§ MR. EDWARD LEATHAM
rose to call attention to the Evidence taken by the Royal Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Law and Practice as to the Sale, Exchange, and Resignation of Ecclesiastical Benefices, and their Report thereon; and to move—That, in the opinion of this House, the simoniacal evasions of the law, and other scandals connected with the exercise and disposal of private patronage in the Church of England, are such as to call for remedial measures of the most stringent and radical character.Mr. Speaker, I do not think, Sir, that I am chargeable with much of the impatience of a fanatic in calling attention for the fourth or fifth time to the traffic in Ecclesiastical Benefices. How any Churchman can read the Evidence which was taken by the Royal Commission on Patronage appointed more than two years ago, and not be moved by it to the advocacy of immediate legislative action, is one of those things which, I suppose, one must be born in the lap of the Church to understand. Of course there is one explanation, and it is one which I have often heard—that the indictment which may be based upon that Evidence against the whole ecclesiastical 179 system of the Church of England is true; that these scandals and abuses are either inherent in the system, or so firmly and inseparably built into it, that there is no defence and no escape so long as the Church is connected with the State. If that be so, the sooner we have disestablishment the better; but if that be not so, and the disease have not yet passed beyond the reach of remedy, surely those who think this are bound to bestir themselves, and that at once, if only in the interests of common decency. When, therefore, I heard that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope) was preparing a Bill upon this subject I felt no surprise, but, on the contrary, I experienced a sense of relief, for I hoped that at last this unpalatable subject might have passed into other hands. Unfortunately, when my hon. Friend's Bill appeared it was very far from satisfactory. But whether the Bill be satisfactory or not, what is thoroughly unsatisfactory is that this great question should remain in private hands, however able. It is the Government alone, and a strong and resolute Government alone, which can deal with it effectually; and I hope that this debate will not close without our hearing from the Government some definite avowal of policy. And do not let the House suppose that I am about, at this hour, to weary it by a repetition of facts and arguments with which I fear that it is already too familiar. The Evidence which was taken by the Royal Commission is so important, and has cleared up so many doubtful points, that it constitutes almost a now departure in the history of this question. It is with this evidence that I propose chiefly to deal to-night; and if I shall leave many aspects of the question untouched, it is not because I think that what has been advanced on previous occasions has lost any of its cogency, but because I am anxious to add to it new considerations and new arguments, with which the most recent information has armed me. For I propose to discuss the question from a new stand-point. I wish, in the first place, to show how this corrupt traffic is demoralizing the clergy themselves, impairing their moral sense, enfeebling and degrading their consciences, and so poisoning, I may say, at its source that fountain of religious instruction which is presented to 180 the nation by the State. In the next place, I wish to show how wide is the area which is already covered by clerical patronage, together with the evils which it entails upon the parishes themselves; and, lastly, I wish to remind the House how rampant and flourishing this traffic has become, and how ingenious and unscrupulous are many of the agents and brokers in this peculiar branch of industry. And, first, as to the clerical conscience. The Commission examined Mr. Stark. Mr. Stark, as the House is aware, is one of those agents to whom patrons and clergymen betake themselves who are anxious to carry out these transactions with the minimum of illegality. He has to do, as he tells us, with the cream of the Profession. He is a perfectly credible witness. If he said anything which was not true, the Commission had every opportunity of convicting him of inconsistency or exaggeration. They did nothing of the kind. And yet when we remember who the persons are whom he is describing, and what guarantees they have given for holiness and purity, anything more astounding than his evidence it has never been my misfortune to read.2025. (Chairman.) Have you any information to give as to the extent to which the existing law of simony is contravened?—The Commissioners are well aware that the sale of advowsons, with the understanding that possession is to be given, is according to the law illegal. Three-fourths of the patrons with whom I have come in contact, and among them clergymen of the highest standing, do not recognize any moral crime in an infraction of the present law of simony, and the consequence is that they freely and unhesitatingly sell and purchase advowsons with the understanding that immediate possession is to be given, nor looking upon it as any sin. When I say clergymen of high standing, I have had business with ex-Colonial Bishops, canons, and other dignataries of the Church, who, of course, would be above suspicion in every way. * * * Three-fourths of my transactions are with immediate possession, and strictly speaking they are nearly all illegal.2028. (Bishop of Peterborough.) You say that the clergymen to whom you refer who offer their benefices for sale with immediate possession regard the transaction as in no way sinful; they know it nevertheless to be illegal?—Most decidedly.2029. Knowing it to be illegal, these clerical patrons ask you to help them to break the law?—Decidedly; and the matter is completed by solicitors of the highest standing in the country. The clerical agent simply introduces the parties. The lawyers draw up the necessary deeds.2030. You are, of course, aware that a simoniacal transaction in obtaining possession of a benefice voids the benefice?—Decidedly.1812031. These clerical patrons are aware that if these transactions became public, and anyone took proceedings upon them, their benefices would be void?—No doubt.2042. That is to say, there are clergymen of the highest character who do not recognize any moral wrong in breaking the laws of their country?—You may put it that way. The law is clear and distinct. Only this morning in an interview I had with one of my clients, I pointed out to him that it was an illegal transaction. In all my transactions with my clients I have always stated that they are illegal transactions.We have a law as strict as it is possible to make it, short of criminalty, and yet it is evaded; and moreover the clergyman is required to take an oath to the effect that he has not paid or caused to be paid any sum of money in any transaction which to the best of his belief is simony. The clergyman says to himself, 'In my view this is not simony.'2062. The clergymen knows what the meaning of 'simony' in that declaration is; he knows that is a legal term which means contrary to the law of simony?—Yes.2063. Knowing that, these moral clergymen who first of all ask you to break the law then take an oath that they have not broken the law?—Yes.Sir, this traffic is so corrupt and so corrupting, that its corrupt influence seems almost to taint the consciences, not only of those who are engaged in it, but of those whose business brings them into the same neighbourhood. A high authority in Ecclesiastical Law, who was one of the Commissioners, has satisfied himself apparently that the law is not broken because he can discern a distinction between a written agreement and a verbal understanding. There is no written agreement in these transactions, only a verbal understanding. And it is through this miserable loophole that these trafficking and lying clergy creep. What should we think of men who crept through such a loophole in the ordinary affairs of life? What should we think of men who thus eluded their mere pecuniary engagements? Should we not think them thorough-paced rascals? And yet these are men who are set over us by the law of the land as our moral and spiritual guides. But Mr. Stark has found a remedy for all this. He would adapt the law to the state of the clerical conscience. He would repeal the Law of Simony, and put something much gentler in its place. Mr. Stark has, I believe, many followers. Sir, I remember attending Divine Service in 182 a church the interior of which was adorned by an enormous clock. For some reason the officiating clergyman was 10 minutes late, a fact which the clock plainly indicated. At last the rev. gentleman appeared in full canonicals, and at the same moment fingers came forth from behind the clock and pushed the hand back 10 minutes. It struck me that that was the most original way of making a clergyman punctual I ever saw. Mr. Stark's way of making him moral is equally so. The law is strict, and the clerical conscience is not. Do not do anything to the clerical conscience; relax the law! Put the clock back! But, perhaps, someone will say—"These men, after all, are the exceptions. You are framing your indictment against the clerical conscience upon the evidence of an accomplice. Surely Mr. Stark is making the best of his equivocal profession by seeking to show that it has the countenance of clergymen of the highest standing." Sir, I wish I could think so. Unfortunately, Mr. Stark's statements are confirmed by other evidence which is perfectly conclusive. For example, Mr. Lee, who is secretary to I do not know how many Bishops, and who was examined by the Select Committee, states that "evasions of the law are almost universal." Mr. Bridges, examined by the same Committee, and who may be described as a solicitor in the very thick of ecclesiastical business in London, was asked these questions respecting the oath—You think it being a legal oath, persons not of a legal mind may not quite undertsand it?—Yes. Such persons may be very much embarrassed, or else they may come to the conclusion 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 instances in which I have been fortunate enough to stop proceedings of this kind; and there have been other cases to which I have not been so fortunate, but in which proceedings have gone on in spite of every remonstrance.And with regard to a most discreditable transaction he was asked—May I ask whether the clergymen who did this was generally regarded as a respectable man?—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.183 Mr. Few, who is known to half the House, was also examined.Practically you have had considerable difficulty in getting clergymen to understand the stringent character of the oath against simony, have you not?—Undoubtedly. Even in the case of men of undoubted piety, and more especially 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 the 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.Now, this "density" is the direct consequence of the corrupting influence of the traffic. Surely it is of vital importance to the Church to get rid of that corrupt influence at all costs. How can we respect the teaching of the Church when we find that the teachers themselves, the moment that their selfish interests come into play, are so utterly dense and unscrupulous; and how can we endure that a Church which is unwilling or unable to clear herself from the turpitude of these transactions, should be set up and kept up by Act of Parliament as the only true exponent of what is meant by religion in England? Such being the state of the clerical conscience, it is not re-assuring to find that, thanks to our system of purchase, a very large proportion of the private patronage of the country is already in clerical hands. Not only are the livings which are still with lay patrons besieged by clergymen with their hands, and I fear in many cases with their consciences, in their pockets, but in a vast number of instances the vendors are clergymen also; for the traffic is being carried on by clergymen on both sides. Indeed, the extent of clerical patronage constitutes a very formidable danger. Anything more foreign to the intention of the law, or more mischievous to the interests of the Church, or more disastrous to the parishes themselves, can scarcely be imagined, than that system of clerical patronage, which is the creature of this illicit trade. The law forbids a clergyman to purchase a next presentation for himself; the intention of the law, no doubt, being that the patron should be one person, and the presentee another. It was hoped, doubtless, that by this arrangement the laity would be able to exercise some kind of control over the clergy and all their multitudinous vagaries. But, in defiance 184 of the intention of the law, the clergy are rapidly buying up the fee-simple of the Church. We often hear of the "functions of the laity" in the Church of England. There are a class of clergymen who regard the "functions of the laity" with contempt. They are anticipating the whole movement on behalf of the laity. They are making themselves masters of the situation. They are buying up everything over the heads of the laity with hard cash. Where are the laity in such parishes as these? "That is my pulpit," practically says such a parson. "It cost me so much. I will preach in it just what I please." "This church is my freehold. It cost me so much. I will make it ring, if I like, with denunciations of the impious interference of an Erastian Government with the things of God." "That altar cost me so much. I will deck it out and decorate it exactly as I please." And these gentlemen appear before us clothed in the whole authority of the State, and in goodness knows what amount of supernatural authority, which they say that they derive from the Church—the Church which permits her authority to be scrambled for in the market-place—the State which offers its authority to the highest bidder! Sir, I can conceive nothing more humiliating or more intolerable than the picture of such a congregation—simple, God-fearing men, it may be, and used to the Protestant Service of the Church of England as it was understood in times when the Church of England was at her best, and she was at her best in the rural parishes—I can conceive nothing more revolting than the picture of such a congregation suddenly confronted by one of these sacerdotal and simoniacal upstarts, who changes everything, overturns everything, and tramples upon everybody with all the airs of sovereignty. The parish is helplesss, the Bishop is helpless, the law is helpless. The despot is in an incontestable position; and he is there for life. He is there not through fame or merit, or because he has deserved well of the Church, or because his name is associated in any way with the locality. He has bought himself in, and read himself in. Is the House prepared for the assertion of Mr. Stark, that two-thirds of the private patronage of the Church is in the hands of clerical patrons? 1852098. Can you give us any reliable information as to the number of clerical patrons that there arc altogether?—No; the proportion in my gazette referring to the benefices I have now for sale is 73 clerical patrons as against 48 lay patrons. You might take that as representing what the proportion would be generally. Taking the whole number of patrons at 7,000, I fancy the number of clerical patrons would be 4,000 or 5,000.The Rev. Samuel Slocock, an Essex rector, who appeared before the Commission as a kind of spokesman for the Essex rectors, is more precise. He estimates the value of clerical patronage in the county of Essex alone at £324,250 at 10 years' purchase, representing from 60 to 70 benefices. And Mr. Philip John Budworth, of Greenstead Hall, and late High Sheriff of the county, stated that—From the tolerable knowledge which he had of other parts of England besides his own, the conditions of lay and clerical patronage are in many other counties much the same as they are in Essex.Now, Sir, this constitutes, of itself, a very flagrant abuse. "Just imagine," said Mr. Venables, who was one of the Commissioners—Just imagine that most of the advowsons of England were at this moment the sole property of the clergy, where would there be any interest on the part of the laity in Church matters if a man just came and thrust himself into a parish and said, This is my property. I shall just come here and do pretty much as I like.'Yet, this is the state of things at which we are rapidly arriving. Sometimes it is a donative which is bought. The Rev. Edward Parker Dew told the Commission that he purchased the donative of Braemore, near Salisbury, for £8,500, with a population of 600, and an annual value of £877. The House, of course, is aware that a donative is the absolute property of the purchaser. He can present himself and resign when he pleases, without troubling the Bishop. Sometimes it is a family living which is purchased. And by a family living I do not mean only a living which remains in the family, but which provides for the whole family. The Rev. William Bedford told the Commission of such a living—1650. The advowson of the living of Sutton Coldfield was sold by the Crown, by Queen Elizabeth, to a person from whom my ancestor immediately purchased it in the same reign. In the reign of Charles the Second the then patron's daughter married a clergyman who was 186 the first of a series of rectors and patrons who have gone on till the present day. * * * The value of the living is about £1,400 from tithes, and there is about 500 acres of glebe. It is a valuable living. It is near Birmingham, and the glebe is coming in for building. * * * There are three district churches, and they will become rectories after my death. I have carried a scheme through, approved by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and sanctioned by an Order in Council, that the patronage of those rectories should become private patronage, and the incumbents receive the tithes.1652. Will they be with your family?—Yes, they will be in my family. My executors will have four advowsons instead of one, and the incumbents of the district churches will be rectors instead of vicars, and take the great tithes of the districts.A statement which was summed up by Mr. Venables as follows:—1667. (Rev. G. Venables.) Your view of the case, which is a very clear one, is one that regards the whole matter as property rather than a trust?—No doubt to a certain extent it is so. I have been speaking from the property point of view.Indeed, this inevitable perversion of sentiment, this disposition to regard the whole matter as property rather than a trust, meets us everywhere throughout the plea of the clerical patrons. Mr. Slocock was asked these home questions—781. And if he avails himself of his position as such trustee to enrich himself in any degree to the injury of his trust, he is doing a very wrong thing, is he not?—But he must think of home.782. If he considers his home and his family in preference to his trust, he is disregarding his trust, is he not, he is allowing considerations of a personal nature to interfere with his duty to his trust?—Then I think the primary duty of a man is to provide for his own almost before the parishioners. He is bound to think of his family, and how can he provide for his own if this is taken away from him!A reply which justifies the quaint and cynical dictum of Mr. Stark that—2041. Church property is so mixed up with rights of property that it is difficult to distinguish between rights of property and questions of conscience.This, I suppose, must be the apology of clergymen like the gentleman mentioned by Dr. Hobhouse, the Bishop Suffragan of Lichfield, who bought the living of P., with a population of about 800, and financed it as follows:—1350. He had raised a sum of money amongst the parishioners for the purpose of augmentation, which he carried to Lichfield and got doubled by the Diocesan Church Extension Society, and then he carried the double sum to 187 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and so raised the income of the living from £94 to £130, I think, and then put it in the market.Now this is frequently done. Augmentations are derived from Queen Anne's Bounty, or the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, or both, and when the pear is round and ripe it is sold and the proceeds pocketed. Now, I do not know what the House thinks of this sort of thing; but to an unsophisticated person like myself it seems very like sacrilege and theft. We cannot wonder that Mr. Meredith, one of the clergymen examined by the Commission, should condemn the system of clerical patronage. He says—260. The nature of my duties, some 25 years ago, as assistant Inspector of Church schools, under the Committee of Council, used to bring me in different parts of the country in connection with the clergy, and then I noticed that in every case where there was a clerical patron the parish was badly cared for. I could give instances of parishes in which that has come under my notice individually.261. You state that in every case in which the patron was a clergyman the parish was badly cared for; were those cases generally where a clergyman had appointed himself?—Yes.262. Were they all such?—Yes, they were all such.And as a monstrous illustration of the evils which this system inflicts upon the parishes, let me cite the well-known case of St. Giles', Camberwell. Dr. Utterton, the Bishop of Guildford, described this case to the Commissioners. He said that the parish contained before recent divisions 60,000 souls; that in the year 1846 the present vicar bought the advowson for £12,000; that the living was shortly afterwards sequestrated for something like £20,000; that the gross income was £2,300; and that the whole sum which Bishop Sumner was able to apply to the spiritual benefit of the parish was £200 a-year. The case was so outrageous that Lord St. Leonards brought it before the House of Lords; but he complained that there was no Bishop there to support him, and the matter fell through. When Bishop Wilberforce came into the diocese he asked the parishioners to join him in raising a fund of £400 a-year towards employing two additional curates and putting the vicarage into a state of repair. But no sooner had the curate in charge got into the vicarage than the vicar, who had been away for years, 188 presented himself and said—"I demand to come and be my own curate." So he took up his residence, and has been there over since. Now, do not let the House suppose that this is an isolated illustration of the mischief done by the system to the parishes. Mr. Herford, the Manchester Coroner, a gentleman well-known as a devoted Churchman, and active supporter of several Church societies, gave a detailed description of the state of a group of parishes in East Cheshire, with all of which he was familiar. He said—1210. The first that I would mention is Ashton-on-Mersey. In 1877 the living was offered for sale by the rector, who is occupier as well as owner of the living. As such he was able to advertise that immediate legal possession might be had, as he could, of course, vacate it on finding a purchaser. * * * The tithes were immediately sold by the present rector to a London company, whose rigid distraints caused an angry feeling and an 'indignation meeting.' For many years past the living has always been sold in the same way. The cases of individual hardship which are said to have occurred in connection with this purely mercantile mode of raising the clergyman's income are amongst the evil temporal effects of the purchase system. Then I proceed to the case of Stockport, which is a parish adjoining Ashton-on-Mersey, and a very extensive parish, the presentation to which has also for many years been sold. * * * The living was offered for auction, in 1850, at a public-house in Stockport, with other property (the 'Warren Bulkeley Arms Inn,' the 'Vernon Arms,' &c.), which sold well; but the living was withdrawn at the reserve price of £12,000, the then rector being stated to be aged 63. Eight years afterwards it was sold to the father of the present rector, who did not come into possession until 17 years after the purchase. The purchase money was £12,000, which, at compound interest, would now be worth two or three times that sum. One result of this great pecuniary loss was that the rector, whose income is £3,000 a-year, having found out what he was advised to be a flaw in the leases granted by the late rector, now claims from the lessees the land leased to them with the houses they have built upon it. A claim so disastrous to a great number of families has naturally produced great feeling against the Church, nearly a whole ward in the borough being stated to be in rebellion against the rector, and as the title to the leases is what is technically called slandered' by this claim, the leaseholders are bringing actions, in their turn, against the rector. Here, again, the evil temporal results of the purchase system are very marked. By the same purchase the rector because entitled to present to St. Thomas's Church, Stockport, and to the churches of Dukinfield, High Lane, Hyde, Marple, and Romiley. In Cheadle, the adjoining parish, the living was bought for the present rector by the lady whom he married. It includes the patronage of another church, which is held by the rector's brother. * * * Adjoining Cheadle 189 is Wilmslow, Sir Humphrey de Trafford is the owner, and being a Roman Catholic cannot present. For 216 years there has not been a presentation except by purchase. As soon as one appointment is made, the next presentation is sold. About 1824 the sudden illness of the rector (the Rev. Mr. Bradshaw) caused great alarm to the owner because the living had not been sold, and it is illegal to sell a living when vacant, or the rector is in extremis, but a purchaser in Manchester was luckily found; the owner, Mr. Trafford, was in the hunting field, and there executed the sale for £6,000. The Bishop refused to accept the clergyman, because the late rector had been in articulo mortis, having died very shortly after the sale was made. There wore three actions to decide the question; but the House of Lords, 'in the interests of property,' ultimately decided against the Bishop. Constant war has been the normal state of the parish, and. numberless pamphlets and papers have been issued by churchwardens and others, in one of which the churchwardens speak of 'this monstrous system of buying and selling the welfare of immortal souls.' And they ask, 'What is the purchasing of a living but spiritual domination on the one side, and spiritual slavery on the other?' The state of the Church and of the parish seems to me just what might have been expected. from the existence of the system of purchase so many years. * * * Adjoining the last-mentioned parish is that of Prestbury, the mother church of the town of Macclesfield, which has latterly been sold, in next presentations only, by the Leghs of Adlington. The living was bought for the present vicar by his brother, and includes the patronage of the parishes of Bollington, Bosley, Rainow, Saltisford, and Winkle. These sales of sub-parishes are a most important part of the subject. Adjoining Prestbury is Astbury, the mother church of the town of Congleton, which was sold together with the presentations of Bug-Lawton, Mossley, Odd-Rode, and Smallwood. * * * The living was sold with others by the first Lord Crewe to pay the debts of his son. It is stated that when the living of Astbury was about to become vacant, one of the ladies of the Crewe family was allowed to stake it in a bet with one of the ladies of the Egerton family, the decision being made to depend upon a race between two caterpillars. * * * Adjoining Astbury is the parish of Sandbach. Early in the present century the Rev. J. Armstead bought the living, and in 1828 presented his son, who instituted a suit for vicarial tithes against his parishioners, and by this means raised the value of the living from £200 a-year to £1,600, the whole price for it being £1,500. The immemorial value of the living was shown by the fact that in an old trust deed creating scholarships at St. John's, Cambridge, the vicars of Sandbach were entitled to a prior claim for their sons on account of personal poverty,' showing that such claim was never at all anticipated for many generations. The vicar is also ex-officio patron of five other parishes, Sandbach, Heath, Goosbrey, Elworth, Church Hulme, and Wheelock, to the first two the brothers of the vicar being appointed.Now, do not let anyone say that Mr. Herford selected a corner of the country which in these respects was very 190 much worse than any other part. If everybody were as anxious to expose and condemn this system as Mr. Herford is, similar evidence would be forthcoming from every part of the Kingdom. The House may form some estimate of the prodigious volume of this traffic by a reference to the periodical Catalogues of Preferment which are issued by the recognized agents. Mr. Stark handed in three of these instructive works, which are published by himself—namely, The Church Preferment Gazette, containing particulars of 110 Advowsons and 22 next Presentations for sale; The Private Patrons' Gazette, with the requirements of 160 or 170 bonâ fide purchasers; and The Benefice Exchange Register, with particulars of about 350 Benefices for Exchange, many of which, however, are described as being also for sale. And, before I go any further, I should like just to remind the House that when we are dealing with spiritual property, exchange is always a prettier word than sale; but in the lips of the agents the terms are nearly convertible. On previous occasions I have proved this point by evidence; and I will now add a statement in confirmation which was made by Mr. Cox, of Belper, a gentleman who has mastered the subject in all its branches, and contributed very largely to its elucidation. He says—23. I should like, if I might be allowed to do so, to state that, although the advertisements in The Ecclesiastical Gazette for sale have been stopped, they have not been stopped for exchange, and that the exchange, in many instances, is a mere cloak for the worst transactions that the agents engage in; for I know, of my own knowledge, that in several instances in which clergymen, in order to test the matter, since this alteration in The Ecclesiastical Gazette, have written to those agents who are now permitted to advertize exchanges, for particulars of the exchanges, they have received at the same time the lists of sales of advowsons.But Mr. Stark's list of 132 benefices for sale and 350 for exchange represents only a part and a small part of this traffic. Mr. Cox handed in also Mr. Corbett's General Register of Church Preferment for Exchange, with particulars of 306 livings, 38 of which were for sale or exchange; but though the particulars of 306 only are given, Mr. Corbett states that he has 500 on his books. Mr. Cox handed in also Mr. Bagster's Monthly List of Church Preferment for Sale and Exchange, in 191 which there were 95 benefices for sale, 311 for exchange, and 47 for either. He handed in also Mr. Ancona's List of Church Preferment for Sale, with particulars of 36 advowsons and next presentations, and the statement made by Mr. Ancona that since the last issue he had disposed of 22 livings. Mr. Cox also referred to Mr. James Beck's advertisements, five in number, and Messrs. Andrew and Son's, of which there were four. He stated further that the Oxford Ecclesiastical Society, established in 1872, do a genuine business in advowsons and exchanges, but that he had no list of theirs to produce. Now, if we except the business of the disreputable agents entirely, we arrive at between 1,400 and 1,500 as the aggregate number of livings which are up in the market either for sale or exchange, or both, at one and the same time—not very far from one-fourth of the whole private patronage of the Church—and a careful analysis of the catalogues shows that there are not many duplicate advertisements. Let the House bear in mind that this enormous traffic is moving through hands which are prepared to admit that the bulk of it is illegal, and that it is screened by false declarations taken without compunction. Hitherto we have been speaking of patrons and agents who are punctilious in their disregard of law and in their immorality, and who know how to draw the line somewhere, although not, perhaps, at perjury. Now, let me pass on to describe quite another class of business with which purists like Mr. Stark will not soil their fingers. Mr. Stark keeps a list of "Black Sheep." It is well understood in his office that no "black sheep" need apply. But do not let the House suppose that, therefore, "black sheep" are kept out of preferment. No, Sir; they enter in sable flocks. There are agents who cultivate expressly this particular branch of the Profession. They are men who are themselves branded with crime, and who seem to take quite a fatherly interest in criminals. Mr. Stark was asked these questions—2175. There being very disreputable agents, those parties who have been refused by you may go to one of those disreputable agents?—Yes.2176. And those men being disreputable men will do disreputable work?—Yes.2177. Therefore the effect of your caution is this—you send all the black sheep to these 192 disreputable men?—Unfortunately, very likely that is the result.2178. They will do this business which you decline?—Yes.2179. Therefore, practically, your caution is not of much real benefit to the Church, because the dirty work can be done somewhere else?—Yes.And now let the House listen once more to Mr. Cox.53. Clerical agents are not always persons of perfectly respectable character, I believe?—No.54. Have you any evidence to give to the Commission upon that point?—In connection with two names I have. I know something of the character of the principals of two firms, both of whom are doing or have done a large business in this matter. Mr. Workman, alias Rawlins, has carried on, and still carries on, an extensive business as a clerical agent. He is in Holy Orders. His real name is Rawlins, but he passes under a dozen different aliases. One of his first notorious transactions as a clerical agent was with the Rev. N. K. in connection with a living in the diocese of——.He cheated Mr. N. K. out of £3,000, involved him in simony, and caused bins to lose both living and money. Mr. N. K. now works as a day labourer, and is usually in the workhouse in the winter. In 1852 Rawlins, or Workman, was convicted of altering figures on a cheque from £8 to £80, and was sentenced to several years' penal servitude. On coming out of prison he at once set up as a clerical agent (he was a man of some family and private means), and he bought advowsons and next presentations of several livings; two or three of them, I am told, being openly purchased at auction in Tokenhouse Yard. He issued a monthly organ, The Church and School Gazette, published for several years at 56, Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, and often had some young clergyman to assist him in the traffic as secretary. One of his plans was to advertise in The Ecclesiastical Gazetteand elsewhere. I am quoting this bit of advertisement from The Ecclesiastical Gazette of December, 1869, which contains this sentence, which I ought to have mentioned in speaking of N. K.'s case—'Sequestrations, either threatened or enforced, may in many instances be relieved;' and he also inserted advertisements of loans of money to clergymen moving, &c. Thus he became acquainted with embarrassed clergy, and got many into his meshes, and used them as his tools. His frequent bankruptcy illustrates his character. In 1856 he was bankrupt in his true name of Rawlins, and then consigned to the Queen's Bench Prison for three months. In 1864, on the 9th of June, he was bankrupt in the name of 'James Murray Richard Rawlins, known as Richard Workman.' In March, 1875, he again passed through the Bankruptcy Court as Murray Richard Workman,' and perjured himself by swearing that he had never before been bankrupt or insolvent. I have referred to the Bankruptcy Court File, No. 71,349, for his last insolvency, and I found that the principal clerical creditors (all unsecured) were the Rev. R. H. Killick, Chadwell, Essex, £3,780; 193 Rev. G. H. Turner, Cambridge Gardens, Notting Hill, £4,500; the Rev. James Whatman, 26, Bridge Row, E.C.. for a small amount; Rev. T. S., £1,200, who says that the money was advanced on a condition which has wholly failed,' and that he has 'received no satisfaction or security.' Among the secured creditors are Messrs. Makrell, Smith, and Hughes for £9,180 5s. 5d., secured on the advowsons of—1. Tarring Nevill, Essex; 2. South Heighten, Essex: 3. St. Phillips, Liverpool; 4. Newton St. Petrox, Devon; 5. Branksea, Dorset; 6. Upton Snodbury, Worcester; 7. Chadwell, Essex; 8. Patcham, Sussex; 9. Stopsley, near Luton; 10. Dodbrooke, Devon; and 11. Two pieces of land adjoining the Vicarage at Denton. Another creditor was secured for £700 on the advowson of Llanstadwell, Wales. How these advowsons got into his hands may be illustrated by following up one case, most of which information can be got from papers filed at the Bankruptcy Court. In 1871 the Rev. T. S. (then vacating the rectory of E.) paid over to Workman, through his solicitors, £1,200. He had already placed his rectory of E. in Workman's hands for 'exchange,' and the £1,200 was given in trust to Workman in order therewith to complete the purchase of a more valuable living for Mr. T. S. Such a living Mr. T. S. never obtained. He could get no redress; he was like N. K., involved in a simoniacal transaction, and his claim to be scheduled as a creditor on Workman's insolvent estate was disallowed by the Judge on the ground that the transaction was illegal, and hence he lost his rectory and his £1,200, and was comparatively beggared. Thus Workman became possessed of the rectory of E., and presented thereto the Rev. R. Y. Mr. R. Y. has actually allowed Workman to preach in E. church.A few months ago a suit against him being still pending, there appeared a notice of the death of Rawlins in The Times. But I am assured that he has since been seen going about his business as usual, whether in the body I cannot tell, or out of the body I cannot tell.The principal (if not the sole proprietor) in another energetic firm is a man of notorious character. The firm under which title he works is a recently established but very energetic one, Messrs. Milward and Co., whom I have referred to already. They advertise largely in other papers besides The Ecclesiastical Gazette. At the time of the late Sheffield Church Congress they day by day advertised in the local dailies that they had advowsons for sale from £2,000 to £10,000, and they prominently advertised in the semi-official guide to the Church Congress. Their principal is the Rev. Samuel Shipley, late Vicar of Plungar, Bottesford, near Nottingham. In 1877 he had to leave his benefice on a charge of bigamy, having married a widow lady at St. George's, Hanover Square, when his own wife was living with him at Plungar. He also did business as a common usurer on the most disgraceful terms.Milward & Co., now, I believe, going under the style of Taylor & Co., adver- 194 tised 250 livings for exchange. But I have purposely excluded their livings and Workman's livings from my calculation, because I do not consider myself bound to accept in either case their own account of the extent of their business. Now, Sir, in reading the narrative of these gentlemen's exploits, if there be one thing which strikes us next to the rascality of the agent, it is the helplessness of the Bishop. Lord Sydney Godolphin Osborne, in the course of his evidence before the Select Committee, describes how this very Workman put "black sheep" after "black sheep" into benefices, and how the Bishop, though invariably warned of what was going on, was able to offer no resistance. But let us hear the Bishop of Peterborough before the Royal Commission, of which he was an indefatigable Member—1784. I should very much like, if the Commission will allow me, to relate to them four cases which occurred in my own diocese, in which the Bishop was compelled to institute persons who were utterly unfit for the parishes. They are four very remarkable cases, and I should like to have them recorded. The first was that of a paralytic, in my judgment incapable personally of performing the duties of the parish. * * * The second was a case of a man who some years previously had been a notorious drunkard; but his drunkenness and the notoriety of it had occurred beyond the limit of the Church Discipline Act two years, and I was advised that I could not refuse him institution. He was instituted to a parish within four miles of the scene of his previous drunkenness, which made him notorious, and which created a great scandal. The third was the case of a man 76 years of age, who obtained the appointment to a parish containing two considerable country towns, a laborious parish, and who, within six months after he was appointed, asked me to give him permanent leave of absence on account of physical infirmity, and that man I was obliged to institute. The last case was the case of a man who was obliged to resign his chaplaincy to a gaol because he dared not face a criminal accusation. * * * I may venture just to state this further to the Commission, that it was under the pressure of these four cases that I introduced my Bill upon the subject into the House of Lords.Well, Sir, I venture to think that all this constitutes a very strong case against the whole purchase system. It is a case which is not to be met by any half measures, or by any attempt to close one of the avenues to fraud and crime, while you leave the other, and the broader and the more frequented one, wide open. I do not pretend to have exhausted the case. I have given the House a few 195 specimens of the Evidence with which these Blue Books are filled. I have thought it sufficient, in proposing a Motion which is so purely preliminary in character, to give an outline merely of the case, although, perhaps, it is rather a strong outline. There are many phases of the question upon which I have been unable even to touch. I have said nothing of the disgust and horror which these sales produce among Nonconformists, of the shock to religious feeling, and of the contempt which is poured upon the Church. Nor have I touched upon many points upon which I have dwelt on previous occasions. I have said nothing of the shameful auctions which are constantly taking place, and at which the cure of souls is knocked down to the highest bidder like a bale of damaged wool. I have said nothing about the piquant advertisements over which the House has often laughed; the glowing descriptions of the piggeries and shrubberies at the rectory; of the paucity of labour and the plenitude of pay; of the real county society; of the propinquity of admirals and baronets; and the abundance of trout and rooks. I have said nothing of the warming-pan system, and of the old men crawling up into their pulpits to read themselves in by the aid of jelly and negus; or of the poor man of whom I read the other day, who complainedThat his chances of preferment were gone; when it was supposed that he had a cancer, he was sounded with reference to four livings; but now that it was known that he only had a tumour patrons took no notice of him.I have said nothing of all these things to-night, because they are only accessories, although very picturesque accessories, of the system. You may sweep them all away by legislation, and yet the question will remain precisely where it is now. You will still have the sale of a public trust. You will still have the clergy, with their disordered conscience, bargaining and huckstering over an office which you have clothed with a peculiar sanctity, and left rotting in the gutter of an illicit trade. But, perhaps, some hon. Member may say—"You have pointed out the disease; but you have not written the prescription." My answer is a very simple one. I am not one of the accredited physicians. I think it disgrace enough for the Church 196 that a question which vitally affects her interests should be left year after year, and Parliament after Parliament, in the hands of an outsider. The Church is full of highly-paid and highly-gifted physicians. If you go into "another place," you may see the whole Faculty ranged upon benches. The Church is full also, as I have shown, of impotent folk, of maimed, halt, and withered morally; and it resembles Bethesda at least in this—that there is no one, except my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope), to put these cripples into the pool. Sir, I hope that we shall hear something to-night from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. The last Government was not a reforming Government. My right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary (Sir R. Assheton Cross) admitted the truth of my case. He said that these transactions were worse than bribery. He was full of a godly indignation, and did nothing. The present Government is a reforming Government. It is in reform that it lives, and moves, and has its being. I think that we have some little right to complain, when we see it pushing its reforming fingers everywhere except into that warm nest of comfortable abuses which we call the Church of England. Perhaps my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government may say that we have had glimpses to-night of something which is more like an Augean stable than a nest; and that he is not Hercules. Yes; but my right hon. Friend knows where the waters of Alpheios are waiting. He knows that if even he, with all his zeal for reform, and all his zeal for the Church, and all his legislative wisdom, be unable to find a means for the removal of the corruption with which the stable reeks, sooner or later the waters will burst in of their own accord and sweep away not only the corruption, but perhaps the stable itself and all the sleek cattle which it contains. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, the simoniacal evasions of the law, and other scandals connected with the exercise and disposal of private patronage in the Church of England, are such as to call for remedial measures of the most stringent and radical character."—(Mr. Edward Leatham.)
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
said, he rose to move the Amendment which stood on the Paper in the name of his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope)—namely, after the word "House," to insert the following words:—The Reports of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Church Patronage, and of the Royal Commission on the sale, exchange, and resignation of Ecclesiastical Benefices, disclose evils connected with the exercise and disposal of Church Patronage which call for legislation at the earliest possible moment.In rising to move this Amendment, he thought he had a double claim upon the indulgence of the House, because he was not only representing the position which would have been taken up by his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire if he had not been called away by urgent affairs, but he was also representing the position which he had occupied as Secretary of the Royal Commission, whose Report was now under examination. He was certainly inclined to view with a great deal of distrust the object with which the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) had been presented to the House. He was even inclined to look with some suspicion upon the quarter of the House from which this Motion proceeded. There was a good deal that was significant in the way in which the unsavoury details recited by his hon. Friend had been received by hon. Members around him. He (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) wished he could see in the way these details had been received a little more desire for purification and a little less zeal for destruction. He hoped he might credit so good a Churchman in his acts, if not in his professions, as his hon. Friend with a sincere desire to reform the Church of England and to remove the abuses, the existence of which within her pale he (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) would be the last to deny. By the terms of his Motion, his hon. Friend stood committed to the declaration that if the Church could be purified in respect of these matters it would be better for the State that she should continue to exist. As to the scandals touched upon by his hon. Friend, they had been before the House and the country for years. There was nothing in the evidence taken by the Royal Commissioners, as reported in November 198 1879, that was new to the country or, indeed, to the Commissioners themselves. The same sort of evidence was given before a Select Committee of the House of Lords in 1874. Most of the details on which the hon. Member for Huddersfield had dwelt were contained in the Blue Book, and there was little or nothing that was new in them. The facts relating to the abuses surrounding the traffic in Church livings were only too painfully familiar. Nor was there anything new in the character of the speech of his hon. Friend. The hon. Member, as the House well knew, was a zealous reformer in those matters, and that was not the first time he had pressed his views in respect to them upon the attention of the House. In the same manner, and with the same attractiveness of detail, his hon. Friend had urged upon the last Parliament the pressing need of reform. He could have wished, however, that his hon. Friend, instead of seeking to commit the House to this vaguely declamatory Resolution, had directed his energies into some channel which would have resulted in some definite scheme of practical legislation. To-night if, instead of venting impotently their wrath in Motions more or less hysterically worded, they were engaged in the work of removing abuses which they all admitted to exist, it would be much more satisfactory. It was for that reason that he ventured to submit to the House the Amendment which he invited the House to affirm—namely, that what was needed, at the present moment, was not so much a declaration that remedies were necessary which were surrounded by certain attributes, including that somewhat unpalatable word "radical;" but that something in the nature of specific legislation was necessary. He ventured to ask why it was that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, during all the years he had been so laboriously, and with so much sincerity, investigating the subject, had not presented some specific or remedy, which commended itself to him, for the approval of the House, and had not asked the House to give legislative effect to his particular views? He (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) trusted that this evening he would hear some announcement from Her Majesty's Government, as to the view they took of the question—a question which he certainly did not intend to be behind the hon. Member in 199 estimating as one of the first magnitude. Knowing, perhaps, more than anyone in the House except the hon. Member himself of the evidence in the Blue Book, which had been passed in review to-night, it behoved him to examine some of the statements which had been made in regard to that evidence. It was evident that his hon. Friend had laid hold of all the most important and attractive particulars in that evidence; and if they were to be taken by themselves—if hon. Members were merely to read these extracts from the evidence, which generally formed part of the pamphlet in which the hon. Member subsequently published his speeches, unaccompanied by the entire text, they would by no means be able to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion as to the facts of the case. He had already stated that the evidence given before the Royal Commissioners contained nothing new. All the painful and unpalatable facts discussed by the witnesses who were called before the Royal Commissioners in 1879 practically amounted to nothing that was not known before; indeed, he might inform the House that even before the Commission sat those very facts were all given in evidence before a Select Committee of the House of Lords in 1874; and, as far as the evidence before the Royal Commission was concerned, it was, in a great majority of cases, the evidence of volunteers. He did not believe himself that the recommendations of the Commissioners were in the slightest degree affected by the evidence they heard. The state of the traffic was thoroughly well known to the Commissioners before a single word of the evidence was given. The hon. Member had referred to the fact that a great deal of Mr. Stark's evidence stood uncontradicted. He (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) was certainly not them to contradict Mr. Stark's evidence; but, at the same time, he might say that if every assertion made in the course of Mr. Stark's evidence was taken to be a positive fact because it happened to be uncontradicted, the House would be in danger of falling into a very grave error. Mr. Stark was the last witness called by the Commission. He was called at his own request, in consequence of his belief that his proceedings had been reflected upon by other witnesses, which was undoubtedly the case; and the Commissioners gave him the opportunity of 200 giving such explanations as he thought proper. But it was undesirable that the Commissioners should continue to sit for an indefinite period, and that might have been the case if they had called for explanations from all the persons who were reflected upon by the evidence of Mr. Stark. It was not for the Commissioners to constitute themselves into a judicial tribunal for the trial of issues of a personal character. If such had been the case, the labour of the Royal Commissioners would have been protracted indefinitely, and that was the reason why a great deal of Mr. Stark's evidence stood unexplained and uncontradicted. His hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield said that Mr. Stark's evidence was in favour, not of further restrictions in the law regarding Church patronage, but of a relaxation of the law itself. That was true; and Mr. Stark avowed himself a free trader, and thought there should be no restriction to prevent the patron from dealing with his own benefice; but it did not follow that the Royal Commissioners adopted any such view; and if the hon. Member would take the trouble to examine the evidence published by the Royal Commissioners, and also the recommendations they made, he would find that some of the dignitaries of the Church to whom his hon. Friend had paid a very doubtful compliment that night were not at all behind the hon. Member in their zeal for the reform of the patronage laws of the Church. Mr. Bedford gave evidence that he held an advowson which had been in his family from the days of Queen Elizabeth; he was a descendant of the original tenant or holder of the benefice, and he might, if he had chosen, been enjoying the whole fruits of the benefice; but, instead of that, he had divided it into four districts, and the income which he personally enjoyed as incumbent was probably divided by four. His hon. Friend, in the charge he preferred against the incumbent in this case, altogether misconceived the nature of the facts. Another witness, Mr. Meredith, was supposed to speak in strong condemnation of the great frequency with which the clergy in Holy Orders acquired patronage and accumulated it in their own hands. He (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) deplored that fact; but he wished to draw attention to this circumstance also, that the witness in question came to complain of the evils of 201 episcopal patronage, and to impress upon the Royal Commission that there was no evil so great as that the patronage should be in the hands of the Bishops, because they exercised it more from favouritism than in the public interest. This witness underwent a severe cross-examination, and it turned out that his motives in attacking a certain Prelate were by no means of a patriotic or public spirited character. It was fallacious to talk of the state of traffic by the mere number of advowsons which appeared in the published lists. It would be just as wise to go round to the books of every house agent in London, and conclude from the total number added up in arithmetical progression that they properly represented the total number of house properties for sale within a given area. It was just the same in regard to Church livings; and, as a proof of this assertion, he would only refer to Question 2,279, in which Mr. Stark admitted that the largest number of sales he had had in any one year was 40, which fell very far below the number given in his published catalogue. The question of the admission of black sheep into the Church on account of the laxity of the laws surrounding the law of patronage was a serious one; but it would be dealt with much better by strengthening the hands of the Bishops as to the refusal of presentees than by altering the law in regard to the sale of patronage, or by any amount of declamation in that House as regarded the practices which were connected with the sale. He confessed that it did seem to him to be irrelevant to the question now at issue before the House to try to make out that those who were outside the pale of the Church of England were the monopolists of morality, and that no ministers of any denomination ever found their way into the dock of a Criminal Court except those of the Church of England. They had been told that the late Government was not a reforming Government. He, for one, heartily wished they had accepted the opportunity which was presented to them of dealing with this subject. In the year 1875, a Bill was brought down from the House of Lords, founded on the Report of a Select Committee of that House, which might, at all events, have afforded an opportunity for an attempt to deal with some part of the subject. He knew that that Bill 202 would not have satisfied his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield; but it would have removed some of the principal sources of the evils complained of. Why it was that the subject had been referred to a Royal Commission he (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) did not know; but, having been referred to a Royal Commission, he asked the House to remember what the Report of that Royal Commission was. The Report only appeared in the month of August, 1879, and it was not circulated to the public until the following November. Consequently, in the few months which remained of the late Parliament, there was scarcely any time for the late Government to take up the subject. But why the present Government, with the Report of the Royal Commission ready to their hands, had not thought proper to deal with the subject, was a fitting question for the hon. Member for Huddersfield to inquire into. There were reasons which readily suggested themselves why the Government had not taken up the question. He would not detain the House by speculations upon that matter. He sincerely hoped that, when the subject did come to be dealt with by some more satisfactory mode than a Resolution of that House, the principle would be established and recognized that patronage in the Church of England should be regarded not so much in the nature of property as in the nature of a trust of the very highest and most sacred nature. It was only by affirming these principles, and giving the fullest possible legislative effect to them, that they would succeed in securing that which was the best interest of the Church of England—namely, that she should become essentially national and popular. He begged to move the Amendment which stood on the Paper in the name of his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, that in rising to second the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) he must apologize for detaining the House at that late hour. He did so because he thought it was not desirable that the debate should close without one voice being heard on behalf of the English Universities. By an unfortunate series of circumstances, there was no other Member for any of the English Universities present. The recent afflic- 203 tion he had suffered, which was the cause of the absence of his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope), they all deplored, and his right hon. Friend and Colleague in the representation of the University of Oxford (Sir John Mowbray) was detained at home by illness. It was, therefore, only seemly that he should, however imperfectly, second the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield. The House was to be congratulated on the fact that the tone of the debate differed favourably from that which it had assumed on other and similar occasions. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham), who, as they knew, took a strong view of the question, had not regaled them with those spicy and unsavoury anecdotes which had been allowed to encumber the question before; but had brought the subject forward in a more serious tone than upon former occasions, and on that account the hon. Member commanded more sympathy on that (the Opposition) side of the House with the object he had in view. The hon. Gentleman opposite was quite mistaken if he thought that he had a monopoly of indignation on the subject of simoniacal transactions. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that there was not one of those who sat on the opposite side of the House who sympathized with what they believed to be the true interests of the Church of England who did not feel as strongly as he did, at the very least, with regard to those gross and crying evils; but he ventured to put it to the hon. Member and to the House that he had painted in black colours—not too black, he admitted—the special evils which the hon. Gentleman had disclosed; but he (Mr. Leatham) had painted his picture so darkly, and refused to admit anything but the darkness he had disclosed, so that he had rather left upon the House and the country, if they accepted his picture, the unfavourable impression that the cases which he had detailed were fair samples of the ordinary practices of the Church of England. That was what he (Mr. J. G. Talbot) complained of. He did not believe it could be maintained for a single moment that the state of patronage, on the whole, in the Church of England was a discreditable state of things; nor did he think the hon. Member could deny that the conduct of the 204 clergy of the Church of England, as a whole, was of the most praise worthy description. He believed there was no body of men in this country, or in any other country, who devoted a larger amount of time to better objects for lower remuneration than the clergy of the Church of England. He felt bound, as having the great honour in that House of representing a large number of the clergy, to put that lighter and brighter picture before the House. The hon. Gentleman had used such words as "the state of the clerical conscience," as if the whole of the clerical conscience was involved in the dark sins which he had depicted. Of course, if that was a true picture, there would be nothing more to be said for the Church of England; but the cases cited by the hon. Gentleman were exceptions, and by no means the rule. Then the hon. Member used the phrase "simoniacal upstarts." That was a very strong expression. He did not wish to defend any of those who were engaged in any of those nefarious practices; but he thought the hon. Gentleman a little confused matters when he brought into this subject the most difficult and delicate question of the relation of the clergy with the Bishops and Courts of Law. If his (Mr. J. G. Talbot's) opinion was correct, it was not by any means the clergy who were engaged in these questionable pecuniary transactions who took part in disputes on matters of doctrine and ritual. Those who were engaged in these nefarious practices took very little trouble about doctrinal matters, and were content with the very smallest and dullest round of obligatory duties. Therefore, he did not imagine they were likely to be involved in a collision with the Courts on doctrinal questions. The hon. Gentleman had therefore confused those two very difficult questions; but the most serious complaint he (Mr. J. G. Talbot) had to make against the hon. Member was this. He appeared before the House as a champion of ecclesiastical purity. He went with the hon. Gentleman to a very great extent, and wished to co-operate with him, if the hon. Gentleman would allow him. But the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope), whose absence tonight they all regretted, had also tried to grapple with this question, and had, at least, given some practical exemplification of his views. That Bill was down for 205 second reading on Wednesday, the 6th of April, and against it there appeared on the Order Book a Notice of Opposition in the name of Mr. Edward Leatham. That seemed to show that the hon. Gentleman was not so very anxious to improve and reform the Church; but when a practical scheme was presented for dealing with Church patronage, then the hon. Member proposed to move, "That it be read a second time that day six months." If that was a practical exemplification of the hon. Gentleman's views, he could not say that he cared much for his theories; he hoped that in future they would have the hon. Gentleman for a supporter of the Amendment which the hon. Member for Sheffield had so ably proposed to-night; and that, when they came to any practical remedy for the present unhappy state of things, they would have the hon. Member for Huddersfield assisting, and not thwarting, any measures submitted for that purpose. The hon. Gentleman was not quite fair in implying that nothing had been done, or attempted to be done, in this matter. As long ago as 1870, his right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary (Sir H. Assheton Cross) brought in a Bill for prohibiting the sale of next presentations; and he remembered that in one of his earliest efforts in that House he had the pleasure of supporting his right hon. Friend. He did not know whether the hon. Member for Huddersfield was in his place at that time; but he did not remember that the hon. Gentleman took any part in that attempt to assist the Church in getting rid of one of its abuses. Again, a Bill was brought down from the House of Lords during the last Parliament, which had the support of Members of the Episcopal Bench. The hon. Gentleman had amused the House tonight with a description of the appearance which the Bench of Bishops presented, rather implying that they were beautiful to look at, but useless in their functions. He (Mr. J. G. Talbot) did not know what the fairness of extreme Liberals might be; but it seemed to him that it would have been a little more fair, when the Bishops came forward in such a matter, not to indulge in sarcastic jeers at their expense; but rather to recognize the effort which they made, and to put it down to their credit. The hon. Gentleman would approach the subject in a 206 happier and more hopeful frame of mind if he could for a moment discard ecclesiastical prejudices. If the hon. Gentleman and his Friends really wished to help Churchmen to remove abuses in the Church, let them not cast sneers at those who endeavoured to remove them; but rather heartily co-operate and join hands in the same good work. He hoped that one good result of to-night's short debate would be this—that they would have from Her Majesty's Government some declaration of their views on the question. The Government were in a very strong position in this matter. They were, of course, a very strong Government, with a very strong majority at their back. ["No!"] Well, they had not a very large majority last night; but they had last week. They had another great advantage, which could not be denied, in having at their head a right hon. Friend of his, whom he was proud to call his friend, and who, besides being a very strong supporter of all that was Liberal and progressive, was also a very ardent member of the Church of England; and there was no one who could more easily, if he would give his great energies to the task, carry through a measure of Ecclesiastical Reform of the best kind in this House than the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. Therefore, the House to-night had an opportunity, which they did not often possess, of eliciting from Her Majesty's Government what he hoped would be a satisfactory solution of the question. He was very sorry that the question had come on at this particular part of the evening; but it could not be helped, because other matters had intervened. Two or three hours had been wasted by the Government in proposing a Private Bill, which was afterwards withdrawn; but he only referred to that circumstance because it would be unfortunate for the House and the country if they went away under the impression that the only thing that could be said on the matter was the speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield. While giving the hon. Member full credit for the beneficence of his intentions, he thought the matter ought to be more fairly and fully discussed; and, in seconding the Amendment, he would repeat his sincere hope that they would receive from the Government a satisfactory declaration on this important subject.
To leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Reports of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Church Patronage, and of the Royal Commission on the sale, exchange, and resignation of Ecclesiastical Benefices, disclose evils connected with the exercise and disposal of Church Patronage which call for legislation at the earliest possible moment,"—(Mr. Stuart Wortley,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
said, his hon. Friend had made a very fair appeal to him; and, indeed, he thought it would be unfortunate if, in the present state of things, this debate should end in a division. For the purposes of the present discussion, he might divide the House into three sections. There was, first, the section to which his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield belonged, who described himself as acting in the character of a Nonconformist in this House. It was an eminently satisfactory state of things when they saw a Gentleman in that position, who might fairly say, if he was so disposed—"It is no part of my duty to remove the abuses in the Church, as I can carry on my warfare against it more conveniently and advantageously while those abuses remain in existence." It was a very hopeful thing to see the hon. Member come forward and endeavour, no doubt in perfect good faith, to induce the House to adopt a Resolution in favour of ending these abuses. Of hon. Gentlemen opposite he could only say that they, and many on the Ministerial side also, were of opinion that the Church Establishment ought to be preserved; and from those who held that opinion, and all others, it was to me expected that they should be in earnest in this matter. If his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield failed in his object, he could fall back upon his general principles, and say—"I will get rid altogether of the mischief which I have been unable to abate." But they, on the contrary, if their efforts to cure these abuses failed, ought to bear the whole burden and the whole odium and scandal of failure in their endeavours. They, therefore, were in a position of the highest obligation to labour in this cause; and be must say 208 that obligation had been owned on more occasions than one. It had been owned by the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary in a former year, and during the present year by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Stuart-Wortley), who had addressed the House that night with so much ability, and by those who were his fellow-labourers in the measure they had laid upon the Table. Then there was, thirdly, the Government of the day. It was, undoubtedly, their duty—whether they were Conservative or Liberal, without prejudice to other claims, and even, it might be, in particular instances, to higher claims and other duties with which they were more especially engaged—to assist any intelligent and earnest endeavour to amend any of the institutions of the country; and certainly not least an institution so important as the National Church. The House was, therefore, he thought, in a state of remarkable union as to the Main Question; and it would be a great pity if, upon differences so small as these were, which had to be decided by the aid of the microscope, between the Motion and the Amendment, they were to go into opposite Lobbies for the purpose of emphasizing those differences. His hon. Friend who made the Motion appeared to have rather wickedly introduced into it one or two epithets to give it a flavour. That was, no doubt, perfectly fair on his part; but at the same time, when it came to a question of a solemn form of declaration, he felt quite sure that his hon. Friend would be disposed to rest satisfied with the approval and sympathy that his address had elicited in regard to his general object, and would not push, in effect, his particular attitude to the extent of a division, which might have the result of rejecting the Amendment that had been moved. He must say, in one respect, he preferred the Motion to the Amendment; for the hon. Member for Huddersfield, although he dwelt very much on the condemnation of the clerical conscience, said, with very great truth, that these abuses were abuses of private patronage. That was a very important matter to recollect. In regard to public patronage, no doubt that was open to criticism; but ever since the scandalous case of the Dean of York, it had never been before this country in connection with these gross and foul proceedings. 209 It was impossible, he admitted, to overstate the demoralizing effect of transactions of this kind upon the clergy connected with them. He did not think that any language, even the language of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, could exaggerate those mischiefs. On the other hand, it was only just to record that that portion of the clergy which was personally condemned in that way was an extremely small proportion; and most certainly one ought to bear testimony that men who were zealous in their own sense on questions of Ritual and doctrine were not men of that stamp at all. The men who engaged in simoniacal transactions were men who were much more conversant with the matters of this world and questions of temporal advantage, than with the decision of questions on which more conscientious persons were divided among themselves. His hon. Friend (Mr. J. G. Talbot) had made a warm appeal to the Government to take up this question. They were in the habit of hearing such appeals from time to time, and, no doubt, it was a proof of the confidence of the House in the Government, when they passed Resolutions that the Government ought to do this, that, and the other. It was a proof, as the hon. Member for Oxford University said, that the Government were strong in the confidence of the House. ["No!" "Hear, hear!" and laughter.] His hon. Friend said the Government were weak last night, and that was very true; but the hon. Gentleman forgot that last night they had to face a formidable institution, which might almost be termed a Land League. With regard to their opportunities of dealing with the present question, he would remind his hon. Friend that it was impossible to make two blades of grass grow in the same place; and the Government could not by any possibility take up some new question of legislation without displacing some other project of legislation. He should be very glad indeed if he saw a likelihood that they might approach this question; but that likelihood was, unfortunately, rather remote. What, then, was their practical duty at the present moment? Hon. Members were remarkably united, it appeared, in mind, admitting—whether they approved of the Established Church or not, and probably a very large majority of the House hoped that it might very long exist— 210 admitting that while the Establishment continued to exist, these scandals ought, if possible, to be removed. He must say that he hoped, though it might be desirable that the question should be dealt with by the Government, that the House would not absolutely refuse to look at the Bill which was brought in by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope), simply on account of the fact that it was not brought in by the Government. He could not undertake to give an opinion on the merits of the Bill, as he had not had time to examine it with the care and attention that would be necessary. But he must say, though, perhaps, it might seem to be beginning at the wrong end, that if the last clause, which aimed at prohibiting the sale of next presentations, apart from the whole advowson—if that clause were passed and nothing else, he ventured to say that the Bill would offer great benefit to the country. He thought that an acknowledgment should be given to his hon. Friend for the Motion he had brought forward; but that they should not be called upon to draw the nice distinction that might be made between the Motion and the Amendment; and that, considering that there was a practical Bill before the House, they might refrain, on this particular occasion, from making any abstract assertion, either in the form of a Motion or an Amendment. They might, he thought, very well dispense themselves from that now; but when they came to the opportunity of considering the Bill which was before the House they would, he hoped, earnestly and heartily examine it, with a view to extracting from it whatever they could of matter which was valuable for the important object it had in view.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
I am very glad to have had an opportunity of hearing what has just fallen from the Prime Minister; and, so far as I am concerned, I would strongly recommend the course he has advised. I can conceive that we are all practically at one on the object we have in view; but I do not think we need go to a division, either on the Motion or the Amendment, and I should advise my hon. Friend behind me to withdraw the Amendment, if the Mover of the Motion is also willing to withdraw. I think the proposal of the Prime Minister is absolutely sound. 211 We really want to get rid of a great abuse. So long as the Church of England lasts—and I am one who hopes that it will last for generations and generations—we want to get rid of abuses existing in it; and I think the advice of the Prime Minister is sound, when he says we have a Bill before us; let us discuss the question when the Bill comes before us, with the common purpose of doing all that we can to attain the object of the Movers of the Motion and the Amendment. The hon. Member the Mover of the Motion referred to myself as having taken action on this matter. I had long felt that it was one of the greatest abuses in the Church of England; and in 1870 I brought forward a Bill which I succeeded in passing through this House; but it did not become law. I suppose the country, at that time, was not ready to pass the Bill into law, and I received a shower of abuse, which I never received before or since. Now, however, I believe all those who showered that abuse upon me have come to the same opinion as the Prime Minister—namely, one of regret that that Bill was not passed into law. That Bill was aimed solely at one point, to which the Prime Minister has alluded; and I believe that, even if that alone had been carried, we should, at the present moment, hear very little of abuses in the Church of England, so far as advowsons are concerned. That Bill was directed against next presentations, and I do not think that introduced any novel law, but only recurred to the old practice of not allowing next presentations to be sold. I was strengthened in that opinion by the present Lord Coleridge, who said that the Bill was really a return to the old system. I do not believe there was the slightest attack upon property in any form or shape; it showed exactly what the trust in the property was, and how, in the exercise of that trust, persons who possessed it could entirely preserve their rights. There is one point which I also think a great evil, but which has not been alluded to in this debate. I cannot help saying that I think the whole principle of the question of donatives is one which ought to be dealt with. With regard to the result of the Bill of 1870, do not let us think that because it was not passed into law it has not brought forth fruit. I believe that that Bill, having passed this House, worked great effect 212 in the minds of a great number of persons concerned in the matter; and some years afterwards this matter was brought forward in the House of Lords, and that House passed another Bill which they sent to this House, but which this House did not pass. My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) asks why the Royal Commission was appointed if the House of Lords had dealt with the matter. I will explain how that was, because I had a great deal to do with it. The Bishop of Peterborough, who had taken great interest in the matter, came to the conclusion that the House of Commons, having passed one Bill remedying defects in one way, the House of Lord's having passed another Bill remedying the same defects in another way, it was better, instead of fighting the question out in the House, to refer the whole question to a Royal Commission to decide which way was the best. Now, what has been the result of the Royal Commission? The Royal Commission has not put aside either one or the other. The Royal Commissioners said there was great justice in both Bills; and in their Report I find that they strongly recommend all the provisions of the Bill I brought forward in 1870, and also a great number of the provisions of the Bill of the Bishop of Peterborough in the House of Lords. I do not wish at this hour of the night to detain the House further; but I have no doubt that there is a great abuse which ought to be dealt with. I regret very much that the Prime Minister, while I sympathize with the Government in the difficulties they have in hand, would not give the touch of his hand now to settle the slight differences between the several parties, who are practically agreed. I do hope that in the present Session the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope) will have an opportunity of bringing forward his Bill, and that it will be fully discussed. When it is discussed I can promise the Mover of this Motion that I will give all the help I can to facilitate the removal of what I consider one of the greatest abuses of the Church of England. I hope he will give his assistance—with all the research he has bestowed on the subject—so that we may be able to come to some conclusion. But I must still make one appeal to the Government. If the Government find that the House are prac- 213 tically agreed upon this question, but that it does want a magic hand to lift them over that particular bridge, I hope the Prime Minister will not be slow to lend that hand—in order that, before the Session is over, we may arrive at some conclusion. What form that may take I cannot say; but I do hope that we may rely on the Prime Minister to give us that helping hand, and I believe we shall then do the greatest possible service to the Church and to the country at large. With regard to the Mover of the Motion, I may express the pleasure with which I have noticed the change in his tone. I have very often listened to speeches of the hon. Member with which I have been compelled to differ; but I must thank him for the tone in which he has brought the matter before the House; and I look upon that change as a favourable augury for the success of that which we all have in view.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
wished to defend the hon. Member (Mr. Leatham), from the strictures of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. J. G. Talbot), who had expressed his surprise at seeing the hon. Member's name on the Paper as opposing the Bill of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope). That he considered a most natural proceeding. He believed the hon. Member wished to see an end to this scandal in the Church; but he would appeal to him not to allow his partiality for the subject to stand in the way of that being effected, and to remove his Notice of Amendment to the Bill of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire, especially after what the Prime Minister had said, as to giving an opportunity for the discussion of the subject with a view to putting an end this Session, if possible, to a scandal which all agreed was one of the greatest hindrances to the good of the Church.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, it seemed to him that as the hon. Member was friendly to the Bill not now before the House dealing with this and other abuses in the Church, he might withdraw his Motion, and allow the House to consider the Bill itself with their hands altogether untied. He would appeal to his hon. Friend to take that course, because it was taken a little too much for granted that Gentlemen who were within the pale of the Church of England had an exclusive right to discuss practical ques- 214 tions of reform in that Church. Many others, however, had the opinion that the abuses under consideration, and many other evils which had not been pointed. out, were inherent to a State Establishment; and that if a tithe of the abuses which had been brought to light by the Committee of the House of Lords and the Royal Commission had existed in our civil institutions, Heaven and earth would have been moved that they might be rooted out and not be perpetuated. On the other hand, if it had been the case of a Church not connected with the State, such abuses never could have grown to the magnitude and enormity of the scandal under discussion. It was wholly on account of the hybrid character of the Established Church that these things grew up to such magnitude that it seemed almost impossible to deal with them and prevent the mischief which arose from them.
§ MR. J. G. HUBBARD
was sure that the speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) had been heard with great pleasure and interest by every Member of the House, whether he was a member of the Church of England or not. Many members of the Church might ask what right Nonconformists had to trouble themselves with plans for improving or regulating the Church; but that was not his doctrine at all. He believed that every Member of that House, and every Englishman, had an inherent right and interest in the character and the conduct and the position of the Church of England. As good citizens, they must desire to correct whatever was defective in an institution which had so powerful an influence on the morality and character of the people. The hon. Member who had just spoken assumed that the evils which, all deplored were the result of the Church of England being in connection with the State; but he (Mr. J. G. Hubbard) absolutely disbelieved in that view. If that connection had been the cause it would have been found that it was not private patronage that was at fault, but public patronage. It would have been a patronage exercised by the Bishops, by the Prime Minister, by the Lord Chancellor, and by the Crown. The evils complained of resulted from the untruthful and dishonest conduct of persons who pursued a traffic contrary to the law of the land. He went entirely 215 with his hon. Friend in his endeavour to promote some measure to remedy those abuses. As to the character of the abuses, simony, strictly defined, was nothing less than the purchase and sale of spiritual things—that was Holy Orders; but it was impossible to have a real case of simony unless the Bishop concurred in the act. It was an action in which the gift of Holy Orders was purchased with money. Laymen may, at present, legally buy and sell Church patronage—but if the clergy buy presentations or advowsons for their own advantage, they break the law, and their declarations that they have committed no simoniacal act, though they may be literally true, are dishonest, inasmuch as they commit acts, designated and prohibited as simoniacal by the law of the land. After all, the real remedies remained with the Bishops themselves; for, although a man might be a patron by inheritance or by purchase, he could not put a priest into an incumbency; he could only present his nominee to the Bishop, and then the matter rested with the Bishop, whose duty it was to see whether a man was fit or unfit for the post he aspired to. If it was said that hitherto the Bishops had been helpless in the matter, then let Parliament give them more power, and let Churchmen assist them in cases where their authority was resisted. He knew a case in the Midland Counties whore the Bishop was urged to appoint a man who had only been nominated for the purpose of making the living saleable. The person nominated was a man of advanced age; the Bishop refused to make the appointment, and was, in consequence, threatened with an action. Fortunately, the Bishop was strong in the confidence of the laity and clergy of his diocese, and they rallied round him with the assurance that they would support him in resisting this aggression upon his functions. The question was never brought to an issue, for the candidate died, and the difficulty ended; but the case showed that the Bishop had the power of resisting in a case of this kind, and that, if necessary, Parliament should strengthen his hands. He would not prolong the discussion now; but if they had to consider the Bill of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope) by-and-bye, he trusted that it would be with some hope of carrying it 216 to a successful issue, and that the hon. Member for Huddersfield would render assistance in pressing it through into a successful Act of Parliament.
MR. LYULPH STANLEY
said, it was, of course, a matter for the judgment of the hon. Member whether he would withdraw his Motion or not; but he wished to enter a word of not exactly protest, but caution, with regard to what was assumed too much on the other side as to what would be the consequence of the views some hon. Members held on the subject of the sale of livings. They all agreed as to the evil; but they might differ as to the remedy, and it was because they differed as to the remedy that it ought not to be supposed that his hon. Friend should withdraw his blocking Notice for the purpose of giving facilities for making progress with the Bill referred to—a measure which, in his judgment, went the wrong way to work to effect reforms. What he said was this—and it was more particularly in consequence of the last speech they had heard that he wished to make the observation—that hon. Members on the other side of the House looked too much to the episcopal authority for checking the evil; whereas, on the other hand, many hon. Members would like to see them got rid of by proper parochial or congregational control. These hon. Members did not want it to be supposed that they were ready to give facilities for legislation to increase the power of the Bishops whilst they were looking in the opposite direction for reform.
§ MR. LEATHAM
said, that he found it very difficult to resist the appeal which had been made to him by his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, by his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Iilingworth), and, indeed, from all sides of the House. He thought, however, that in responding to that appeal he had some right to hope that the Government would give facilities to his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire in order that they might have a full discussion of the whole question. If this were done he would withdraw his Motion, with the conviction that it had not been inoperative.
With the indulgence of the House, I should like to make a reference to an appeal which has been made by several hon. Members. We have every disposition to accede to 217 it if we could do so with justice to our other duties; but its practicability must depend on the question whether or not the Bill is to go into Committee containing a great deal of disputable matter—matter on which there will be a serious difference of opinion. If the Bill contains a great number of clauses, and there is much difference of opinion with regard to them, it would not, I am sure, be possible for us to give facilities for the discussion; but if the measure is brought before us in a simple form, which will be generally acceptable to the House and will not lead to much discussion, I must say, considering the importance of the matter, it will be our duty to give the necessary facilities.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.