§ The first clause having been agreed to, on the question of the second clause, which enacts, "that no person shall hold together two Deaneries, Prebends, Canonties, or other dignities, &c."
said, he objected to the clause, because it left a door open to great abuses, which existed at present and would be left untouched by the Bill, and which might for all its enactments increase hereafter, he meant the power to grant livings in commendam. He begged to assure their Lordships that, while he made these objections his only object was to cleanse the Church from abuses, and not to prevent the ministers of that Church having a fair, ample, and liberal remuneration for their services. He wished that the right Reverend Prelates should enjoy all those comforts, which from their situations in life, and their high stations in the Church and in society, they were fully entitled to; but he objected to the practice of making their revenues adequate by granting livings in commendam, to be holden with their sees—a practice which though it had prevailed hitherto, was in his opinion so great an abuse, that it ought not to be tolerated in future. Means ought to be taken for making a due and proper provision for right Reverend persons, without their being permitted to hold livings, with the cure of souls attached to them. As an illustration of his present argument he would state a case:—There was at that moment a right Reverend Prelate, who in addition to his bishopric, held a deanery—the vicarage of a very populous parish, comprising two districts—a rectory—and a perpetual curacy; and yet, with all these advantages, he was 932 said to be a poor Bishop. For that individual he entertained the highest possible respect and regard. He put it to their Lordships, whether this was a proper way of providing for the higher dignitaries of the Church—to admit of a right Reverend Prelate's being, at one and the same time, a Bishop, dean, rector, vicar, and perpetual citrate? Was it possible, that he could discharge all the duties of these various capacities? He adduced this case, for the purpose of showing the ground on which he objected to livings being held in commendam; and his objection to this clause was, that it said nothing about the practice—it did not prohibit, it rather permitted livings to be held in commendam, because, in point of fact, it was a general restraining clause in all other cases, reserving only, in the certain exceptions set forth, a power to the Archbishop to dispense with the operation of the Bill to a certain extent. He would trouble their Lordships with the recital of one other case of abuse, arising from the circumstance of a dignitary of the Church being permitted to hold a living with the cure of souls. The case occurred within the diocese of a right Reverend Prelate whom he had now the pleasure to see in the House, and he appealed to him for the correctness of the statement. A Reverend Doctor of Divinity was in possession of a living, with a cure of souls; the population of his parish was 120,000. He was appointed prebendary of a cathedral, by the late Lord Liverpool; and in 1829, he resorted to his prebendal stall for eighteen months, leaving his 120,000 parishioners to take care of themselves. During the whole of that eighteen months, be resided in his parish for three days only. He believed, indeed, that he had more than his regular duty to perform while he was absent from his living, because he understood that he acted as dean, in consequence of the continued indisposition of that functionary; but that circumstance had nothing to do with his objection to the principle of this practice; for here was a prebend of a cathedral neglecting his more important duties as rector of a parish, comprising a population of 120,000 souls, for no less a period than eighteen months. Finally, he objected to this clause, because it did not notice commendams, which he considered a most objectionable mode of payment to those right Reverend Prelates who were in possession of them. He should move the Amendments which he on a 933 former occasion submitted to their Lordships.
The Bishop of London
thought he had it in his power to offer a satisfactory explanation of the case referred to by the noble Lord. The clergyman in question was preferred to the parish of Marylebone by the late Lord Liverpool, and, after discharging his duty there most faithfully for some years, another Minister of the Crown presented to him a prebend's stall in Canterbury. It appeared that the prebends in that see were compelled to discharge certain duties which required their constant residence in Canterbury during one year; and it was true that the clergyman alluded to did find himself obliged to absent himself from his large benefice in London for more than twelve months. He was ready to admit that there was a great deal of inconvenience in such cases, and he was not one to sanction a clergyman having the cure of souls absenting himself from his parish for any other duty or dignity which called for his residence for so long a period. But, at the same time, he wished to state that the incumbent had the charge not of 120,000 souls, nor of more than one-fifth of that number—five churches being now in that district; and that while he was absent he took care to supply his place by two or three most efficient and worthy clergymen. As he said before he did not approve of cases like this; and he agreed with the noble Lord that such anomalies in the Church should be corrected. Some regulations might, he thought be made, which, though not going the length of altering the law with respect to the holding of livings in commendam, would get rid of inconveniences in other respects. While he was on his legs, he would wish to reply to a remark made by a noble Baron on a former occasion, in which it was insinuated that the Bishops were doing nothing for the smaller clergy, while they were pressing on them by this Bill, and in other shapes. The noble Baron forgot that a Bill was introduced last year for the augmentation of small livings, and he knew that the best effects were experienced from it, and he could point out Reverend Prelates who since the Bill, had increased all the small benefices in their dioceses.
had heard with satisfaction the explanation given by the right Reverend Prelate. He gave the right Reverend Prelate credit for his declaration that commendams or other privileges which were permitted by this Bill should not be 934 abused. But this was a Bill which, professing to destroy pluralities, and going forth to the public as an Act for that especial purpose, would, in point of fact, permit their continuance. He was convinced the right Reverend Prelates would not abuse the extensive power vested in them; but he was afraid, that the Bill would create doubts in the public mind, as to the sincerity of the promoters of the measure; and it was from an anxious wish to uphold and support the character of the Church with the public, that he called upon the right Reverend Bench to adopt the Amendments which he had considered it his duty to propose.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
said, that the circumstance alluded to took place after he ceased to be Bishop of London, but he thought he might throw some additional light on the subject. The clergyman in question was a man of the highest character, who had been loved and respected at Birmingham, where he acted as Minister for some years. The Earl of Liverpool, without any knowledge of Dr. Spry, and merely from the report of his excellent qualities, after a consultation with him (the Archbishop of Canterbury), who also knew Dr. Spry only by reputation, presented him with the living of Marylebone. He could only say that it could not be better bestowed. Soon after, the successor of the Earl, a noble Duke opposite, bestowed on the Reverend gentleman a prebend's stall in Canterbury, and here he also thought that the dignity could not be better conferred. Such were the facts; and if any clergyman's merit claimed an exemption from the strict rule, it was that of the Reverend gentleman. He wished now to say one or two words with regard to the Bill. The noble Lord said, that as cases of livings held in commendam were not included within the Bill, it was a deception on the public, and only opened the door to fresh abuses; but, in reply, he would only repeat that it left the law in the same state as it found it, and that, in his opinion, it was not worth while legislating for four or five benefices. Besides, the bestowing of livings in commendam was the King's prerogative, and he was not the person, in any bill introduced by him, to attempt to abridge it; and some livings were, by immemorial custom and Act of Parliament, given to poor dignitaries.
trusted their Lordships would permit him to observe, that he had no intention whatever that his amendments 935 should operate ex: post facto. He begged to read that which related to the incomes of the Bishops—'Provided always, and be it further enacted, that it shall and may be lawful for any Archbishop or Bishop—the revenue of whose diocese shall not exceed 3,500l. per annum, 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, or that he shall collect the surplus, if any, and pay it over 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 begged further to remark, that he had no desire to limit the incomes of the Bishops to the sum he had mentioned. He had merely used it as an illustration of his meaning, he was quite ready to leave a blank for the sum, to be filled up at the discretion of their Lordships.
thought it no palliation of the abuse that it was old and customary. The law gave the power to Bishops to compel rectors to make a reasonable allowance to the clergymen who officiated for them; but that did not extend to collegiate bodies. If the right Reverend Prelate (the Bishop of London) admitted that the case of the metropolitan rector was a gross one, which was not likely to occur again, he would discuss that point no further. It appeared that there were two sorts of livings held by Bishops—one kind in commendam; the other was attached to sees, and held by immemorial usage. He thought the latter equally objectionable with the former. He must complain of the mode in which curates were paid by collegiate and other ecclesiastical bodies. When they performed the duty for such bodies, in rich livings, they were worse paid than by individual rectors. As an illustration of the system, he might revert to the petition he had presented in behalf of a curate in a parish belonging to the vicars-choral of Exeter, from whence they drew an income of 600l. or 700l. a-year, and allowed the officiating clergyman only 50l. or 60l. a-year. He must further express his surprise at an objection of the most Reverend Prelate (the Archbishop of Canterbury) on the score of the royal prerogative in the matter of commendams. Such an objection, he 936 contended, could only be based upon the principle that the King could do no wrong.
The Bishop of Exeter
was glad that the noble Baron had made an allusion to the petition, relative to the vicars-choral of Exeter as it enabled him to state the real facts of the case. The petition, if he recollected right, stated that, in a parish held by the vicars-choral of Exeter, the revenue of which was 600l. a-year, the officiating clergyman only received 50l. a-year. It was evident, when the noble Lord made that statement from the petition, that he had not taken the trouble to inquire into its truth. He had, however, taken some pains to ascertain the facts, and he was prepared at the close of the last Session with an explanatory petition from the persons whose characters were attacked, but was prevented from presenting it by the sudden termination of the Session. In it the vicars-choral alleged that they received but one-third of the sum stated, and that the clergyman received double what was named as the extent of his remuneration. It was also alleged that the clergyman made no complaint; and he wrote a letter to the vicars-choral, stating that he was not aware of the petition that had been sent forward, and that he was no party to it. He was sure it would give their Lordships pleasure to hear that the amount received by the clergyman was double the sum stated in the petition. Though he received but 50l. or 60l. from the Choral Fund, the parish made up his salary to 100l. and the vicars-choral had since raised it to 150l. This, he thought, was quite right, as in his opinion it would be wrong if the clergyman who did the duty did not receive as much at least as the stipendiary clergyman to whom the living belonged.
said, that the evil of the case was evident. If there had been no Choral Fund, and if the parish had been held by a rector, the officiating clergyman would have the power of enforcing a suitable remuneration. What were the facts? Why, the Reverend Prelate made out no better case than that the clergyman received 50l. or 60l. from the Choral Fund, and that the rest was made up by the parish. This he supposed was the case in many other instances. It proved very little for these public bodies, and the best defence which the Reverend Prelate offered for the vicars-choral was, that after the matter was exposed they thought proper to advance the scale of remuneration. He did not say 937 when he presented the petition, that he appeared on behalf of the clergyman, it was the parishioners who sent forward the petition, and who complained that the large sum taken from them in tithes did not go to the officiating minister. Instead of having been answered by the Reverend Prelate, he felt that he could not have had a better or a stronger case.
The Bishop of Exeter
wished to set the noble Lord right. The person on whose account the noble Baron spoke did not receive one shilling from the tithes.
The Bishop of London
must protest against its being imputed that he said the case of Dr. Spry was a gross one. He did not state any such thing, as it was a case of only one year's continuance, which was not likely to happen again.
said, it was true that the case would not occur again to Dr. Spry, but it was possible that it might to the next rector. He again repeated, with regard to the Exeter case, that he was not the advocate of the clergyman, but of the parish, who complained that they paid tithes which were not given to the officiating minister.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
thought it extremely premature for noble Lords to go further than the particular point to which this Bill was directed. They would hereafter have a full opportunity of considering further regulations for the management of the revenues of the Church. There were upwards of 2,200 places deprived of the benefit of resident incumbents in consequence of the system of pluralities. That evil would be very much diminished by this Bill, though not, he feared, to the extent which the right Reverend Prelate who had brought forward the measure anticipated. With respect to the dignitaries of the Church holding livings, nothing, in his opinion, would be more injurious to the Church than the prohibition of this description of pluralities. At present he objected to all the amendments proposed by the noble Baron. Some of them might, perhaps, be entertained by the House at a future period, but they could not with propriety be incorporated in the present Bill. He must further observe that in his opinion, the persons who enjoyed the great tithes ought to make due provision for the performance of the parochial duties; and with regard to pluralities in general, he thought it would be a great improvement upon the present system, or even upon that which the noble Lord intended to introduce, if certain small Church 938 preferments, without cure of souls, were permanently added to extensive parishes in which there were heavy duties to perform.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
admitted that there were great abuses on the part of impropriate rectors, both lay and ecclesiastical; and, he should certainly not be opposed to any reasonable plan for remedying those abuses.
contended, that they were proceeding to legislate upon very imperfect information, and that, therefore, their legislation must be imperfect and insufficient. He should be quite ready, then, to give up his amendments if he could look forward to any assignable period at which a remedy might be introduced for the evils acknowledged to exist. He really thought that, without that knowledge which the House ought to have upon such a subject, it would be in the highest degree unwise on their part to proceed further; and he, therefore, recommended the most rev. Prelate to withdraw his Bill for the present, and bring it forward again in a more complete shape, when sufficient information was before the House.
§ The Duke of Wellington
thought the present measure well deserving of support, and that it went as far as any measure of the description ought to go, under the present circumstances. The Church, it must be remembered, was in a very anomalous situation. There were some Bishops who had not above 800l. a-year, and he believed he might name one whose bishopric was not worth more than 500l. a-year. It was the object of one of the noble Lord's Amendments to make the incomes of the Bishops 3,500l. a-year. He wished to know whether this was to be the maximum or the minimum of the Bishops' incomes? The Bishops had many heavy expenses; and, it was necessary, for the dignity of the national Establishment, that they and their families should be supported in a state of respectability. Some discretion, therefore, should be left in the Crown as to the disposal of Church patronage. He, therefore, entirely dissented from the noble Lord in thinking that the House could, with propriety, fix the amount which a Bishop should enjoy. Their Lordships could not undertake to say, that 3,500l. would be too much or too little for a Bishop—the Crown alone was the fitting judge. As to a Bishop's holding a living, with the cure of souls attached, in commendam, he was not prepared to advocate the practice but, he 939 believed, it would be impossible to provide adequately for those holding poor bishoprics, unless they were allowed to hold livings in commendam. The object of the most rev. Prelate in this Bill, if he understood it rightly, was, to put under strict regulations the grant of pluralities. Under those circumstances, he hoped the noble Lords opposite would allow the Bill to go through the Committee, which need not prevent them from bringing forward other propositions connected with the subject hereafter.
The Earl of Winchilsea
supported the Bill, and took this opportunity of returning thanks to the most rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of Canterbury) for the liberality which he had evinced by the sacrifice of his own patronage for the purpose of augmenting the incomes of the poorer class of incumbents. He was himself lay impropriator of a parish which contained nearly 2,000 inhabitants, and extended over 8,000 or 10,000 acres of land, and yet the stipend of the parochial clergyman was only 20l. a-year He should be very glad to follow the most rev. Prelate's example, and to support any measure which would compel lay impropriators to provide adequate incomes for those who performed the ecclesiastical duties in those parishes, the tithes of which were payable to laymen.
§ Earl Grey
deprecated the discussing in Committee the general principle of the measure. It was expedient to confine the discussion as much as possible to the clauses before the House. He proposed to follow that course, and would, therefore, say that, in his opinion, the Bill related to a subject of great importance, and that the most rev. Prelate was deserving of thanks for introducing a measure which every one must admit to be an improvement, although some of his noble friends did not think it went far enough. Be this as it might, he agreed with those who thought that the present was not a convenient opportunity to introduce more extensive alterations; and, believing the Bill to be useful, as far as it went, it should have his support. He hoped, under those circumstances, that his noble friend (Lord Suffield) would reserve his Amendments until the whole subject came to be considered. As something had been said as to the prerogative of the Crown in reference to this subject, he thought it his duty to state, that his Majesty had given his assent to the measure now proposed; but his Majesty's pleasure had not been taken on the amendments suggested by his 940 noble friend: some technical difficulty would arise, therefore, if they should be pressed.
said, that, after the technical difficulty which the noble Earl had stated stood in his way, he felt himself relieved from the duty he had imposed on himself of bringing forward certain of the amendments to which he had previously referred. He had two objects in view—and if the most rev. Prelate would have acquiesced in his suggestions on those two points, he should most willingly have withdrawn his amendments. The first object which he wished to effect was, the removal of that part of the Bill which allowed pluralities to be held by new holders; and the second object was, to throw the whole responsibility of granting dispensations to hold pluralities on the Archbishop, as the Bill went to divide the responsibility—and every one knew that divided responsibility was never good for much. After the objection stated by the noble Earl at the head of the Government, he should not trouble their Lordships with the amendments he had intended to bring forward.
thought this measure so very imperfect that it would be better to stop it than allow it to go on. He sincerely believed that the minimum of improvement which this Bill could effect would rather be injurious to the interests of the Church, and that it would be more advantageous, upon every ground, that the Bill should be withdrawn, and a measure of more extensive improvement substituted. Having said so much on the general question, he should only observe, in reference to the details, that, as it was said there must be great prizes in the Church, it would be much better that those prizes should be bestowed on persons of great merit. He should, therefore, suggest, that the Archbishops should have the right to bestow those prizes on persons who had obtained, not merely the highest degrees in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, but also the highest honours—such as that of Senior Wrangler, for instance.
§ The original clause was then agreed to, as were the three next clauses.
§ On the clause enacting that clergymen might hold two livings conjointly, provided they were not distant more than thirty miles from each other,
proposed the omission of the whole clause. The holding more livings than one by the same incumbent was an abuse introduced by the Church of Rome, and it 941 was a disgrace to the Church of England to have followed so bad an example. His object was, to revert to the old canon law, which prohibited pluralities altogether.
said, that holding benefices together, within a distance of thirty miles, was just as objectionable, in point of principle, as holding them within a distance of 100 miles. He moved, that no two benefices should be held together, unless they were contiguous to each other.
would support the noble Lord's proposition, in preference to the original clause, because he thought it more consistent with principle and common sense. He recommended the most rev. Prelate to withdraw the Bill.
§ Lord Wynford
thought it would be better to postpone this Bill until the whole question with respect to the distribution of Church property was brought before the House. He objected to the Bill, because the right of private property was affected by it.
§ Lord Harrowby
supported the Bill. He thought that it would be productive of advantage to the Church, and that it in no degree encroached on private property.
The Lord Chancellor
concurred in the opinion of the noble Earl, that there was no ground for stating that the Bill was an encroachment on private property.
said, that the object of all the alterations in the law respecting Church affairs appeared to be, to provide well for the higher dignitaries of the Church, and to make their life as comfortable and easy as possible. The Legislature felt great compassion for the well-paid rectors, but seemed to care little or nothing about the poor curates; doubtless regulating its conduct according to the maxim, "de minimis non curat lex."
moved, as an Amendment to the clause enabling incumbents to hold pluralities under certain circumstances, that the "benefices to be so held should be contiguous to the resident incumbency of the pluralist."
§ The Earl of Carnarvon supported the Amendment.
The Bishop of Llandaff
did not object to its principle, but thought it too violent a remedy for the abuse complained of.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
was free to admit the force of Lord Wynford's objection of the tendency of the clause to affect the rights of private property, but 942 saw not how it could be remedied. No public improvement ever could be made if the rights of private property were not in a degree violated.
The Marquis of Bute
contended, that pluralities were an essential and beneficial feature of the Church Establishment.
would rest his Amendment on this plain principle or question—was it the object of the Bill to provide for the advantages of the clergy, or of those parishioners who were without the benefit of Spiritual instruction? To judge by the tone of the right rev. Bench, it would seem that the interests of the flock were of no moment, while those of the Clergy were every thing. He thought it useless to press his Amendment, though convinced of its propriety, as, in the then state of the House, he was sure to be defeated: more than two-thirds of his auditors were Bishops, and of the other one-third not more than two or three were friends to any Reform, ecclesiastical or otherwise, deserving the name.
§ Amendment negatived.
moved that "forty-five miles" be substituted for "thirty miles," as the extent beyond which an additional living should not be distant from the residence of the incumbent.
§ The same noble Lord moved, that the additional living should be contingent on the circumstance of the first living's being valued at not more than 8l. in the King's Books.
had an Amendment to move to the clause of exception for holding pluralities, which he feared would be treated as revolutionary by the right rev. defenders of the good old abuses of mother Church. He confessed that his Amendment was rather a violent innovation on the established system of Church discipline, for it went to make merit a condition of Church preferment. This, he need not say, was no part of the present immaculate system, and would, no doubt, excite the pious horror of the right rev. defenders of ancient orthodoxy, so that it put money in their pockets. The clause made the degree of Master of Arts a ground of exception. He would propose instead, that only those graduates who had obtained the distinction of First Classmen at Oxford, and Wranglers and Optime men at Cambridge, should be exceptions to the rule of the Bill.
§ Lord Tenterden
was one who had been for- 943 tunate enough to obtain, at a very early period of life, almost all the honours which the University of Oxford could bestow, and could take it upon him to say, after forty-six years' subsequent experience in the world, that no more uncertain—indeed worse—criterion could be selected of general intellectual competency or fitness for the office of pastor than the circumstance of a candidate's having obtained honours at the University.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
was glad that his own conviction was corroborated by that of the noble and learned Lord, who was so high an authority on such matters. He must say, that, if any criterion of merit could be established, no persons would be more delighted at it than the Bench of Bishops; but there could be no worse criterion of merit than the honours thus obtained at the Universities.
thought that his noble friend's (Lord King) object might be obtained, in some measure, by moving, that such dispensations be granted to no persons under thirty-five years of age.
said, that its effect would be precisely the reverse. He wished to establish merit as the criterion of promotion, but this would make seniority the criterion. Patronage was the power of giving certain favours to any person, and his Amendment would be a check to indiscriminate patronage, for it would secure its being exercised in favour of those only who had merit.
§ Amendments negatived, and the original clause agreed to.
§ The other clauses agreed to. The House resumed.