§ On the Motion of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Order of the Day was read for the House to go into Committee on this Bill.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
said, that he felt himself called upon to offer a few observations on the objects and prin- 788 ciple of the Plurality of Benefices Bill, on moving that their Lordships should then resolve themselves into a Committee to consider that measure. As those objects and that principle had been fully discussed in the last Session of Parliament, he did not consider it necessary, on the second reading of the Bill, to enter into any explanation of its details; but, as a noble Lord, on a former night, had brought forward amendments, which, in point of fact, went to effect an entire alteration of the measure; and as that noble Lord at the same time, accused him of practising a delusion on their Lordships, in vindication of himself, and of the motives by which he was actuated, he begged to be permitted to say a few words upon the present occasion. So far back as the reign of Henry 8th, previous to which the regulation of the Church, as regarded pluralities, was under the canon law, which was opposed to pluralities of all kinds, the first Act was passed on this subject. By that Act—the 1st Henry 8th—all persons holding benefices valued at 8l. a-year in the King's books, were prevented from holding any other benefice, except by dispensation. A great number of persons, however, who were in possession of certain qualifications, were allowed to hold two beneces; members of the Council were able to hold three, and King's chaplains could hold any number to which it was the pleasure of the Crown to appoint them, without regard to their value. With these exceptions, no person could hold more than one benefice with cure of souls of 8l. a-year. There were other livings under the value of 8l. a-year, which were left in the same state as before, under the canon law, which, though it prohibited pluralities altogether, was so inefficient, that persons could hold any number of livings under 8l. a-year at any distance, under such qualifications as would enable them to hold an ordinary living. Another clause of that Bill permitted deans of cathedrals, and collegiate bodies, to make their own regulations in respect of their own estates, or left them to the operation of the canon law. With these exceptions, and the exception of members of the council, and King's chaplains, who might hold any number of livings, all persons were prohibited from holding two benefices, with cure of souls of the value of 8l. a-year. The Bill which was on the Table provided, that a space of not more than thirty 789 miles should intervene between two livings held in plurality, this regulation would have the effect of reducing the present pluralities nearly two-thirds. There was also another important alteration, which, he thought would be considered an improvement, namely, that the office of King's chaplain would not give a title to hold in connexion with it any Church preferment: that office would in future give no advantages beyond those enjoyed without it. It had been found, after the most mature reflection, necessary to make provision for enabling incumbents of the poorer livings to pay their curates. In making that provision, it was necessary to bear in mind that the valuation of livings in the King's books was no sufficient guide in the present day, and the fact he conceived, would afford a sufficient answer to most of the objections that had been urged on that subject; but the conclusive answer which this Bill gave to the chief objection to pluralities was to be found in the enactment that no ecclesiastical person should hold more than two livings, and those only within a distance of thirty miles. It was, he apprehended, no valid objection to this measure, that it did not accomplish that which it did not profess. As to the dignities held in the cathedral churches, he had only to observe that they were of various values, and they could not impose any further restriction upon them than the Bill contained. He was aware that there were anomalies and imperfections in the existing system, and he was far from saying that this Bill would remedy them, or that any Bill could advantageously remove them all, but here they had one most important step taken, and that he hoped, might enable them hereafter to go further in the same path. The noble Lord who had moved the amendments to which he had already adverted, had spoken of this Bill as a delusion, and had declared that it left monstrous abuses remaining which it ought to have remedied. He stated that the bishopric of Winchester, the deanery of Durham, and a variety of other preferments, might be held by one and the same person. He (the Archbishop of Canterbury) admitted that in the present state of the law, these were possibilities which this Bill did not guard against. He confessed that abuses of authority might occur, which, as no rational man had ever committed, so no rational man would ever 790 think of guarding against. They did not, in preparing this Bill, calculate all possible contingencies—they did not aim at combating shadows, or fighting with windmills. Again, the House heard a very good speech from the noble Lord against the practice of Bishops holding livings in commendam, but that had nothing to do with the present question; for this Bill professed to deal with pluralities of another class, and with them it did successfully deal. The speech of the noble Lord did not really, for the purposes of the Bill then before them, require much reply, for it was beside the question; but with respect to his Amendments, he would with the permission of their Lordships, go through some of them. The noble Lord, in the first place, proposed to enact that, from and after the passing of the Bill, 'It shall not be lawful for any Archbishop or Bishop actually exercising episcopal jurisdiction, or enjoying the revenues of any diocese, to accept or retain any benefice with the cure of souls, either in commendam or otherwise, or to hold any other dignity or ecclesiastical preferment.' He presumed the word Archbishop was here introduced as a word of course, for it never could for a moment be supposed, that the Archbishop of York or the Archbishop of Canterbury, would hold a benefice in commendam. In fact this was a clause guarding against the abuse of the Royal Prerogative in a case where there was not the least imaginable probability that it would be abused. There was next an amendment to clause 3, which said, 'Provided always, and be it further enacted, that it shall and may be lawful for any Archbishop or Bishop, the revenues of whose diocese do not exceed 3,500l., to hold in commendam any dignity or ecclesiastical preferment without cure of souls, provided the gross annual value thereof, together with the revenues of his diocese, shall not amount to more than 4,000l. annually, and that he shall pay over the surplus, if any, to the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, to be by them appropriated, with the sanction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to the augmentation of bishoprics under the annual value of 3,500l.' He must be allowed to say, and he trusted most of their Lordships would concur with him, if they would only consider the unavoidable expenses which a Bishop must incur—the expenses he was put to in maintaining more than one re- 791 sidence—in visiting the several portions of his diocese from time to time—in subscribing to every charity within his diocese—in relievin the poorer clergy—in educating and establishing his sons, besides making some provision for his family after his death—that was fixing the revenue of a Bishop too low. He was aware that it had been said, that the income which the noble Lord fixed for a Bishop was as much as a Judge generally had, but it should be recollected that a Judge stood in a very different situation from that of a Bishop. When one of the parochial clergy became a Bishop, he found himself transferred from a situation in which his income scarcely equalled his necessary and proper expenditure; but what was the fact with respect to a Judge? He was transferred to a situation of less labour perhaps—of more dignity certainly; his former position being one not entailing much expense, and giving facilities for the accumulation of a fortune: whereas the situation of a Bishop was widely different; he was from the outset surrounded with circumstances calculated to create pecuniary embarrassment. The expenses of his entrance upon his sacred duties were in themselves of no small amount, and even though he should exercise all the economy that was consistent with the feelings of a liberal mind, he would still find it extremely difficult to maintain those appearances which his situation required. From his own experience, and the evidence of facts, he could affirm, that, if the incomes of the Bishops were to be regulated according to the rules laid down by the noble Lord, much of the usefulness and dignity of their station in the Church would be at an end. With respect to livings in commendam, he begged to mention one consideration, while he was upon the subject, which was not altogether unworthy of attention—it was, that those livings might in some sort, be said to possess the advantages of two rectors, for Bishops always paid their curates larger salaries than other holders of benefices. He considered that the whole of this enactment directed against livings in commendam, was unnecessary, and it might prove mischievous. There was no case in which a living happened to be held in commendam in which, if it were necessary to separate it, the separation might not be effected without the aid of this enactment; and further, he did not see that 792 any of the amendments would have the effect of preventing unnecessary translations. The third Amendment proposed by the noble Lord was as follows:—'And be it further enacted that if any spiritual person having a deanery, prebend, or canonry, or any precentorship, treasurership, subdeanery, chancellorship, or any wardenship, or fellowship in any cathedral or collegiate church; or any dignity, benefice, or ecclesiastical preferment, either with or without, any cure of souls, shall after the passing of this Act, accept, or be admitted to any other deanery, prebend, or canonry, precentorship, treasurership, subdeanery, wardenship, or fellowship, in any cathedral or collegiate church, or any other dignity, benefice, or ecclesiastical preferment, either with, or without cure of souls; then, and immediately after such acceptance or admission, the first deanery, prebend, or canonry, precentorship, treasurership, sub-deanery, chancellorship, wardenship, or fellowship in any cathedral or collegiate church, or other dignity, benefice, or ecclesiastical preferment, either with, or without cure of souls, shall be ipso facto void.' On this Amendment it was needless to say much: it spoke for itself; and it was one, the adoption of which, he thought, but few of their Lordships would be disposed to agree to. One of the most extraordinary propositions ever made to that House, was contained in the proposed Amendment to clause 9, the object of which was, to give power to the Archbishop of Canterbury, in certain cases, to grant license or dispensation for holding two benefices, whose joint value did not exceed the amounts therein specified; and then this proposed amendment said, that such person who shall have obtained the degree of Doctor of Divinity with a certificate from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and solemn declaration inserted in the testimonial thereof, that the same was not conferred from partiality or affection, entreaty or interest, but purely and solely from a conviction of the graduate's pious zeal, theological knowledge, and pastoral aptness to accept and hold such benefice, provided the population of one of such benefices shall not exceed 500 souls, and the joint annual value of such two benefices, &c. No noble Lord could imagine that the Archbishop of Canterbury had the means of granting those certificates upon his own knowledge. In all such cases he must 793 rely upon the testimonies supplied to him by others. He trusted he had never shown a disposition to shrink from any burthen, duty, or reasonable responsibility, belonging to his situation; and he did persuade himself that, in objecting to this it would not be thought that he was departing from that which had ever been his practice; but it was a duty which he owed not merely to himself, but to his successors, to protest against such a clause. Under this Amendment the Archbishop of Canterbury would be required not only to judge of the knowledge, but of the intellectual, moral, and even physical, qualifications, of the persons presenting themselves as candidates. This was almost impossible; and, if possible, it would not be useful. Their Lordships must also see, that the provision which the noble Lord would make for the parochial clergy, or rather the minimum to which he would reduce them, was quite inconsistent with the maintenance of a family, or with their comfortable and respectable living. With any observations on this topic it was not necessary to trouble the House, as the plan proposed conduced neither to the real object of the Bill, nor to the diminution of pluralities. The proposed Amendment to Clause 11, was this—'And he it further enacted, that, from and after the passing of this Act, every Archbishop and Bishop shall, on or before the 1st day of July in every year, make to the Archbishop of Canterbury, to be by him transmitted, together with the like return from himself to his Majesty in Council, on or before the 25th day of March, a return of the gross annual revenues or emoluments of his diocese, from whatever source derived, during the succeeding year; and also specifying the name and value of any dignitary, benefice, or ecclesiastical preferment, held therewith; and that every other spiritual person shall make a like return of the name, and true and full value of any dignity, benefice, or ecclesiastical preferment, held by him to the Bishop of the diocese in which it is situated, to be by him transmitted to the King in Council, on or before the aforesaid 25th day of March.' He would appeal to the noble Lord, whether such a clause as this ought to be introduced into the Bill—supposing such a measure to be advantageous (and he, for one, should not object to ascertain the value of all emoluments possessed by dignitaries of the 794 Church) it ought rather to form the subject of a separate substantive Bill, than to be thus introduced into a measure which had another object in view. He repeated that he was most anxious to have the amount of Church property ascertained, for there had been gross and scandalous exaggerations on the subject; and he had no doubt that the proposal contained in the noble Lord's Amendment would soon be acted on; but this mode of doing it appeared in the highest degree exceptionable, for it could not fail to lead to frauds in a variety of ways. A discretionary power was given to the Archbishop of Canterbury, as to granting or withholding dispensations; and of course he would take, in every case, the value of the benefice, as well as all other circumstances, into consideration; but it would be quite impossible for the Legislature to adopt any principle, if the living were under the value of 8l., of making value the criterion, without having some documents before it. He was most desirous that such an inquiry should be instituted, in order to show the gross misstatements that were disseminated, through the medium, chiefly of cheap pamphlets, but they were reiterated at public meetings, by persons who did, and ought to know better. This mode of proceeding, he verily believed, was adopted in order to place the Church in an invidious point of view. It was asserted in some of these pamphlets, and had been repeated at certain meetings, that the revenues of the Church were 9,000,000l. per annum; but whenever a return of the ecclesiastical revenues should be made, they who had put forth, and those who had believed such exaggerations, would look at that return with no small degree of surprise, and would find how egregiously they had been deceived. The Church had nothing to fear from inquiry; and he had every reason to hope that means would be taken to ascertain what its revenues actually were. The mode which the noble Lord had suggested of annual returns, was not the best that could be desired for that purpose, because such returns would be attended with great inconvenience, and they would be extremely difficult to make out correctly, even by those who wished to act most honestly. He would spare their Lordships from going into the other parts of the Bill, and would only refer to the clause which took away from their Lordships the privilege of appointing chaplains. 795 He trusted their Lordships would believe that he was the last man to wish to interfere unnecessarily with their privileges; or to bear hard upon any members of the clergy. As the value, however, of such appointments was merely imaginary, he had no doubt their Lordships would willingly resign such privileges for the good of the Church. As for himself, so far as the Bill was concerned, he had encountered so much opposition that he was almost disheartened. In attempting to please everybody as far as possible, he had stirred up opponents on all sides, without forwarding his object. This was the third Session the Bill had been before Parliament. He would, however, conclude, by moving that their Lordships go into Committee, where they might deal with the Bill as they thought best.
begged it to be understood that he was far from courting the task of Church Reformer, and that he exceedingly regretted that the duty, the conscientious duty, of exposing the—he would not say premeditated frauds, but the—gross delusion which the present Bill was calcucated to create in the public mind, had not devolved upon some noble Lord more competent than he was, to discharge it with efficiency. He called the Bill a delusion, not that he was anxious to use harsh epithets in speaking of any measure to which the most reverend Prelate was a party, but because no other word occurred to him so expressive of its true character. It was a gross delusion upon the public, because, under the pretext of checking the system so baneful to the interests of true religion and the Protestant Church—that of benefice pluralities—it, in point of fact, perpetuated the worst features of that system, while it tended to aggravate the hard condition of the working and poorer clergy. Thus, under the semblance of a general good, much public evil and private injury would be perpetrated; and this, forsooth, was a proof of the earnest desire of the Church dignitaries to ameliorate the defects of the existing system. For instance, the Bill enacted that no person should hold a second living, if his first was worth 400l. a-year, except—and he begged their Lordships to mark the exception, which ought to have been called the rule—the incumbent be a "Master of Arts." Now, all the higher clergy and dignitaries were Masters of Arts, while many of the poorer working clergy had taken out no degree in 796 arts higher than that of Bachelor, and some no degree at all; so that, in point of fact, the clause would oppress the poorer clergy, while it aggrandised the more wealthy. He would propose that a theological qualification, to be determined by the most reverend Prelate himself, should be substituted for the master's degree as the ground of exception. Then the Bill went to continue the privilege of Bishops being permitted to hold livings in commendam, without taking into account the proximity of those livings to their sees, or whether it was physically possible they could honestly discharge their sacred duties as Bishops and as rectors. And here again there was a striking proof of the tendency of the Bill to perpetuate the monopoly which the higher dignitaries possessed of the loaves and fishes of the Church, while it pressed upon the poorer working clergy with additional severity. He confessed he was anxious for the Reform of so unjust a system, and, being of opinion that Church property was held in trust for the public good, he would zealously co-operate in promoting any measure which would improve the condition of the working clergy, by bestowing upon them a portion of the superfluities possessed by the higher dignitaries to the disadvantage—nay, disgrace—of true religion. His object, be it understood, was not to subvert, far less to commit a spoliation of Church property, but to effect a more just and efficient distribution. The interests of the Church itself, and of the religion for the advancement of which the Church was established, demanded that there should be such an improved distribution of its revenue; and such a distribution would, he thought, be better effected by the measures which he recommended, than by the Bill as it stood at present. In that House, and in other places, his Majesty's Ministers had been reproached—and, he admitted, without justgrounds—as being regardless of the interest of religion. For his own part he took shame to himself that he had been, as he thought their Lordships had all been, too long regardless of the abuses to which he had just referred. He should be glad, therefore, to see the Ministers disprove the justice of the reproaches cast upon them, by taking the matter into their own hands, and bringing forward a measure for the more equal distribution of the revenues of the Church. The Church had been left too long to re- 797 gulate itself, and the Prelates had not shown that they were the best qualified to legislate for themselves. But the state of the House at that moment showed that there was still a disposition to leave, in a great measure, those matters to their judgment, and there certainly was an abundance of the Bishops then present. But on the preceding evening the attendance of lay Lords was much more numerous. Now, as far as the Bill affected the Bishops, he could not approve of the omission of all restraint upon the holding of benefices in commendam. To remove that defect was the object of the first amendment which he intended to propose in the Committee. He would allow the Bishops and dignitaries a decent, nay, a splendid income (he would not stickle for the exact sum of 3,500l., but would leave it to the Bishops themselves to fix a sum which they would consider a fair remuneration for the labours and dignity of a See); but he had yet to learn that providing large incomes in addition for their sons and daughters, constituted the chief object for which Parliament originally invested the Church with its enormous revenues. The right reverend Bench might depend upon it, that their united zeal, sustained, as it was, by such strong feelings of self-interest, could not long maintain the present overgrown anomalies, and superfluities, and bloated incomes of the Church dignitaries, in opposition to public opinion, urged on by common sense and common justice. It might be very well for the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London) near him to say, that he felt himself entitled by usage to hold one or two livings in commendam, in addition to his former See; but enlightened public opinion would not be satisfied unless he could show that he could be in Bishopsgate in London, and Chesterton in Cambridgeshire, and the city of Chester at the same time; and that the labours of each were comparatively trifling, and that it was wise and equitable that he should be receiving the incomes of these three extensive and very distant incumbencies, while most probably the three working clergymen, who did the actual duty did not receive a decent competency. He also should have to propose an amendment to the clause which made thirty miles the definition of "contiguous parishes." It appeared to him that the distance might as well have been fixed at 300 miles, so far as the possibility of one 798 man's being able to efficiently discharge the duties of his livings not actually and conveniently adjoining to each other was concerned. Where the livings were small, and so closely connected as to permit the duties to be regularly performed, such unions might often be effected without inconvenience, and they would afford the means of providing for those clergy whose poverty was a disgrace to the Church. The third amendment which he should propose would be, a diminution of the value of the livings which might be held together. He did not deny that there were poor Bishops. But that was one of the evils which he was desirous of seeing removed; and he was not convinced by anything which he had heard that the great revenues of the richer Prelates were absolutely necessary to the adequate support of the dignity of their respective Sees. He did not doubt that they were hospitable. But their hospitality was very different from the hospitality of the Bishops of former times. He had no doubt that the Bishops were still very hospitable in the entertainment of their private friends and connections, and that their mansions in town and in the country were liberally provided for the accommodation of their guests. But the tables of the earlier Prelates were spread for the stranger and the poor, and the pilgrim and friendless traveller found shelter under their truly hospitable roofs. With respect to the poorer clergy of the present times, he sincerely sympathised with the reverend Prelate (the Archbishop of Canterbury) in his compassion for those gentlemen; and he would confess, that he wondered not a little why it was, that those who could compassionate so deeply, and describe with so much force and feeling the unhappy circumstances of those gentlemen, did not propose some effective measure for their relief. He had not risen to oppose the Motion for the Committee, but only to explain the nature of the amendments which he was desirous to see adopted; and having done so, he would trespass no further on the time of the House.
The Bishop of Durham
objected to the value of benefices being taken as the standard to determine whether they should be held by one individual. He considered that a dangerous principle to be adopted. It amounted to something like spoliation. If it was expedient to limit the incomes of spiritual persons, this was not the way it 799 ought to be done, for if the principle was once admitted there could be no bounds set to its application. The evil of pluralities was not so much in the amount of the income of the person holding them, as in their occasioning non-residence. That was an evil which it was very difficult to correct, and it seemed to him that the only way in which it could be corrected was by a measure such as the Bill of the Rev. Prelate, which their Lordships were then called upon to consider. That Bill made no distinction as to the value of livings; but it would prevent the holding of two benefices which were so distant from each other as to prevent the incumbent from properly discharging his duties; and it allowed the union of livings which were within a reasonable distance, without regard to their value. He preferred that arrangement to the proposition of the noble Baron (Lord Suffield).
§ Lord Wynford
concurred with his right rev. friend (the Bishop of Durham), in thinking that the whole question was one of distance, and not of the value of benefices. He saw no difference whether two livings held by one individual were distant thirty miles or a hundred miles. In either case he could not efficiently discharge his duties in both. As there was an inquiry pending into the state of the property of the Church, he would strongly recommend the most Rev. Prelate to withdraw the Bill until the House was in possession of full information on that subject, when they would be better able to judge as to what benefices it was expedient to unite.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
could not act on the suggestion of his noble and learned friend. After the Bill had gone so far, and so much expectation had been raised respecting it, he should be sorry that any act of his should set it aside.
§ Lord Wynford
continued. As the most Rev. Prelate was determined to proceed, he would, therefore, state his objections to the Bill at present. There were but three points in the Bill in which it differed from the law as it stood already. They were, therefore, going to make a new law for that which was already the law. The first alteration which the Bill made in the existing law was the removal of the privileges of chaplains and of the sons of Peers. To that he would not object, for he thought that if the son of a Peer had not the ability or the industry to obtain his 800 degree, he ought not to be endowed with a plurality of benefices. The second novelty in the Bill was that which related to the distance of benefices; and the third was the giving the Archbishop of Canterbury a discretion as to requiring residence for a part of the year, and to this also he agreed. The subject of distance was only known to the Canon-law, but the Common-law did not recognize it, and the limitation of forty-five miles was only known to the Canon-law. To the present alteration he altogether objected, for the difference of distance he did not apprehend could weigh much in a religious point of view, and this was an unnecessary interference with the rights of property. If a gentleman was desirous of bringing up his son to the Church, and if, therefore, having in his own gift a living of small value, he had, before the introduction of the present Bill, or say ten years ago, purchased the advowson of another living with the intention of giving to his son a competent income from the two; by the operation of that Bill his intentions would be frustrated; if it should so happen that the purchased living was at a greater distance than the thirty miles contemplated. Thus the property purchased with this view would be done away, violating vested rights, and injuring the cause of religion. The Church itself would lose the advantage of having amongst the clergy men whose family connections, as well as their superior education, enabled them to promote greatly the honour of the Church and the interests of religion. Gentlemen of fortune had the best opportunities of giving their sons the education which should qualify them to be ornaments to the Church and efficient ministers of religion. Thus this alteration might deprive the Church of some of its most valuable members. And what would be the effect in such a case as he had mentioned? Why, this—that the presentation would be sold to the highest bidder, and let in perhaps a class of persons who would only be anxious to obtain an adequate return for the money they had paid, instead of gentlemen who would be likely to be more liberal, from not having paid anything for their benefices. The Bill would do injury to the Church of England, which he declared had produced more able men than any other profession in the world. He knew that many entered into this profession with higher motives than mere ambition or desire of gain; but 801 still men of abilities would not enter into it, if they were to be excluded from the hope of adequate reward. The bill would not maintain the hierarchy in that degree of splendor in which they ought to be supported, and he lamented its introduction upon that account.
The Bishop of London
wished to say a few words in reply to some of the observations which had fallen from his noble and learned friend, who had last addressed the House as he knew him to be a sincere friend to the Church. It was with surprise, he had almost said with pain, that he heard his noble and learned friend remark, that he was opposed to the Bill because it would operate as an infringement upon the rights of property. If that objection were well-founded, it would have with him (the Bishop of London) very great weight. If he could believe that the Bill invaded the rights of property to the extent which his noble and learned friend seemed to suppose, he should hesitate much before he gave it his support. But if it did in any degree interfere with the rights of property, the interference was only for the present. In the case which the noble Lord supposed of a person having the gift of a living, and purchasing another for the purpose of conferring the two benefices on his son, but being prevented from doing so by the Bill, on account of the distance between the two benefices, no infringement of the rights of property would occur. The noble and learned Lord must be aware that the value of an advowson was increased in proportion to the age of the incumbent; and, therefore, if the benefices in the case supposed could not be bestowed according to the original intention of the purchaser, he could obtain his money back with interest by a resale. He agreed with the noble and learned Lord that it was of great advantage to the Church that the sons of the nobility and gentry should choose it as a profession. He had not the honour to be connected with any one of those families in the most distant degree, and, therefore, he might with propriety be allowed to bear his testimony not only to the splendor which the Church derived from having in the ministry persons of high rank, but to the services which were rendered to religion by their learning, piety, and zeal. He was aware of the advantages, and he did not apprehend that they would be diminished, or that a less number of the sons of noble families would go into the 802 Church in consequence of any effects of the Bill. Looking to the profession of which his noble friend (Lord Wynford), was himself a distinguished ornament, he saw that young men of the higher ranks of society went into it without an expectation of obtaining its richest rewards; but he trusted that young men went into the Church with higher motives than the noble Lord supposed, even though they might have their eye upon its richest rewards at the same time. He agreed that it would be difficult for a clergyman to attend to the duties of two parishes thirty miles apart, and he should be happy to support any proposition by which a better arrangement could be effected.
§ Lord Tenterden
said, it was hardly fair to call the Bill a delusion, for he believed it would effect the object intended. At the same time he must declare, that it would be impossible for any Archbishop of Canterbury to ascertain the value of livings either to his own satisfaction or that of any body else in the present state of the law. At that hour it was impossible to have the bearings of the Bill and the Amendments adequately discussed. He, therefore, begged leave to suggest the propriety of postponing the Committee.
thought it was somewhat extraordinary to hear the very Rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of Canterbury), in the present state of public opinion respecting the revenues of the Church, say, that an income of 4,000l. a-year was inadequate to the support of a Bishop. He thought that was an extraordinary argument to adduce in defence of the fifteen benefices held in commendam by the Bench of Bishops. The most Rev. Prelate also considered 1,000l. as rather little for the comfortable support of one of the parochial clergy having a large family to provide for. As that was the most Rev. Prelate's opinion, he would recommend him to take into consideration what had been said last year by a noble Lord on the opposite benches, that the average income of the parochial clergy was no more than 185l. a-year each. What truth there might be in that statemen, he could not say. He would leave it to the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Wynford) and the most Rev. Prelate to settle between them. He thought it would be a very proper mode of raising those lower livings and lifting the poor clergy from their poverty, to take something from the large revenues 803 of the Bishops. In that way the incomes of the parochial clergy might very well be raised to the standard fixed upon by the most Rev. Archbishop. He should like to see the Bishops come forward generously of themselves, and make that spontaneous sacrifice of their superfluities. It would be a great relief to their consciences, and it might be all the better for their souls hereafter, that they should have given up that which they ought never to have received. The most Rev. Prelate complained that the Bill had been called a delusion. It was nothing else. It professed to take away, the privileges which the Act of Henry 8th gave to the Chaplains, and to the sons of the nobility. That was one of its first provisions. Well, and what did it provide next? Why, it gave to every Master of Arts that same privilege of holding two benefices; thus with one hand closing a door, and with the other opening it much wider than before, for the Masters of Arts were a more numerous class than the Chaplains and sons of Peers. Besides the Bill might operate to give those same persons whose privilege it professed to take away, the same rights in another manner, for it gave the privilege of holding two livings to every person whom the Bishop of his diocese might recommend to the Archbishop of Canterbury. That most Rev. Prelate said, 'For God's sake don't throw upon me the responsibility of creating pluralists; let somebody else have the responsibility, though I have power of conferring the appointments?' But the most Rev. Prelate did not object in the same way to have the responsibility which was attached to the power of uniting large benefices. Now, that was a responsibility from which he would be very happy to see the most Rev. Prelate relieved. The Canon-law forbad pluralities. But abuses had grown up from time to time, not only in the Church of the Pope, but in the Established Church of England. The Pope encouraged abuses; and the Church of England encouraged abuses; and what reason was there why the Church should not be brought back to the good old Canon-law, which would extinguish the abuses? If the pluralities were to be maintained, he did not see any necessity for burthening the Archbishop with the responsibility of creating them. If there was any uncertainty as to the value of the livings, let there be a valuation, which would remove the uncertainty. But the 804 most Rev. Prelate was afraid that if there were a valuation, the clergy would make false Returns. Perhaps they might do so. Indeed, he thought they would do so; and to prevent it he brought in a Bill last year to compel them to make a correct Return, by giving their respective parishes the power to tender the amount of the valuation in commutation for tithes and dues, and binding them to accept it without any remedy. That would have settled the matter; but the present Bill was a net so contrived as to take in all the rich benefices, and leave the poor ones out. The higher classes of the clergy talked a good deal about their compassion for their poorer brethren, and they proved their sincerity, not by allowing them to hold two small livings, but by leaving them to starve upon one. The most Rev. Prelate seemed to be in some doubt whether it would not be better to lay the Bill aside for a while, and think better of it: and, indeed, if he had any respect for his own child, he ought to do so. If it escaped a severe handling in that House, it would be terribly mauled in another place.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
said, that he had not made the statements attributed to him by the noble Baron, who appeared to have made his remarks solely for the purpose of adding to the prejudices and excitement that prevailed on the subject of the Church.
The Lord Chancellor
agreed with his noble and learned friend (Lord Wynford), that great regard was due from the Legislature to the rights of property. He would not then go into the abstract question of the right of the Legislature to interfere with the property of the Church, as there was nothing in the Bill before the House that called on him to do so. He did not think that the Bill was liable to the objections that it interfered unnecessarily with private property in connection with Church property. The peculiar circumstances which distinguished Church property from every other kind of property was this, that the Legislature could interfere with it so far as to enforce the performance of the duties, for the performance of which that property was enjoyed.
The Bishop of Chester
wished to ask the noble Baron (Lord King), to point out the fifteen livings which he said were held by the Bishops in commendam.
The Bishop of Bangor
begged to explain the point, to show the inaccuracy of 805 the noble Baron's remarks. There were certain livings connected with particular Sees, which were permanently attached to them, and formed a part of their revenues. They were always served by curates, and the Bishop had no cure of souls in those parishes, nor any other power but to appoint the curates, or remove them without the intervention of the Ecclesiastical Courts. These were the livings, he presumed, which the noble Baron said, were held in commendam.
The Earl of Radnor
said, he should give his support to this Bill, and he wished to state in a few words his reason for doing so. He did not admire the Bill on account of its taking away small pluralities where alone the system of pluralities ought to be tolerated, nor on account of its allowing the Bishops the discretion of granting pluralities without restriction as to value when the different livings were within thirty miles of each other. In both these respects he should like to see the Bill amended; and if any noble Lord would in Committee, propose the alteration of the clause giving this discretionary power to the Bishops, the alteration should have his support. He approved, however, of the Bill, as he considered it a step towards a Reform in the abuses of the Church Establishment, and he only regretted that the most Rev. Prelate had not carried that Reform further.
§ Their Lordships divided on the Motion to go into Committee. Contents 31; Not Contents 7—Majority 24.
§ House in Committee: Verbal Amendments were agreed to; after which the House resumed. Committee to sit again.