§ Order for Second Reading read.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it might be shortly described as a measure authorizing burials in the churchyards of parishes not provided with public cemeteries, either with a religious service or without a religious service, other than the service of the Church of England, subject to certain restrictions and qualifications pointed out in the Bill. As that was the third year in which he had had the honour of introducing the Bill, and as not only every aspect of the question, but almost every detail of the Bill, had been fully discussed in that House and before Select Committees, he should have been content to abstain from comment, had not misconceptions arisen as to the change which the Bill proposed to effect. The Bill had been persistently denounced as an invasion of the vested rights and privileges of the clergy of the Church of England. He maintained that, properly viewed, it was nothing of the kind. The right of burial in the parish burial-ground was a civil right, not an ecclesiastical 350 right. It belonged to the parishioner—quâ parishioner, and not quâ Churchman. It was a right arising out of the necessity of the case. Originally it was a right to be claimed by the laity, not to be enforced by the clergy; but now the case was reversed, and what was intended for the comfort of the laity was become a privilege of the Church. What was claimed by the clergy of the Church of England existed nowhere else. It did not exist in Rome or in France. They must go to the South American States—to Chili, for example—to find anything analogous. The grievances he sought to redress were by this time notorious. The Dissentere were aggrieved because their dead could not be buried in in their own parish churchyard according to their own religious rites; some of the clergy were aggrieved because they were prevented by law from doing that which common Christianity required of them; and the whole Christian community were offended because some of the clergy, under cover of the law, committed acts which became a scandal to the Church. He would not weary the House by recapitulating the arguments in favour of the Bill, which was substantially the same as that of last year, nor would he repeat the many cases in which the existing law had given rise to disgraceful scenes in parish churchyards. One fresh instance, however, of a monstrous character had occurred during last autumn. A clergyman had actually had an unbaptized child removed from a coffin, where its twin brother or sister lay, beside the grave, and while the one was buried in the corner of the churchyard "like a dog," the other received Christian burial. The only alternatives proposed by those who opposed him were either that the Dissenters of each parish should be provided with a separate burial-ground at the expense of the rates, or that Dissenters should be interred without any burial service. The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley) said—"Why not get burial-grounds of your own?" Where was the money to be got? What would the hon. Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) say to having an additional burden of £1,000,000 thrown on the ratepayers in the shape of local taxation? But, apart from the pecuniary consideration, what a reproach to religion if every parish in the kingdom 351 were to be dotted with two burial-grounds, one labelled "Church," and the other "Dissent." Then the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope) said—"Why not have Dissenters interred in the parish burial-ground without any religious service at all?" He would treat Dissenters like unbaptized persons or felos de se. That suggestion cut the ground from under his own feet and left him no locus standi. Then it was said that Dissenting preachers might convert the graveyards into places of attack against the Church, and for making political speeches. There was a clause in the Bill which provided that the burial service should be conducted in a decent and solemn manner, and should be of no other than a religious character. It would be impossible that anything should occur, and the hon. Gentleman's suggestion involved the lowest estimate of human nature. Did they really suppose that any man could convert the one moment in life which ought to be sacred to higher and holier influences—"quelling the embittered spirit's strife"—into an occasion for hurling a vituperative philippic at the head of a political enemy? Did they believe that Dissenters were not men? Did they arrogate for the members of their own Church the sole possession—he would not say of Christian virtues, but of human feelings? Really he was ashamed to press the argument further. He hoped he would hear no more of it. The only other argument against the Bill, and which was a purely legal fiction, was that the burial-ground was the property of the Church—what he might term the "thin-end-of-the-wedge" argument. Some feared that if the Dissenters were admitted to the churchyard, a rainy day might cause them to take refuge in the church porch, and if the Dissenters ever managed to get into the church, they would, in all probability, never be got out. He reminded those who used this argument, that they would never save the Church by preserving its abuses. In conclusion, he would remark that on former occasions his Bill had been defeated by a resort to technical expedients rather than to arguments; but he was inclined to think from the straightforward character of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Birley), that a more manly opposition would be carried on 352 against the Bill. Should it be otherwise, he would say that a very grave responsibility would rest on the opponents of the Bill; for upon them would rest the responsibility of drawing down upon the House the greatest discredit which could befal a Legislative Assembly, by proving to demonstration that it was grown unequal to the work for which it existed. But that was not all; for upon them would rest the still graver responsibility of keeping open a question which, in the interests of the country, in the interests of religion, and, most of all, in the interests of the Church of England, ought to be settled without a moment's delay, Upon them, too, would rest the responsibility of proclaiming and maintaining the odious doctrine that death, which healed all other differences should not heal the difference between Christian and Christian, and that these miserable denominational dissensions, which, compared to the great truths which united us, were but the shadow of a name, should be fought out to the bitter end.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Osborne Morgan.)
§ MR. BIRLEY
, in moving as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said he did so with regret, because, while on the one hand, it might be said that the Bill was intended as a well-meant effort to restore to all the parishioners their common rights to the use of the burial-grounds for interment, freed from restrictions to which they might conscientiously object, on the other hand, the most earnest Churchman might well rejoice that many of those parishioners who, either from conviction or association, had deserted the faith of their forefathers, were at last brought to repose in consecrated ground under the shadow of the parish church. But the question could not be dealt with as one of sentiment, or in a superficial manner, because in reality it involved the whole question of disestablishment. It was impossible to entirely detach the churchyard from the church itself. The churchyard was the curtilage of the church. The curtilage was held under well-known and well-defined restrictions. The churchyard was the freehold of the minister, and, although the House had been told that that was a mere legal fiction, he believed that it was the fact 353 that the clergyman had the right to cut down the trees of the churchyard for the repairs of the chancel, though for no other purpose, because the trees were intended, in the first place, for the shelter and the ornament of the church. The churchwardens, too, were responsible for decent conduct in the churchyard, and for the repairs of the fencing by which it was surrounded. The Church Burial Service was conducted partly within and partly without the walls of the church; and if the Bill were passed, it would be felt to be a grievance if the Nonconformists could not act in precisely the same manner as the Church people, and, in fact, conduct their services in the parish churches as well as in the churchyards. Then, how was the churchyard to be kept up? What was to take the place of the old church rate? Was the expense to be left to the parochial rate? Or was it to be left to private benevolence? Many cases would arise in which it would be awkward to refuse the church itself to Dissenters. Supposing, for instance, a Nonconformist funeral were overtaken by a storm? One could easily imagine the sensational paragraphs that would appear in the local newspapers, if the parish minister refused the shelter of the church roof in the pelting and merciless storm, showing how, while the rector of So-and-so sat warm and snug in his comfortable library, his poor Non-conforming parishioners were kept waiting in the churchyard, drenched to the skin by the pitiless storm, or else were obliged to take refuge in some neighbouring alehouse, because the hard-hearted rector kept the doors of the parish church inhospitably closed against them. The hon. and learned Member's (Mr. Osborne Morgan's) Bill, therefore, would only be a prelude to another, declaring that nothing but the unqualified use of the parish church would satisfy Nonconformists. Although the hon. and learned Member professed his contentment if admitted to sepulture in the churchyard, that was not the feeling among Nonconformists themselves, for at a meeting held in Manchester last week, at which 1,800 people attended, a resolution was passed, claiming for all, all the rights of sepulture which were granted to any. In fact, he thought the Bill would create more grievances than it would remove. The suggestion as to providing public cemeteries would remove the difficulty. 354 It was said that the cost of that would be enormous, something like £10,000,000. The hon. and learned Member did not furnish any data for this; but he had exaggerated to a large extent. It would not be necessary to provide cemeteries in every parish; many of them were already provided; many of them would unite for a common cemetery. Desirable as it was that all of them should at last come into a common resting-place, the prevalence of separate places for the interment of Churchmen, Roman Catholics, and Nonconformists, showed the predominance of an opposite feeling. Another obstacle also in the way of the passing of the Bill was the fact that in many cases land had been given for the enlargement of burial-grounds; and in other cases, parishioners had given donations for like purposes. It might be easy to add to these arguments, but prolonged discussion had been deprecated, and he therefore suggested that the best plan would be to postpone the whole matter, and include it in the general question of disestablishment, to be brought on by the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall), of whom the hon. and learned Member was a faithful follower. The hon. Member concluded by moving the rejection of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Birley.)
§ MR. RAIKES
remarked that the Bill, unlike most measures coming from the Ministerial side of the House, was rather behind time; it should have been submitted before the church-rate question was settled; when that abolition took place the main argument in its favour was swept away. The great objection to the measure was founded on the simple rights of property. It was not right to transfer from the Church of England property always enjoyed by it, to become public property. But this did not sufficiently describe the proposal of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Osborne Morgan). He not only wanted to make the property of the Church public property, but sought to bring about a state of things under which the Church of England would be the only religious community which could not claim for itself an 355 exclusive plan of burial. And what provisions did he make for the prevention of scenes which he himself would hold to be a desecration of the churchyard? He provided that any religious ceremony might be carried on in the parish churchyard at the burial of a parishioner, provided only it was a religious ceremony. Why, even that extraordinary religious sect which figured the other day in a police court, whose services consisted chiefly of dancing, and who had their place of worship under one of the railway arches of the metropolis, would, he supposed, have the right, if this Bill were assented to, to celebrate their religious services in the churchyards of the country! The main objection made by the chief promoters of the Bill to the measure of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley), introduced last year, was that it would entail an expenditure of something like £10,000,000 for the purchase of Dissenting burial-grounds. Now that was obviously a great mistake, for assuming that only about 10,000 out of the 20,000 parishes in the country would require those graveyards, and that half an acre would be adequate for each, the whole cost, at £50 per acre, would scarcely reach £250,000 instead of the sum of £10,000,000; and those who undertook that expenditure would be very soon recouped from the fees that would be received for interments. He was sorry that the hon. and learned Member did not accede to an Amendment which he (Mr. Raikes) moved last year in the 9th clause; because, if he had done so, one of his great objections to the Bill would then have been removed. His Amendment was, that on the Secretary of State's approval of one of those graveyards being signified, the vestry should be compelled to accept it. He objected to giving the vestry an option in the matter, believing that some of those bodies would be tempted to refuse their acceptance, by their desire to maintain a system of interments that proved most irritating to the incumbents. The hon. and learned Member had introduced his Bill at so early a period this year, that many hon. Members who were opposed to its principle were as yet unable to take their seats in that House. The majority which supported the hon. and learned Member two years ago had diminished from 100 to 60 in the last year. Since that time five new elections had 356 taken place, and out of them four new Members hostile to the measure were returned in the places of an equal number of hon. Gentlemen who had supported it on the previous occasion. Surely this should lead the House to the conclusion that public opinion was not in favour of the hon. and learned Member's proposition.
§ MR. MONK
said, that although he had voted for the second reading of the Bill last year, and intended to do so again this year, he wished to guard himself against being supposed to approve of all its details. He admitted that a grievance in the case of the Nonconformists existed in respect to the question, which hon. Members on both sides, he believed, were desirous of removing, if that could be done without the sacrifice of principle. It appeared to him that the parish churchyards should be thrown open to all religious sects, under this condition—that if there were to be any religious service performed, it should be only that of the Established Church. The 1st clause might be easily amended to carry out that principle, whilst recognizing the right of burial to all sects with or without that particular religious service. He hoped that the measure would be agreed to by a considerable majority, and that it would be sent up early to the other House for their acceptance.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he should be perfectly satisfied with the measure if the principle just suggested by the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) were embodied in it—namely, that if a religious service were performed it should be that only of the Church of England. Upon that condition he, and he thought the whole House with him, would most heartily assent to a measure giving Nonconformists, and all other Dissenting sects, the right to bury their dead in the parish churchyards quietly and silently. But he believed that that arrangement would not satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman, and the party with whom he acted in reference to this question, inasmuch as they demanded that all religious sects should have equal rights in respect to the use of those burial-grounds. To such a principle he most emphatically objected, and he should protest against it. It appeared to him that the Bill was an unjust one, because it claimed for a very small minority those rights which 357 belonged to a large majority of the people of this country. Some little difficulty might, no doubt, have arisen in Wales in respect to this matter, but, taken as a whole, he did not consider that any great difficulty or grievance existed on the side of the Dissenters; and that if there did, a Bill which was now in "another place" and which might come down to them at a future day, was far nearer attaining those ends than the measure now under consideration. He believed that if this Bill were passed they would be giving up one of the outworks of the Church. He for one would never assent to doing so. He was prepared to fight for the citadels and outworks belonging to it, with a view to maintaining that Church which he loved, and which he believed to have proved an unmixed benefit to the country. He should, therefore, decidedly vote against the second reading.
§ MR. MORLEY
believed, if they could have a proper security for the character of the religious service which might be performed in the churchyards, that nine out of ten thoughtful men in England would be thankful to have the question settled. All persons concurred in thinking that there ought to be some religious service at the time of committing the body to the ground, and he felt that the Nonconformists generally would entertain a great objection to excluding such service, especially when they were in the act of depositing the body in the grave. The Bill proposed to enable parishes to accept gifts of land for the purpose of constructing cemeteries. It applied to no parish in which there was a public cemetery, or in which the churchyard had been purchased within the last 50 years. The Bill was intended to meet the case of a parish in which there were no means of interment except in the churchyard. He submitted that, if security could be taken that the service should be brief, solemn, and real, excluding everything irregular or contrary to the convictions of religious persons, they would remove out of the way a great cause of bitterness. He was certain that Churchmen were weakening their case by keeping this question open, and strengthening the hands of those who were seeking to attack the Establishment. He held in his hand a letter from the Rev. Joseph Litton, a Wesleyan minister at Gravesend, describing a painful incident 358 which had recently occurred in his district—namely, the refusal by a clergyman to read the service over the body of the deceased daughter of a Wesleyan Methodist, aged 18, on the ground of her not having been baptized in the Established Church. When there were no other facilities for the burial of the dead in such a case, he said that constituted a great grievance. He would, therefore, vote for the second reading of the Bill, and should be very glad to consider with hon. Gentlemen opposite any fair compromise which would secure to Nonconformists the right to which as Englishmen they were distinctly entitled.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
said, he was very pleased to hear from the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley)—than whom there was no abler or more candid member of the Nonconformist Body—the expression of a desire to have that question fairly settled; and if he himself saw any hope of its being so settled by that Bill, or by any amicable arrangement such as the hon. Gentleman had suggested, he should not wish to oppose the second reading. The hon. Member for Bristol last year said that what he wanted was a fair Burials Bill. Churchmen desired that also; but, to be fair, the Bill must have relation to both sides of the question, and should recognize the rights alike of Churchmen and of Dissenters. If the Bill embodied the Amendments suggested by the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) they might not object to it; but that measure ignored the rights of the Church of England. That was, he believed, the 11th year in which that had been made a Parliamentary question, first in the hands of Sir Morton Peto, and then in the hands of the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan); and the basis of a settlement was recommended by a Committee which sat in 1862, and of which the present head of the Government was an active Member. The recommendation of that Committee was that there should be interment for all parishioners in the parish churchyard, but that if there was to be a religious service there it should be the service of the Established Church. That basis of a settlement had, however, been rejected. He saw no distinction in principle between the use of consecrated churchyards and the use of consecrated churches; and, if the former were to be opened to 359 the religious services of all denominations, then, logically, so also ought the latter. Churchmen conceded the right of every parishioner to interment within the parish churchyard; and if it was said that additional facilities for interment were required, they were willing to give them freely and to afford every means of multiplying cemeteries and burial-grounds. But within the churchyards set apart by law for the service of Almighty God, they insisted that if any religious service was performed it should be that of the Church of England and no other. He wished that the spirit animating the hon. Member for Bristol equally animated the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire. The hon. Member for Bristol had said he should be glad to see services allowed, and that they should always be of a religious character; but when they attempted in a Committee upstairs to define what those services should be, and to provide that they should consist of prayers, extracts from Scripture, or hymns, they always found a minority objecting to such conditions. Could not hon. Gentlemen, before going into Committee on this Bill, agree to some concessions? As long as the Nonconformists insisted that there should be a service in the churchyards, which might not be the service of the Church of England, they might expect to meet the determined resistance of that (the Opposition) side of the House. He had no doubt that the second reading would be carried that day by a large majority; but if hon. Gentlemen opposite sincerely desired to arrive at some settlement in the present year, he hoped they would take into consideration the recommendations of the Committee of 1862. If they did not, those sitting on his side would be obliged, as in previous years, to fight clause by clause, and line by line, a Bill which, in order to remedy a small grievance, violated a great principle. But, assuming that the Bill was forced through that House by diminishing majorities, they could hardly expect it to receive a very cordial welcome in "another place," whence it would most probably come back to them, if it came back at all, materially altered. If the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire would be prepared to accept such changes in the measure, then let him accept them now. If, on the other hand, the hon. and learned Member wished to 360 throw over legislation on the subject this year, so be it. There was no Royal Warrant that would open the churchyards of the Established Church to Nonconformist ministers, Roman Catholic priests, or Mormon elders.
MR. HINDE PALMER
said, that if a compromise was to be promoted, the subject must be approached in a very different spirit from that in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Mowbray) had just addressed the House. The uncompromising character of the Bill was justified by the opposition which had been shown to it in that House, for anything more unjustifiable than the manner in which that opposition had been conducted he had never known. They were told that the grievance to be remedied was a small one. But he found that a right reverend Prelate stated in the course of last Session in "another place" that the grievance under which the Dissenters laboured was one of a most serious description, of which they had a fair right to complain. But the remedy which was proposed was, that there should be no service whatever over the grave, for to have any other service than that of the Church of England would, said the right rev. Prelate, interfere with the principle of an Established Church. Now, it struck him that if they were to respect the conscientious feelings of Dissenters and the wishes of their fellow-countrymen, it was rather too bad to say that they should not be allowed to perform any religious service at all over the bodies of such of their members as were interred in the parochial churchyards. There was the almost silent, and, no doubt, solemn service of the Society of Friends; and, for his own part, he had attended such an interment, and was ready to agree that a member of his family should be so buried, rather than have no service at all; but that was not the opinion of Dissenters generally. That contrary feeling had a right to claim to be respected, and last Session he proposed Amendments in Committee which would have attained that object if the measure had passed. The whole contest lay in this—whether there was to be no service at all, or whether there was to be a religious service performed under such restrictions that it should not offend the scruples of any person whatever. Only that morning he received 361 from a Dissenting minister a letter, in which he stated that a child of the Methodist community had died; that before death the recognized minister of that denomination had baptized the child; that when the child was taken to be buried the clergyman refused to allow burial unless it was done without any service whatever; and that the parents and friends of that child were obliged to submit to its burial just the same as if it had been a case of felo de se. He thought that Dissenters had a right to complain of the law that permitted such a state of things. He should vote for the second reading, and in Committee he would be prepared to move clauses which should secure that the burial service performed in the parish churchyards should be of a sacred and Christian character, and such as was customarily performed by the different religious denominations of the country.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, that the House approached the question under the disadvantage of its raising a much wider issue than the mere words of the Bill. He was compelled to look at the question in connection with the ulterior objects avowed by the Conference of Nonconformists lately held at Manchester. At that Conference a platform of principles was laid down as the basis of a Nonconformist agitation which had been set on foot throughout the country. The seventh head of that programme consisted of two paragraphs—the first laid down thatNo amendment [of the marriage laws] can be satisfactory to the Nonconformists which does not provide for the absolute equality of all citizens before the law.What equality on that matter could be conceded by Parliament beyond what now existed he could not conceive, unless it was that the Dissenting minister was to walk into the church, and perform the marriage ceremony there according to the forms of his own sect. ["Question!"] That was to the question. Again, in the second paragraph of this same seventh head the Manchester Conference—Claims equal right for all citizens in the National or Parochial Churches and burial grounds, and, while just regard is had to vested interests, this Conference protests against any exclusive privileges being accorded to any section of the community in the interment of the dead.The House would notice the pregnant significance 362 of the claim, which was virtually for the use of the church for Nonconformist marriage services being bracketed under the same head as that for the churchyards for burial services. When anyone can marry and bury in our churches and churchyards, it will not be long before they will make their claims good to use them for all other kinds of ministration. But to return to the Bill. The ostensible controversy had now been narrowed to the single point of whether the churchyards should be available for the interment of all persons without any burial service, or whether any service peculiar to the denomination to which the deceased in his lifetime had belonged should be performed. That was a distinct, firm, and sharp issue involving both principle and detail. With few eccentric exceptions, like that of the Queen's chaplain, Churchmen throughout the country were resolved and determined that they could accept no such offer as the second alternative, while they were not only willing but anxious to ratify the former one. They had, as late as last year, only cautiously ventured to refer to what was known as the rainy-day argument for the possible use of the church in bad weather by Nonconformist funeral managers; but what was last year timidly raised as a possible contingency, and as an evil that might grow out of this Bill had, in the intervening twelvemonth, actually been flaunted in their faces as a claim by the body which professed to represent the leaders of that movement. The Manchester demand was not only for the "National or Parochial Burial-grounds," but also for the "Church." He felt therefore bound to declare that until the hon. Members for Bristol and Leeds (Mr. Morley and Mr. Baines), who were looked up to in that House as the spokesmen of conscientious and conciliatory Dissent—until they got up and disclaimed the authority of that Conference at Manchester, that Conference must be recognized as speaking the authorative voice of Nonconformity, and so it was idle any longer to contend that the Bill was not the first step to the concession of the church as well as the churchyard for the burial service. Let them open the church to the performance of all services in connection with an interment, and where would they pull up? "Equality in the marriage 363 law"—which, meant the use of the church for marriages according to Nonconformist forms—would follow; nor would they stop there. He would appeal to the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) to say whether, if the House acceded to the seventh clause set forth in the Manchester programme, they could consistently resist the further demand for the alternative use of the churches of the Establishment by all or any sect for any act of worship they might be pleased to perform in it? The Manchester Conference was but the pioneer of the movement—the pilot balloon thrown up by its leaders. In the background stood the hon. Member for Bradford—not the right hon. Member for Bradford—there was a marked distinction between the two—who would then come forward with his demand for the disestablishment of the Church. Putting two and two together—comparing the interim demand of the Manchester men for the use of churches to marry and to bury in with the ultimatum of the hon. Member for Bradford—he inferred that Churchmen, after being disestablished, were not, in the intention of the disestablishment agitators, to go out with undisturbed possession of their own property, the old parish churches, the new district churches, and the consecrated burial-grounds. In short, the Church of England, because she was very powerful; because she enlisted the love and sympathy, and in general the communion of so very large a portion of the people of this country, was not to be allowed, under similar circumstances, the same privileges as had been unanimously conceded to the Church of the minority in Ireland when disestablished. He felt compelled to take this slight leap into futurity, because in the face of the preposterous claims advanced by the Manchester Conference, it was absurd to treat the burials question as if all its consequences were contained within the four corners of the Bill. What was offered in the measure which came down from "another place" last year, and which was now again before that other Assembly, met all the reasonable requirements of their opponents on this subject. Churchmen did not wish to interfere with any religious service that might be performed either in the house or at the place of worship of a deceased Dissenter, 364 or to prohibit any interment in a churchyard unaccompanied by service; and they were ready to offer the utmost facilities for the acquisition of land in parishes for interments with any forms that did not contravene the primary laws of decency and good order. As to clergymen who declined to read the burial service over those who had received Dissenting baptism, he admitted that there at least was a grievance, but it was a grievance totally outside the present proposal. He could only say that such clergymen did not understand the laws of the Church in which they ministered. But the remedy for that was not to be sought in that House nor in the present Bill. The Church had fully shown that it could grapple, in its own legislative capacity, with what were called religious grievances, and judging from the events of the past week, if the Church were allowed liberty in its corporate character to express its views, it would very soon proclaim that baptism by Dissenters established a claim to Church of England burial which no clergyman would thereafter dare to refuse. In conclusion, it was his duty to warn the party opposite that if they forced the Church into a political agitation they would kindle such a flame in the land as neither they nor their children would be able to quench. He should regard such a contingency as a grave misfortune to the State, and still more so as to religion itself. Any religious body throwing itself into a political agitation, except under an extreme political necessity, was, he thought, oblivious of its duty; but cases might occur in which it would be its paramount duty to assume such an attitude. The Dissenters had just been doing so, without an adequate justification. The late Conference at Manchester was an example of such recklessness; and it was already producing sufficient confusion throughout the country. The Church of England was a larger and more powerful body than the united phalanx of the Nonconformists, and let it be driven to feel that it was sorely aggrieved by the action of the State, force it to unite as one man to resist that State, and carry its wrong before the House and the country, and then the men whose folly had precipitated the crisis would be responsible, for that would at once set up a condition of civic antagonism which would become 365 the normal condition of the body politic, to the extinction of those old relations of amity between citizens which all right thinking persons desired to maintain. He trusted that such a contingency would never arise, and he would do all in his power to avert it; but there was one thing which Churchmen would not yield to their opponents—there was one thing against which they would fight to the bitter end—and that was the claim to hold alien services in their churches and churchyards. They might, in the long run, fail, or they might succeed, but they never could capitulate, convinced, as they were, that concession on this head would be the abasement of the Church's birthright.
§ MR. MIALL
said, that having been referred to so pointedly by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope), he now rose to say a few words. He had never before spoken on that subject in the House; he had simply by his vote affirmed the principle of the measure. Indeed, he did not take any great interest in it, except as it branched from another question in which he took a very deep interest; when he spoke, however, he was not inclined to put his opinion into language that was unintelligible either to his friends or foes. In the Bill before the House the Dissenters simply claimed a right—they did not ask a concession. The House had just been listening to a great deal of speaking which was pervaded by an air—probably an unconscious air—of superiority on the part of Churchmen over Dissenters. It appeared to be assumed by those who opposed the Bill that the churchyards belonged to the members of the Church of England to the exclusion of the Dissenters, but in that they were utterly wrong, because being the property of the national Church, the churchyards belonged as much to the Dissenters as they did to the members of the Church of England. The members of the latter Church were not going to be allowed to appropriate the churchyards to themselves, or to lord it over the Dissenters as though the latter were inferior to themselves in the position which they occupied under the law of this realm. All that the Nonconformists asked was that they should be allowed to exercise their common rights as citizens and parishioners with regard to the churchyards. 366 The compromise that had been offered to them was, either that they might if they liked be buried in the churchyards, but that if they chose to be buried in them they must be content with the burial of a dog without any service being performed over their graves, or else, if they could not bring themselves to accept that great concession, then that they might have provided for them at the public cost a separate place of burial as though they were unfit, even when dead, to be placed beside the members of the Church of England. All he desired to say was, that he was disposed to accept of no compromise which would get rid of the rights of the Nonconformists as citizens and as parishioners to share in all the advantages afforded by churchyards.
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Miall) appeared to forget that the Church service was appointed by statute to be read long before Nonconformity was known, and that it was simply to preserve good order in the churchyards that that service was appointed to be read. One complaint he had to make against the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire was, that he provided in his Bill no substitute for the present service. He should like to hear the hon. and learned Member give the House his definition of a religious service. Would he call a Dervish-like dance a religious service? It was a singular fact that the hon. and learned Member made no mention of ground belonging to Nonconformist places of worship. If there was a burial-ground belonging to the Nonconformist place of worship in a village, why on earth should not the Nonconformists be buried in it? The professed object of the hon. Member was to enable persons who had formerly been members of the Church of England to be buried with their forefathers in the churchyard of the Established Church; but it could scarcely be a grievance to those who had left the communion of the Established Church that they should be buried in the graveyard belonging to the place of worship to which they had belonged in their lifetime. It was evident that hon. Members on the other side of the House were not unanimous in their views upon this question. Thus, the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) was willing to exclude any religious 367 service, whereas the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley) was anxious that there should be a religious service. But if every person was to be at liberty to perform his own peculiar service over his dead, where could the line be drawn? A large number of Methodists accepted the Church of England funeral service, which, if no one knew to what Church it belonged, would be regarded by all as the most sublime service that could be performed over the dead. He should vote against the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. WALTER
, in voting for the second reading of the Bill, said he should do so with some hesitation, because one did not quite know with whom one was treating in this matter. The position in which Churchmen stood with reference to the Bill was not unlike that which the country occupied in relation to another powerful nation, with regard to a matter of a very different and most important character. The Bill might be described as a treaty of a very moderate kind entered into by Churchmen with the Nonconformist Bodies, for a definite purpose; and if they were dealing with the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley), who spoke on the subject in a most conciliatory manner, and with much common sense, he was quite sure that all Churchmen of moderate views would have no difficulty in arriving at a friendly and satisfactory settlement of the question. But the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) had preferred an indictment against the Established Church generally, and had brought in a bill against her for consequential damages. All understood the meaning of the hon. Member perfectly; there was no disguise about it whatever, and therefore, although he supported the principle of that measure, he was not surprised that the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope), and hon. Members generally, felt great embarrassment in dealing with the question, however anxious they might be to see it amicably and satisfactorily settled. It was no use attempting to conceal the real state of the case; it was clearly a matter of some consequence to Churchmen—if they were to look forward to the disestablishment of the Church, which the hon. Member for Bradford had in view—that they should not give the Dissenters greater vantage 368 ground than they already possessed with regard to the buildings and churchyards which at present were the property of the Establishment. No doubt the hon. Member had ready a plan cut and dried for dealing with the churchyards on the principle carried out in the disestablishment of the Irish Church or otherwise, and it was of the greatest consequence to Churchmen to know what the views of Dissenters on the subject were, and in what position they would stand, in the event of the disestablishment of the Church of England, if the Dissenters were allowed to obtain a footing in the churchyards. Happily, however, this matter was beside the question, and he would rather put it to hon. Members opposite whether, when they had come so nearly to the point as to admit that it was right and just, and indeed absolutely necessary that Dissenters who, for their own reasons, were not in a position to have the Church Services read over them, should be buried in the churchyards where their forefathers were buried, they could not go one step further and agree to some short form of prayer being used over them. He did not think that any hon. Member of that House, considering the matter quietly and calmly, would think it any great scandal to religion, or any outrage to the Church, if the friends of Dissenters who were buried in churchyards were allowed to repeat over their graves the Lord's Prayer or some short form of religious service which might be suitable to the occasion. Of course they knew that there were some religious Bodies who were in the habit of making funerals the occasion for delivering long orations, a practice which was not quite in accordance with the notions of Churchmen. He had been told the other day of a case in which a most distinguished member of the Nonconformist Body, a man of great eminence and possessed of great oratorical power, had delivered an address, which lasted half-an-hour, over the grave of his deceased friend, in which, having eulogized his virtues—no doubt very properly, he took the occasion to refer to family matters in a manner which, in the opinion of his friends who were standing by, was by no means consistent with good taste and decorum. That was the kind of thing to which the hon. Member for Bristol alluded, and no 369 doubt the adoption of such a course by Dissenters in a churchyard would be very grating to the feelings of Churchmen, who did not wish to see their churchyard used in such a manner. But when objections were raised against the use of any short form of prayer whatever, however simple it might be, over the body of a Dissenter which was buried in a churchyard, it recalled the scene in Hamlet where the priest allows Ophelia's funeral procession to come into the churchyard, but forbids anything further being done. To that scene might be compared the case of the young woman who died unbaptized at Gravesend at the age of 18, over whose body the clergyman refused to permit the simplest form of prayer to be uttered. Doubtless, the sentiments in the breasts of her relations on that occasion would be well expressed in the language of Laertes in the scene to which he had referred—Lay her i' the earth;And from her fair and unpolluted fleshMay violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest,A minist'ring angel shall my sister beWhen thou liest howling.That would be the feeling aroused in the minds not merely of Dissenters, but of all religious men, were some form of prayer not to be permitted to be used over the body of a Dissenter buried in a churchyard. He thought that that was a point which might well be settled in Committee by those who were really anxious to bring the controversy to an amicable termination. Without trespassing further upon the kindness of the House, he begged to conclude by expressing his determination to vote in favour of the second reading of the Bill, in the hope that that Session would see an end of the matter.
§ MR. CAWLEY
said, he sympathized entirely with what had fallen from the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley), because he felt that some religious service ought to be performed over the graves of those who belonged to what Churchmen admitted to be a Christian community. The Bill did not attempt to define what description of service was to be substituted for that of the Church of England, and he was afraid that hon. Members, like the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall), would not be inclined to accept of any form of service whatever, because he claimed the liberty 370 to use what form of service he chose in the churchyards not as a privilege, but as a right. Into the general question of an Established Church he was not about to enter, because the present was not the right time to discuss it; but he dissented altogether from the doctrine laid down by the hon. Member for Bradford as to the nationality of the Church or of the burial-grounds, in the sense in which the expression had been used. A national Church, in that sense, he trusted we should never see. He denied the right of the Dissenters to the burial-grounds of the Established Church, although he admitted that they had a right of interment therein, subject to the performance over their graves of the services of the Church of England. If, however, the Churchmen could meet the views of the Dissenters by permitting the latter to use some simple form of prayer, they ought to do so. There was no protection afforded by the Bill to insure that the service should be consonant with Christianity; neither did he think that words could be used that would prohibit the use of services of an objectionable character, unless some special service were agreed upon as that which should be used by Nonconformists. The Bill provided for no control being exercised over those who might be performing the services, and actually protected those who might be conducting most objectionable ceremonies from any interference. He must confess that the language which had been adopted by the Nonconformists at their recent Conference was calculated to hinder that cordiality which he had hoped was growing up between Churchmen and Dissenters. The hon. Member for Bradford had spoken of enforcing the rights of the Nonconformists, and of refusing to accept any compromise. If that was the way in which the controversy was to be carried on, it was useless to talk of conciliation. He advocated the purchase of cemeteries, in which those who differed from the Church of England could be buried according to their own forms of ceremonial. Believing that the Bill was not calculated to promote peace or good feeling between the different religious parties of this country, he should give it his most uncompromising opposition.
§ MR. M'ARTHUR
said, he must deny that that was a subject that affected only a minority of the population of the 371 country. The large majority of the people of England were in favour of the Bill; the whole body of Nonconformists were agreed in their support of it; and, he believed, thousands of the clergy of the Church of England would also be delighted if that legislation was accomplished. Whatever differences there might be among his co-religionists, they were agreed on this point. He had had an opportunity of witnessing the operation of a similar measure in Ireland, and he bore testimony to the perfect absence of religious animosity or strife in that country in connection with burials since the Act had come into force. With regard to the form of service under the Bill, that was provided for by one of the clauses, which laid down distinctly that the service should be of a decent and solemn character; but it was absurd to suppose that the service of the Church of England was the only one that was proper to be performed on such occasions. He believed that many of the fears that had been expressed as to the operation of the Bill were purely imaginary and could never be realized; and he was convinced that, if passed, it would work, in the fullest and widest sense, for the best interests not only of the country at large, but also of the Church of England herself, and would tend to remove many of the differences that now existed between the Established Church and the Nonconformists.
§ MR. CUBITT
complained that while the speech of the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley) had been most conciliatory, that of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) had threatened to create a greater division than ever between the Church of England and the Dissenters. The hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) took a very hopeful view of the matter, and had expressed his willingness to support the Bill, on the supposition that some short form of service would be agreed upon for use by the Dissenters in the churchyards. It must, however, be recollected that the Bill did not propose to deal merely with Christians, but left Secularists to use what burial ceremonies they might think fit to adopt. He held in his hand a copy of a public notice which had been issued by the Committee of Management of the Northampton General Cemetery Company, which was to the effect that no funeral attended by a procession, nor any funeral which, from any circumstance, 372 was likely to attract a large concourse of people, should be permitted from the date of the notice in the cemetery on a Sunday. And yet it was sought by this Bill to deny to each parish the power that was possessed by the Cemetery Company of Northampton. He believed that the Bill contained the elements of a compromise which might be accepted, and this could be arrived at by making the provisions for giving burial-grounds to Dissenters compulsory. He should, however, continue to oppose the Bill in its present shape.
§ MR. A. W. YOUNG
said, that in his borough he had found upon examination that the Dissenters had 18 places of public worship to three of the Church of England, and the attendance of persons belonging to the Nonconformist Bodies was 2,000 as against 400. No Bill, therefore, could more deeply interest his constituency than the one under notice. Under the present law no one could deny that many unseemly scenes took place. Children had been buried with the burial of a dog—a state of things not likely to tend to the peace and harmony of the neighbourhood, or to the credit of the Church of England. He thought that as the House had more than once adopted the principle of this measure the Government ought to have taken the matter up and have introduced this Bill themselves. He did not see how a compromise was to be arrived at, because the question in dispute was one of service or no service. He trusted, therefore, that the House would not refuse its support to the Bill.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL
said, that he should be glad to give his vote to any measure founded on justice that aimed at the remedy of a grievance, the existence of which had been acknowledged by so high an authority as the Bishop of Winchester, but he was unable to support that measure. In a few weeks there would probably be another Bill before them, on which occasion the whole question might be considered, and he hoped that it would be found to contain the elements of a compromise, by which this acknowledged grievance of the Nonconformists might be remedied. He could assure the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Miall) that no desire existed anywhere for the burial of any persons with the "burial of a dog." Any such idea was certainly wholly abhorrent to hon. Gentlemen 373 on that side of the House. But he believed that he should not be contradicted when he said that there were many denominations of Christians, and more especially the Presbyterians in the northern Province of Great Britain, with whom it was the practice to conduct the burial service in the house and not at the brink of the grave; and no one could honestly say that, when Presbyterians and others had adopted that course, the burial had been that of a dog. There were great difficulties on the face of the Bill, apart from those inherent in its principle. It furnished no definition of the word "religion"—no explanation as to what was to be considered religious or irreligious; there was no remedy against any disorders which might arise, and its ambiguity in other points was such as ought not to be found in a measure of such gravity, and to which so much importance was attached. They had all heard the speech of the hon. Member for Bradford. The hon. Member had confessed that he cared little for the Bill, but that he cared a great deal for what was beyond it. Well, he (Mr. Powell) said the same. He, too, cared very much for what was beyond the Bill—and for that reason, if for no other, he intended to oppose it. The hon. Member for Bradford was the leader and spokesman of the "Nonconformist" Body, and what he had said on the subject doubtless represented correctly enough their views. He could not but regret the tone that the hon. Member had imparted to the controversy. He had conjured up from the grave the odious spectre of religious dissensions and of strife between Christian men. The Bill was welcomed by that hon. Member as a step towards the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England, and he (Mr. P. S. Powell) should certainly oppose the second reading of it as such.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
, in reply, said, he wished sincerely to thank the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) for the speech he had delivered. While willing to accept any reasonable suggestions for the improvement of the Bill, reconcilable with its principle, he did not desire to catch votes through any misapprehension, and he could not accept the proposal of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), to authorize interments without a religious service, 374 which would simply be a perpetuation of the Nonconformist grievance. As for the proposal of 1862, Parliament had got a long way ahead since then. We had abolished church rates; we had abolished University tests—let us get rid, then, of this last rag of intolerance, for which, perhaps, there was less to be said than for the other ecclesiastical grievances which had disappeared before the growing liberality of the times.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 179; Noes 108: Majority 71.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Tuesday next.