HC Deb 21 May 1875 vol 224 cc777-82

Bill, as amended, considered.

Clause 8 (Appointment of Bishop of Saint Alban's by Her Majesty.)


, in moving, as an Amendment, to omit the first line of the clause, said, that the object of his Amendment was to ensure the continuance of the mode of appointment of the Bishop laid down in the Bill after the creation of a dean and chapter of St. Albans—namely, by letters patent direct from the Crown in lieu of the cumbrous machinery of the congé d'elire and letters missive, which had given rise to much scandal and inconvenience to the Church. He disclaimed any intention of aiming a blow at deans and chapters by his Amendment. His object was rather to save them from being placed in the humiliating position of having to elect a Bishop, of whom they might not approve, with the alternative of a prœmunire staring them in the face. The Government had entirely given up the principle of election by congé d'elire in the St. Albans Bill by recurring to the mode of appointment of Bishops which existed in England in the reign of Edward VI., and in Ireland from the second year of the reign of Elizabeth to the disestablishment of the Irish Church. Under the Irish Act of 2 Elizabeth, c. 4, all Archbishoprics and Bishoprics were made donative, and so continued after the union of the Church of England and Ireland. There was no election, no confirmation, the appointment being absolute by letters patent, on the authority of which the consecration took place. The 25 Henry VIII., c. 20, prescribed the manner in which Bishops should be elected, presented, invested, and consecrated within the King's dominions; the first step on the avoidance of a see was the congé d'elire, accompanied by letters missive containing the name of the appointee, then the form of election by the dean and chapter, then the certification of the election to the King, and after the oath of fealty had been taken, the King signified the same to the Archbishop of the Province, requiring him to confirm the said election, and to invest and consecrate the person so elected to the office to which he had been elected. Section 4 enacted that if the dean and chapter delayed the election of the person named in the letters missive above 12 days after receiving the same, the King might appoint whom he pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal. Section 7 enacted that if the dean and chapter did not elect and signify the same within 20 days they should suffer the penalties of the statutes of provisors and prœmunire. By 1Edward VI., c. 2, all Bishoprics were made donative in this country. That Act recited with much disapprobation the mock election under congé d'elire and letters missive, stigmatizing the proceedings as— colours, shadows, and pretences, serving; to no purpose, but derogatory and prejudicial to the King's Prerogative, to whom alone appertained the collation and gift of all Bishoprics in England and Ireland. That Act was repealed by 1Philip & Mary, c. 8, as also was 25 Henry VIII., e. 20, but the latter Act was re-enacted by 1Elizbeth, c. 1. So the law remained in England to this day. The House would observe that the dean and chapter were compelled under pains and penalties of the heaviest nature to elect the person named in the letters missive. In the case of Dr. Hampden, late Bishop of Hereford, the election was contested in the chapter by the late Dean Mere-wether, but he was out-voted, and the election took place. Subsequently, proceedings were taken to prevent the confirmation of the election at Bow Church on the 11th of January, 1848, when certain opposers appeared by counsel and claimed to be heard. After hearing arguments, the Vicar General overruled the objections, declared that the op-posers could not be heard, and pronounced all opposers contumacious for not appearing, at the same time directing the apparitor to call upon all persons to "come forward and make their objections in due form of law, and they shall be heard." On an application to the Court of King's Bench for a mandamus to compel the Archbishop to hear the opposers, the Court was equally divided in opinion, so that the mandamus was not granted. But the scandal to the Church arising from such a proceeding was very great. Nor was that a single instance. A like scandal occurred at the confirmation of Dr. Lee as Bishop of Manchester, and of Dr. Temple as Bishop of Exeter. The Court of King's Bench having ruled that the election of a Bishop by a dean and chapter was a pure matter of form and a ministerial act only, the religious service ought not to be mixed up with it; while the invocation of the Holy Spirit to guide the chapter in their choice of a Bishop, with the penalties of prœmunire staring them in the face if they exercised a free choice in the matter, was little short of blasphemy. So with respect to the confirmation also. In a debate in the House of Lords in 1848, Lord Denman, the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, said— An Amendment of the 25th Henry VIII., by substituting this simple process (the conferring upon the Crown the direct appointment of bishops) for the cumbrous machinery of congé d'elire and lettre missive, would be a great improvement of the law, and would avoid the scandal of similar questions arising in Westminster Hall for the future."—[3 Hansard, xcvi. 647.] The venerable and learned Bishop Thirl-wall expressed his concurrence, and said he believed the time had arrived, and circumstances had arisen, when it was absolutely necessary that some change or other should be made in the law. Bishop Phillpotts also thought that, so far as the election of Bishops by deans and chapters was concerned, the statute of Henry VIII. was unmixed tyranny. Under those circumstances, he (Mr. Monk) had brought in a Bill last Session to abolish the congé d'elire, but he had no opportunity of moving the second reading. He was glad to find the Government strengthening his hands, by proposing in that Bill to dispense with the congé d'elire in the first instance, and thereby abandoning the principle of a mock election. The object he had in view was to make that abandonment permanent, and he appealed to the House not to leave the shadow when they had taken away the substance. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment.


seconded the Amendment, as he disapproved of fictions being kept up in the Church, when in most other instances they had been abolished. A real congé d'élire had been given by King John, and from that time until the reign of Henry VIII. there had been no interference on the part of the Crown with the election of a Bishop. He could not see what possible good purpose it could serve to keep up the present fiction of the congé d'élire addressed to a dean and chapter who must elect a particular person under the terrors of a prœmunire, and who went through the form of a prayer to the Almighty to direct their choice. The case of Dr. Hampden had given rise to a great scandal, and he hoped there would not be a repetition of it.

Amendment proposed, In page 3, line 35, to leave out from the words "So long," to the words "Saint Albans," and insert the words "After the foundation of the new Bishopric of Saint Albans as aforesaid,"—(Mr. Monk,)

—instead thereof.


trusted the Home Secretary would not accept the Amendment. It was a broad question, and ought not to be raised on a narrow issue in a thin House. If the system was to be altered let it be altered for the whole Church, if the Church were inclined to give its assent to the change; but he did not think the whole Church would assent to the alteration of the system. The arrangement in this case was of a provisional character. If the Amendment were adopted, they would open delicate and burning questions, and, at the same time, not render the Bill in any degree more acceptable by making so sweeping a change on so small a portion.


opposed the Amendment, on the ground that there were at present no dean and chapter of St. Albans, nor did the Bill make provision for creating them. The general question—how Bishops ought to be appointed—was a very proper one to raise, but this was not the occasion for raising it. He was aware that the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) had introduced a measure last Session to change the mode in which Bishops should be elected. This Bill, however, was framed on a different principle, and he thought the hon. Member ought to re-introduce his Bill, in order that the general principle should be discussed. He hoped the House would leave the Bill as it stood.


said, he was quite ready to recognize the right of the flock in the choice of their chief pastor; but in no sense did the dean and chapter represent the rights of the flock. What they did represent was the rights of the clergy. Under this Bill the Bishop would be nominated by the Crown, without the clergy having any voice in the matter; but in the best days of the Church of England—namely, in the reign of Edward VI., even the form of a congé d'elire was dispensed with. He did not think that there was any likelihood of a dean and chapter being appointed in their time, so that there would be no fear of the congé d'elire being resorted to. The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), therefore, would get what he wanted, a non congé d'elire Bishop; and he (Sir William Harcourt) hoped that he would not divide the House.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 62; Noes 24: Majority 38.

Clause 11 (Sale by Commissioners of Danbury.)


said, the object of the clause was to the effect that the Commissioners should provide in the county of Surrey a suitable episcopal residence for the Bishop of Surrey. He objected to the question being prejudged, in the sense of a Parliamentary enactment that a Bishop was to live away from his See town. Perhaps in the present case it would be better that he should live in Surrey; but it was not right to sanction a violation of principle by statute. He would move that the words "in the county of Surrey" be omitted.

Amendment proposed, in page 5, line 36, to leave out the words "in the county of Surrey."—(Mr. Beresford Hope.)


opposed the Amendment. The Bishop of Rochester had never resided in the Cathedral town, and the new Bishopric, it should be remembered, was founded practically for the benefit of South London, and it was therefore considered desirable that the Bishop's residence should be in the county of Surrey.

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

Bill to be read the third time upon Monday next.