HC Deb 11 May 1881 vol 261 cc230-46

(Sir Gabriel Goldney, Mr. Thorold Rogers.)


Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, observed that the object of the Bill was to get rid of a statute called Horne Tooke's Act, which was passed for the purpose of getting rid of a man whose political opinions were obnoxious. The Act excluded clergymen from sitting in the House of Commons. Mr. Horne Tooke was returned for Old Sarum at a time when political feeling was very strong. He (Sir Gabriel Goldney) did not know the reason why his right hon. Friend (Mr. Beresford Hope) sitting below him and others objected to clergymen sitting in the House of Commons. It was formerly held that clergymen sitting in Convocation were not privileged to sit in the House of Commons, because they claimed the right of taxing themselves through Convocation, instead of through the House of Commons, and it was felt that they ought not to have a double voice; but in 1846 the powers of Convocation were abolished. Clergymen were now eligible for all civil offices and functions, and why should they be excluded from the House of Commons? Why should they be ostracized from all political feeling and action? They performed all the ordinary duties of citizens, and became Guardians of the poor. It might be said that it was inconsistent to be in the pulpit one day and in the House the next; but this applied with equal force to officers in the Army and Navy. It might be said that they ought not to be in the House of Commons, but performing their duties as officers, and looking after their men. Nonconformist ministers also could sit in the House without any objection being taken on the ground that political life was inconsistent with clerical functions. The history of the disabilities of the clergy was remarkable. For instance, at one time clergymen were excluded from hunting, on the ground that it was inconsistent with their duties; but a statute was passed which declared that it was necessary they should have that excellent exercise for the purpose of carrying on their duties more efficiently, and it was one of the prerogatives of the Crown that when a Bishop died his pack of hounds should go to the Crown, or that in lieu thereof compensation should be paid. In the performance of secular duties clergymen were admirable examples to the rest of the community. Nearly a third of the Bills in the Journals of the House dealt with subjects—such as Augmentation of Benefices, Burial Fees, Church Patronage, Ecclesiastical Endowments, Marriage Law Amendment Act, Poor Removal—in the discussion of which clergymen would be able to take part and give to the House the advantage of their knowledge and experience. He thought Parliament ought to abolish an Act that was passed for the purpose of excluding a man whose political opinions were adverse to the Minister of the day. Being unable to exclude him individually, they excluded the whole body of clergymen. He spoke as a Churchman, and as one who did all he could for the Church; and he asked the House to say that the clergy should not be treated as a different social order from the rest of the community. He was quite satisfied it would be beneficial to the Church if some clergymen were to come within an arena like the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Gabriel Goldney.)


, in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, congratulated his hon. Friend on the array of authorities he had pressed into his service. Even the venerable "Brother Bragge," of political poetry, had made his appearance; and he presumed that Brother Bragge and Brother Hiley were kept in reserve. The present state of matters was that clergymen, whether with or without a cure of souls, could not sit and vote in the House, and his hon. Friend wished to alter that state of things. On previous occasions his hon. Friend promoted a Bill to allow clergymen who had not a cure of souls to sit and vote in the House. He (Mr. Beresford Hope) thought there were sufficient reasons even against that measure, and he had the satisfaction of carrying the House with him. There were already plenty of elements of disturbance in the House, plenty of heart-burnings, plenty of faction—he was not accusing one side or the other, but only that human nature, of which they were all sharers—plenty of misunderstanding, plenty of class grievances, plenty of everything which distempered debate and paralyzed wise counsels. Was it desirable, then, to introduce fresh elements of discord by bringing in what he must as a Churchman, a Christian, and a citizen say would be a most pestilent specimen of the genus citizen—namely, the political parson who would use his partizanship for his political advantage? He might either be a rich rector, with aspirations, or a discontented curate, with a grievance. In either case, he had his pulpit to preach in, his school to lecture in, his parish vestry, his meetings for mothers, for fathers, and for uncles, and did they want to introduce that man into Parliament also? Did they want to have the scandal of a man being able to spend his Sunday mornings and evenings in preaching his political speeches from the pulpit, and upon weekdays inflict his tedious sermons on the House? Did they want such a man to be able from the rising of the sun until 4 o'clock to be able to canvass in his cassock, and then come down to the House and be addressed as the hon. and rev. Member for So-and-so? He should regard the introduction of "political parsons" to the House as a fresh scandal to good order and religion and piety. His hon. Friend had given a list of a dozen Bills which he thought ought to be canvassed and traversed by clerical Members. He (Mr. Beresford Hope) prophesied, however, that if clergymen were admitted in sufficient numbers and of sufficient variety of clerical opinions to influence a debate, the non-clerical Members of the House would rise in revolt against them. In order to attain his hon. Friend's Utopia, half-a-dozen High, half-a-dozen Low, and half-a -dozen Broad Church clergymen would have to be secured. It was urged that it was hard that there should be no clergymen in that House, seeing that there were Bishops in the House of Lords; but it should be remembered that a clergyman would enter the House of Commons after a contested election and with constituents at his back. The election of a Bishop, on the other hand, was a ceremony which might be very abhorrent to the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), but it had not much effect on his position in the House of Lords afterwards, and he had no constituents. The Bench of Bishops in the other House might be a valuable part of the Constitution or it might not. That was not the question before the House now, but it depended on totally different considerations; and to attempt to darken counsel and mix up that matter with the present discussion was only to show how trivial and imaginary was the grievance alleged in the case and how weak was the ground for the Bill. In conclusion, he trusted that the House, considering the present state of Public Business, would not encourage even so respectable a Member as his hon. Friend to air his crotchet at the expense of the national time; but that the House, which had already, before getting into Committee upon the one single Bill of importance, taken 200 divisions during this Session, would, if necessary, have its 201st division that morning for the purpose of relieving itself from the present annoyance for the rest of the Session. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Beresford Hope.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


, in supporting the second reading of the Bill, said, he would not attempt to follow the heated rhetoric and habitual prophecies of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. He could not, however, share in the apprehensions entertained by that right hon. Gentleman as to the dangers that were likely to arise from the possible introduction of a clergyman into the House if a constituency could be found to return him. He thought, moreover, that if any clergyman were to resort to the objectionable means to acquire a seat in that House which the right hon. Gentleman had so graphically described, the constituency would know how to deal with him and would emphatically reject him. He maintained, further, that Horne Tooke's Act, which it was now proposed to repeal, was entirely unconstitutional, having been directed, not only against an individual, but against the privileges of a class without the smallest justification. All persons who were liable to be taxed for their lay possessions were in justice and on constitutional grounds eligible to be returned to Parliament if they were untainted by crime and subject to no legal disqualification. This was the result of the arrangement made between Clarendon and Archbishop Sheldon in 1655, as was proved by the cases cited in Bragge's Report of 1801, for all the cases in which clergymen, having spiritual fees, had been elected and were disqualified by vote of the House occured before 1655, and all cases, notably those of Gordon and Rushworth, in which their seats were unchallenged, occurred after that date. Horne Tooke himself had stood twice for Westminster before he was elected for Old Sarum, and no one thought of saying that votes given, to him were thrown away. The clergy had ceased to be represented, for purposes of taxation, in Convocation, and, therefore, they got votes for the House of Commons and were eligible for seats there. Mr. Horne Tooke had been a clergyman. He had abandoned his living at an early period, and he took a very active part in politics. He was a very considerable politician, as well as a very considerable scholar, and also a great advocate of constitutional progress and reform. The passing of the Act against him was a scandal, being dictated by antipathy to a single individual. It was intended that the Act should be confined to the clergy of the Church of England, or rather to the united Church of England and Ireland; and the question might well be raised whether the united Church of England and Ireland, having now ceased to exist as it did before the Irish Church was disestablished, any person could really be brought under the penalties of the statute. That, however, he said only by the way. The Scotch Presbyterian minister was somewhat differently placed from the Anglican clergyman, not being a minister when he left his benefice. He held, however, that a clergyman was not a clergyman in the eye of the law or within the range of spiritual authority unless actually in possession of a cure of souls. After Catholic Emancipation was conceded the same disabilities as attached to the Anglican clergy were extended to Roman Catholic priests, and he would not have the least objection to see a provision inserted in the present Bill stating that if an Irish constituency elected a Roman Catholic clergyman to that House their choice of such a Representative should be respected. The passage of Horne Tooke's Act was an invasion of the rights of a section of the community, and he hoped to see the day very speedily arrive when it would be repealed.


said, he did not desire to enter into any historical discussion of Horne Tooke's case. It was enough to say that the Preamble of the Act which it was now sought to repeal declared that it was passed to remove doubts which existed as to the eligibility of persons in Holy Orders to sit in that House. They had nothing to do now with the motives which might have induced men to vote for or against that Act; they had only to consider that the Preamble expressed the mind of Parliament in passing it. Persons who found that they had made a mistake in entering the Church had already been relieved by the Act of 1870; and the present Bill was intended to carry that Act a step further in a direction which he did not think would be indorsed by the opinion of the House. The Bill was designed to admit beneficed clergymen as well as unbeneficed to the House, and if it passed they might have Dean Stanley sitting in the House both as Dean of and Member for Westminster. The Canon Law and the Common Law were brought into accord by Horne Tooke's Act; but by passing the present Bill the discord between the two systems of law would be restored. There was, he maintained, no necessity for the change, inasmuch as clergymen were now represented in their lay capacity by their local Representatives, and in their clerical capacity in Convocation, and in the House of Lords. This Bill was principally promoted, as was well known, in the interest of an individual. He objected to that. He objected to the alteration of the Oath to please an individual, and he opposed that Bill on the ground that it was intended to meet the scruples of an individual or of a few individuals. The only argument that he could see in favour of the Bill was that if they were to have the Member (Mr. Bradlaugh) who had taken up so much of the time of the House introduced, it might be desirable to have a countervailing element in the presence of some of the clergy. They might, if this Bill were passed, have the hon. and rev. Augustus Smith, M.P., advertised to preach in some Northampton church on the text "Fear God and honour the King." He must oppose the second reading, seeing there had been no Petitions or meetings in favour of this measure.


said, he was as anxious as any Member to open the portals of the House to every man whom a constituency might think it right to return, without imposing on him any religious disabilities; but he was sorry that it should have been thought necessary by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just spoken to impart into the present discussion any reference to the unpleasant scenes which the House had witnessed with regard to the hon. Mem- ber for Northampton. At the same time, he could not see his way to support the Bill, which would admit into the House clergymen having the cure of souls. That would be a very incongruous state of things. They might have a clergyman using his pulpit as a rostrum on Sundays to preach an election address. That would be a scandal. He was very much opposed to clerical justices of the peace, and had formerly introduced a Bill to disqualify them, and he must oppose the present proposal. If clergymen felt anxious to enter the House, there was an Act—to which he (Mr. Hinde Palmer) was a party—already in the Statute Book of which they could avail themselves. Holy Orders imposed certain disabilities on clergymen, and unless they divested themselves of their clerical character he could not agree to the removal of those disabilities. The Bill before the House he regarded as unqualified in its nature, uncalled for, and one that ought not to receive the encouragement of Parliament.


said, the Clerical Disabilities Act of 1870, which he had been instrumental in passing, had in every way successfully carried out the intentions of its promoters, and had not only enabled a large number of gentlemen to retire from the Church, but had admitted three or four Members to that House. Although ready to vote for the second reading of this Bill, he could not give it his entire support unless clergymen holding cures of souls or offices under State appointment were excluded from its operation. It was said that this Bill was aimed at one person, and the hon. Gentleman opposite said he should oppose it on the same grounds that he opposed the Oaths Bill. But the opposition to the Oaths Bill was aimed, not at the admission, but the exclusion of one person. If, however, it had been permissible to pass Horne Tooke's Act for the purpose of excluding one person, the House might fairly be asked to pass a Bill to admit one person; but he supported the measure on broader grounds. He desired to see a disability removed. The Clerical Disabilities Act required the person taking advantage of the relief it gave to retire from the Church; but he wanted to know whether they could not go a step further, and provide that a person in Holy Orders, if he had ceased to hold preferment, should not be required to divest him of his reverend character before obtaining admission to that House? If a clergyman became a Peer he could enter the House of Lords without divesting himself of his clerical character, and he saw no reason why the House of Commons should not be placed in the same position as the other House in that respect. Why should they compel a clergyman to divest himself of his black coat before entering that House? He did not see that the House would have suffered in any way if the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Thorold Rogers) and the hon. Member for Waterford County (Mr. Villiers-Stuart), who had resigned Holy Orders to become Members of the House, had not been compelled to do so, and had, if they pleased, attended in their places in clerical costume and retained the title of "Rev." Therefore, he saw no objection to the repeal of Horne Tooke's Act, but on the conditions he had named as to excluding beneficed clergymen. So long as the Church of England was connected with the State, it would not be right that clergymen of the Church should be placed in the same position as ministers of other Denominations. Whenever the Church was separated from the State—and he hoped that time might be far distant—then they might agree to place clergymen of the Church in exactly the same position as those of other Denominations.


said, the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) said that the Act of 1870 had worked exceedingly well. Why, then, alter it? This Bill proposed the repeal pure and simple of Horne Tooke's Act. But a Bill without reservations or restrictions or limitations would only bring the law back to the state of confusion which existed before Horne Tooke's Act was passed. The hon. Member for Southwark, who always addressed the House with perfect confidence, laid down as a fact about which there was no doubt that, whatever the law, clergymen had sat in the House. If there was no doubt about the question, how was it there had been so many inquiries before Select Committees? Horne Tooke's Act was not passed in a day or a week. It was the result of inquiry, grave delibe- ration, and animated debates. He found it laid down that, from the time of Edward I. to the year 1800, neither that House nor the Constitution of the Realm had ever recognized the right of clergymen as such to sit in Parliament. If clergymen had in fact sat, it was because the House had not recognized them as such. But whenever the House took notice of the return of clergymen it declared the return void. Reference had been made to Rushworth's case; but it would, he thought, be found that that completely broke down. Rushworth was ordained a deacon at 21, and only exercised his calling for two months, and the Committee which seated him expressly distinguished his case. As to the Bishops in the other House, they had been placed there either by statute enactment or in great official capacities; therefore, the case of the Bishops was no argument at all. They did not go through contested popular elections; they did not sit for Macclesfield or Boston, or even so immaculate a city as Oxford. He would remind the House of the words used by Lord Temple, who, in 1801, said— I conjure you to pause well….. before you allow priests to desert their pulpits, to search for fame on the benches of the House of Commons, and force them to leave the plain and beaten road of religion, to wander in the crooked and uneven paths of politics; and finally, before you sink the sanctity of the clerical character in the chicanery of private prejudices, of party, and of faction."—[Parl. Hist. xxxv. 1368.]

He hoped the House would reject the Bill.


said, he did not attach much importance to the argument that clergymen would be damaged by taking part in contested elections. What they were really dealing with was Horne Tooke's Act. They could not ignore the circumstances which led up to that legislation; on the contrary, he thought they must take them into their present consideration. Clergymen had sat in that House previous to Horne Tooke's Act, but no objection was ever taken to them before. He asked, was this a time for continuing that disability? He believed there was nothing to apprehend from the introduction of clergymen to that House; and as the law at present stood, it operated against those who were too conscientious to relieve themselves of Holy Orders, whilst it did not prevent others who availed themselves of recent legislation for that purpose from sitting in the House.


said, the arguments that had been advanced seemed largely to preponderate in favour of the second reading of the Bill; but he could not support it on the ground adopted by some hon. Members. He could not adopt the grounds advanced by his hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Thorold Rogers), or by the hon. Member who had just spoken. They had put it on the ground that clergymen were entitled to sit in that House until Horne Tooke's Act was passed. He believed the opposite opinion was the true one, and he had looked carefully into the matter. He believed that the greatest Parliamentary names were found in favour of the distinct and clear declaration that clergymen were ineligible to sit in the House of Commons. He might mention the names of Addington, Sir W. Scott, Mr. Law (afterwards Lord Ellenborough), Lord Eldon, and Mr. Charles Williams Winn; and this weighty roll of distinguished lawyers declared clearly on this point. As to the present Bill, it would be necessary that it should be altered. They could not take it for granted that but for Horne Tooke's Act clergymen would be entitled to a seat in that House if elected. The ground on which he would support, generally, the second reading was not because the law had been so hitherto, but because he was against the principle of religious disabilities interfering with seats in that House. That was the principle on which the Party to which he belonged had constantly acted; and step by step, and degree by degree, they had removed all the disabilities which existed by the law of Parliament or the Statutes of the Realm. He must ask, however, with regard to this Bill, what the promoters meant to do with the disabilities of the Roman Catholic clergy? Because it was impossible to pass this Bill in its present form without dealing with the 9th section of the Emancipation Act. Under that Act, Roman Catholic priests were subject to certain penalties if they sat in that House; and it would be impossible to admit one class of priests and exclude another. He thought, before the Bill went further, this was a point which the hon. Member in charge of the Bill must very seriously consider. No doubt. an old days the Secretaries of State were nearly always clergymen; and Ambassadors were more often clergymen than not. Gardiner was the Minister of Henry VIII., and the religious and secular elements were combined without difficulty. There was another difficulty, which it would be well if the hon. Member took into consideration, and that was the question of Crown patronage as it would effect clergymen. Would a clergyman holding a seat in the House, accepting preferment from the Crown, be required to vacate his seat? The object of the Act of Queen Anne was clear; and he thought this question would be a thorny one for a Committee to determine. A point was raised as to clergymen being engaged in corrupt practices. Well, they all hoped that under the Bill of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General those practices would cease to exist. But there was a much more formidable danger which threatened the right hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope) and the right hon. Member for Oxford (Sir John Mowbray), and that was the formidable rivals which this Bill would, when carried, raise up. He should not be surprised to find his right hon. Friends determined opponents of the Bill, for a more formidable rivalry he could not imagine. It had been advanced by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Hinde Palmer) as an argument against the Bill, that it would create a new evil by tempting clergymen to turn their pulpits into political rostrums; but he (Sir William Harcourt) did not think that that was an evil which would be "created" by this measure, inasmuch as they had already had some experience of it. He did not think, therefore, that that was an argument that they need be afraid of. There must be some restriction in the Bill upon beneficed clergymen; and, subject to the considerations he had advanced, and on the general principle that religious disabilities ought not to be allowed to interfere with the choice of constituencies, he would support the second reading of the Bill.


protested against the historical disquisition, not of "Historicus," but of the learned Professor the Member for Southwark, and urged, as an argument against the Bill which had not been mentioned by any of the previous speakers, that the Church was one of the Estates of the Realm, and as such was properly represented by Lords Spiritual in the other House of Parliament, and that it was unconstitutional for the Church to seek to extend her rights in that House. If clergymen were admitted into the House of Commons, there would be a demand that the Bishops should retire from the House of Lords.


said, he rose for the purpose of referring to the point mentioned by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary with regard to the disabilities of Roman Catholic clergymen. He would have great pleasure in supporting this Bill if it went the whole way in the direction it professed to take; but it did not go the whole way. The Bill proposed to remove the present disability of clergymen of the Established Church to sit in the House; and he contended that if one denomination of the clergy were to be allowed to sit in the House he did not see why the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland should be excluded. If the Bill passed it would keep out the clergy of all Denominations, except those of the Church of England, and this at a time when the doors of the House of Commons were being thrown open to Infidels and Atheists. He should like to see in that House the Bishops and Priests of Ireland, and he believed they would make efficient Representatives of the Irish people. He had no doubt, if the law were altered, they would see in that House as the Representative of Tipperary, Archbishop Croke with Mr. John Dillon. He should be very glad to see in that House Dr. Nulty, who was, perhaps, better acquainted with the Land Question than any Member of that House. He should like to see in that House Canon Doyle and Father Sheehy, because they would be a great advantage to its deliberations. The Bill, if passed, would exclude the Irish Catholic and Protestant clergy; and if it were passed they would soon have a new and a lively agitation in Ireland, because the Catholic and Protestant clergy of that country would not submit to lie under the disabilities which had been removed from the clergy of the Established Church in England. If the Bill were passed, the Irish people would send those clergymen to the House of Commons to fight out their battle in the same way that Mr. Bradlaugh was doing, and then it would be found that Parliament would have to legislate upon the subject. If the hon. Member who had brought in this Bill would adopt the suggestion of its Seconder, he (Mr. T. D. Sullivan) would be glad to support it; and he believed that other Irish Members would be prepared to do the same.


said, that the Act of 1870 had relieved the clergy from the professional grievance—complaint of which was made by some persons on their behalf, but not by themselves. He might refer to the case of barristers and officers of the Army, to show how inconsistent the two functions of being Members of Parliament and being actively engaged in their Professions were with the proper discharge of their duties in the latter capacity. The combination of the two functions exercised a demoralizing effect on the Bar as a Profession; the same result would be produced in the case of the clergy if they sat in that House, seeing the vast amount of patronage which was in the hands of the Government. Suppose a number of aspiring and able clergymen constantly attacking the Government, and hon. Members could easily conceive how great would be the temptation to stop their months by giving them some ecclesiastical preferment. Suppose the Dean of Westminster, as had been suggested, were in the House, he might in a little time become Prime Minister, and then recommend himself to the Archbishop of Canterbury and hold the two Offices together, as they had been held together before. They would thus be going back to the state of things that existed in the time of Henry VIII. It was an error to suppose that constituencies might return whom they liked, and that the House was bound to admit the person elected. Clergymen in that House would not represent the Church, but their own particular opinions, or the opinions of their constituency or of their Party. The benefit which the Bill proposed to confer was not desired by the Church, and he hoped the House would not assent to the second reading.


rose to a point of Order. He had to complain of the manner in which the Bill had been introduced. It was religious in its manner and aims, and ought, he maintained, to have been brought in in Committee of the Whole House.


said, it was so introduced.


said, he was reminded by the present debate of a scene once enacted in the National Convention of France, when one Anacharsis Clootz made his appearance there as the representative of All Nations. It seemed to him that if the ultra-Liberal disposition to remove all restrictions were to prevail, aliens, now excluded, would be admitted to seats in that House, and then Mr. Speaker would occupy a position analogous to that of Anacharsis Clootz. If the restrictions upon the admission of Atheists were to be removed, he should see little reason for maintaining them against the clergy. Until professed Atheists were admitted, he should abide by the exclusion of the clergy. He asked the House to consider for a moment the probable consequences of the measure it was now invited to assent to. It was his belief that the clergy were best represented by the Bishops in the House of Lords; but the authority of the Bishops was contested, and even openly defied, and if beneficed clergy were admitted to that House, their action might further weaken the authority and power of the Bishops. He saw no advantage to an Episcopal Church in counteracting the authority of the Bishops; and that must result from the admission of the inferior clergy to seats in that House, for their admission would inevitably encourge those among the clergy who were inclined to rebel against the authority of the Bishops. It was upon the practical ground that the measure tended to introduce a principle of confusion into the Constitution of this country that he took objection to it. Moreover, the admission of the clergy to seats in that House was not demanded by any considerable section of them. On the contrary, he believed that the wishes of the clergy pointed in a distinctly different direction. His hon. Friend (Mr. Leighton) had stated that many persons objected to the clergy acting as justices of the peace, and, no doubt, that was the case; but he (Mr. Newdegate) did not concur in that objection. The function of a magistrate was consistent with the Constitution of the Church of England, which defined herself to be a congregation of faithful men, and her clergy as citizens. There was, however, a broad line of distinction to be drawn between the making and the administration of the law. The clergy of the Church of England were peculiarly bound to obey the law, and he (Mr. Newdegate) held that they were peculiarly adapted and qualified to administer the law as justices of the peace; and he believed that their admission to seats in that House would be the introduction of an element of weakness, or he might rather say an aggravation of an element of weakness in the Church, that would be without any countervailing advantage to the House itself.


said, the real question to be decided was whether there was any good reason for the exclusion of a large body of highly intelligent men from the House, and he had failed to hear a single sound argument against their admission. It was a matter for a man's own conscience to settle whether his duties as a beneficed clergyman were or were not compatible with those which he would have to discharge as a Member of Parliament. But there were many clergymen who were not beneficed, but who objected to make the declaration under the Act of 1870 which they must do before they could become Members of the House; and why should Parliament exclude them? The true test of qualification was that a Member should be the choice of a constituency, and it was not for the House to say that such or such a man should not be elected. It was absurd to suppose that a clergyman could be defiled more than any other man by having to pass through the turmoil of a contested election. He was glad, he might add, to find that no speaker, not even the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), had opposed the Bill on the ground that if it were passed its provisions should be made to include the Roman Catholic clergy.


said, he was in error in stating that the Bill had been introduced in Committee of the Whole House. It had, however, been brought in in a perfectly regular way, in accordance with the precedent set in Horne Tooke's case. He would only add that if the Bill were read a second time he should be prepared to refer it to a Select Committee, by whom the various suggestions made for its amendment might be considered. He should also be prepared to introduce a clause providing that any clergyman taking advantage of the Bill should resign his benefice or preferment, and sign a declaration that he would be incapacitated from holding a benefice or preferment in future.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 110: Majority 9.—(Div. List, No. 201.)

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.