Disagreement of the Lords to the Proviso inserted by the Commons in page 5, line 20 read, as follows:—
Because the Bishop by his superior local knowledge is more competent to judge of the expediency of permitting or prohibiting the institution of any suit than the archbishop. Because it is most desirable that an opportunity should be afforded of amicable conference between the bishop, the incumbent, and complainants which the proposed Amendments would have rendered difficult. Because it is important to ascertain intact the independent rights of the bishop as the originator of any proceeding against clerks in his own diocese.
§ MR. RUSSELL GURNEY
said, there was another Amendment of the Commons which the Lords had rejected, to which he would first refer—namely, that relating to the chapels of the Colleges in the Universities. The Bill, as it came orginally from the Lords, exempted those and other chapels from the operation of the Act, but the Commons brought them all under it. The Lords had now altered the Amendments of the Commons, but had not specially exempted the chapels from the Act. He had felt a doubt whether many of the chapels could be properly brought under the Act, and whether they could pro- 1338 vide machinery for the purpose of its operation, and under all the circumstances, he would advise that the Lords' Amendment in that respect should be agreed to. But as to the Amendment made in the 9th section in reference to the appeal from a Bishop to the Archbishop, that involved a far more serious question. The Bill, as it came down from the Lords, did not contain the Proviso. It was inserted on a division, by a large majority, on the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for North-East Lancashire (Mr. Holt). It was afterwards opposed on the Report, and the Motion for its rejection was moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, and that Motion was supported by the Secretary of State for War, who had not been one of the most earnest or steadfast supporters of the Bill. Under those disadvantageous circumstances a division occurred, and the clause was maintained by a decreased, but still a considerable, majority, after full debate. He was aware it had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich as his opinion, that if, according to the Forms of the House the matter could be discussed again, the majority would still further decrease, if, indeed, it did not altogether disappear; but he (Mr. Russell Gurney), having at least as good an opportunity of ascertaining the feelings of hon. Members of the House, had no hesitation in stating his belief that, contrary to the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, the majority would have been very materially increased. As he had said, the Amendment was carried, first of all, by a large majority in the Committee, and that decision was confirmed by a substantial majority at a later period; but it had now been rejected in the other House by a majority of 12. The number of 12, no doubt, in itself seemed small, but when it was considered that fewer than 80 Members were present, it became an important majority, and one that ought fairly to be considered by that House. At the same time, it would not of itself be a sufficient reason for the House of Commons departing from the conclusion at which it had arrived, and he could not say that any additional weight had been given to the numbers by the arguments which were adduced. Among those reasons were two which had been considered in the 1339 House of Commons very fully. The second reason assigned was that—it is most desirable that an opportunity should be afforded of amicable conference between the bishop, the incumbent, and complainants, which the proposed Amendment would have rendered difficult.Well, the only case in which the appeal could arise was, when the Bishop had refused to entertain an application, and, under those circumstances, the amicable conference which was suggested could not by any possibility be held. He did not know whether he ought to refer to any reasons which had been urged "else-where," but which did not appear on the face of the printed Paper, but he certainly did not think any additional weight was given to the decision of the Lords by any of those arguments. For example, he did not think the House would attach much importance to the argument founded on the jus divinum of the Bishops. It was not by the jus divinum that the rights and authority of Bishops in this country had been determined, but by the Common Law and the Statute Law. Besides, the veto proposed to be given to the Bishop was not given to him in his character of Bishop. It was a peculiar authority conferred by Parliament; and the Parliament which gave the power could also control it within such limits as it thought fit. Therefore, in regard to the course he was now taking, he could not rest it on the great weight of the majority in the House of Lords, nor on the weight due to the arguments upon which that majority had acted. But he had other matters to consider in this case. He saw no reason whatever for altering the opinions he had formerly expressed, and which had been confirmed by a majority of that House; but at that period of the Session he had to consider what appeared to him to be the most advisable course to pursue. They were now within three days of the Prorogation, and a large number of hon. Members had quitted town. No one, in fact, could hope to see any increase in the number of hon. Gentlemen who were at present in attendance. He had not been able to see any middle course by which the difference between the two Houses was likely to be accommodated, and, consequently, the appeal in its present shape must be either maintained or abandoned. He saw no reason to suppose that if 1340 that House insisted on the continuance of the appeal, there would be any yielding on the part of the House of Lords, even supposing there was time for a conference, and therefore the question arose whether the Bill was or was not to be lost. In the course he was about to pursue, he was to a certain extent influenced by the fact that he undertook the charge of the Bill when the Proviso was not in it. He had recommended the Bill to the adoption of the House without the clause, and he could not therefore, contend that it was all important. On both occasions when he addressed the House on it, he said he should individually be content if the Bill had passed without it, although he thought it would materially improve the measure; therefore, he was not prepared to advise the House to take any course by which the Bill would be for that Session lost. He knew, however, there were many hon. Members who would think it no great calamity if the Bill were lost, and in saying so, he referred to some of those by whom the Bill had been steadily supported, but who entertained a strong feeling that the only effect of the rejection of the Bill that Session, would be the introduction of a better and a stronger Bill next year. However, he was not prepared to encounter the necessary preliminaries of obtaining a stronger Bill, for he was not prepared to advise the House to take a course which might lead to a fearful agitation. Such an agitation he dreaded, because he believed it would be most mischievous to the Church, and injurious to the best interests of the country. Therefore, he was obliged to suggest the course which in his judgment, it would be most advisable to adopt, and he could not help suggesting, as the right course, that the Amendments of the House of Lords should be accepted. He confessed he made the suggestion with considerable pain, as he believed the most important improvement of the Bill would be thereby lost; and beyond that, he was sorry also, because he knew that course would cause serious and great disappointment and grief to a very large body out-of-doors, who regarded the proceedings of the House with immense interest, and who had already looked with considerable jealousy on the powers placed in the hands of the Bishop, and the veto he was al- 1341 lowed to exercise. That jealousy, moreover, was not likely to be diminished by the sprit in which the Bishops had objected to any control over them. Personally, he was pained also, because he knew he was advising a large body of Friends around him who had throughout these proceedings, given to him a steady and generous support, to take a course which they believed to be an unfortunate one, and one contrary alike to their expressed feelings and their settled convictions. Nevertheless, feeling that he occupied a position of great responsibility, he deemed it his duty to advise the House in the best interests of the Church and the country to accept their Lordships' Amendments, and he should therefore make a Motion to that effect.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth not insist upon their Amendments, to which the Lords have disagreed; and doth agree to the Lords' Amendments to the Commons' Amendments to the Bill."—(Mr. Russell Gurney).
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
We are placed, beyond doubt, in a situation of grave embarrassment by the course which the House of Lords has pursued; but it does not belong to the office of any private Member to vindicate the independence and dignity of this House. We have among us a man to whom the task belongs, and who is adequate to its fulfilment. We have a Leader of this House who is proud of the House of Commons, and of whom the House of Commons is proud. Well may the Prime Minister be proud of the House of Commons, for it was the scene of his early triumphs, and it is still the arena of his later and well-earned glory. Although we differ in political principles, we all recognize that he has ever maintained that dignified decency which contributes so much to the well-regulated conduct of public affairs; and therefore it is that the right hon. Gentleman is not more admired for his talents than he is respected for his behaviour in the conduct of the business of this the first Assembly of Gentlemen in the World. It may be necessary that the House of Commons should look to the right hon. Gentleman to-day to vindicate its honour and its dignity. If there be any one—I will not say who—who should any- 1342 where—I will not say where or when—have designated the deliberately expressed opinion of the House of Commons as "bluster," and the voice of its majority as a "bugbear," the right hon. Gentleman will not forget that it is by virtue of that blustering majority he is Prime Minister of England. ["No, no!"] Well, I will leave out the adjective, and merely say he owes his high position to that majority. No one can deny that it is in virtue of that majority that he fills the office which he so worthily occupies. If there be any man who is forgetful of that high responsibility which belongs to the character of an English Minister, it will not be the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. He has always known what belongs to that moderation—I will add to that good breeding—in the treatment of political adversaries which is alike the characteristic of English gentlemen and of English statesmen, and we may well leave the vindication of the reputation of this famous Assembly to one who will well know how to defend its credit and its dignity against the ill-advised railing of a rash and rancorous tongue, even though it be the tongue of a Cabinet Minister, a Secretary of State, and a Colleague. At all events, let us have sufficient self-respect not to imitate such an example. Let us not condescend to exchange impertinences with the House of Lords. We had enough and somewhat too much of that in the last Parliament, and I will venture to say that hon. Gentlemen who were Members of that Parliament will, at all events, do me the justice of admitting that I always protested against it. I have always regarded the House of Lords as an important, and I believe a necessary, element in the constitution of this country. Therefore, I have never been a party to discrediting by offensive language a body which, as I conceive, has a weighty and a responsible function to perform. Though I hold other and, as I think, sounder views on the subject of the Royal Supremacy than those entertained by the Secretary of State for War, I should not recommend even him to carry this measure into effect by a Royal Warrant. [Laughter.] Let us deal with a serious matter and a serious situation seriously. Speaking in this House, we ought not to talk like angry schoolboys, but like English politicians 1343 and English gentlemen. But while we will not embark on a career of mutual vituperation with Members of the other House, we have a right to examine the nature of a majority which claims to overrule the will of a majority almost exactly double the majority in the House of Lords, and also the arguments by which that majority of the House of Lords has defended its conclusions. Who are the first and the most conspicuous elements of that majority? They are, necessarily, the Bishops. Well, one looks with interest to know what part the Bench of Bishops as a whole have taken upon this subject—a subject which we are told involves the law of the Church of Christendom. I think that, exclusive of the two Archbishops, there are 25 Bishops of the Church of England, of whom only one-third voted against the Proviso. But new canons of criticism have been recently applied to political majorities. They are to be tested, not by their numbers, but by their ages. Well, I take it, it is not the years which appear on the baptismal registers of inexperienced legislators, but the time during which they have occupied seats in Parliament. I am afraid that if the one-third of the Bench of Bishops is to be estimated by its Parliamentary nonage, it would weigh very lightly in the scale. Lately I made a remark, which I am sorry to find has given some displeasure to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, with reference to the Bishops appointed in the last five years. But estimating these Bishops by their Parliamentary age, I find that by far the larger number of them who voted against the Proviso were Bishops appointed in the last five years, and, consequently, were the youngest Bishops upon the Bench. There is a saying attributed to Lord Melbourne which verges on profanity, and which, therefore, ought not to be repeated in this House. It shows, however, that Lord Melbourne imputed ingratitude to gentlemen of this class. [Mr. HOESMAN: It was Sir Robert Walpole.] Well, the right hon. Gentleman may correct the authorship, especially as I am not going to quote it. I think what occurred last night ought to discharge the Bishops altogether from the imputation of ingratitude, for any body of men more loyal or more ready to respond to the Whip, it would be impossible, I 1344 think, to conceive. The other elements of that majority are remarkable. I looked to see what were the parts which the Cabinet of the late Liberal Administration took upon the question which so deeply interests the country, and which, I believe, is destined greatly to affect its future. I found they gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich the conspicuous adhesion of their absence. There was no more harmony on the Opposition Bench in the House of Lords than there is on the Opposition Bench in the House of Commons with regard to a question which stirs the heart of England. Lord Selborne, Lord Granville, Lord Kimberley, Lord Cardwell, and Lord Aberdare were absent. I had almost forgotten there was a former High Church ex-Chancellor, who, I think, took an active part in defeating the proposal of the House of Commons. But when I look at the more important Bench occupied by Her Majesty's Government, what do I find is the conduct of its occupants in regard to a measure for which we were told on a very conspicuous occasion the Government are morally responsible? If Her Majesty's Government are morally responsible for the measure, I venture to think that a large majority in the Cabinet are morally irresponsible for it. I prefer to use that phrase rather than put the negative the other way. I find the Foreign Secretary, the President of the Council, and the Lord Chancellor of a Conservative Government recommending that this Amendment of the House of Commons should, in substance, if not in form, be accepted. The right hon. Gentleman talked the other day of an hon. and learned Friend of mine having spoken with violent good nature. Well, there is such a thing as violence without good nature. This Amendment has been defeated in the House of Lords by a small majority led by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India—to whom I will apply at least one of these words—followed by half a dozen Ritualistic Lords in Waiting, combined with Bishops. Thus, in the House of Lords, which consists altogether of something like 500 Members, there were found 44 persons to defeat the opinion of upwards of 120 Members of the House of Commons. Well, it is not to the force of numbers, it is not even to the force of age, that we must defer—for Lord Har- 1345 rowby is not a boy—at least, if he is, my noble Friend opposite will correct me—and his Lordship, who is respected for his attachment to the Church of England, expressed his sentiments in favour of our proposal. With regard to the majority of 23 in this House, we were told that 12 Members would he sensible enough to change their mind; but my right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder says it is vain to suppose that six Members of the House of Lords will be sensible enough to change their minds. He may be right in his estimate of our relative good sense. If the numbers were feeble, what are we to say of the arguments upon this Paper of Reasons? I will call attention to one of the arguments which has been put on record by the House of Lords, and which I will prove to be contrary to the laws of England, and therefore to the laws of the Church. The other night, I referred to the argument on this point. It is to the effect that it is important to maintain intact the independent rights of Bishops as the originators of any proceedings against clerks in their own dioceses. I referred to the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich the other night. It has been enforced by a right rev. Prelate, who has, I think, expressed very much the same ideas, but, perhaps, in less discreet language. The Bishop of Winchester has insisted on the Divine right of Bishops. Indeed, he demanded that we should accept that proposition rather as an axiom than as a postulate. Well, in my opinion, the Divine authority of Bishops is in the estimation—and justly in the estimation—of this country in the same situation as the Divine right of Kings. To assert that the jurisdiction of Bishops is not jure humano, but jure divino, and to hear the authority of Lord Holt quoted in support of such a proposition, is enough to make one think that the axis of the world is turned back, and that we are living again in the Middle Ages. Jurisdiction is not Divine. Jurisdiction is essentially human, for I have never yet heard of any Bishop, whether by Divine right or not, who enforced his behests by a posse comitatûs of angels. He has recourse to the civil power to enforce his jurisdiction, and therefore I advise him to regard his jurisdiction, if he wishes to have any effect at all, as human. In whatever light Bishops may regard themselves— 1346 and that is a matter on which they must exercise their own discretion—Parliament regards them as overseers of a Church which has been established by the State, and which is subject to the laws of the State. They are recommended to the Crown by the Prime Minister, who is elected by the House of Commons. They are nominated by a Congé d' élire, which issues from the Crown, and which is an imperative mandate. They hold their offices on terms prescribed by Parliament and by the State. It is not by Divine right that an eminent clergyman, however excellent and however learned he may be, occupies Farnham Palace or a fine house in St. James's Square. It is not by Divine right that a Prelate has £8,000 a-year secured by Act of Parliament. It is not by Divine right that the Bishops sit in the House of Lords. They sit there, as we all know, by barony, and a barony is not of Divine right. But then there is the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich; and if I trespass on the attention of the House, I must ask them to consider the great importance of the question, because if you allow the Bishops to repudiate what I believe to be the fundamental authority of the Archbishops in this country, you shake the whole discipline of the Church. You are allowing the Bishops themselves to sot that example of lawlessness which it is the object of this Bill to prevent. In order that I may not misrepresent my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich, I will read two or three sentences which I believe correctly convey his argument. It was as follows:—"It seemed to have been supposed by the hon. Member who made that proposal, that whenever there was a convenience or supposed convenience in putting the Bishop out of the government of his diocese and putting the Archbishop into the government of it, that might be done. That, however, all the law of Christendom had always forbidden." He went on to say that was the principle of the Reformation. "The Canon Law and the Statute Law both proceeded on precisely the principle which he had laid down." This, I am firmly convinced, is only one of the first of that series of Clergy Mutiny Acts to which my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) alluded the other day, and it will be remembered that the 1347 Mutiny Acts are annual statutes. It is of great importance, therefore, that we should not, in this House, accept in silence and with apparent acquiescence, doctrines which, in my opinion, are fundamentally contrary to the law and constitution of this country in Church and State. I am speaking in the presence of the Law Officers of the Crown, and of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland, who is thoroughly conversant with these questions. Now, I ask their attention to the statement I am about to make, and I will take care that it is clear and unambiguous. If, the other night, I was taken rather by surprise by hearing the authority of Van Espen cited, and if I spoke somewhat rudely of any Canonist or casuist, I can only plead in self-defence a long and inveterate ignorance of the Canon Law and of the writings of Canonists. As Blackstone says—"Lay-men"—by whom he means the common lawyers—"make no scruple to profess contempt, and even their ignorance, of it in the most public manner." In Blackstone's Commentaries, the right hon. Gentleman may find, in good Norman French, language more depreciatory than any I shall use on the subject of the Canon Law. Here is another citation from Blackstone—For their ecclesiastical tribunals (which are principally guided by the rules of the Imperial and Canon Laws as they subsist and are admitted in England, by no right of their own, but upon liare sufferance and toleration from the municipal laws) must have recourse to the laws of that country wherein they are adopted to be informed how far their jurisdiction extends, or what causes are permitted and what forbidden to be discussed and drawn in question before them. It matters not, therefore, what the Pandects of Justinian or the Decretals of Gregory have ordained. They are here of no more intrinsic authority than the laws of Solon and Lycurgus, curious, perhaps, for their antiquity, respectable for their equity, and frequently of admirable use as illustrating a point of history. Nor is it at all material in what light other nations may consider this matter of jurisdiction. Every nation must and will abide by its own municipal laws, which various accidents combine to render different in every country of Europe.I am not going to enter into any controversy with my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich on the subject of the Canon Law; but I am going to enter into a controversy with him on the subject of the law of England. If I felt disposed, however, to enter into a con- 1348 troversy with him on the Canon Law, I should undertake to say that he has misapprehended even that law, for I find in an authority far higher in this country than Van Espen—namely, in Ayliffe's Parergon Juris Canonici Anglicani—it is stated that—An Archbishop may, by virtue of an appeal made to him, compel his Suffragan Bishop to the administration of justice, if he be negligent therein.It is perfectly notorious that though by the Canon Law, the Archbishop was obliged, in the first instance, to visit his own diocese, yet having done so, he might afterwards visit the dioceses of all his Suffragans, whose authority he might supersede. I am not particularly conversant with the writings of Canonists, as my studios have been in a different direction. They have gone in the direction of those writers who are more favourable to the Constitution of this country and to the Reformed Church of England. I take a very common authority—Burn's Ecclesiastical Law—and I ask the House to compare what he says with the third reason assigned by the Lords. He says—The Archbishop hath two concurrent jurisdictions, one as Ordinary or Bishop in his own diocese, the other as superintendent throughout his whole province of all ecclesiastical matters, to correct and supply the defects of other Bishops.I am now going to state the Common Law of England as against any assumption of the Canon Law, and no man will dispute that if the Common Law of England is different from the Canon Law, the Common Law is supreme. In the first year of the reign of James I., Chief Justice Jones delivered the unanimous judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, and their reason was—That in all these eases of the clergy the Archbishop had two concurrent jurisdictions; the one ordinary with the Bishop in his diocese, the other superintendent throughout his province of things ecclesiastical, to correct and also to supply the defects of the Ordinary.I will now give you the authority of another man—perhaps the greatest and the best of the Common Lawyers of England—I mean Lord Chief Justice Holt. This is the language of a judgment delivered by him in 11 William III. He said—That by the Common Law the Archbishop hath a metropolitical jurisdiction, and that Arch- 1349 bishops are over Bishops as well as Bishops are over other clergy; but his power was usurped upon and diminished by the Pope, but restored to its extent at Common Law by the statute of Henry VIII. That by allowing his power to visit all is admitted.And now I come to a passage which has been strangely misunderstood by a right rev. Prelate who seemed to know as little about law as I do about theology. This is the passage he refers to as proving from Lord Chief Justice Holt the Divine right of Bishops—Though there may be a co-ordination amongst the Bishops jure divino, yet there is a subordination jure ecclesiastico qua humano, not of necessity, but for convenience. The power of an Archbishop was very great here in England anciently, and he had the same jurisdiction of supremacy as the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Pope used to call him atterius orbis Papam, and he exercised the same jurisdiction with him. But, afterwards, in the reigns of Henry I and Stephen, the Pope usurped the authority of the Archbishops, in exchange for which they became the legati nati of the Pope. But at this day, by the Act of Henry VIII. this jurisdiction is restored. And to question the authority of the Archbishop is to question the very foundation of the Government.My right hon. Friend required no assistance in Canon Law; but he will perceive that he required some assistance in the Statute Law, as he cited a statute of Henry VIII. as proving that the Archbishop had not that authority. Why, by the very statute he quoted, the Archbishops are restrained in certain cases from exercising authority out of their dioceses, but in certain other cases, it is expressly stated that they shall have authority. [Mr. GLADSTONE: And I stated it.] What are these cases? There are several. "In case that the Bishop of the diocese or other immediate Judge or Ordinary dare not or will not convent the party to be sued before him," then the Archbishop has jurisdiction. Well, that is the law in this case; but what has been the practice of the Church of England? The first Archbishop—an Archbishop not loved by the Ritualists—who, by metropolitical right, made a visitation of all the dioceses of his Suffragans was Cranmer. That was, according to Strype's Memorials, in the first year of the Reformation in England—1534; and for that he got the King's licence to countenance his doings, as it was well known what opposition he should meet with. "The main end thereof," we are told, "was to promote the King's supremacy, and as opportu- 1350 nity served to correct the superstitions of this Church and inspect the Bishops and people themselves." Cranmer was opposed by the Bishop of Winchester of that day, and on precisely the same grounds as the authority of the Archbishops was repudiated last night by the apostolical successor of Gardiner. But if I had not some sense of shame, and did not wish to delay the House, I could carry you through the series of metropolitical visitations made throughout the whole period of the Reformation, in which Parker and his successors went through every diocese of his Province, and in which his first act was to inhibit the Bishop from any action at all, and to suspend him completely, assuming to himself the whole ecclesiastical authority. I could take you through the great names of Parker, Whitgift, Grindal, and another whom the right hon. Member for Greenwich will accept as better than any other—Archbishop Laud. The Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's repudiated his authority, and said that an Archbishop had no right to enter the diocese of a Bishop. But what was his answer? He told them that he was resolved that no place on grounds of privilege should be exempt from archiepiscopal visitation, and particularly that Church of St. Paul, because they could show, from no act in any of their registries, that the Archbishop did not visit their church at the same time as he visited their diocese. I will not weary the House with the series of decisions and precedents which make the law of the Church of England. But I will refer, in the presence of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland, to precedents which come down nearly to our own time, and I will ask him, whether it is not the fact that those metropolitical visitations have been, down to the time of the disestablishment of the Irish Church, carried on by the Irish Archbishops in every diocese of the Provinces of Ireland? My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich abolished the Established Church in Ireland, and no one could respect it more at the time he abolished it; and he will not say that the Canonical Law of that Church was inconsistent with the law of England. I conclude this argument against the claim set up in this Amendment of the Lords, by saying that it is against the Common Law as stated by Lord Coke, 1351 against the Statute Law as laid clown in the Act of Henry VIII., and against the universal practice of the Church of England from the time of the Reformation down to this day. And I ask again the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, whether the first act in these Irish visitations was not to inhibit the Bishop from all action whatever, the Archbishop assuming the whole of that authority which previously existed in the Bishop? In the licensing of curates, in the matter of residence, in pluralities, matters most eminently within the knowledge of the Bishops, an appeal has been always given to the Archbishop. These seem to be conclusive reasons against the arguments alleged by the House of Lords for this Amendment. I know they will not satisfy my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone), because he holds an entirely different view with respect to the law of the Church. In that pamphlet upon the Royal Supremacy which has been quoted in this House, and which was re-published by my right hon. Friend within the last few years, when he was a Minister of the Crown, and, I believe, Leader of the House of Commons, he laid down a totally different doctrine with regard to Courts of Appeal of all descriptions. He said Courts of Appeal not composed of ecclesiastical persons. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Ecclesiastical Judges.] That is not the material point. I want to refer to the authority which has the right to appoint the Judges. My right hon. Friend says that "Courts appointed by Parliamentary majorities, and assented to by the Sovereign on the advice of Ministers whom those majorities had constrained him to accept, the Church of England knows nothing of." If that is sound doctrine, it is perfectly idle for Parliament to occupy itself with the discipline of the Church. I venture to say that if the Constitution of this country is to be maintained, if the Church is to be maintained, the Church must know something of the Courts appointed by Parliamentary majorities, and assented to by the Sovereign on the advice of Ministers whom those majorities have constrained him to accept. The doctrine of my right hon. Friend may be the true doctrine; of that he is a better judge than I am; but it is not to be found in the Constitution of England or of the Church of England. It is not the doc- 1352 trine which belongs to the traditions of that great historical Whig Party which has taken so illustrious a share in the framing of that Constitution. But, then, in the presence of this situation and of the reason alleged for this decision of the House of Lords, what are we to do? In the presence of this feeble majority of the House of Lords, supported by still feebler arguments, are we to yield submissively against our better and deliberate judgment? My right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder thinks we have no other alternative, and the conduct of the measure of this year is in his hands, and I am sure we have all occasion to thank him for the judgment and temper with which he has performed his task. I confess, if he had thought it wise and prudent to ask this House to stand by the decision of the majority of the House of Commons as a reasonable and firm, and therefore not a "blustering majority," if he thought there had been time, in conference with the other House, to endeavour to settle the question, and to remove the strange and unconstitutional ideas upon which the reasons of the Lords are founded, I should have gladly supported him. But he has determined otherwise; and, certainly, I shall not think of setting my opinion against his. This is not, and has never been a very strong Bill, and, I fear, Parliament may hereafter be convicted of the unstatesmanlike policy of passing a small measure on a great subject. This matter—I do not say this Bill—is far the largest business which has occupied Parliament or the public mind in my life-time. You cannot hustle it out at the fag-end of a Session which can hardly be called a glorious one. I always believed that this Bill would break down upon the discretion of the Bishop, and I believe now more than ever that it will break down upon that point. You have weakened it, or rather the House of Lords have weakened it, in its weakest part, and the result is, that you will have to begin the work over again, under circumstances most disadvantageous to the Church, because you will begin it again with a discredited bench of Bishops. These are only the opinions of a private and independent Member of Parliament. The result—I will not say of the Bill, but of this great question—is in very different hands—it depends upon the 1353 policy of the First Minister of the Queen. The right hon. Gentleman opposite is Prime Minister, because he has long had the sagacity to divine the sentiments and to execute the will of the English people. And if he would accept a word of counsel from a humble Member of this House, I would advise him not to rest upon a broken reed; I would adjure him not to let himself be embarrassed and dismayed by the distracting counsels of a divided Cabinet. It is not they who have made him Minister; it is he who has placed them there. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will throw himself on the courage of his convictions and on the mighty support of the public opinion of a Protestant people. He has had the wisdom to gauge, and not to undervalue, the dimensions of a work we are only just beginning. He has seen that not England alone, but all Europe is divided into two camps, and that the camp on the one side is that of Ultramontanism and Sacerdotalism; on the other, that of Freedom and of the Reformation. If any man in this House think the Bill of little value, because it is a wretched and weak instrument to accomplish its object, I would say that the value of the Bill depends upon the singular uprising of the public mind of this nation to which it has given rise, and that public opinion cannot be defeated by a majority of 12 in the House of Lords. It is not to be reversed by half-a-dozen High Church Bishops or a dozen Ritualistic Lords in Waiting. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has proclaimed his intention to vindicate in the Church of England the broad platform of the Reformation. Depend upon it, as long as he pursues that policy without flinching, he will find support in quarters where he least expects it. He will find he has with him the great majority of the House of Commons, without distinction of party, for I hope the House of Commons will always represent the overwhelming sense of the English nation. But let not the right hon. Gentleman deceive himself. This Bill will not restore the principles of the Reformation in the English Church. This Bill will not "put down Ritualism;" it is only the beginning of the work. The right hon. Gentleman has put his hand to the plough and he cannot turn back. I remember that Mr. Cobden, in the great struggle for Free Trade, said, 1354 it was a question "that would dislocate many parties and destroy many Governments," and this is a greater question than the question of Free Trade. I believe the Prime Minister is sincerely desirous, as I am in a much humbler station, to preserve the present institutions of the Church of England. But I am firmly convinced—and I believe the majority of this country are firmly convinced—that the Church of England can only be saved by Protestantizing that Church. And if that be so, there is only one power that can Protestantize the Church; and it is that power which originally made it Protestant—I mean the power of the State. The instinct of Sacerdotalism has never been on the side of the Reformation, and it never will be, because the reformation of religion does not minister to the pride or the power of the priesthood. In my opinion this is one of those occasions which seldom recur. It is one of those conjunctions which determine the fate of Ministries and the reputation of statesmen. There are occasions—and this is one of them—which test the sagacity, the firmness, and the foresight of those whose high dignity and whose deep responsibility it is to guide the destinies of an Imperial State. I believe it is upon the decision which we take on this matter in the present year, and in those which are to come, that the fate of the Church, and, to a great degree, the fate of the Constitution of this country depend. I know that this Amendment has been rejected by a combination of those who do not desire, and do not intend that this Bill shall work. I am deeply impressed by the conviction that upon the working of this Bill, or upon those measures which must inevitably succeed it, will depend the future fate of the Church. I believe that the Minister may, if he likes, yet save the Church. It may not yet be too late; but I also am firmly convinced that if the Church of England is to be saved, it can only be by satisfying the nation.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just concluded, that this is one of the gravest questions that have ever been brought before Parliament—at least, in my experience. My right hon. and learned Friend, the Recorder, has told us, in moving that the Amendment of the Lords should be accepted by 1355 this House, that upon our decision depends, in his opinion, the fate of the Bill. What is this Bill, and what does it ask? I have endeavoured before to describe it as a Bill to put down Ritualism, and some have excepted to that description. I am hero to repeat it, because I believe it is a true and accurate description of its purpose. We have been asked, "What is Ritualism?" I think the answer to that question is clear and short. I mean by Ritualism the practice by a certain portion of the clergy of the Church of England of ceremonies, which they, themselves, confess are symbolical of doctrine which they are pledged by every solemn compact which can bind men to their Sovereign and their country to denounce and repudiate. And of all the false pretences of this body of men, there is, in my opinion, none more glaring and pernicious than their pretending that they are a portion of the High Church party of the Church of England. The most eminent vindicators of that Protestantism which they denounce may be found among authors who profess High Church opinions. The most able vindicators of Protestantism and the most able opponents of the Church of Rome are to be found among divines of High Church principles. In the most critical period of the Church of England, and I may add also of our public liberties in general, when the Bishops were sent to the Tower, the majority of those Bishops were Bishops of High Church principles. Well, then, I say that this Bill, the purpose of which is to put an end to and put down this small but pernicious sect is one which we ought not to forfeit without duo and without grave consideration. There is also another reason why, at this time, I am most anxious that the House should not take a false step in this particular. I have hinted it before, but I will now express it with more clearness. My conviction is, that however tranquil may be the general state of Europe—and, indeed, with the exception of one unhappy country, it is a state of general tranquillity—there are agencies at work in it at this moment, which are preparing a period of great disturbance. The disturbance may not occur in my time, or while I am standing on this side the Table; but I am glad to know that on both sides of the House there is a rising generation of statesmen 1356 who will be competent to cope with it, and I only wish to impress upon their conviction, that that great task is one which they cannot avoid, and to which I trust they will be equal. Well, then, with those views, I have to consider the nature of this Bill, the fate of which depends upon our decision to-day upon this Amendment. It may be very well to call it a small Bill, and to promise that if it be defeated, a large Bill may be introduced. What I feel is, that, from the opposition it has had to encounter, it is an efficient Bill, that it is a Bill which will probably effect its purpose; and that, at any rate, it is a Bill which through great difficulties and after many vicissitudes, has received the general concurrence of Parliament, and I believe the wide approbation of the people of England. Therefore, I should feel the utmost hesitation before I could bring myself to counsel the House to take a step which would imperil this Bill becoming law. I know that there are many hon. Gentlemen in this House who having voted for the provision which, if we agree to this Amendment, will be defeated, may feel that there is some inconsistency, if they are called upon to take a step apparently opposed to their original course. If there be any inconsistency in that conduct, of which any hon. Member may be ashamed, I at least share the situation, and am prepared, if necessary, to share the opprobrium. I was a supporter of the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for North-East Lancashire (Mr. Holt). I approved of that Motion; I regret that it is to be defeated; I believe that what he proposed would have been a wise and salutary provision. But I cannot forget that when the Bill first came down to this House, that provision was not contained in it, and I have to ask myself now—Am I prepared to forfeit all that has been accomplished in this Bill, in order merely to indulge in what practically would be an empty protest against the conduct of the majority in the other House of Parliament? Sir, I cannot but feel that any hon. Member who takes that course will incur a great and grave responsibility. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just addressed us has analyzed the materials of the majority in the House of Lords. I do not think that a convenient or a wise course to take in Parliament. Measures of great im- 1357 portance, upon which practically the liberties of England depended, have been passed with a bare majority in this House in old times. And if once we indulge in that habit of scrutinizing the materials of a majority, we may fall into a position always to be deprecated—namely, lowering the influence and authority of the majority in the settlement of our political disputes—a principle to which I think we owe much of our good government and order. I am content, therefore, to recognize that a majority of the House of Lords has decided against the opinion of the House of Commons. I regret that decision; but I must respect the independence of the other House, and I cannot for a moment assert or maintain that they have not exorcised their rights, Privileges, and Prerogatives in the course which they have pursued, and in the resolution at which they have arrived. Well, then, we have to consider whether the circumstances under which the Proviso was carried in this House should entirely outweigh the circumstances under which it was rejected in the other, to a degree so influential that we ought to assert the opinion of the House of Commons in consequence, and I dissent from the inference that we ought to assert that such is the case. I say I cannot find at all that those circumstances exist. I voted in favour of the Proviso, which was supported by a large majority. The question was, however, carried to a second discussion, whore the majority was certainly much reduced. Again, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Recorder tells us that he feels confident the original proposition would have been maintained by considerable numbers, if he had pressed that course; but I feel there has been nothing in the debates or in the circumstances attending the divisions in either House which should prevent us from taking a calm and judicial consideration of the case, and that consideration would, I think, lead us to the conclusion that both Houses have legitimately asserted their Privileges. And therefore the question would really end in this—whether, if we choose to assert the opinion which I conclude the majority of the Members of this House has not relinquished, we are prepared at the same time to forfeit the measure in which we are now so deeply interested? 1358 That is the sole question before the House. Sir, I am not prepared myself to take that course. I foresee that if this Bill does not pass into law, Parliament may be involved, and quickly involved, in discussions which may be most inconvenient to the public interests, and which will exercise a very deleterious effect upon the general legislation of the country. There is something in these questions of such commanding, such alarming, and such absorbing interest that a wise Parliament would never enter into them unless there was a deep necessity. They distract the public mind from the consideration of all those measures which are necessary for the advancement of the country and the progress of the population; and if it were only for that consideration, I should hesitate before counselling a stop which might lead to such consequences. Were we, indeed, at an earlier period of the Session, when there was ample time to enter into a calm and dispassionate consideration with the other House of all the circumstances of the case, and of the reasons which have influenced both Houses of Parliament, I will not say that I should have counselled at once a course which offered no resistance to the resolution of the other House of Parliament; but I should have counselled it in the spirit of the Constitution, and not with any intention of brow-beating the other House of Parliament, but in order fairly to place before it the reasons which influenced us, and the views which we took on the general question. But, speaking candidly, I do not see any opportunity of that kind now, and I am convinced, looking at it with that practical experience which many years in Parliament have given me, that upon our decision to-day the fate of this measure really depends. Let us not for a moment be diverted from the course which we think, as wise and grave men, we ought to follow by any allusions to the spirit of any speech which may have been made in the course of the debates in the other House of Parliament. My noble Friend who has been referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just addressed us with so much ability, was long a Member of this House, and is well known to many of the Members even of this Parliament. He is not a man who measures his phrases. He is a great master of gibes, and 1359 flouts, and jeers; but I do not suppose there is any one who is prejudiced against a Member of Parliament on account of such qualifications. My noble Friend knows the House of Commons well, and, perhaps, he is not superior to the consideration that by making a speech of that kind, and taunting respectable men like ourselves as being "a blustering majority," he probably might stimulate the amour propre of some individuals to take the very course which he wants, and to defeat the Bill. Now, I hope we shall not fall into that trap. I hope we shall show my noble Friend that we remember some of his manœuvres when he was a simple Member of this House, and that we are not to be taunted into taking a very indiscreet step, a step ruinous to all our own wishes and expectations, merely to show that we resent the contemptuous phrases of one of our Colleagues. I trust, therefore, that the House will consider this question not with reference to the elements of the majority of the House of Lords, nor with reference to some expressions in a particular speech which may have had the calculated intention of inducing hon. Members of this House to give a rash vote—a vote fatal to their own wishes—but, on the contrary, that they will keep before them completely the point at issue. The House of Lords has negatived a Proviso of ours which was not in the original Bill which they sent clown. That, therefore, on the part of the Lords, is a most legitimate exercise of their rights. We have certainty an opportunity of rejecting the Amendment of the Lords; but in taking that course, we shall in all probability lose the result of all the labours of the last few months in which we are so much interested. I cannot bring myself to believe that the House of Commons will take a course so pernicious to the public interest, so disappointing to the people of this country, and so little conducive, in my opinion, to the reputation of this House, and the credit which it has always possessed in this country, as consisting generally of reasonable and sensible men. I therefore earnestly advise my Friends, so far as my advice is of any value—sympathizing, as I do, with the majority on this subject, having myself supported the hon. Member for North-east Lancashire from the beginning, entirely ap- 1360 proving the Proviso which he brought forward, believing that the Bill would be much improved by its insertion; still, recollecting what has occurred, and acting under the conviction that if we do not accept this Amendment of the House of Lords, which has been arrived at most constitutionally, we shall lose this Bill, upon which, whatever may be the estimate of it by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has last spoken, I believe the heart of the people of England is now set—I say, I do most earnestly recommend my hon. Friends, as far as my voice can guide them, not to hesitate in the course which they will pursue, but to take a plain, straightforward, and determined course, and to act in a way which will satisfy the country and their own consciences by accepting the Amendment of the House of Lords.
Sir, after the right hon. Gentleman has himself delivered an animated defence of his own Colleagues, it is not for me in any respect to criticize the quality and character of that defence. If, however, we are to indulge in that most vicious practice of discussing, on the consideration of Lords' Amendments, speeches made by individual Peers in "another place"—and I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman, for he could not help himself—though of that vicious practice the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the City of Oxford has given us to-day one of the most conspicuous and most objectionable examples I have ever known afforded, I am justified, in mitigation of judgment, in merely saying as much as this—deriving my information only from the most ordinary sources, I did not understand any noble Peer to have used the words "blustering majority"—if they werr ever used at all, which I very much doubt, with reference to any decision of a majority of this House—and I did not understand anything whatever to be said in criticism of the conduct of that majority. I pass from that subject to make two or three remarks on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. Perhaps it may be hardly in good taste for me to comment on the nature of the appeal which he has addressed to those who originally not only thought that legislation in this matter was justifiable, and who thought 1361 the Bill before the House was an entirely unexceptionable mode of framing that legislation; but I may say in passing, the appeal appeared to me to be so forcible as not to admit of any answer, and it was addressed to us undoubtedly to the end of that peace which—though here I shall dreadfully scandalize the bon. and learned Member for Oxford in saying so—I think ought never to be forgotten in the course of those discussions. The right hon. Gentleman has also referred to general considerations of the greatest importance. He has referred in the first place to those grave events which may be hanging over Europe, involving a conflict of principle upon the subject dearest to the heart of man, and most important to his destiny. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in the terms in which he has made that reference; it is the very gravity of those events, it is the very gravity of the issues that are raised by the claims of spiritual absolutism, which make it appear to me—an argument, I am afraid, in entire contradiction to that of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford—to be a matter of the highest importance that you should take care that you do not drive into the ranks of your adversary those who are really your friends; that when you come to the issue on this great subject, you should take care that the ground is well chosen for the subject; and that you should not waste and destroy your own strength by discharging your weapons at those who have realty the same feelings as yourselves, and who are in the same service. The right hon. Gentleman goes on to denounce those who, as he says,; have pledged themselves to support the doctrines of a particular religion, and who are endeavouring, by means of symbols and otherwise, to substitute for them other doctrines. So far as the substance of that statement is concerned, I cannot find any fault with it whatever; it is the very essence of it I have endeavoured to express in one of the Resolutions about which at one time much was said, although their life as a Parliamentary document was short. I own I am sorry, in listening to the right hon. Gentleman, to hear him adopt the language of warm and even hot denunciation. I know very well that language is by far best suited to the temper of many who engage in those ecclesiastical controversies, and that other 1362 language appears to them stale, flat, and unprofitable. I, however, must confess I distrust all language except that which is strictly measured upon such a subject. I heard plenty of similar language in 1851, and I saw what it all came to in the result. I venture to offer that criticism upon the tone and language of the right hon. Gentleman, and in doing so, I admit the substance of his statement to be, so far as I can judge, unquestionable. I cannot, however, proceed without offering a tribute to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Recorder for the marked moderation of the speech which he addressed to us. It was impossible not to sympathize with him when he described the grave embarrassment in which he found himself placed, and I entirely assent to the proposition of the right hon. and learned Gentleman upon that subject. Prom my point of view, I must offer him this consolation—if he has been placed in great embarrassment by the nature of the issue presented to him to-day, he has escaped the far graver embarrassment which invariably arises from a false step taken in a compromise of this character, and he has made provision for the future which I think he will find amply compensates for any disappointment he may experience with regard to the present moment. I wish I could pass with as much satisfaction to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford. I confess, fairly, I greatly admire the manner in which he has used his time since Friday night. On Friday night, as he says, he was taken by surprise; the lawyer was taken by surprise, and so was the Professor of Law in the University of Cambridge; the lawyer was taken by surprise, and in consequence he had nothing to deliver to the House except a series of propositions on which I will not comment. I greatly respect the Order and the spirit of the Order of the House which renders it irregular, as in my opinion it is highly inconvenient, especially when there is no practical issue, to revive the details and particulars of a former debate. Finding that he has delivered to the House most extraordinary propositions of law and history that will not bear a moment's examination, my hon. and learned Friend has had the opportunity of spending four or five days in better informing himself 1363 upon the subject, and he is in a position to come down to this House, and for an "hour and a-half to display and develop the erudition he has thus rapidly and cleverly acquired. Human nature could not possibly resist such a temptation, and my hon. and learned Friend has succumbed to it on this occasion. I will not, however, follow my hon. and learned Friend over the ground he has taken. I do not think it would be to the edification of the House, or of the public, or of the party to which, I believe, we both belong, if I were to prosecute in great detail the controversy raised against me by the late Solicitor General, and therefore I avoid and eschew it. I cannot, moreover, say that the three canons of good taste, good feeling, and courtesy which we are accustomed here to regard, and which may be very old-fashioned, are entirely conformable to those of my hon. and learned Friend, and therefore it is better that I should decline the controversy, and rest under all the disadvantage which must necessarily attach to me if I forbear to traverse the arguments and propositions he has formally advanced. The real question between us is a very simple one as regards the method of stating it. It is whether the proposition involved in the Amendment of the hon. Member for North-east Lancashire is or is not consistent with the principles of the Statute and Canon Law of this country—by Canon Law, I moan those Canons of the Church of England which are laws in respect of the clergy—that principle being the principle from the very first ages of the law of Christendom at large. If I were to discuss that question, when there is no point at issue on which the House is called upon to decide, I should feel, however much I might be glorifying myself by one of those portentous displays which we have witnessed, that I was really occupying the time of the House for a purpose purely personal, and having no relation whatever to those purposes of debate and decision for which, as I understand, we are here met together. There are, however, one or two points upon which I must refer to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend, but it will be apart from his general argument. He has stated the general scope of my argument on a former occasion, and at the same time not unfairly, and I may say that that general argument, so stated, he did 1364 not in the slightest degree invalidate nor dispute. He gave you to understand that be was questioning and overthrowing it; but if his propositions and facts are examined, it will be found that they were wholly beside the purpose. He dwelt for half-an-hour upon the metro-political visitation. There was not a word said by me about metropolitical visitation, nor has this Bill anything to do with metropolitical visitation. It means, not an assumption of the original jurisdiction of a Bishop, but an examination whether the Bishop is doing his duty. Why, of course, it is the business of the Archbishop; but it has nothing whatever to do with the controversy between the hon. and learned Gentleman and myself. He says he abhors vituperation; no doubt, but how does he define vituperation? Is it perfectly consistent with that declaration that he should describe language used "elsewhere" as "the ill-advised railing of a rash and rancorous tongue?" If so, a gentleman who wishes to avoid vituperation, and at the same time wishes to indulge in those feelings which are commonly supposed to produce vituperation, may derive comfort from the thought that he will not vituperate, though he may say anything he likes about the railing of rash and rancorous tongues. My hon. and learned Friend has indulged in another practice against which. I think the House cannot too severely protest. It is that whenever anyone is opposed to you, you should fix upon him a bad name. This is the system of my hon. and learned Friend during the progress of this Bill. Somebody proposes an Amendment in this—Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, I was going to say—in this Public Worship Bill, and my hon. and learned Friend gets up and says—"Ah! ah! this is an Amendment by one who has been opposed to the Bill from the first," to endeavour to prejudice the proposition by insinuating something as to the motive of the man. That has been one of the favourite weapons of my hon. and learned Friend upon this occasion; but I have no doubt upon all other occasions he will be entirely free from pursuing such a course. The fact is that my hon. and learned Friend is still in his Parliamentary youth, and has not yet sown his Parliamentary wild oats. When he has done it, I have not the smallest doubt that all the great 1365 powers he has displayed—and there is no person who has seen his development and exhibition with greater satisfaction than I have—will be found to be combined with a degree of temper, a degree of wisdom, a degree of consideration for the feelings of others, a degree of strictness and vigour in stating and restating the arguments of opponents; and, in fact, with a consummate attainment of every political virtue that will make my hon. and learned Friend outshine and eclipse all former notabilities of Parliament, as much as he promises to eclipse them in his great ability and eloquence; and not only so, but if he proceeds in the course in which he has been engaged since last Friday, in his knowledge of the history of ecclesiastical matters. My hon. and learned Friend quoted from a pamphlet of mine, which was published, I think, 23 years ago, and reprinted in the main, not by my own act, but with my consent, about nine years ago, a statement to the effect that of a Court constituted as the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is constituted, the Church knows nothing. That was a strictly true statement, and it was, in fact, the summing-up of a historical statement. I went through the whole of the history of these Courts for a lengthened period in a pamphlet that, I believe, is even longer than the speech of my hon. and learned Friend to-day, and when I reached our own times, I found this Court was differently constituted in principle from the Courts that had preceded it, and of that Court so constituted the Church know nothing. Now, that is a simple matter. I have great pleasure in agreeing with my hon. and learned Friend and with the Recorder in the statement made with respect to the Church of England; they say it is a Church subject to the State, and subject to the laws of the State. There is not the smallest doubt about it. No man can properly rise up in this House and, on the ground of the jus divinum of the Episcopacy, assume to accept or refuse a particular proposition. It is the human aspect, the human side of this institution, with which you have to do. A State Church, if it is to be established, must conform to the rules and laws of the State; we cannot for a moment doubt it. It is quite a different question how far it is the duty and wisdom of the State, and how far it has 1366 been the practice of the State, in the exercise of its own discretion, and in order to direct itself towards right conclusions so to adjust its laws as to make them compatible, wherever it can properly be done, with those principles inherent in the constitution of a religious society, and which undoubtedly do not invest in that religious society any right of overriding the State, but which may affect the practicability of what is called a National Establishment, or the union of Church and State. I hope this distinction is perfectly clear and broad. I will end with one word mere about my hon. and learned Friend. The main reason why I do not follow—and why I shall never, without necessity, follow—my hon. and learned Friend into this controversy is this—I am quite convinced, and let my words be marked, it is well for this House to consider whether it desires or does not desire to maintain a National Establishment of religion in this country. If it is desired to maintain that Establishment of religion, then I say moderation in act and temper, and mildness in language are absolutely necessary for those who undertake to guide the House in that difficult and perilous question; but if the tone, language, and temper of my hon. and learned Friend are to be taken as the standards which in future are to govern this ecclesiastical discussion, I say, whoever may be right and wrong here, whoever may have a majority or a minority, there is one result which will overtake us and pass by us, and it is that the National Establishment of religion will give way under the strokes that will be dealt it by its most ill-advised defenders.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Sir, I thank the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford for his admirable exposition of the Constitutional and Ecclesiastical Law of this country. I heard what fell—I cannot call it an answer to the speech of the hon. and learned Member—from the right hon. Member for Greenwich; I listened then to the First Lord of the Treasury, and I asked myself "What are we to do?" The First Lord of the Treasury has informed us that the House of Commons has got into a corner; that we must either give up the Bill or the Amendment, by which the House has affirmed the right of appeal to the Archbishop from the judgment of a Bishop, who may decide 1367 against any case being submitted to the Court we have created under the Bill. Sir, the Episcopal pretension upon which the rejection by the House of Lords of our Amendment is founded, as expressed in their reasons, is enormous—enormous to the extent of being absurd. The clergy can in many cases appeal from the decision of the Bishop to the Archbishop. A single curate has that right of appeal; but if the Bill is to pass without the Amendment, upon which the House has insisted by two divisions, any throe laymen may be debarred from the right of appeal, which is, by the existing law, conceded to one curate. In fact, the right of appeal, except conditionally—that is, except subject to the veto of the Bishop, which really destroys it as a right, is, by the rejection of our Amendment, absolutely, under the Bill, annulled. The Bishop is to have the power of closing the door of justice against laity, while the intervention of the Archbishops is to be prohibited. The Bishop's—a single Bishop's—judgment is to be treated as infallible, while the Archbishops are not to be held infallible. And that is not the only instance in which this Episcopal pretension has been admitted. It is countenanced in that miserable palliative of the acknowledged abuses and incompetence of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the Ecclesiastical Discipline Act, that statute which Parliament enacted to save itself the trouble of properly revising and reviewing the ancient ecclesiastical jurisdiction of this country. The right hon. and learned Recorder is naturally anxious to save what he can of the Bill of which he is in charge. I have done all I could to support him. But if there is to be a division, I shall certainly vote for the rejection of the Amendments sent down to us from the House of Lords; but I do not recommend a division simply for this reason—that in the present state of the House, driven as the House is into a corner close upon the period assigned for prorogation, it might weaken the expressions of opinion which the House has already uttered, if the decision, taken under these adverse circumstances showed a diminished majority. I may be asked, What then will you do? Sir, there is the door, and before you put the Question, I intend to make my way through it, as the best means of expressing my total dissent 1368 from the exclusion of all right of appeal on the part of the laity from the Bishop's decision, which the House of Lords have thought fit to propose. I believe that by thus leaving the House, I shall best represent the opinion of the great constituency who have so long trusted me.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich must agree with him that great tact, courtesy, and moderation had been used, with rare exceptions, on both sides of the House, in the discussion of this Bill. He would not for one moment depart from that spirit; but he was bound to say the majority in that House had been placed in a very grave and a very awkward position, and it would require great temper and tact to get them out of the difficulty. He had the highest respect for the other House of Parliament, but he regretted their decision on that particular matter. He felt that decision would be scanned from one end of England to the other. It would be asked, how the majority had been composed—how the Archbishops and Bishops had voted?—and when it was found, as he believed, that the Archbishops had voted in one lobby and the suffragan Bishops in another, comments would be made reminding them of those who sat on the Episcopal Bench in the memorable days of the disestablishment of the Irish Church; and the question would be asked, what the Bishops did on that particular occasion, and whether they then supported that Church to which, as he believed, they were bound to give their support? If that was the question outside, it would also be a question inside the House; and the statement they had heard from his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, he was bound to say, was rather a curious one. The great majority of the Conservative Party, as well as a large number of those hon. Gentlemen who sat on the opposite side, representing the Protestant feeling of the country more largely perhaps than it had ever before been expressed since the Reformation, had been called upon to pass a Bill to put down Ritualism, and when they had supported it by every means in their power, they were now told it would be a dangerous thing to disagree to this Amendment of the House of Lords, because the Bill would be lost, and that those who had supported that Amendment would be de- 1369 lighted at the loss of the Bill. Now they were bound to look to their Leaders; and considering the strong expression of opinion by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that he was anxious that Ritualism should be put down, they were entitled to ask that it should be put down with a high hand by the whole Government. Their business was to see that the law was maintained. He believed he was now speaking the feelings and opinions of the large mass of his fellow countrymen. He knew they felt keenly on the subject. He knew they felt they ought to have an appeal from the decision of the Bishops, and he was delighted to hear that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich did agree that where practices of the kind objected to were instituted in rural parishes, there ought to be some remedy and some redress. But if the Bishop said those practices were not illegal, what was to become, it might be, of the large body of the parishioners? If both incumbent and curate could appeal to the Archbishop, was it a wise and prudent course to strike out the right of appeal on behalf of the laity? That placed a much greater responsibility on the Bishops, who would now have, themselves, to see that the law was fairly and faithfully carried out. If they did not, they might depend upon it, Parliament would make them do their duty. If the Act, as some supposed, was allowed to become a dead letter—if it was found that the Protestant feeling which ought be maintained in the Church of England was not maintained in the Church of England by those who were its ministers, the Protestant majority of the House of Commons would know how to deal with the matter. He hoped, however, it would not come to that. He found his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister placed great store on the measure. His right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder, whose opinion was entitled to so much respect, was also most anxious that this Bill should not be lost. It now, therefore, became the duty of the majority to consider what it was best for them to do. He was bound to say great pressure had been put on hon. Members not to vote in support of the Commons' Amendment. That might be perfectly right and legitimate on a great occasion. He ventured to say boldly that it would be 1370 both mischievous and unwise if, in a division upon the question, they were to go into the Lobby against the Lords' Amendments. It would not explain to the country the feeling of the House. People, looking at the division, would say the House of Commons had changed their opinion, and they had voted that the Archbishops should not be appealed to. That was not the opinion—the deliberate opinion—of the House of Commons. He looked for great things from the Bill. He hoped it would bring peace and tranquillity to the Church; he hoped it would serve to maintain the relations between the Church and the State; but as it had been put to him that it was of vital importance that the Bill should pass, ho, for one, would not insist on the Commons' Amendments to the measure.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, he desired to enter his protest against the reasons assigned by the majority in the other branch of the Legislature for disagreeing to the Proviso giving power of appeal to the Archbishop. When once a Court of Law was created, it became, in his opinion, most unfair and unreasonable to raise up an authority preventing anybody who felt aggrieved having access to it. That would be the case if the Bishop intervened between the Judge and the complaining parishioners. As, however, there was a general opinion that it was undesirable to go into the Lobby against the Lords' Amendment, he should refrain from doing so. He must, however, express his satisfaction at hearing the Prime Minister declare his determination to maintain Protestantism, without any other consideration than that of its being in accordance with the Constitution of the country, and the best ground of the continuance of the rights and privileges of the laity.
§ MR. HOLT
said, he could not but feel that the position in which the majority were placed was one of considerable gravity. As the author of the Amendment, he begged to say he had no personal feeling in the matter; but the House having accepted his Amendment, and having on a subsequent occasion confirmed it, he must solemnly protest against the course they were now compelled to take. He admitted that the majority on the second division had not been so great as when the Amendment 1371 was first proposed; but if those who were absent, and had voted for it on the first occasion, had been present on the second division, the majority would have been 56 instead of 23; and even if some of these had voted on the other side, there would still have been a considerable majority in favour of his Amendment. No arguments whatever had been adduced to satisfy him that the suggestion of an appeal was either unconstitutional or inadvisable. On the contrary, abundant precedents existed to justify the course which the House of Commons had taken in this matter; and an additional argument in its favour was, that it would give some protection to the laity. He hoped the Bishops would be better advised than to allow the Bill to become a dead-letter; because, if any such disposition were manifested, the House would be prepared to enforce the law. The very opposition which had been raised to the Amendment, showed that it was considered to be of importance. No doubt, the House were anxious that the Bill should not be lost; but he must say, if it had been supposed that there would be a disposition to acquiesce in the omission of the appeal to the Archbishop, many would have voted with the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) not to allow any discretion to the Bishop in the matter. After all that had been said, however, he did not wish to quarrel with the decision to which his right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder had come, not to insist on the Amendment. At the same time, those who now refrained from taking the sense of the House upon the question, and adopted the course suggested by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and recommended by the Prime Minister, must not be understood thereby to sanction the principle that they were prepared to place in the hands of each Bishop absolute power to prevent access by the laity to the Courts of the Church.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he was one of those who had a strong opinion of the clause which had now been altered in "another place;" but his right hon. and learned Friend, who had exercised a very sound discretion, not only with regard to that portion of the Bill, but in all other parts of it, having agreed to the change, he did not think the House could do better than adopt his advice. 1372 He (Mr. Henley) did not think that any hon. Member of the House would venture to say that the Bill, as it came down from the Lords without the clause, was not a valuable Bill; and no one would venture to say that if the Lords' Amendments were rejected there would not be a considerable chance of losing the Bill. Now, in what position would they be left, if they assented to the proposal of his right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder? It might be that the Bishops would exercise a sound and wise discretion—in that case, no harm would be done. And if the Bishops would not exercise a sound discretion, would there be no power to amend the Bill hereafter? Would not that give a strength to their opinion which could not be easily resisted? That was the feeling he had in the matter; and, no doubt, it was the same feeling which had influenced his right hon. and learned Friend. He, therefore, thought his right hon. and learned Friend was exercising a wise discretion, and he advised the House to take the course he recommended.
Question put, and agreed to.
Resolved, That this House doth not insist upon their Amendments to which The Lords have disagreed; and doth agree to The Lords Amendments to the Commons Amendments to the Bill.