HL Deb 28 July 1834 vol 25 cc577-9
The Duke of Sussex

, in presenting a petition from the Dissenters of Craven Street chapel in the parish of St. James's, Westminster, said, that this was a petition, praying, for relief. The petitioners also prayed for the separation of the Church and State. He thought it his duty to present the petition, which was respectfully worded; but it was not to be considered, because he presented it, that therefore he agreed with the prayer of the petitioners. He declared, that he did not participate in that part of the petition in which they asked for a separation between Church and State. On that point he should beg leave briefly to state his opinion. He conceived, that the connexion of the Church and State had existed from the time of the Reformation itself, and as he was most anxious to keep up all the institutions of the country, he was not prepared to assent to a recommendation of the nature contained in the petition. He was aware, that abuses might have crept into the Establishment, and that a change of times had rendered some alterations necessary; and if such alterations were recommended by their Lordships, they should have his support; but he would not pull down an establishment without knowing what could be put in its place. The Dissenters complained of five grievances. The first of these related to a want of a registry of births, marriages, and burials, the evidence of any registers but those kept in the Church not being admissible in Courts of Law. As far as that went, he was ready to give them every assistance to remove the grievance. The second was the necessity of their conforming to the rites of the Church of England in the case of marriage. On that point also he was prepared to assist them. The third related to their being obliged to be buried in consecrated ground. a matter he thought. also well worthy of consideration. The fourth was the refusal to admit the Dissenters to take degrees in the Universities. On this occasion he did not think it necessary at present to enter largely into the merits of that question, nor could he, without being guilty of an irregularity, go into matters that had occurred in former debates upon it. He should, therefore, only say, that, in his opinion, a degree conferred at an University indicated nothing but the fact, that the person to whom it was granted had been attentive to his studies—that he had fulfilled the probationary duties of a student properly—and that his moral conduct had been praiseworthy. If such were, as he conceived, the real object of a degree; if the conferring of it amounted only to a public and honourable statement of these things, he must say, that every Dissenter who fulfilled those conditions was as much entitled to a degree as any other person. How, in what manner, and where it was to be given, were points that he would not then discuss. He should only add, that in arranging a plan for granting these privileges to Dissenters, they must take care not to create such a system as to give rise to angry feelings between the parties. Upon the last subject of complaint urged by the Dissenters, he should say nothing now, as there was a measure on the subject in the other House of Parliament, which would speedily be brought under their Lordships' notice.

Petition to lie on the Table.

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