The Marquess of Westminster
rose to present a Petition which he considered of great importance, and deserving their Lordships' serious attention, though he wished to guard himself against being supposed to concur in all the statements contained in the Petition. The petitioners, all of whom were Welchmen, or intimately connected with Wales, resident in Chester and its 1223 vicinity, complained of certain abuses in the administration of the affairs of the Church in that portion of the kingdom. They stated that considerable inconvenience was felt in consequence of the bishops appointed to sees within the principality, as well as a portion of the inferior clergy, being ignorant of the Welch language. The consequence was, that the service was performed in a language the people did not understand, contrary to the 24th article of the Church of England. The petitioners stated that a large proportion of the inhabitants of Wales were dissenters; and they attributed the great extent of dissent which prevailed there to the fact he had just adverted to—the state of ignorance in which many of the clergy stood with respect to the language of the people whom they were appointed to superintend and instruct. He most sincerely wished that but one language was spoken and understood throughout the whole united kingdom; but when different dialects existed, he thought it but right that ministers of religion should be able to speak the language of the people among whom they resided. The petitioners also complained of non-residence on the part of the clergy, and the number of pluralities existing in Wales, and they stated that some very large and populous districts were left without incumbents. They likewise objected to the very small stipends which were allowed to the curates: it being a fact, that of ten curacies in a particular district, in six of them the income was not more than 35l. a-year. The petitioners prayed that all these abuses might be corrected, and particularly that no clergyman should be appointed to any benefice in Wales who was not perfectly conversant with the Welch language.
The Bishop of Bangor
was glad that this petition had been placed in the hands of the noble Marquess, because it would afford him an opportunity of contradicting the allegations contained in it. A similar petition had been presented a short time since in the other House of Parliament by a noble Lord, the member for Chester, and, on presenting it, that noble Lord made comments and remarks which he should wish to answer, as they had been made public by being reported in the newspapers. The statements which the petition had put forth contained a mass of calumnies and misrepresentations charged upon the Church of Wales, which were most unjust as well as most mischievous and injurious to 1224 the interest of the Establishment. The great tithes of North Wales were said to be given to the bishops, deans, and chapters of the sees of Bangor and St. Asaph—that the livings of those dioceses were not given to men connected with Wales, but to rich and absent pluralists—that the little tithes (he presumed they meant the great tithes) were given to the friends of the Bishops—to men not known in the dioceses. A book, too, had been published on that subject, containing that and other allegations of a similar sort—allegations that were quite contrary to the fact, as far as the patronage of the Bishops and the conduct of the Clergy were concerned. It was alleged that the men appointed to the incumbencies in Wales did not know the Welch language. Now, the fact was, that there was not a single clergyman who held a benefice and cure of souls in the bishopric of Bangor, who was not perfectly acquainted with that language. There were three clergymen, natives of England, who held benefices in his see; but one of them who also held a benefice in Lichfield, did not reside. The two others were most respectable men, and indefatigable in the discharge of their duties. Before he had inducted any of them, he had required a certificate that they were sufficiently acquainted with the Welch language to take the charge of the cure. In some of the parishes of that diocese there was a large proportion of an English population, and they required the service to be performed in English. In Bangor cathedral there were two services of the Church of England, performed in the English language, and there were, in like manner, in these churches, in which the large population were Welchmen, two services performed in the Welch language. There were other charges made against the Bishops and the lay-proprietors of that diocese as to the appropriation of the benefices, which were equally unfounded. Out of sixty-five livings in his diocese, fifty-five were in the gift of the bishop, six in the gift of the Crown, and four belonged to private patrons. Of the livings in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, three of them had been filled up by the noble and learned Lord who at present occupied the Woolsack, and he had given them to most respectable Welchmen, and he should only say for himself, that if persons had been sent who did not understand the Welch language, that they would not have been admitted by him to their cures. One part of the charge contained in the petition and 1225 in the book he had referred to was, that the Bishops were themselves ignorant of the Welch language. He admitted that charge was true, as it regarded himself, but he was prepared to assert that no inconvenience resulted from that circumstance. He had held two Confirmations, and he hoped he should hold a third in the course of the present year. At every Confirmation he was accustomed to have the people divided into two classes. He himself delivered his charge to that class of candidates who understood English, and he took care that his charge should be read to those who did not understand English, by his chaplain, who understood Welch perfectly. In the same manner, at the time of the imposition of hands, his chaplain translated into Welch the blessing to those who did not understand English. The noble Marquess thought the Bishops should understand Welch; he should only say for himself, that if he were to preach in that language he should not be understood; for Bangor contained chiefly an English population. Then it was charged that some of the Welch clergy were not working clergy. They were ail constantly working clergy, except the master of the Grammar School at Bangor, and a very few, who were too old to pursue their labours unremittingly. Further it was alleged that the Welch clergy were not educated. He denied it. It was a condition of their admission that they should have been educated at one of the English Universities. As to the charge that benefices were improperly distributed, he asserted, without fear of contradiction, that there was no diocese in the kingdom in which there was so large a proportion of curates who were made incumbents as in that over which he presided. It was also asserted that there were large parishes in North Wales, the livings of which were given to benefit some large sees. There were two instances of that kind, but neither of them was justly chargeable upon the Bishops. The first had been at the time of the Reformation attached to the bishopric of Chester, and the other to the bishopric of Litchfield. The petition then said, that it was an anomalous and unjustifiable thing that the revenues of the Welch bishoprics should be taken away from Wales to be spent in other parts of the kingdom. He could not but be astonished at this charge, for he thought it could not be matter of just complaint that these revenues were spent in any portion of the kingdom, of which Wales 1226 formed an integral part. These revenues were, besides, very small—they were scarcely large enough for the moderate support of one who, like himself, was unencumbered and unentangled by a family. He had nothing to say against the petitioners, who, he had no doubt, were respectable men in their way, but who had, he believed, been misled by others.
The Bishop of St. Asaph
said, that he felt considerable pain in addressing their Lordships on this subject, but it was his duty to do so after the statements that had been made in this petition, which he had no hesitation in saying were perfectly false. Many of them were taken from a book published by a gentleman in Chester, which book was full of the grossest falsehoods. He repeated, full of the grossest falsehoods; he would not retract a word of what he had uttered. He held in his hand two sheets closely written, which contained nothing but a refutation of the statements of that book, which refutation had been sent to him by a clergyman from Wales. Their Lordships would not require that he should do more than give them a specimen or two of the errors that were refuted. It was said for example in the book, that Christ Church Oxford derived an income from the county of Montgomery of 4,500l. a-year, while the fact was, that the amount of that income was only 500l. a-year; derived from fines; and the whole value of the tithes in the district was only 2,000l. a-year. It was also said, among the statements contained in that book, that the archdeacon of Merioneth received 250l. a-year from the tithes of Llandudno, and that he only paid his curate 20l. a year. The fact was, that the archdeacon had a reserved rent of 20l. a year from that place, and all that he had received in a course of twenty years was a sum of 400l. He believed that the author of that book was the mover of this petition; and he should here take the opportunity of observing, that another petition had been got up from a place not 100 miles from Chester, which being word for word the same as this, left no doubt that the same gentleman was the author of both. As to the charge that the revenues of the bishoprics in North Wales was spent away from that place, he must say, that he wondered the noble Marquess did not see how far that charge might be carried, and was not alarmed lest the time should come when the people would want private property as much as they now wanted Bishops' property, which was equally as sacred, as pri- 1227 vate property, and when they might require some of that possessed by the noble Lord. They would get more advantage from that than from the Bishops 'property; at least, he could assure their Lordships, for himself, that he was a poorer man than when he came upon the bench. When he held the see of Exeter he could not live upon his ecclesiastical income; and had he not been able at a former period of his life, when Head Master of Westminster School, to lay by some money, he should have been reduced to beggary. He had not been able to keep a saddle-horse out of his episcopal revenue, diminished as it was by numerous charges; and when he removed to the see of St. Asaph, the income of winch was a little larger, he had to pay about 700l. in fees, and to lay out a good deal of money in repairs and in other matters; and if he lived to a great age in the possession of this see, he should not be able to replace the money he had expended. Whether that was too great an advantage for a clergyman, after a life of labour, he would leave it to any man to determine. As to the charge that had been made about the ignorance of the Welch language by the incumbents of Welch parishes, he answered, that in a great part of his diocese English only was spoken; but where that was not the case, the incumbents were all men who understood Welch. He denied the truth of the charge about favour in the disposition of benefices. He had not given one atom of preferment to any relative of his. He had had the gift of twelve livings since he held this see. Ten of them he" had given to curates who had served them before, and who were all most deserving men. Of the other two, he gave one to a Welch curate, and the other to a Welchman who had lived in London, and been at St. George's Hospital for seventeen years, but who wished to return to Wales. To show how worthy this man was, he would relate one anecdote of him. That man was once going across St. Pancras' Fields, when he was stopped by three or four men, who demanded his money. One of the robbers in a moment sent away the others, and said he would protect the clergyman, adding; "I never shall forget your kindness when I was a patient in St. George's Hospital." He acknowledged his own ignorance of the Welch language, but his chaplain was an excellent Welch scholar, and he employed his chaplain in the same manner as did his right reverend friend in translating his charges to those who did not understand 1228 English. The use of that language was, however, now general in Wales. The service in the cathedral of St. Asaph was attended by great numbers of persons who went to the watering places in the neighbourhood, and for whose accommodation the choir was now to be enlarged. On the whole he thought that there were no grounds of complaint made out; and he trusted that the noble Marquess who had presented the petition would now change the opinion which had induced him to give it his support.
thought he understood the right reverend Prelate who spoke first, to refer to a petition which had been presented on this subject to the House of Commons. Here was a copy of that petition.—[His Lordship handed it to the right reverend Prelate].—It was an extraordinary thing that the right reverend Prelate should direct all his observations to what had passed in the House of Commons, instead of directing them to that petition which had been presented to-night, and which was identical with the other in its statements. A different course was ordinarily adopted, and was most convenient. The real question was, not what had passed in another place, but whether the grievances stated in that petition were correctly stated. He thought they were. He believed that there were many absentee pluralists. Of course these pluralists must reside somewhere, and as they had three or four livings it was natural they should reside in one of them, and, therefore, were not entirely non-residents. Was it not true that there was a great concentration of the good things of the world among the clergy? There were, if he mistook not, eight livings annexed to the See of Bangor. Then it was denied that these livings were given to the relatives of the Prelates. Why the book that had been so much referred to did not pretend to state that; they were given to the relatives of the: present Prelates. No, that was impossible, for they had already been disposed of by their predecessors; but that fact did not alter the nature of the objection. He believed that the relative of one Prelate had seven preferments. One holy person wished to be a six-fold curer of men—here the wish was surpassed—here was a seven fold curer. The names of Beevor and Horsley were constantly occurring. The writer of a book alluded to by the right reverend Prelates had been most unceremoniously attacked by them. He could 1229 assure them that the person referred to was a most respectable person. The book itself was not written in a spirit of hostility to the Church—it was written against the abuses of the Church, and against them alone. It was in consequence of those abuses that the number of Dissenters had increased so much. The proportion between them now, he understood to be, forty-nine churches and chapels of the establishment to 150 dissenting meeting houses in one county alone in Wales. One of the right reverend Prelates had spoken of the people wanting to get the property of the Bishops, and had warned the noble Marquess that some day or other they would want his property. But was there no difference between the property of individuals and the property of the Church? The common sense of mankind would tell the right reverend Prelate that there was, and would revolt against such a comparison. There had been one reformation in the Church; he trusted that the second, which could not now be far off, would be founded on the true principle—that it was not for the benefit of the high clergy that the national property was set apart, but for the benefit of the whole Church, the people at large—that it was not for the advantage of pluralists, but was meant to be equally proportioned among the real working clergy of the country. The incomes of the clergy were differently stated by the author of the book, and by the right reverend Prelate. The difference between what the parishes paid, and what the clergyman received, might account for this. He thought that great causes of complaint had been made out—that a case of favouritism was established, and he did not think that either of them was answered by the hard words in the speeches of the right reverend Prelates directed against the author of the book referred to, and words not very courteous towards a Member of the other House of Parliament.
The Bishop of St. Asaph
again denied the correctness of the statements contained in the book in question; to which he believed the noble Lord was indebted for all the statements he had made. He must take that opportunity of asking whether the Bishops could make a worse use of their patronage than any lay patron was likely to do who said, on occasion of having to present to a vacant benefice, that he would look out for a man the least of a clergyman? He denied that there was such a concentration of property among 1230 the Bishops as there was in the hands of some noble Lords.
said, that the right reverend Prelate, in the observation just made about the expressions of a lay patron, no doubt alluded to him. The anecdote was but a stale report, and a direct falsehood. He had never uttered any such words as were attributed to him in that anecdote; and as to the person on whom the benefice was conferred, he was as respectable and worthy a man as any one whom the right reverend Prelate had ever presented.
The Bishop of St. Asaph
was happy to have given the noble Lord an opportunity of contradicting a report which he certainly had heard in relation to the noble Lord.
The Marquess of Westminster
observed upon the irregularity of which the noble Prelates had been guilty, in remarking upon what had passed, or was said to have passed, in another place. He was now more satisfied than he had been at first, that reformation was necessary in the Church. The right reverend Prelates, in answer to the observations in the petition about the people not understanding the language in which they were addressed, said that the charges were translated to them. But a translation did not get rid of the objection. The Articles of the Church were framed to avoid such a thing. Many noble Lords opposite might understand the Bishops if they were to preach in Latin; but would it satisfy the Articles, if they were to preach to the people in Latin, and have their sermons translated.
The Bishop of St. Asaph
said, with reference to the charge of non-residence, that in his diocese there were 128 livings, and ninety-three resident incumbents, leaving only thirty-five non-residents. Of these eleven resided in parishes adjoining their incumbencies, and did duty in their own parishes, and twenty-one of them had resident curates; so that there was not one parish without a resident clergyman, incumbent, or curate.
Petition laid on the Table.