HC Deb 26 June 1877 vol 235 cc298-318

in rising to call attention to the traffic in livings; and to move— That in view of the prevalence of simoniacal evasions of the law and other scandals and abuses in connection with the exercise and disposal of private patronage in the Church of England, remedial measures of a more stringent character than any recently introduced into this House are urgently required, said:—Mr. Speaker, Perhaps, Sir, it may excite surprise that any one who is known to be opposed to the principle of an Established Church, should trouble himself about reforms, the introduction of which is often regarded as the better alternative of disestablishment; a very common notion, perhaps, being that we should prefer to see scandals and abuses as rife and rampant in the Church as possible, in order that public disapprobation may be the more vehemently excited against an institution in which such scandals exist. But I venture to think that those who judge our motives have scarcely done justice to them, and certainly they have not penetrated our policy. No doubt we desire to see disestablishment, but we desire to approach it, not solely or chiefly, through external agency, but by producing what we conceive to be a healthier condition and tone of feeling inside the Church. Now these great reforms are either possible, or they are not possible. Either event must, in my humble judgment, advance our views. If it be found that they are impossible—if, with every disposition to introduce them on the part of Parliament and of the Church, these abuses are found to be so built into the system that they cannot be removed without bringing down the whole fabric, what an argument such a discovery will leave in our hands. If, on the other hand, it be found possible to introduce them, just in proportion as you succeed in doing so, will you cause the Church to assimilate to the free Churches around her, and will you weaken and lower the barriers which still separate her from a state of entire freedom.

Now, Sir, it cannot be said, that in bringing forward this Motion I have shown any of the impatience of a fanatic. I have waited until the reforming zeal of the whole Bench of Bishops has evaporated, and until it is evident to the comprehension of everybody that if these reforms are to be introduced at all, the initiative must be taken by those who, if not so jealous of the honour of the Church, are, at least, a little more hopeful as to the possibility of vindicating it. Nor, Sir, because this is the Motion of an outsider, is that any reason why those who sympathize with its object inside the Church should hesitate to support it, and, in fact, accept the challenge which I now make to them, and take it off my hands; especially as I shall content myself with laying bare the extent of the evil, and shall leave it to those who have the right to prescribe, to indicate the nature of the remedy. This is not because I have arrived at no conclusions of my own, but because the loud professions of the recognized physicians of the Church demand that the prescription should not come from one who belongs to quite another faculty. And I have other reasons. If I were to state what I think ought to be done with the proper attention to detail, I must make a much larger demand upon the indulgence of the House than I have any right at this hour to expect; indeed, it may fairly be doubted whether, when this question has once passed out of the present stage —which I take to be purely preliminary —it ought to remain for an hour in the hands of any private Member. It is the Government alone which can deal with it effectually, and one reason why I do not propose even to sketch what I think it would be well to do, is because I am am anxious not to seem by this Motion in any sense to tie the hands of Government. My desire is to draw from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary the declaration that he is prepared, when a fitting opportunity arises, to devote to this subject some of the attention and ability which he has devoted to it already, and at the same time to draw from the House an expression of opinion which may fortify him in the resolution to deal with it more effectually than it was proposed to be dealt with by the abortive Bill of 1875.

And now, Sir, as to the extent of this traffic. Mr. Day, for seven years secretary to the Bishop of Rochester, laid before the Committee of the House of Lords a tabular statement, containing some particulars of the advowsons and next presentations which were offered for sale in the columns of The Ecclesi- astical Gazette, in the months of January, 1872, 1873, and 1874; the month of January being selected because it afforded a fair average for the rest of the year. I find from this statement that in January, 1872, 88 livings were thus offered; in January, 1873, 89; and in January, 1874, 108. But do not let the House imagine that this monthly exhibition of spiritual bargains gives any adequate notion of the number of livings actually in the hands of agents. A friend of mine, who is well known to several Members of this House, who has made a special study of this question, and, under the nom de plume "Promotion by Merit," contributed a series of extremely able letters to a prominent member of the provincial Press (The Manchester Examiner), calculated three or four years ago, from a careful comparison of the printed registers of Church preferment, that at that time nearly one-fifth of the whole saleable patronage of the Church was up in the market for sale or for exchange, and that if all the advertizing agents were as successful in the transaction of business as one of them, Mr. Emery Stark, was recently shown to have been, the whole Church might be turned over, in a commercial sense, in 13 years. Now I have had the opportunity of verifying this gentleman's statements. Through the kindness of friends I have made quite a collection of recent issues of these periodically-printed registers. I find that eight agents who advertize in The Ecclesiastical Gazette give particulars, either in the advertizements themselves, or in the registers which they advertize in the same journal, of 1,676 livings selected from their books, and that if we add to these the number of benefices which one of these agents informs us that he has upon his register at home, we arrive at the enormous number of 2,383 as that of the livings offered for sale or exchange through recognized agents. The agent to whom I have just referred states that— Advertisements are little resorted to; they are open to great objection, and it is an established rule of the office to abstain from them as much as possible. So he prefaces a list of 193 benefices or next presentations for sale, by the intimation that he has upwards of 1,000 on his books. He also informs us that— It was held by a very eminent Prelate, lately deceased; that you might just as well call the buying and selling of a vacant living magic, as call it after the folly of Simon Magus. Now, perhaps, it may be said that the eagerness to get rid of this kind of property is such that patrons often employ more than one agent; so that these lists contain duplicate advertizements. But I may observe that in the numbers which I have given I have not included —except in the case of one agent— what are termed "private instructions." These are only shown to purchasers who have their hands already in their pockets, or who wish to give to this species of profligacy all the piquancy of an assignation in the dark. One agent alone informs us that he has 60 of these private instructions on his books; and another, who only advertizes particulars of four livings, states that he has preferment on hand in almost every county in England. We may fairly, then, assume that at least 2,000 livings, or nearly one-fourth of the whole saleable patronage of the Church, is in the market for sale or exchange. Now, it has been asserted that some of these are bogus advertizements. My friend, to whom I have already alluded, has tapped these lists all over to test them, and he has not discovered a single bogus advertizement. The other day, for a moment, it seemed that he had done so. Having identified one of the livings, he wrote to The Manchester Examiner, stating, that the Rev. J. Ray, both patron and incumbent, was offering by private treaty his living of Ashton-upon-Mersey, with immediate possession. Immediately there was immense indignation among this gentleman's friends at Ashton. A correspondence ensued, as it seemed to me, little creditable to those who took part in it. Its object appeared to be to lead the public astray, for it turned out that the utmost the rev. gentleman could say, after a hasty visit to London, the object of which could only be surmised, was that "the living was not now on sale."

Now, Sir, let us look at these advertizements to see whether there is anything in them to indicate the spirit in which this traffic is carried on. Is there anything, for example, to indicate that the responsibilities which are thus changing hands for money are some of the most solemn which any man can undertake? Or is the whole phrase- ology that of the merest and coarsest speculation? Sir, ever since I can remember, and long before, there has been more or less of controversy in the Church with regard to disputed points of dogma and ritual. What traces has that controversy left on these lists? Mr. Cox, of Belper, whose name is well known in connection with his candidature for Parliamentary honours, has collected and analyzed 400 of these advertizements. In 14 only did he find any mention of what are technically termed views. In four a High Church incumbent would be preferred; in 10 a Low Church incumbent. One patron has a soul above all such considerations. "High Church," he says, "but Evangelical, would do for this parish." In 107 out of the 400 there is mention of "good society;" in some it is described as "very choice," in others as "real county;" in one there can be no doubt about it, for we are told that "there are five gentlemen's residences in this parish," and that in one of them is to be found a live Baronet, and in another an actual Admiral. Another parish is eligible for a double reason, "good society and no squire." In 53 the scenery is extolled. The clergy would seem to be curious about stabling. In five there is stabling for five horses, in four for six, in one for seven, and in one for eight. Ample justice is done to the sporting propensities of our spiritual guides. Fishing has always been an apostolical pursuit. In 30 we have good "fishing," in nine "shooting," in six "hunting;" while in three the successor of the Apostle has to be content with such modest excitement as is to be found in the use of the pea rifle. They have only rookeries to offer. But the baits which are evidently the most to be relied upon are those which suggest a very limited sphere of usefulness, or very early possession. Thus, "population under 100, duty nominal;" "almost a sinecure, single service and no school;" "no cure of souls, incumbent 77 and non-resident;" "population 1,740, duty only on every alternate Sunday," but "stabling for five horses and income £800;" "incumbent about 80, in a very precarious state of health;" "annual value £1,800, incumbent" (the advertizer) "aged 58, but he is, it is believed, in a very bad state of health." A friend of mine received the other day an advertizement of a living for sale, accompanied by a memorandum which informed him that if he wished to buy he must reply by return, "as the incumbent was dying." He delayed doing so for a few days, and he was then informed that the incumbent was dead. "Immediate possession" is constantly advertized. I have a Monthly Register of Church Preferment for Sale, published by Mr. Bagster, for February last, which contains 94 advertizements, and in 57 of these immediate possession is guaranteed. Well, but, Sir, this great business is not always confined to retail. It sometimes assumes wholesale proportions, and livings are sold by the bunch. The cases of Stockport and Sandbach have been brought to my notice. Stockport was purchased by Mr. Symonds, a calico-printer at Manchester, 17 or 18 years ago, it having been offered by auction at the Warren Bulkeley Arms, along with 24 public-houses, two beer-houses, and a brewery. The incumbent was then 71 years old, but it was 17 years before this bargain fell in, although when it did, Mr. Symonds had no reason to complain, for it carried with it the patronage of six other parishes. But, not content with that, Mr. Symonds, the present incumbent, is endeavouring to upset the leases granted by his predecessor. Sandbach was purchased by a gentleman named Armistead, who put in his son in 1828. The son immediately instituted a suit for vicarial tithes against his parishioners, and so raised his annual income from £200 to £1,600, the living itself having cost £1,500. But that is not all. As mother church, it carries the patronage of five other livings, and in two of these are to be found gentlemen of the name of Armistead. I spoke a moment ago of auctions. Perhaps, the climax of indecency is reached when the cure of souls is knocked down to the highest bidder. Yet these auctions are of frequent occurrence. Perhaps, the incumbent is growing very old and infirm, and the living, which is in the hands of agents, does not go off. The incumbent grows older and more infirm. You throw the living on the market for what it will fetch. On the 12th of this month, the living of Broughton was offered at a public-house at Shrewsbury; on the 24th of last, St. Alkmond's, Derby, was offered at the Auction Mart, Tokenhouse Yard, together with the patronage of Little Eaton; of which the rector of St. Alkmond's, who offered it, is only the "official" patron. I am told that the whole emolument of Little Eaton, amounting to £300 per annum, is paid by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

Well, Sir, so much for this trade. Perhaps some one will say, at all events, we know the worst; it is no longer on the increase. Is that so? Mr. Bridges, who from his associations may be termed an ecclesiastical solicitor, was asked this question by the Lords' Committee:—"Has the sale of advowsons increased very largely within your experience? "He replied—" Very largely indeed." And Mr. Lee, who is secretary to many Bishops, speaks in the same strain. Now, Sir, perhaps some hon. Gentleman may say—"There is, no doubt, something very unpleasant and unsatisfactory in all this; but, so far as you have gone, you have not shown that there is anything disreputable and dishonourable." I venture to think that there is a good deal which is discreditable in what I have shown already; but I will promise to convince the most sceptical and fastidious person of this before I sit down. For example, if this be an upright and honourable trade, it is remarkable that we find some of those who are the most actively engaged in it precisely the kind of persons which they appear to be. Lord Sydney Godolphin Osborne tells us that one of these agents was a few years ago a prosecutor for libel before the Bench at Worcester. He is the owner and publisher of the — Gazette. The defendant's counsel got out of this agent that his real name was—, and that he had good reason to change it. If you ask me, have I the slightest doubt in the world that he had been a convict, and that he had changed his name, I have no doubt of it, because the counsel put the question to him in open Court, and he admitted it. Well, if the trade be pure, it flows through some singular channels, and through this particular channel it flows very freely indeed, because Lord Sydney Osborne laid before the Committee a copy of this gentleman's Gazette, dated the month before he gave his evidence —namely, April, 1874, which contained particulars of 182 advowsons, presentations, and exchanges.

And now, Sir, I come to the most painful part of my task; I mean the evidence which identifies this traffic in great measure with simony, or with what is only not simony through fraud and evasion. Mr. Bridges, whom I have already mentioned as an ecclesiastical solicitor, was asked this question— Can you give me any notion as to the extent to which simoniacal transactions go? He replied— I have no doubt whatever that they cover a very large area. He was asked again— Are you aware that any evil exists with reference to the exchange of benefices? He replied— It is very often made the means of simoniacal proceedings, I believe. And Mr. Lee stated that "evasions of the law are almost universal." And no wonder, Sir, when we remember the unhappy confusion into which the clerical conscience appears to have fallen upon this point. Mr. Bridges was asked this question with regard to the late oath against simony— You think, it being a legal oath, persons not of a legal mind may not quite understand it? Yes," he replied, "such persons may be very much embarrassed; or else they may come to the conclusion, which I have often seen arrived at by clergymen, that the whole thing is an absurdity, and that they may get through the matter in the best way they can. That I know to be a very common state of mind. Have you known instances of that kind? Yes, there have been many instances in which I have been fortunate enough to stop proceedings of this kind, and there have been other cases in which I have not been so fortunate, but in which proceedings have gone on in spite of every remonstrance. And with reference to a most rascally transaction, particulars of which are given in the Blue Book, he was asked— May I ask whether the clergyman who did this was generally regarded as a respectable man? He replied— He was a thorough gentleman by position; he was a man of good family, and there was nothing whatever against his character. He did not belong to any very earnest school in the Church. But what says Mr. Few? Mr. Few is probably known to half the House. He has practised in ecclesiastical matters for half a century— Practically you have had considerable difficulty in getting clergymen to understand the stringent character of the late oath against simony, have you not? Undoubtedly, even in the case of men of undoubted piety, and more particularly in the case of the oath, it is quite remarkable how dense they were in seeing what its tenor was; and I remember my father constantly dwelling upon this same point, that he had to read it over to them. These were men of undoubted piety, and yet they could not see that what they desired to do was against the oath. In fact, Sir, there is too much reason to fear that not only transactions of a simoniacal character, but blank simony, going to the length of the sale and purchase of a vacant living, has taken place. For Mr. Dunning, who for 20 years has been secretary to various Bishops, was asked this question— You could not put your finger on a positive case, (i.e., of a vacant living having been sold,) and say that it had been done; but you believe that it has been done? He replied— I believe that it has been done. And for my own part, I can draw no moral distinction between the purchase of a vacant living, and the purchase of a living with immediate possession, which is a matter of almost daily occurrence. Again, Sir, the House is no doubt aware that, by a statute of Queen Anne, clerks in Holy Orders are prohibited from purchasing next presentations. Yet even this is evaded, for we have the authority of Sir Robert Phillimore and Mr. Dunning for saying that clergymen purchase advowsons, "subject to a re-sale." But perhaps the most frequent and most flagrant evasion of the law is, when a living falls vacant, and, in order that it may bring a better price, the oldest and most infirm man who can be found is put in, and the living advertized with a glowing description of his age and infirmities. Lord Sydney Osborne gave three instances which came within his personal knowledge. First, there was that of Spettisbury, in the diocese of Salisbury, where the incumbent died unexpectedly, and the population being 1,000 with two churches, a clergyman of the name of Basket was put in, a man of 80 years of age, and holding previously a small living, but licensed as non-resident on account of age and infirmity. Then he gave the case of Rougham, in Norfolk, with a population of 1,000, and an in- come of £800, to which a man of between 80 and 90 was instituted. But the worst case was that of St. Ervan's, in Cornwall, to which a clergyman named Cox was presented, who was "barely able to sit up in a chair." When he was taken there for induction, he had to be supported up the aisle by two persons, jelly and wine, or wine and water, were given him at the reading-desk, he was unable to finish reading the Thirty-nine Articles in the morning, and he died before the sale could be legally carried out. Then I may name the notorious case of Falmouth, a living worth £1,700 a-year, which fell vacant a year or two ago, and to which a clergyman, aged about 77, was instituted, and the living immediately thrown upon the market. But I need not detain the House by citing instances of this kind, for there is no hon. Gentleman who cannot recall similar cases.

Now, Sir, I suppose that it will be admitted upon all hands that a clergyman should be a man of good character? In every-day life we hear of physicians who devote their skill to some particular organ of the human frame. One man pounces upon your stomach, and another runs away with your lungs. Well, in clerical life we find something which is analogous. There are specialists there, too, and one of the most skilful of these is the man who applies himself to your diseased reputation, and who keeps the Bishop off your character. For example, the clerical convict, of whom I have spoken, having suffered in reputation himself, applies himself to the cure of those who are sufferers in the same line, and keeps a pocketful of livings for their relief. Lord Sydney Godolphin Osborne thus describes how he deals with one of these— Then a certain Mr.— was appointed; he was in many ways most objectionable. He at last got such a character that he resigned. Then he put in A. B. He and the clerical agent took the duty between them, the agent preaching; and the Bishop of Salisbury wrote to me that he had had more than 60 letters about A. B. At last his character became so obviously bad, that this agent moved him to the living of Q., where he prosecuted him for libel. Finally, another clergyman named S., who had been subjected to an enquiry under a commission, was instituted to this useful living, coming from the diocese of Norwich. Now, all the Bishops in these cases were duly warned about what was taking place; but it seems that they were totally helpless to prevent the institution of these people, though they refused to countersign their testimonials, and we are expressly informed that this convenient living was not a donative. The Bishop of Peterborough, whose efforts in the cause of reform have been beyond all praise, delivered in 1875 a very powerful Charge, in which he thus referred to this point— Since I have been a Bishop, I have been called upon to institute four clergymen, of whom one was paralytic; another so aged and infirm that, on the ground of his age and infirmity, he asked me for leave of perpetual absence from the important parish to which I had just instituted him; a third was a reclaimed drunkard, who was presented to a benefice, situated only a few miles from the scene of his former intemperance; the fourth had resigned a public office—sooner than face a charge of the most horrible immorality, the truth of which he did not dare to deny to me. In each of these cases the facts were perfectly well known to the respective patrons. As regards every one of these, I was advised that I had no legal power to refuse institution. Now, Sir, I cannot pretend to-night to describe to the House all the genera of simony or quasi-simony. It is enough for my present purpose to describe a few of the chief species. "The difficulty is," as one of the witnesses naïvely remarked, "that the persons interested want to anticipate the vacancy," and so they are driven into transactions which are illegal, or are only not illegal because the skill and experience of centuries are resorted to in order to maintain the letter of the law, while its spirit is violated in every direction. Now, let us put side by side this state of the clerical conscience and of the conscience of patrons with the flourishing character of the traffic—a traffic which defies the ordinary fluctuations of trade; let us put the fact that "evasions of the law are almost universal," and that "simoniacal transactions cover a very large area," side by side with the circumstance that prosecutions for simony are absolutely unknown, that no such case has come into Court for 40 years, and that the Bishops openly proclaim their utter helplessness in the present state of the law; let us group all these facts together, and then let me ask the House whether it is to say Aye or No to this Motion? I ask devoted Churchmen whether, bearing in mind the amount of opposition which the Church has often to encounter, and the kind of criticism to which it is everywhere subjected, this is a state of things which they can afford to leave unchanged? Two or three years ago an attempt was made to change it, and, in order to justify the terms of my Motion, I fear I must detain the House for a very few minutes while I sketch as briefly as possible the history of that attempt.

Now, what was the Bill for the Reform of the Patronage Laws, which ultimately found its way into this House? Those who remember the incidents of its existence in "another place"—where it led the life of a pantomime—will agree that we may well ask. I have no doubt, Sir, that there is no Member of this House who, in his younger days, has not amused himself by watching the transformations of a nimble little animal, which begins life as a transparent globule, and ends by becoming an expert swimmer and a prodigious jumper. The measure to which I refer went through precisely similar transformations; only, by a law of natural selection which would have puzzled Dr. Darwin, just in proportion as it approached maturity, it developed backwards. It begin by jumping very high indeed, then its legs fell off and it became a tadpole; then its tail fell off and it became a mere globule of legislation, transparent and passive, and which you might pierce in any direction in search of the principle of vitality without finding it. And in that shape it passed into the hands of my right hon. Friend, the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Walpole). It is no secret, Sir, that when the Bill was originally mooted it was intended to embrace the prohibition of the sale of next presentations. That was the intention of the right rev. Prelate who moved for the Committee. It was the opinion of the great majority of the witnesses examined. But when the critical moment arrived, and the right rev. Prelate who was in the Chair (the Bishop of Peterborough) had submitted his draft Report, all his Episcopal Brethren save one—the same Episcopal Brethren, bear in mind, who, as the Archbishop of Canterbury informed us at a subsequent stage; regarded the prohibition of the sale of next presentations "as vital to the Bill if it were to be of any real use"—I say all his Episcopal Brethren save one forsook him and fled, and the vital clause was struck out of the Report. But the Bill, as originally printed, still contained many important provisions which, before it arrived here, had entirely disappeared. What remained? The Bill abolished donatives. I wonder whether any hon. Member regards that as a great achievement? I wonder whether many hon. Members know exactly what a donative is? One of the witnesses called them "the cracked china of the Church," but I very much doubt whether they are the only infirm porcelain which that venerable edifice contains. A donative is a benefice to which you may present without troubling the Bishop, and which you may resign whenever you please. There are in all about 100 of them; and as regards the use which the clerical agents may make of them, let the House remember that in the worst case of manipulation by an agent which I have related to the House, we are expressly told that the benefice so manipulated was not a donative. Then the Bill abolished resignation bonds. That was simply to restore the law to the state in which it stood before the year 1827. It provided publicity. The Bishop was to keep a register of grants of advowsons. Is not the auctioneer's hammer publicity, and the 2,000 advertizements? Then the Bill declared the payment of interest upon the purchase money of an advowson illegal. As though any actuary could not calculate the value of the existing life, and deduct it from the principal! Finally, the Bishop was empowered to refuse institution for actual physical incapacity or when the presentee had passed the age of 75. And what, Sir, must be the state of the law when new legislation is required to empower the Bishop to refuse institution to a man who is so infirm that when he is once down upon his knees he cannot rise from them, or to withhold from raving lunatics the privilege of consoling us upon our death-beds?

Let me say just one word upon the rights of congregations. As the Bill was originally drawn, it was proposed to give to Englishmen some shadow of the privileges which you have given to every congregation, upon the other side of the Tweed. The congregation was to have the right of challenging improper pre- sentations, and the Bishop was bound to attend to their remonstrance, and to try the case himself, or send it for trial before the Ecclesiastical Judge. But the clause was narrowed down to this, that if the congregation remonstrated, they were no longer to be liable to prosecution for libel, and that was all. If incredible doctrines, if intolerable practices, were about to be thrust upon us in the person of the new presentee, were we to have any right to remonstrate then? No, Sir, not so much as a whisper. I am told that there are societies, the whole scope of whose operations consists in the purchase of advowsons over the heads of congregations, and the imposition of men of extreme views, who may think it their duty to startle us by gymnastic services, or the exhibition of some Evangelical extravaganza. There was not a word in the Bill which could save us from the machinations of men who club together, less, as it seems to me, for the propagation of the faith than for the propagation of faction. There was not a word in it which could trouble the calculations of those whose spiritual earnestness finds vent—I quote the words of a right rev. Prelate—"less in discovering the right man for the living than in discovering the right living for the man." This whole system of sale and barter, of commission agents and advertizements and auctioneers — this whole system of fraud and evasion—a system which is so shocking that one of the Bishops tells us—"it cuts, as it were, into the very reason for the existence of a Church at all," was to receive no sensible discouragement from the cobweb legislation to which my right hon. Friend was willing to lend his name.

Sir, I ask my right hon. Friend, and I ask the House, to take higher and firmer ground upon this question. It is a House filled with Churchmen, and with those who wish well to the Church. Believe me, it is in no spirit of narrow sectarian jealousy that I speak. I regard the legitimate influence of the Church as a great Christian and Christianizing community, as an object of higher national importance than the equality of creeds before the law; and I hold that it would have been better for the Church, better for religion, better for common morality, if you had left this traffic in the dark, rather than that you should have poured this flood of light upon it, and then refuse to grapple with the facts. Why, Sir, if this traffic were carried on with the ordinary purposes of commerce, there is no merchant or manufacturer in this House who would not scout a trade besmirched all over by fraudulent evasion of the law. If it were a mere municipal appointment which was bought, you would send the man who bought it to prison. If it were a mere civil or military appointment, what should we think of the nation which bought its honour to the hammer, and flung its fame and safety upon the market? But what ought to be our consternation, when we remember that the object of all this fraudulent barter is a responsibility the most solemn which can devolve upon any man; that these spectators are huckstering with the most awful names upon their lips, and that when the bargain is complete, with their hands stained and their consciences seared by fraud, they are commissioned with the full authority of the Realm to take charge of the spiritual interests of the nation? Sir, I well remember the speech which a right hon. gentleman, now a noble Lord, Lord Selborne, once delivered in this House in defence of the Established Church. I remember that he closed it by a quotation noble and eloquent as the speech itself. He spoke of "the spiritual fabric of the Church" as "by the hands of wisdom reared, in beauty of holiness." I remember the cheers which greeted those words; and it is because in great measure I sympathize with them, that I claim from those who raised them a corresponding sympathy with the object of this Motion. If it be true that your Church is "reared in holiness and beauty," then, for very shame, if for no higher motive, I ask you to condemn and to arrest the practices of those who, in the words of an older and greater poet, Do traffic in the sanctuary, whose walls With miracles and martyrdoms were built. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Resulution.


in seconding the Motion, said, he was sure that if the arguments urged in favour of it were fairly considered and attended to, they would be calculated to strengthen, rather than weaken the Church of England. The question had been dealt with on many occasions. Everyone seemed to be anxious to reform the present system of the sale of livings, but they had not been able to come to one opinion. A Commission which was appointed in 1865 to consider this subject recommended that for the then existing state of the law there should be substituted a declaration against simony, and added an expression of their opinion that the law on the subject of simony required revision. In 1870 the right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary brought in a Bill which had for its object the abolition of the sale of next presentations, and though the Bill came to an untimely death, his right hon. Friend had done good service by bringing the question before the House. In 1874 the Bishop of Peterborough brought forward this question in a most able and eloquent speech in the House of Lords, and the speech which he made and the Report of the Committee which he obtained were much stronger than the Bill which he afterwards introduced. He (Mr. Hibbert) believed that the Bishop had a real and honest desire to deal with this question, and that a great advance would have been made if his recommendations had been carried into effect. As a Churchman he (Mr. Hibbert) was not disposed to think that they could abolish the sale of livings altogether. He was not satisfied that the abolition of the sale of advowsons was one which was desirable, until he could find a better Body to whom things might be transferred. It had been suggested that they should be transferred to some popular Body; but from his experience in the North of England, where some livings were left in the hands of popular Bodies, he had no desire to see them transferred in that manner. The abuses which had taken place where such a system existed showed that it was a very disadvantageous one. He did not think that they were prepared at the present time to go so far as to say that advowsons should be abolished, purchased, and transferred to some other Body. But if they could not go to that extent, they could go a great length in doing away with the abuses of the present system. The greatest scandal and abuse arose from the sale of next presentations, and no serious inroad on property would take place if the sale of next presentations were abolished. The law ought to be defined with more strictness. Parliament might prohibit the public sale of this kind of property, and the congregation ought to be considered in the appointment of the minister. They knew that the congregation had a voice in Scotland, and though he should not think it would be advantageous that the congregation should have the entire selection, he thought that it was desirable that whenever a patron was appointed notice should be given to the congregation, and they should have time to make a representation to the Bishop if they objected to the man who was to be imposed upon them. The Home Secretary, when he introduced his Bill in 1870, said that the great majority of the clergy were in favour of the abolition of the sale of next presentations. The same might be said of the laity, and he (Mr. Hibbert) should like to know who was against it. He believed that there would be no difficulty in dealing with this question in a large and rational manner, and that the time had now come when it should be taken up by the Government. Though he seconded the Motion, he did not very much object to the Motion of the hon. Member for South-east Lancashire (Mr. Hardcastle).

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in view of the prevalence of simoniacal evasions of the Law and other scandals and abuses in connection with the exercise and disposal of private patronage in the Church of England, remedial measures of a more stringent character than any recently introduced into this House are urgently required."—(Mr. Leatham.)


rose to move as an Amendment— That it is desirable to adopt measures for preventing simoniacal evasion of the Law and chocking abuses in the sale of livings in private patronage. He admitted that there was no very material difference between the Amendment and the Resolution of the hon. Member for Huddersfield. It appeared, however, to him that it was undesirable in an abstract Resolution to refer to attempted legislation in this House, and that the Amendment which he proposed practically raised the whole question. It was in the direction of the measure introduced by the present Home Secretary in 1870 that he (Mr. Hardcastle) advocated reform, and it was much to be regretted that that measure had not passed into law. The abuses to which the hon. Member had referred were abuses which were discreditable to the Church. No one could fail to admit the grievance and scandal of these sales; but he did not think that they presented any reason for disestablishing the Church. It was not very long since the power of appointing to seats in that House was matter of sale, and a Reform Bill for the Church of England would probably do as much good as the Reform Bill had done for the House of Commons.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is desirable to adopt measures for preventing simoniacal evasion of the Law and checking abuses in the sale of livings in private patronage,"—(Mr. Hardcastle,)

—instead thereof.

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


said, he must claim the indulgence of the House for a few minutes; but he felt bound to say that in this case there was proof of abuse, and he hoped on whichever side of the House he might be sitting, he should never be found standing up for that which he believed to be an abuse. This was a matter with which he had endeavoured to deal by a Bill which he introduced as a private Member in 1870, and he did not desire to shrink from a single word he used on that occasion. In his mind, there was a considerable difference between the sale of advowsons and the sale of next presentations. He believed it would be to the great injury of the Church of England if private patronage were done away with. When a man had the right of presentation to a certain living—which, in his opinion, constituted one of the most important trusts which a man could exercise—that right was attached to certain property, and if he wanted to divest himself of that right, and to sell the advowson which gave it to him, he ought to be allowed to do so, but that he had no right to sell the next presentation which that right of advowson gave him. In his opinion, the taking of money for the sale of a next presentation was in the same category as the taking of money for giving a vote for a Member of that House. He could not see the distinction. If there was to be private patronage, somebody must hold the advowson. They could not say to a man that he should not sell the estate to which the advowson was attached, or that he should not sell the advowson separately from the estate. So far as the next presentatation went, however, it was an entirely different thing. It was a right of presentation, and it was a trust, and he had no more right—indeed, he had much less right—to sell that trust for money to put into his own pocket than to sell his right to vote for a Member of that House. A good deal had been said about the Bishop of Peterborough's Bill, and the Committee of the House of Lords which sat upon this subject, but no attention had been drawn to the Resolutions which were almost unanimously passed by that Committee. He should like, therefore, very briefly to call the attention of the House to the recommendations of the Committee as to the direction in which legislation should go. In the first place, the Committee stated that they were of opinion that— All legislation affecting patronage should proceed upon the principle that such patronage partakes of the nature of a trust to be exercised for the spiritual benefit of the parishioners, and that whatever rights of property attached to Church patronage must always be regarded in reference to the application of that principle. That was the great principle they all desired, and it was a sound basis to go upon. In the second place, the Committee recommended that— The exercise of the rights of patronage without due regard to the interests of the parishioners should, as far as possible, be restrained by law, and that the law should aim at preventing, as far as possible, the appointment of unfit persons. In furtherance of these objects the Committee stated that it was desirable that publicity should be secured to all appointments of Church patronage. The Committee further went on to say, in which he quite agreed with them, that private patronage was of great value to the Church, and to strongly deprecate any alteration in the law which should take it away. These were the principles laid down in that Report. They enforced the point that the right of presentation was a trust to be exercised for the benefit of the parishioners at large, and not for the advantage of the holder's pocket. That was the principle of his own Bill, and it was also the principle of a Bill on the subject introduced by the Marquess of Salisbury, when he sat in the House, and he hoped it was a principle which would be unanimously sanctioned by the House. He was quite aware of the practical difficulty of distinguishing between the sale of a next presentation and the sale of an advowson; but he did not think the difficulty was insuperable. In reference to the Motion before the House, he would appeal to them, if possible, to come to an unanimous vote; and he would suggest that the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) should accept the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for South-east Lancashire (Mr. Hardcastle), which practically led to the same conclusion as his own. If the hon. Gentleman was willing to do that, he (Mr. Cross) would support the Amendment, and he hoped the House would do the same.


said, after the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman and the admirable and important speech which they had just heard from him, he felt it would not be right to divide the House, and he would accept the Amendment of his hon. Friend.


was unwilling to hear this Motion adopted without entering his protest against the arguments of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He challenged the accuracy of the illustration of which his right hon. Friend had made use, in comparing the right of advowson to the right to vote for Members of that House. If that doctrine were applied to its full extent, it appeared to him that an owner would not have the right to lease the property which gave him the vote. The recommendations of the Committee of the other House, that the right of appointment should be considered as a trust, appeared to him to be begging the whole question. The point to be determined was not whether the right of presentation was a matter of trust, but a matter of property, a right, no doubt, to be governed and controlled in the interests of decency and propriety, but yet a right which was a matter of property.


said, he never for a moment stated that the right was not in the nature of private property; but that it was property clothed with a trust, and a most sacred trust, to be exercised not for the benefit of the individual, but the whole community.


also entered his protest against the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman, and complained of the practice of clergymen of the Church of England. Many of those men were abominable and atrocious sepoys, who were receiving the pay of the Church for protecting what was called Protestantism, while they were teaching other doctrines than those of the Church. He thought it desirable to go to the root of the evil, and that Parliament ought to take such measures as would get rid of the Established Church altogether, or apply such remedy to the evil as would be effectual.


protested against the doctrines of the right hon. Gentleman and of the hon. Member for Chester (Mr. Raikes), and contended that the parishioners had a right to elect their own ministers.


thought there ought to be no misunderstanding upon this important question. They could not come to an unanimous decision except upon one point—namely, that they condemned in toto the sale of a spiritual charge, as if it were a horse or a picture; but they could not agree that there was any difference between the sale of advowsons and next presentations. What they objected to was that there should be such things as sales of next presentations, and that people should be subject to the scandal of such outrages. No Bill which allowed the sale of advowsons would meet with the general assent of the House, or would be regarded as a settlement of the question.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.