnest members of the Church of England. To pass this measure will be to establish a practical grievance on the part of the Church of England against the drift of the national legislation; and I need scarcely say that the Church of England, forced in self-defence to become aggressive, will be a very formidable opponent. Its capacity for making its power felt may be realized by a very simple proportionate calculation. There is not a sect which cannot, although by comparison in the minority, bring its numerical strength to bear with considerable emphasis. The capacity for public influence, therefore, of that sect which is far the largest of all, will, if once it is aroused and united, create a fresh political difficulty, which, for my own part, I advise you not to test. Hitherto the Church has been content to take a merely defensive action; but if it be forced to adopt a different course, and to take advantage of its powerful organization to hold meetings, to appoint committees, to publish pamphlets, to write letters to hon. Members, and to appeal to the country, its efforts will not be found unequal to the occasion. I urge the Dissenters to meet the members of the Church of England half way, and to accept generously the offer which has been made them. I warn them against irritating and alarming Churchmen by their obstinacy. If they do they will be the first to feel how much they have risked by daring to divide the country into two hostile religious camps.


said, in answer to the appeal of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley) for further discussion, that there never had been a subject so thrashed out as the measure before the House. It had been read a second time last year by a majority of 110; it had been before a Committee upstairs for two months; it had then come before the House again, and had been affirmed by majorities almost as decisive. If such a measure was to be the subject of a division and a long discursive debate such as that in every one of its stages, there would be an absolute end to all legislation whatever, for the real majority of the House would virtually be the minority. The hon. Gentleman had dwelt on the small number of Petitions presented in favour of the Bill; but he should remember that in a former year there were no less than 860 Petitions presented in favour of a similar measure promoted by the senior Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield), signed by 99,877 persons, while last year there were no less than 5,000 Petitions in its favour. But persons could not go on petitioning for ever in favour of a Bill, though it seemed they could go on talking for ever against it. He trusted that the House would, without wasting more valuable time, go at once into Committee on the Bill. In answer to another objection, he might state that the Bill of last year contained a provision for the repair of churchyards, and that it was struck out on the suggestion of hon. Members opposite.


, while accepting to its fullest extent the argument of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. B. Hope), agreed with the last speaker that it would be better to go into Committee upon the Bill at once, in order that the Amendments proposed by the hon. Members for Chester and Leicestershire might be inserted in it. They had discussed the question over and over again. The Conservatives had had their divisions upon it; they were beaten last year and the year before; and he thought that they should reserve their opposition for the third reading. The policy of obstinate resistance was not always the wisest policy. Hon. Members had to fight the battles of their constituents; but with the knowledge which they possessed after hearing discussions all round—a knowledge more extensive than that which their constituents could possess. He suggested that where an alternative burial-ground existed, the Nonconformists should not have access to the churchyards; and he thought that in the country, where land was not of great value, little difficulty would be found in providing such alternative places of sepulture. The wisest course for the Church of England to adopt was to meet the attacks upon her, not by strenuous opposition, but by conciliation and by addressing herself to the good sense and feeling of her opponents.


said, it had not been his intention to say anything this year on the subject, as last year he spoke on the second reading of this Bill; but the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard) had called attention to what he said last year, and he (Mr. G. Hardy) thought had overstated it. All he then said was that Dissenters had built for themselves chapels which, in many instances, had graveyards; and when it was remembered that many of those chapels were in towns where there could be no graveyards, and that many of the chapels were rooms, it seemed to him that a large provision had been made for interments. He had been much struck by the figures which had been quoted by the hon. Member, which showed that there were no less than 700 graveyards belonging to Nonconformists in North and South Wales; a statement which he had heard with agreeable surprise, as he had no idea that the Dissenters had anything like that number in that district. The hon. Member for Boston had contended that those who opposed this Bill were precluded from offering further opposition to it, inasmuch as the House had already declared its opinion in favour of it. That was a strange doctrine; but all he could say was, that he wished that the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) would act upon that principle, and, after having been defeated on a recent occasion, would give the Church of England some few years rest. But if they were not to act on the sense of the House on an aggressive Motion, why were they to be debarred from taking a defensive position? Because beaten on the second reading, were they to be deprived of their opposition to going into Committee? The present issue was, he admitted, a very minor one; and the reason he was now speaking on the Motion for going into Committee was that he objected to that particular part of the Bill which had been objected to by his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge. What was the position occupied by the Church of England? It was said that she was a national Church, and no doubt she was in the sense that she offered her services and her religious instruction to all who chose to avail themselves of those advantages; but surely the Dissenters, who had chosen to withdraw themselves from communion with her, could not look upon her in the light of the national Church? If the Dissenters chose to conform to the services of the Church of England, they might have the use of her churches and of her graveyards, but they had declined to do so. Yet they now asked for power to do that which the Church herself had no power to do—namely, to alter her form of service, which had been settled by Convocation and by Act of Parliament. Why should Dissenters be at liberty to do that in a churchyard which it would be "brawling" for a Churchman to do? It was unfair to treat the Church of England as a denomination in some cases—such, for instance, as when the Dissenters objected to pay church rates—and yet to treat her as a department of the State and as a national Church whenever it was sought, as at present, to wrench her rights from her. He paid his allegiance to the Church of England not because she was a member of the State, but because he believed in her doctrines. Supposing his churchyard were insufficient, and he at his own cost enlarged it, was it right for Dissenters to come and claim the enlargement for other denominations with which he had no connection at all? Dissenters said they would leave the Church, and no longer contribute to its support. Well, be it so; and let the Church be supported by those who belonged to it. What was the origin of the Burial Acts? The Burial Acts were passed because Dissenters objected to be driven to Church of England graveyards, and they then admitted that in those graveyards there could be no other service than that of the Church of England. Therefore they asked for cemeteries, and they had taken State endowments for the chapels of their own provided in those cemeteries. Nonconformists did not ask for burial with their services in the consecrated part of cemeteries, and he saw no reason for such a claim being made in regard to parochial churchyards. An alteration of the marriage law was demanded, because in former times Dissenters were compelled to go to the Church of England to be married; but, carrying out the principle upon which this Bill was based, they might refuse to be content with liberty to marry in their own chapels, and demand permission to be married in the churches where their fathers had married, but with the service of the denomination to which they had attached themselves. Once admit the principle, and it would be difficult to close the doors of the church or churchyard to any service, and he believed that such a measure would be detrimental to religion. The Dissenters might as well seek to celebrate their marriages in their own form in the churches of the Established Church, as to bury their dead in their own form in the graveyards of that Church. It was a strange thing that, while in this country Dissenters were so warmly opposed to the ceremonies of the Church of England, they were, when abroad, glad to attend service and even to partake of the communion in churches and chapels of that Church. In a great number of instances those who were called Nonconformists were of the class who used to be called occasional Conformists, and who had no objection to attend the services of the Church of England, and even to communicate in Church of England places of worship where they had no chapels of their own. What he wanted as a Church boundary was, not an elastic circle, which would contain everybody and retain nobody, but that each should have their own. Burial was not a question of religion, but a necessity of State, and ought to be compulsorily provided for where proper provision was not already made; but those who objected to the burial service of the Church of England should withdraw from those places where it was read. He had letters from a great number of clergymen in North Wales, declaring that this was not looked upon as a grievance there; and he was told that the eminent Dissenter, of whom they heard something two years ago, was present about a year before his death at the funeral of a Dissenter, over whom the Service of the Church of England had been read, and when he was asked if he would like to say anything he declined, on the ground that he would not mar the effect of the beautiful service they had just heard. There was not, in his opinion, such a grievance as justified Nonconformists, for the protection of their own consciences, in violating and irritating the consciences of others. He trusted that in the remarks he had made he had said nothing that was unchristian in spirit, and he expressed a fervent hope that in the course of time many of those who had left the communion of the Church of England would return to her fold. The question of burial was one more of State than of religion; but the clergymen of the Church of England would feel deeply the injustice that was done them if this measure were permitted to pass in its present shape. He did not think the provisions contained in the Bill were at all necessary or desirable.


said, he did not know what were the grievances of which the Dissenters had to complain. For his part, he regarded them as speculative rather than practical, and his opinion was that in redressing one they gave the occasion for another to arise. He did not think it desirable that the responsibility should be cast on the clergyman of reading the whole or only a part of the Burial Service; and he had no doubt that the ministers of the great Dissenting Bodies would perform in the churchyards the religious services peculiar to their communion with every propriety; but then, this Bill extended the like right to all persons, no matter what they professed, provided they called themselves religious bodies. Considering that some of the names at the back of the Bill were names of those who voted for disestablishment, he could not look on the measure as a proof of a wish on their part to support the Church, and he, for one, could not give it his support.


said, he believed that the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire felt and understood the encumbrances by which they were embarrassed on that side of the House; he had, in fact, admitted his consciousness of those difficulties. He (Mr. Newdegate) himself detested intolerance in all its shapes. He detested it on that side of the House just as much as he detested it on the other side of the House. He regretted the introduction of that Bill as an attempt to foment intolerance. The Amendment now before the House was an attempt to establish an understanding between the members of the Church of England and the Protestant Dissenters. They were earnest to meet them as far as was possible. To his mind, the definition of the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gr. Hardy) was too narrow. He did not think the attempt to legislate for all Protestants as likely to come within an area circumscribed by the peculiar formularies of one Church possible, owing to different constitution of men's minds. He had rather deal with all, as Christians, who accept the Bible as the foundation of their faith, and recognize their differences within that area, which alone was wide enough. That had been the basis of his action for years; he saw nothing but danger in the attempts that were made to foster intolerance on either side. Some basis of action they must have on this question. He found basis for himself in the acceptance of the Bible; in a fellowship between all who would accept that basis and would endeavour to smooth the differences that must arise from the different constitutions of men's minds. That Bill seemed to foment intolerance on both sides—among the Churchmen and among the Dissenters; and therefore he opposed it, and for the same reason he supported the Amendment now moved by the hon. and learned Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley). He believed that it would afford a fair and reasonable solution of that much vexed question. It formed a basis on which they could come to some understanding. The truth was this—that which was before the House was a question of property. He had himself given property for a churchyard only about two years ago, and he desired to give more. Would it be right and reasonable that he should be deprived of the satisfaction of knowing that the property he gave would be held sacred to the purpose for which he gave it? The same thing applied to Dissenters. Doubtless, many Dissenters had contributed to the erection of chapels. What would be their feelings if those chapels were taken away and applied to other purposes? The case was as simple as was possible. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) had advanced the fact—that there were a large number of chapels without a graveyard. Was he not aware that there were often, especially in Wales, three or four chapels in one parish? And would it be reasonable that for every one of such chapels the House should appropriate a graveyard? Obviously not? But it was obviously reasonable that the House, which had abolished church rates, should take care to provide space for the burial of the dead, and that was the principle contained in the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Salford. The principle of that Bill could not be engrafted on the Bill before the House, therefore he declined to go into Committee, since by the rules of the House the Bill could not be amended in the sense which he (Mr. Newdegate) desired. He did trust that, as time went on, they should arrive at some recognized principle with respect to this question. If they did not, those who desired to assail them all as Protestant Christians—to assail the religion of each—would succeed in introducing themselves between them by fostering an intolerant spirit towards each other, and would eventually bring them into confusion. To attempt that was a distinct policy, which had been pursued for years by the Ultramontane Roman Catholics. It appeared in the time of Charles I. The Jesuits then worked by fomenting intolerance among Protestants, by creating divisions, until at last they produced the confusion which led to the deaths of Strafford, and Laud, and Charles I. These differences tended beyond matters as between one denomination and another; but they expanded, until they destroyed the peace and good order of the State, and thus overturned the welfare of the community; and those who lent themselves to fomenting intolerance, in fact sowed the seeds of confusion hereafter, which might extend to the whole community. He would urge those few considerations on the House, and, in conclusion, he could not help adverting to this—that for 10 successive Sessions he proposed and urged a Bill for the commutation of church rates which, if passed, would have left no real grievance upon Dissenters. He was opposed by hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House of what were called high Church opinions year after year. He urged, that unless amended, the system of church rates would be abolished, and it had been abolished. He now warned his brother Churchmen that if they would not step forward, and show that they were imbued with the tolerant spirit of their own Church, and by promoting some such amendment of the law as suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Salford, although proposals for the disestablishment of the Church of England had been rejected by a large majority, that majority would dwindle, and eventually the Establishment of the Church of England would meet with the fate of church rates. And what would be the result? The Church of England, as a separate denomination, would be more than ever in danger of being imbued with that intolerant spirit which had been manifested by some of those who styled themselves members of her communion, and they would have that additional element of confusion introduced—a sectarian spirit pervading the largest body of united religionists in this country.


said, his opposition to the Bill was not owing to any intolerant feeling against Dissenters. He had no objection to any form of burial service that Dissenters might think proper to use in churchyards, because he believed that on such occasions they would not attempt to do anything disrespectful to the Church of England. But his objection to the Bill was, that it sought to deal with property to which Dissenters were never under any circumstances entitled. A burial ground was the property of the rector of the parish. The freehold of the burial ground was vested in the rector, and the burial ground was set apart for the interment of the inhabitants of the parish who were in communion with the Church of England. The Bill would apply only to small rural parishes where there were no cemeteries; because where there were cemeteries the Bill would not enable a Dissenter to trespass on the property of the Church of England. As to small rural parishes, there was, in point of fact, no grievance on the part of a Dissenter. It might be that a Dissenter had not a right to be buried in the parochial churchyard because he had not been baptized in Church; but clergymen very rarely prohibited the burial of a Dissenter in the parochial churchyard. The grievance put forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Osborne Morgan) was the smallest ever brought before the House of Commons. The Bill would permit the Church of Rome to bring to the churchyards in the country villages all its paraphernalia— its masses, its prayers, and its processions. He did not believe that any Dissenter would assent to that. The Bill being an attack upon the property of the Church of England, he would oppose it at every stage. He could not be accused of intolerance to Dissenters, for he had not only subscribed towards the building of their churches, but had also been the means of obtaining land for the building of their churches and chapels. If the Bill were passed in its present shape it would create a feeling of bitter antagonism in those parishes where heretofore the Dissenter and the Churchman had agreed to dwell amicably together. He thought it would create a feeling of intolerance among landlords, and that they would resent this attack upon their Church by refusing to allow Dissenters to acquire land in parishes that belonged to them. The time might come when the rights of landlords might be very much circumscribed; but, at present, many a landlord owned the whole land of a parish.


, in supporting the Amendment said, he must point out that its object was not to lead to the rejection of the Bill but only to delay its progress for a month, so that it might be considered in conjunction with the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Salford on the same subject. No doubt a grievance did exist which needed remedying; but he believed that this Bill would interfere very much with the peace of country parishes, disturb their quiet and rest, and prove a serious burden upon the ratepayers.


said, he thought the existence of this grievance to Dissenters was most injurious to the Church of England, and that Churchmen were the parties most interested in the removal of this grievance, for he knew of nothing which tended more to create bad feeling in districts throughout the country than the refusal of clergymen to read the Burial Service over persons who had not been baptized. The Bill proposed to remove that grievance, and, therefore, he could not vote for the rejection of the Bill. At the same time, the Bill required amendment, and unless it were amended he could not support it on the third reading.


said, it was only for a few moments he would claim the indulgence of the House; but, representing a large constituency, among whom the members of the Church of England formed the most considerable part, he should not do justice either to himself or them, if he did not express their almost unanimous conclusion against the provisions of this Act. From the Bishop of the diocese to the humblest layman, this feeling had been called forth. It was true he did so with regret; but that regret was that such a Bill had been introduced. The hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Osborne Morgan) had spoken of the number of Petitions sent up, and the national feeling there expressed. Now, holding these Petitions for what they were worth, he drew no such conclusion as that, nor could any just inference be drawn from them except the numerical strength of sects; for by far the larger part of those who signed, the grievance was not even felt. It was said, indeed, that the grievance was a matter of feeling; and, as he did not think that it had a reasonable base, perhaps this was its strongest case. But he must ask, was this sentiment just, for that alone could give it weight? On the other hand, the objections to the Bill were practical enough. Look at the 1st clause for admitting burials without religious services, was that in conformity with the feelings of Englishmen of any class? Then, look at the provision of Clause 5 concerning religious services: were any satisfied with that? What was a religious service? Who could define it, or who could tell what it might introduce? Lately he had fallen under the strictures of the press for his conduct in the administration of justice. In one case there had been disturbance in a place of so-called religious services, and he had advanced the fines it was his duty to inflict. It had prevented the imprisonment of some foolish young men, and he could scarcely regret that. But while he condemned their course, what had been the nature of the proceedings which called it forth? Why, they had scandalized the whole neighbourhood, and as kissing each other had formed a part of the programme, it was not to be wondered at that young men might be tempted to carry it to excess. At all events, the occasion might warn them as to what if this relaxation were made, they might possibly expect. The right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy) had said that, although it was true that instances occurred abroad of religious services of different communion being carried on under the same roof, in this country it could not exist. He concurred in that remark. He might regret the existence of such a feeling; but it must be recognized nevertheless. It was recognized in fact. Did they attempt in their prisons, unions, asylums, in their Army or Navy, among men of different sects. Well, then, let them, like sensible men, accept the actual necessity of the case, and reduce it to order at least. For his own part, he should rejoice to see the day when such a feeling among fellow Christians might no longer exist. He did not expect to see it in his day, least of all, if such Bills as this were to be pressed. He objected to it on this ground, and he thought that many honest Dissenters would share his regret. He should vote against this Bill as one tending to dissension and strife; and in no un-Christian feeling, he should feel fully justified in giving the hon. and learned Member for Salford his unreserved support.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 171; Noes 100: Majority 71.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (After passing of Act notice may be given to incumbent of intention that burial shall take place in churchyard without the rites of Established Church, and either with or without any other religious service).

MR. G. B. GREGORY moved an Amendment to the 1st clause, providing that notice of a funeral should be given personally to the incumbent of a church, and not "by post or otherwise," as set out in the clause.


said, he would accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.


rose to move, in page 1, lines 18 and 19, the omission of the words "and either with or without any other religious service." He was perfectly ready to permit interment without the performance of the service of the Church of England; but he held that the principle of admitting anything that might be deemed a religious service in a Church of England churchyard was utterly inconsistent with a due regard for Christian observances as well as with the idea of any Church existing, whether as a sect or as established by law.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, lines 18 and 19, to leave out the words "and either with or without any other religious service."—(Mr. Cawley.)


said, he must object to the Amendment, on the ground that, if carried, it would be fatal to the object of the Bill, which was to allow Dissenters to be buried in churchyards with their own religious ceremonies. With such an Amendment the Bill would be like the play of Hamlet without Hamlet.


said, if the Amendment were carried it would leave Dissenters in the same position as at present, or, in other words, the religious service might be performed either in the house of the deceased or in the place of worship of the communion to which he belonged. But the fact was, the Committee was asked to do now in part what the House of Commons had, by a large majority, the other day refused to do in the whole. Virtually, the clause as it stood would, as far as the burial grounds of the Church of England were concerned, disestablish and disendow the Church. [Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen from below the gangway cheered; but, if their cheers represented the truth of the case, what was to be said of Her Majesty's Government, who were supporting a Bill which would pro tanto disestablish the Church of England, though the Prime Minister the other day had opposed the disestablishment of the Church? If this Bill would not pro tanto disestablish the Church, then it would lead to concurrent establishment. He must object to the Bill as a first instalment of the principle of disestablishment being carried out in practice. He trusted, therefore, that the House would adopt the Amendment.


said, he heartily supported the Amendment. His noble Friend who had last spoken had correctly stated that this question could be viewed in no other way than as an attack on the principle of an Established Church. They were constantly referred to the fact that in Ireland a law had long been in existence similar to that now proposed. But was the example of Ireland encouraging? Where were now the revenues of the Irish Church? Besides, the case of Ireland was not analogous, because in that country clergymen had not to deal with a great variety of religious denominations, but virtually with only two, the Presbyterians and the Roman Catholics, neither of whom were in the habit of having the burial service read over the grave—the Presbyterian Service being generally performed at the house of the deceased, the Roman Catholic at their own chapel. He had moved for a Return of burial grounds consecrated, unconsecrated, and mixed, but did not persist in the Motion, as Her Majesty's Government had shown that it would be attended with great expense. But if the Return had been made it would have shown that the Dissenters had a vastly greater number of opportunities for burying their dead with their own religious services, in burial places of their own, than was generally supposed. For his part, he could hear of no grievance on their part great enough to call for this Bill. He had made inquiries in his own county, and had never heard of a case, neither had he in any neighbouring counties. They must go to Wales for a grievance, and there, in a particular county, they were told that there were no opportunities of interring Dissenters with their own religious service. But even in Wales there were many more opportunities of doing so than was generally imagined. In 1861 a Bill similar to this was supported on the ground that church rates existed; but, since compulsory church rates were abolished, that reason no longer was a valid one. In the analogous case of the marriage laws, the marriage laws had been altered to meet what was considered a Dissenters' grievance, by allowing marriages before a registrar to those who objected to the service of the Church. Why did they not meet this burial grievance by a similar remedy. He opposed the Bill, because it would do a vast deal of injustice and provoke dissensions where dissensions did not now exist. Feeling strongly on the subject, he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman who had charge of the Bill would accept the Amendment.


said, he regretted that the Committee should be called upon to divide on the words in question before it had been decided by whom the religious service was to be performed. As the Bill stood, it might be performed not only by a minister of any religion, but by any member of the congregation of any religious body. Now, it was, in his opinion, quite right to permit a minister of any recognized religious body to perform the service, and he had been in communication with a clergyman of the Church of England, whose objections to the measure would, he believed, be removed if the Bill were confined to the minister, instead of being extended to the members of any religious denomination. While, therefore, he objected to the omission of the words under discussion, he did so with the full intention of supporting an Amendment hereafter to omit the words, "or member," in the 4th clause.


said, he was opposed to the omission of the words "or member," on the ground that there were some religious bodies who had no recognized minister.


said, he wished to know from the Secretary for the Home Department, whether he still adhered to the opinion which he had on a former occasion expressed, to the effect that the majority of the ministers of the Church of England were in favour of the Bill; and, also, that he would state his opinion on the clause generally.


said, he considered the great object of the Bill was to promote peace between Churchmen and Dissenters. ["Hear, hear!" and "Oh, oh!"] He retained the opinions he expressed on the second reading of the Bill as strongly as ever, and it was unnecessary to repeat them. He considered that the performance of a religious service by a member of a Dissenting community would not be an infraction of that sanctity which they wished to attach to the burial places of their fellow - countrymen of whatever denomination they might be. He still believed that a large number of the ministers of the Church were in favour of its object; but he did not believe with the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire that its passing would be a step towards the disestablishment of the Church.


said, he thought it would not tend to the promotion of harmony that Roman Catholics should be allowed to go to our churchyards and perform services there. He knew of instances in which, instead of a religious ceremony having been performed in a churchyard, a funeral oration was pronounced, and that he decidedly objected to. He should vote for the Amendment.


said, he should vote in favour of the Amendment, believing that it would not be in the interest of peace that funeral orations such as were heard of in a neighbouring country should be spoken of in the parish churchyard.


said, he would remind the Committee that in the Irish Burials Bill passed in 1868 the words "priest or minister of a denomination" were inserted. He knew many persons who would prefer even a Roman Catholic priest performing the service over a member of his flock, if there was to be one, believing that, under such circumstances, it would be performed more decently than it would be likely to be by the members of some extraordinary sects.


said, he would point to a case within his own experience in which a number of Mormonites went down Sunday after Sunday to a particular locality, and, having collected a heap of stones, performed their religious services. It was not at all agreeable to many who lived in the neighbourhood; but they got over all opposition by registering themselves as "Protestant Dissenters." Again, there was a sect known as the Peculiar People, who were so peculiar that they would not, for instance, give their children physic. Could anything be more insulting to the great body of the members of the Church of England than that so-called religious services should be performed in the parish churchyards by members of such denominations as these?


said, he should like to know from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Surrey, whether he was aware that any improper exhibition had ever occurred in those public cemeteries in which Mormons as well as the members of other religious sects had been buried?


said, he had not hesitated to state his opinions to and about Mormons as living persons. What became of them when dead he did not nor did he particularly care to know. The right hon. Gentleman would no doubt be able to have his question answered if he would only make further inquiry for himself.


said, while admitting that there was considerable weight in what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth, he would point out that there was an express provision in the Bill that no service but a religious service should be performed. He (Mr. H. Palmer) also objected to funeral orations, and they were prohibited by the 5th clause; but if the words as they stood were not sufficient, he should be prepared at the proper time to propose others to meet the difficulty.


said, the words of the clause had reference to no religious service.


said, great difficulty would arise where to draw the line with regard to funeral orations. That which was really no better than one might be delivered over any man by merely introducing a few colourable words of a religious bearing at the commencement and conclusion, and then calling it a prayer. Such a discourse might be made most offensive to the religious feelings and spiritual convictions of all who heard it, and yet keep on the safe side of the law.


said, he agreed that the Committee were working at the wrong end of the proposition, but that was the fault of the Bill as drawn. They were compelled to decide first what ought to be considered last.


said, he wished to omit the words only "or member."


Yes. And preserve a really religious service.


I said nothing of the kind.


said, that before the Committee entertained the question whether or not any other religious service should be performed than that of the Church of England they ought first to define what should be a religious service. He believed it to be an impossibility. He might also observe, in reply to the Home Secretary, that what was done by the Mormons in a public cemetery open to them, and when there were no persons present but members of their own body, without being liable to objection, might be intolerably offensive when done in the parish churchyards throughout the country.


said, he thought hon. Members were creating a phantom for the purpose of chasing it. Where Mormon burials had taken place in cemeteries no indecency of conduct had taken place, nor had the feelings of any religious body been outraged. There was no more ground for refusing burial in parish burial grounds than to prevent a corpse from being conveyed along a highway. No practical inconvenience could result from the Bill as it then stood. He would remind the right hon. Member for Morpeth that there were many religious bodies without regular ordained ministers, and they generally obtained the assistance of their members on occasions of burial, but they had always conducted themselves in a proper and reverent manner.


said, he would point out that when last year a similar Amendment had been proposed, providing that services in the graveyards should consist of prayers and passages from the Scriptures, a form of service which would satisfy the feelings of members of all religious denominations, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department had voted against it. If the Committee wished to preserve order and decency in the churchyards they should agree to this Amendment.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 182; Noes 141: Majority 41.

MR. COWPER-TEMPLE moved the omission of the Proviso at the end of the clause (requiring the use by clergymen of the Burial Service prescribed by the Church) on the ground that it was totally unnecessary for any good purpose, and that it prevented any modification being made to suit special circumstances.

Amendment proposed, in line 22, to leave out from the word "Provided" to the end of the Clause."—(Mr. Cowper-Temple.)


said, he must support the clause as it stood.


said, he thought that the Proviso was not material, because, whether the words were in or out, no clergyman of the Church of England would be allowed to read any service other than that prescribed by the Church.


said, he thought the words mere surplusage. He was, however, against giving to the clergy the opportunity of indulging in vagaries of which the laity had too much already in sermons. It was the privilege of the laity in the services of the Church to know what they were going to hear, and that was a privilege he should not like to forfeit.


said, the Proviso was inserted at the instance of the Select Committee lest, under the general wording of the Bill, clergymen might think themselves authorized to perform some other service than that of the Church of England. He did not believe that the absence of the Proviso would give such an authority; but having voted for the Proviso in the Select Committee, he should not vote against it now.


said, he was of opinion that the words might serve a beneficial purpose, and should be retained.


said, the case was covered by the Act of Uniformity, which prevented clergymen from making use of any other service than that of the Church.


said, he should support the Amendment, for fear that the retention of the words might have a prejudicial effect in reference to religious liberty.


observed, that it was possible that that Bill might over-ride the Act of Uniformity, and therefore that it would be prudent to retain the clause.


said, he had been inclined at first to think that the Proviso was mere surplusage; but after the discussion he should vote for the retention of the words, because by adopting that course no harm could be done. Further than that, it was no object of the Bill to alter the status of the clergyman of the Church of England.


said, he thought that the freedom given to other ministers in respect of the service performed at the grave should be extended to the clergy, and would by-and-by propose words with that object.


said, he would vote for the omission of the Proviso, not with a view to give greater latitude to the clergy, but because he regarded the words as unnecessary.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 155; Noes 141: Majority 14.


said, that while wishing to give to Dissenters all the liberty they could reasonably claim, he thought there should be some security for the character of the religious service at the burial; and he, therefore, proposed to add the words— Provided that any service, if not according to a published Ritual, shall consist only of prayer, hymns, or extracts from Holy Scripture. He believed that those words would meet the feelings of all religious Bodies.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Clause, to add the words "Provided that any service, if not according to a published Ritual, shall consist only of prayer, hymns, or extracts from Holy Scripture."—(Mr. J. G. Talbot.)


said, he thought the right place to insert such words was in Clause 4.


said, these words would be offensive to Dissenters, and thought they might safely leave something to the good sense and good feeling which were shown over the grave of a deceased relative. Even in a prayer, there might be something more than supplication; so that the Amendment really gave no such security as was intended.


said, he believed that the words would be valuable; and added that they were in the first Bill introduced upon this subject by Sir Morton Peto. Notwithstanding this fact, they were now told that the words would be offensive to Dissenters.


said, he had great confidence in the good sense of the various religious communities in such a matter as this; and was sure the Committee might trust to it. As a supporter of the Established Church, he objected to define by legislation the religious services of non-established communities.


said, if no man was ever interred except by sorrowing relatives, there would be some foundation for the objection to these words; but were there no such things as public and quasi-public funerals, or polemic funerals, when the extravagant leader of some obscure sect was buried with a view to the notoriety of his following? In passing any law it was necessary to guard against abuses, and the danger here was lest funerals should be taken advantage of for ulterior and non-religious purposes. In the Select Committee the words now proposed were only thrown out by the casting vote of the Chairman. This proposal was not an attempt on the part of Churchmen to define the religious services of other Bodies; it was an attempt by those Bodies to force themselves into the property of the Church, towards the support of which they refused to contribute anything; and if those Bodies objected to legislation for their religious services, they should cease trenching on other people's property. They might hold whatever services they pleased anywhere but in the churchyards, which were, since the abolition of compulsory church rates, emphatically the personal property of Churchmen, on whom had devolved the expense of their maintenance.


said, he had voted against these words as Chairman of the Committee, believing it was an attempt to define that which could not be defined. Prayers and hymns were incapable of a strict definition, and that might be said in the course of a prayer which would be little less objectionable than what was said in the course of an address. Then, also, the shocking scenes described by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. B. Hope), which were so much to be deprecated at funerals, occurred, if anywhere, in crowded towns where there was a public cemetery, while the cases to which this Act applied were comparatively rare, and occurred chiefly in the rural districts.


said, he agreed that it was no part of the duty of the Legislature to impose a ritual upon a non-established sect. The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. B. Hope), in his (Mr. Osborne Morgan's) opinion, begged the question of the national character or otherwise of these churchyards; while, as for the Amendment, it either went too far, or not far enough. It prohibited a religious discourse or sermon which might be quite unobjectionable. On the other hand, prayers which it permitted might possibly be objectionable, and they had removed from the Church Service those formerly appointed for November 5 and January 31, on the ground that they were offensive.


said, he was sorry to find that that Amendment was opposed by hon. Members on the other side, whom he had hitherto been able to support; but he could not do so on that point. It was said they should trust to the good sense and good feeling of Nonconformists; and yet the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire told them that most offensive matter would be introduced into prayers. [Mr. OSBORNE MORGAN: I said "possibly."] He could not believe that Nonconformists would object to this Amendment, which removed the only objection he had felt to the Bill. But supposing it was resisted, many hon. Members would have misgivings as to the support they had given to the measure. Some time since three men were executed for a murder at Manchester, and immense excitement prevailed in the country in reference to the crime, and had an opportunity been given the most inflammable speeches might have been delivered at the funeral on that occasion. It was against such possibilities that this Amendment was intended to guard.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 144; Noes 146: Majority 2.

On Question? "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill,"

COLONEL BARTTELOT moved that it be rejected, stating that after such a close division he should feel bound to divide against the clause. He denied that the majority of the laity of the Church of England were, as stated by the Home Secretary, in favour of the Bill, and he objected to any service but that of the Church of England being performed in the churchyards belonging to the Church of England.


said, he had not met with any Churchman who was not a political partizan who liked this measure; and he knew that many Nonconformists feared that it would lead to the introduction of political topics into funeral services, so as to be a scandal to religion.


said, he thought that Nonconformists generally were beginning to think many members of their own body more political than religious; and rather than run the risk of unseemly scenes, they would prefer to have the service of the Church of England read at funerals. He was of opinion that if there was more independence of feeling amongst hon. Members, measures of this kind would not receive so much support; but some of them acted like delegates, and might as well vote by telegraph. He supported the Amendment.

Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 149; Noes 127: Majority 22.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.