§ The Earl of Harrowby
took the opportunity, on presenting some petitions in favour of the Established Church, of putting a question to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack upon a subject connected with those Petitions. A few nights ago, the noble and learned Lord laid upon the Table of the House two Bills for the alteration of several matters connected with the Church. Noble Lords were not generally aware of the intention to present those Bills on the evening when they were introduced, and it would very much serve the convenience of the House, if the noble and learned Lord would intimate when he should move the second reading.
The Lord Chancellor
had no difficulty in answering the noble Earl's question, The measures to which he had alluded were, undoubtedly, of great importance; and in presenting them he had opened the contents shortly to the House, reserving himself for a fuller statement of the provisions on the second reading. Until the Bills should be printed, and their Lordships had had an opportunity of deliberately examining the provisions, they could not be aware of the great mass of details to which they applied. They went through the whole of the laws respecting pluralities, and the still greater and more complicated mass of enactments relating to non-residence. It, therefore, became necessary for the accommodation or their Lordships, and his own advantage in having their Lordships' opinions, that time should be allowed to elapse before they were called upon to pass their deliberate judgments upon these measures. A very experienced person in the law, to whom the Bills had been shown, from not paying attention to the relation which the different laws bore to each other, came to the conclusion that that part of the Bill which professed to set out the law as it was at present was erroneous. This showed what careful attention the measure would require, in order that its numerous and complicated details might be understood in all their bearings.
The Earl of Malmesbury
was anxious to say one or two words upon the subject of the measure introduced by the noble and learned Lord the other evening, at an hour when no one was present, and very few knew of a measure of so much importance being likely to come before the 1251 House. He certainly was totally ignorant of the intention of the noble and learned Lord. What was his astonishment upon finding, on the following morning, that such a measure had been allowed to pass, after an opening from the noble and learned Lord, without a single observation from the learned and reverend Prelates opposite. On inquiry, however, as to the cause of this singular silence, his astonishment was not much diminished, upon finding that not one of the learned and reverend Prelates was present. That fact should be known to the public, otherwise the public might think, that those right reverend Prelates were not so alive to their duties as they usually were. He should have wished, if he had had the opportunity, to have made some observations, particularly with regard to non-residence, for he believed a very great improvement had of late years been effected in that respect by the right reverend Prelates. Of his own knowledge he could say, that was the case in the part of the country in which he resided. He thought that, in common courtesy, the noble and learned Lord ought to have given the right reverend Bench notice of his intention to bring the Bills forward. The noble and learned Lord would have felt great surprise if he (the Earl of Malmesbury) had, during his absence, brought forward any measure respecting the Courts over which he presided, and just before the recess, when he would not have an opportunity for some days of making an observation upon the subject. He would naturally say, "Good God, how came you to introduce such a measure without notice?" In like manner, then, the noble and learned Lord ought to have given notice to the right reverend Bench upon a subject so nearly concerning the interests of the Church. At all events the public ought to be informed that the Bill had been introduced without notice of any kind having been given to those right reverend persons. He did not mean to cast any reflection upon the noble and learned Lord or upon the right reverend Bench. He merely stated his own opinion; and he certainly should be glad to hear the reason of the absence of the learned and reverend Prelates.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
was under great obligations to the noble Earl who had last addressed their Lordships, as well as to the noble Earl who had put 1252 a question to the noble and learned Lord, with respect to his intention as to the prosecution of the Bills in question. The noble Earl who had last spoken had given him an opportunity of explaining why the right reverend Prelates were absent; they undoubtedly ought to have been present; and had they been aware that the noble and learned Lord intended to introduce the Bills, they would assuredly have attended in their places. He (the Archbishop of Canterbury) had been brought into a situation of great difficulty, and he had thus been called upon to speak on a subject before the regular time for discussing it. The necessity of offering an explanation had been thrown upon him. The clergy were naturally very anxious upon the matter. The measure had been long promised; and it was expected that when it came before Parliament, originating with the Government, it would have the sanction of the right reverend Prelates. Now, what was the fact?—for he should proceed to a short statement of facts. Why, the measure had been produced without a single observation from any one of the Prelates. Such being the case, there would only be two conclusions drawn from his silence—to one of which, it was stated, that persons must of necessity come, if no explanation had been afforded. The first was, either that the matter had been previously arranged between the Government and the right reverend Bench, and that the latter had given their assent thereto, and that it was agreed upon, that the Bill should be received with silence on their part on the first reading. The other conclusion was, viz.,—that the Bishops had been grossly negligent of their duty; because, when they knew—and he was supposing they did know—that Bills of the important nature, to which the attention of their Lordships had been directed, were about to be presented, they were either absent or they made no observations upon them. The clergy would not suppose, after what had been stated on former occasions by the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government,—that measures of so complicated a nature, and of such vast importance to the Church, would have been brought forward without the opinions of the right reverend Prelates being asked respecting them. Nor could the clergy imagine that no communication ever had been made of the day when these Bills 1253 were to be introduced. He had himself brought forward a Bill two Sessions ago, which had received the sanction of their Lordships' House, upon one of these very topics; but it was lost in the lower House of Parliament. He regretted the circumstance very much, and he did not anticipate the result, that his Bill had met with. That Bill, had it been carried into a law, he thought, would have very much diminished the evils complained of respecting non-residence, and several abuses which had crept in, would have been abolished. At the beginning of this Session, they were told by the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government, that measures were in preparation for the regulation of these matters, and that, with the assistance of the Bench of Bishops, they would be carried into effect. That announcement was received with the greatest satisfaction by the Bishops. Some time having elapsed, he asked what was intended, when the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government said, that such Bills were in preparation—that they were in the hands of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and that copies would be sent to him whenever they were in a sufficient state of forwardness. He rested on that expectation. It appeared to him, that nothing then remained for him to do. On Wednesday last, he had the honour of receiving from the noble and learned Lord the heads and abstract of a Bill for the regulation of these matters of pluralities and non-residence, and, at the same time, he was favoured with a most courteous letter from the noble and learned Lord; but there was conveyed to him no intimation whatever, either that it was intended to lay the Bill on the Table of the House, or when it was proposed to do so. When that communication was made to him, he supposed that its object was, to obtain his opinion, if not of the general principles, at least of the details of the Bill. At the same time, the noble and learned Lord did not communicate to him his intention of laying the Bills upon their Lordships' Table. On the day when those Bills were presented, it was the anniversary of the Society for the Spreading of the Gospel, when several of the Bishops were dining with the Lord Mayor of London; but had they been aware of the intention of the noble and learned Lord, they would, no doubt, have attended. He found from the public papers the day 1254 afterwards what had transpired, and an introductory speech on the occasion of producing the Bills had been made by the noble and learned Lord, who was represented to have said, that the abuse of non-residence "was an abuse which had crept into the Establishment since its separation from the Catholic Church, which Church knew of and recognized no such thing as non-residence." If he had been in his place, he could have stated, in the words of Burn's Ecclesiastical Justice, that, 'After all, these canons and constitutions were not intended to hinder or take away pluralities, but to render dispensations necessary, for a clerk was allowed to hold as many dignities or benefices as he could get, with the Pope's dispensation, which was easily obtained from his Legate or Nuncio residing here, on paying the sum required.' The author, in another part of his book, said,—'In the catalogue of faculties which were grantable at Rome in the time of Popery (besides the common dispensations to hold two, three, or four benefices incompatible), are these three that follow:—First—A dispensation to whatsoever and how many soever benefices compatible to the value of 500l. a-year. Second—to the value of 1,000l. a-year. And, Third—without any restriction; the price of each rising gradually, according to the degree of favour and profit.' And then this writer mentioned, as an illustration of the practice of holding pluralities whilst the right of dispensation rested in the Pope,—'The famous instance of Bogo de Clare, rector of St. Peter's in the East, in Oxford, who, in the eighth year of king Edward 1st, was presented by the Earl of Gloucester to the church of Whyston, in the county of Northampton, and obtained a dispensation to hold the same, together with one church in Ireland, and fourteen other churches in England, in nine different dioceses.' But, he had entered into all these matters when his own Bill was before their Lordships; and he had then produced a list of pluralists in Catholic times, holding from two livings up to as many as thirty-six. Indeed, if any one would refer to the Statute of the 1st of Henry 8th, which was meant to restrain and limit pluralities, he would see, that it was provided, that the law should not affect any pluralist at that time, except those who had more than four livings. He should have made 1255 that observation in defence of the Church; for, though the fact was known as a matter of history, still it showed, that the existing system of pluralities was not established by the law of the Protestant Church, but by the Statute of Henry 8th. This was, however, rather a digression from the topic immediately before the House; and he must again be permitted to express his regret, that no intimation had been given to the Bench of Bishops that such a Bill was about to be brought forward. From the abstract of the heads of the Bill, which had appeared in the newspapers, he could say, that there were parts of it, which, had he been consulted, he should have most earnestly requested the noble and learned Lord to have omitted, before laying them on the Table. Nevertheless, he would endeavour to make the Bill as efficient as possible. From the feeling of the public mind, however, it would have been better to have the Bill as perfect as it could be, and even before it had been introduced at all, because, if any material alterations were made in it at the instance of the right reverend Bench, those alterations might be considered by the enemies of the Church as injurious to the measure, and thus additional calumnies might be heaped upon the right reverend Prelates. At a time when they saw measures taken by the public for the subversion of the Established Church, when every nerve was strained to make that Church appear odious, and to raise a hostile feeling against it, what must the public imagine, to see a measure of such vast importance—one which involved so much consideration, and had to deal with such serious difficulties—introduced without any discussion of its merits on the part of those best acquainted with the subject. Must they not infer, either that his Majesty's Government was careless of the opinions of the Bishops and the clergy, and thought it useless to refer to them for advice, or that the Bishops had been guilty of a dereliction of duty. This was the inevitable conclusion to which, he thought, the public would come. He thought, that the right reverend Bench had reason to complain of not being consulted on the occasion; but, as he had already said, he would endeavour to render the Bill efficient, and give his best assistance with that view. It was far from his intention, however, to give cause of offence to the noble and learned Lord, in what he now 1256 stated; and, although he must be permitted to complain, he did it not in a spirit of anger, but of regret, such as, he hoped, was becoming the station which he had the honour to fill. He did not in the least degree, consider that any personal slight had been offered him, for the courtesy evinced by the noble and learned Lord on all occasions towards himself, forbade any such interpretation. He believed, that no slight whatever was intended. He had detained their Lordships somewhat at length upon this topic, and had stated what he imagined would be the impression on the public mind. In the principle of the Bill he assented, because it was consistent with what, he thought, ought to have been adopted, and he would again repeat, that he should willingly lend his best assistance towards carrying the measure into effect with the utmost benefit to the community. He would not say, that all the good which had been anticipated, were pluralities abolished, would follow this measure, nor did he mean to enter into the question whether or not a strict enforcement of residence would afford that advantage to Christianity, which some persons declared would flow from it. Whatever their Lordships agreed to upon these subjects, he trusted would not be done because malevolent persons had raised a clamour against the abuses of the Church, and whose object was, to injure its stability, rather than with a desire to increase its efficiency. In conclusion, the most reverend Prelate expressed his obligations to the noble Earl for the opportunity afforded of giving the explanation with which he had troubled their Lordships, and he assured them, that he would give his best advice towards making the measures to which the attention of the House had been directed, as beneficial as possible.
The Lord Chancellor
said, he was sure their Lordships would have heard, as he had done, with the greatest satisfaction, the concluding sentences of the speech of the most reverend Prelate. That satisfaction, he was sure, was above all personal considerations with their Lordships, as it was infinitely above all such feelings of his own, because, above all, he was anxious that the measures he had introduced should have no obstacles thrown in the way of the discussion of them, beyond those which arose out of their own merits. It had been to him a source of the highest 1257 satisfaction, though of no surprise, from his knowledge of the character, and his deep and unfeigned respect for the sincerity of the most reverend Prelate, to find, that with a disregard of any little punctilio, or any little apparent neglect in the mode in which the measure had been introduced—though he should presently show that there had been none—he was most happy, he repeated, to find that the most reverend Prelate was prepared to consider the measure upon its merits, and rather anxious to discover a means of supporting it consistently with his conscientious feelings, than to throw obstacles or difficulties in its way. This was to him a source of the purest satisfaction, because it argued well for the eventual success of the measure, which he deemed to be of vital importance to the well-being of the Church and of the country. But now, with respect to what was expected of him by the rules of the House in introducing such a measure to their Lordships, he thought, that no little mistake pervaded the statements both of the most reverend Prelate and of the noble Earl who preceded him. It appeared to be thought by them, that he had been going out of the way—that he had been deviating from the forms—that he had not proceeded according to the rules which regulated the practice of that branch of the Legislature in the mode in which he had introduced the measure. It was certainly true, that his experience of their Lordships' practice was—he was going to say unfortunately—short, but he would not say unfortunately, because he did not consider it a very great misfortune, but it was much shorter than that of many others of their Lordships. Still he had been long enough in that House to have been taught that he was not acting contrary to its usages in the course he had pursued. It so happened, that one of the first Bills, if not the first, which he had the honour to present to their Lordships, and which was now the law of the land, he, in conformity with the practice which he brought with him from the other House, rose and gave notice of, in the form to which he had been accustomed. What then happened? Straightway some half dozen noble persons jumped up and flocked about him, and some in kindness, no doubt; but others there were in whose faces he could perceive the expression of a certain satisfaction at having caught him tripping—at having so soon discovered 1258 that he who had come amongst them, with no consent of theirs, to preside over their proceedings, was not aware even of the forms and practice of the House. These noble persons came up to him then and told him, "Oh, it is not the practice here to give notice or to ask leave to bring in a Bill." This he remembered distinctly. Judge, then, of his surprise when he was now told, that he had acted irregularly or disrespectfully to the House because he had introduced a measure without notice. ["No, no!"] Well, then, he did not know what was the ground of the complaint against him. It was said now, that he had committed a breach of their rules when he had come down and made a speech—a speech not certainly longer than ten minutes in duration, and only sufficient barely to state what the objects of the Bills were, rather than throwing them down on the table and leaving their Lordships to get at their contents as they best might. If he had done so, he knew well what he might have expected, not indeed from the candour and sincerity of the most reverend Prelate, but from certain other quarters. It would have been said, that he had come down and trundled the Bills on to the table and left their contents to get into the Newspapers, and so let the public be informed of their contents before their Lordships knew them themselves. "Here is a to-do," it would have been said; "here are two Bills affecting the Constitution in its most vital parts, and they are placed before the public without one Peer being made acquainted with them." Then it was said, that he had introduced a measure chiefly affecting the Church in the absence of all the Members of the reverend Bench. This was not correct; for he explained the measure in the presence of two of those Members—an Archbishop and another Prelate. [The Duke of Cumberland: No, no, no.] "I say, yes, yes, yes; I say yes, because I know it. If any noble Lords doubt it, I will name the right reverend Prelates; they were the Archbishop of Armagh, and the Bishop of Derry." [Some noble Lords informed his Lordship, that the Archbishop of Armagh was not in Parliament.] He was informed, that it was the Archbishop of Cashel and not the Archbishop of Armagh; but that made no difference to his assertion. When he said, "Yes, yes," in contradiction to the cry of "No, no," 1259 he asserted, that there were two Spiritual Peers present, one an Archbishop, and the other a Prelate. Oh! but he heard a noble Earl, and an Irish Peer too, exclaim, that they were Irish Bishops, He should be glad to know what difference there was in such a question between an English Bishop and an Irish Bishop? He heard a noble Lord say, that it was an English question. True, it was an English question; but was it not also an Irish question, being an English question? Why, he had understood from very high authority in their Lordships' House, upon some former occasions, that there was only one Church, and now, when he asserted that there were Bishops present, up jumped an Irish Peer and cried, "Oh, but they were only Irish Bishops." Why, the Irish Bishops were undoubtedly as competent, and would no doubt be as ready, to defend the one Church as any of their right reverend Brethren; and had they not, for very obvious reasons, the same interests as the English Bishops in any such question? But then were there not lay Peers present who were English, and whose attachment to the Church was at least as strong as that of any Bishop, English or Irish, could by possibility be? He knew, that there were some of those present when he introduced the Bills, and he knew, also, that some of them were not the best friends to the Administration of which he formed a part, and who would therefore look with no little jealousy upon them to see that they were not unfit measures to be introduced in their Lordships' House. He delivered what he said in the presence of a noble Marquess connected with Scotland and with this country, from whose anxiety in support of the Church, he knew, that the measures would receive the closest scrutiny, and who did take part in the discussion. There was also present a noble Baron, formerly Chancellor of the Exchequer, than whom no man in the House was better affected to the Church of England, or more zealous in upholding its interests. Another noble Baron was present, who had spoken that night, and who had shown his attachment to every thing belonging to the Church, and his readiness to support pluralities by opposing the former measure of the most reverend Prelate for reducing their number. In the presence of all these noble Lords it was, that he had brought forward the Bills. Why, then, he contended, that 1260 he had taken the most harmless and the least objectionable course in delivering in the Bills in the presence of those noble Lords, and stating to them very shortly, as he did, their leading features. But if he were to be prohibited by the rules of the House from giving notice of any measure, and if, upon bringing them in, he was not to be allowed to give any explanation of their character, why, then, it was quite clear there was no absurdity so gross but that it might be given in to their Lordships, and read a first time, and so far receive their sanction. That could not be the practice of their Lordships' House; it was not the practice. There were many Bills in his recollection which he had himself introduced without notice, and, upon introducing them, had opened the subject at greater length than he did upon this occasion. Another objection from the most reverend Prelate was, that he had only given him the heads of the measures two days before they were introduced, and that he had given no intimation of his actual intention to move them. It was true, that it had so happened that he had only an opportunity of mentioning the subject to the most reverend Prelate, and two other right reverend Prelates; but it was unnecessary for him to say, that this did not arise from any failure of respect towards the House, or to any of its Members. The circumstances under which he had produced the measures were of a pressing nature, and he would state them shortly. It had happened to him to have taken, as their Lordships might recollect, a warm part against those most respectable and enlightened and excellent individuals who had approached their Lordships' House with a prayer for the separation of Church and State, by which they were understood to mean the abolition of the Established Church. Against this part of the prayer of the petition, he had given his opinion as strongly, and supported it by arguments as cogently, as he had the means of doing, although he had presented the petition to the House, stating, at the same time, that it was the bounden duty of the Legislature at once to remove all the just grounds of complaint against the Establishment. Having done this, it became him, then, in the shortest possible period, to redeem the pledge he had given to proceed to the removal of the imperfections of the Establishment, to increase its favour with the 1261 people, and thereby to promote its stability and strengthen its defences against those who would seek its destruction. He deemed the two measures he had introduced singularly adapted to promote those objects, and, so believing them to come singularly within the description he had given, it had been his wish to have them passed without any loss of time which could be avoided. The most reverend Prelate seemed to regret, and indeed made it a matter of complaint, that he had not consulted with the most reverend Prelate, and with the right reverend Bench before the measures were brought forward. He thought, if the most reverend Prelate reflected seriously upon what had occurred in two other instances of a somewhat similar kind, he would not be surprised at the course taken. Upon a former occasion, when the English Tithe Bill was under consideration last year, the Government entered into much confidential communication with the right reverend Bench, and much discussion took place amongst the learned Prelates themselves. The result was, that after a delay of several months, the Government was left precisely two hairs' breadths in advance of the self-same position which it occupied when the said communication and discussion commenced. He should in this case have tried the experiment again nevertheless; but when he recollected, that the most reverend Prelate had formerly brought forward a measure himself for meeting, or professing to meet, the evil of pluralities at least, and when he recollected that that measure was not only not like his own, but that, so far from satisfying him, it did not go near to satisfy him, or even in the direction of satisfying him; why, then, to expect the concurrence of the most reverend Prelate in his views would have been utterly useless—a result past all hope and expectation. But then, it might be said, that the most reverend Prelate's Bill passed that House, and that he (the Lord Chancellor) supported it, and that his noble friends and colleagues supported it. True, it was so; and he deeply regretted that that measure, limited and insufficient as it was, had not become a law. With respect to the animadversions on the conduct of the Government for not passing that measure, and the interrogations put to the Ministers to ascertain why they had not made the same exertions to pass it in the other House which they had made to 1262 ensure the passing of some other measures, all he could say was, that when they found it the determination of the other House not to pass the Bill in question, and that they might as well attempt to induce it unanimously to throw out the Reform Bill, nothing would have been more absurd than for them to have staked their existence as a Government upon a measure not their own, and which they did not deem sufficient to meet the evil to which it was to be applied. He still, however, regretted, that the measure was not passed, and he thought the other branch of the Legislature were wrong in treating it, as they did, only as a mockery of the expectations they had formed. He hoped, that these Bills would be received with more satisfaction, and that they would lead to the reconciliation of extreme opinions on both sides, and secure the objects for which he had professed they were intended. He must further say, that, upon a former occasion, he had not meant to charge upon the Protestant Church, that it stood alone in the abuse of pluralities, especially as compared with the Roman Catholic Church. He knew that, in the Roman Catholic Church, the evil of pluralities existed to a far greater extent than in the Protestant Church; and that, in conjunction with the abuse of dispensations, they had caused the Reformation. In the Roman Catholic Church, however, pluralities were prohibited by law, and were allowed by dispensations. By dispensations from the Pope, the dignitaries of the Catholic Church were permitted to hold several benefices. At the same time, it was only fair to the Catholic Church to say, that, in it, for one person to hold two livings was very unusual, and that non-residence was at present hardly known. It was not necessary for him to enter into the details of the measures, as it was not the proper occasion; but he would express his fervent hope, that by them they should purify the Church from one of the abuses which had been in all times the subject of the greatest clamour, and one which had always been appealed to with the greatest effect. The measure, therefore, he trusted, would not only take away from the enemies of the Church a most powerful weapon, but provide within the Establishment a new source of stability and permanence in the affections of its friends.
The Earl of Malmesbury
explained, 1263 that he had not stated the introduction of the Bill without notice to be inconsistent with the practice of the House. What he stated was, that it was usual for some communication of the character of a measure to be made to those immediately interested in it, and if a difference of sentiment existed upon it, then for it to be laid on the Table, and read a first time without observation. He had by his inquiry produced a statement, which to him had afforded the satisfaction, and which to the public would afford the satisfaction, of knowing that the right reverend Prelates were absent from ignorance, and not from a neglect of their duty, when such a measure had been brought forward.
The Duke of Cumberland
was anxious to state, that he was not aware that any Bishops had been present when he dissented from the statement of the noble and learned Lord, and therefore he was mistaken in that dissent. But he would not be deterred from expressing his extreme surprise that the measure should have been brought in on that evening, when there had been, at an early period of the evening, in consequence of the Roman Catholic Marriages' Bill for Scotland having been announced for that evening, a fuller attendance of the reverend Bench than usual, and after they had all left the House. He was not present, as the noble and learned Lord had observed, when the Bills were presented. He believed, that their Lordships would do him the justice to admit, that few Peers were more regular in their attendance to their duties than he was. But he left the House upon this occasion in order to obtain some papers connected with the proceedings in the Warwick Election Bill, and, on going out, asked the noble and learned Lord whether there was any more business to come on, and was told by him in answer, "No, nothing more." After this assurance from such an authority, he thought he was not neglecting his duty in leaving the House. He could not but think it a most strange proceeding that such a measure should have been brought forward in such a House, and even in the absence of so many of the noble and learned Lord's colleagues, who ought to have been as much interested in it as he was himself.
§ The Duke of Wellington
had staid in the House to a late hour on the evening in question, and left it in the confidence, 1264 that the House was proceeding to the Motion relative to the Warwick election. The noble and learned Lord had said, that there was no rule or form of the House requiring notice of the introduction of any Bill. He knew there was none. But he was sure that, however strictly right the noble and learned Lord might be upon the rule and order, it was the practice of the House to give notice of measures of such importance as this; and when such a notice was given, it was then usual to suppose, that the whole Cabinet were agreed on the measure. The noble and learned Lord was clearly, according to the rules of their Lordships' House, bound to have given notice before he took any such step as the introduction of these Bills; but what was the explanation which the noble and learned Lord gave for the course that he had pursued? Why, he told them, that he was aware that the Bench of Bishops would not agree to his measure. The noble and learned Lord admitted, that he knew he would have to encounter the strenuous opposition of every right rev. Prelate who sat in their Lordships' House, if he had thrown out the slightest intimation on the subject, and therefore it was that these measures were laid upon the Table without any previous notice. But he must insist, that it was not only the ordinary practice of their Lordships, but that it was required by the rules of that House, that notice should be given before any measure of this description was brought forward; and he must say, that if it behoved any noble Lords to adhere strictly to this practice and these rules, the observance was more imperative on the noble Lords connected with the Government than upon any other Members of their Lordships' House. They, of all other persons, were the most interested in preserving the rules and orders of their Lordships' House, and yet the noble and learned Lord had taken a step which was well calculated to destroy them. The noble Lords connected with the Government, instead of making an infraction of rules that were on all hands admitted to be good, were bound to show an example of adherence to them, in order that they might, on all occasions, be able to uphold them against others. But to pass from this part of the subject to what occurred when the measures alluded to were placed upon their Lordships' Table. He would 1265 not take up the time of the House by observations upon what passed upon that occasion; but he could not, at the same time, refrain from remarking, that one of the measures which the noble and learned Lord had brought forward went directly to affect his Majesty's prerogative, and this measure, the noble and learned Lord stated, had received the unanimous concurrence of all his colleagues.
The Lord Chancellor
I did not say any such thing; but if the noble Duke wishes to know what it was I did say, I will tell him. What I said was, not that the measures had the unanimous concurrence of my colleagues, but that I had consulted with my colleagues upon the subject.
§ The Duke of Wellington
Well, then, the noble and learned Lord consulted with his colleagues upon the subject. Of course it must be known to the noble and learned Lord's colleagues, that the measure affected the prerogative of the Crown; but, perhaps, his Majesty's consent to it had been obtained. If, however, that was the case, why did the noble and learned Lord not come forward and state to the House the fact that he laid the Bills upon their Lordships' Table with his Majesty's consent? Now, the noble and learned Lord had not uttered a syllable from which it could be inferred that he had obtained his Majesty's consent. On the contrary, what he said was, that, on the preceding Wednesday or Tuesday, he had been pressed into giving his opinion on the question relative to the separation of Church and State, and, therefore, that it became necessary for him to bring in some measure to make his peace with the Dissenters. But was it not the business of the noble and learned Lord, instead of entrenching upon the rights of the Crown, to take care that the prerogative of his Majesty should not be infringed? The noble and learned Lord was the constitutional protector of the prerogative of the Crown; and unless, therefore, he obtained the consent of his Majesty to a measure affecting the prerogative of the Sovereign, the noble Lord clearly had not performed his duty. He was quite sure, that it was irregular to bring forward important subjects without notice, and he must repeat, that no Members of that House were so 1266 interested in preserving the rules and orders of their Lordships' House inviolate as the noble Lords belonging to the Government.
The Lord Chancellor
must say, that the noble Duke, who had just sat down, had taken one of the most extraordinary courses on the present occasion that was ever adopted by any Member of either House of Parliament. The noble Duke said, that the line of conduct which he (the Lord Chancellor) had pursued in introducing these measures was not only inconsistent with, but a breach of, the duty which he owed to his Sovereign. Now, how that could be he was unable to understand. He should like to know how the noble Duke made out that the introduction of a measure without the consent of his Majesty trenched upon the prerogative of the Sovereign. The Royal assent was never given to a Bill on the day it was first presented, and, therefore, the noble Duke was wrong in this particular. He was clearly wrong with respect to the forms of the House, but he was even still more wrong in this instance than he was as to all the rest. It was not usual to state, that the Crown had assented to a measure before it had arrived at one of its ultimate stages.
§ The Duke of Wellington
observed, that a different course had been pursued on a recent occasion by the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government.
The Lord Chancellor
But that was an unusual course. The customary time for intimating that the Crown had assented to a measure, was either on the Motion for the second reading, or before going into Committee. It surely would have been extraordinary if he had said, "My Lords, I have the assent of his Majesty," before the Bill was brought in. His first step was to move, that the Bill be read a first time; and would it not have been absurd to tell them, that his Majesty had assented to the next Motion, namely, that the Bill be printed. And yet this was exactly what the noble Duke complained he had not done. But he (the Lord Chancellor) was literally in order in the course he had taken. It would have been irregular if he had stated, that the assent of his Majesty had been obtained to the measure, and it would not have been correct on his part if he had said, that he had brought it forward with the unanimous concurrence of the Cabinet, 1267 His statement was, that he had consulted his colleagues; that the Bill had been submitted to them; but with respect to whether the consent of his Majesty had or had not been obtained, all he should now say was, that the stage for communicating that information had not yet arrived, and it was barely possible that it never would; for if their Lordships refused to entertain the measure with that calm, deliberate, and candid reception which he was convinced most of the right rev. Prelates, who sat in that House, were disposed to give it, he would not expose their Lordships to the disfavour—he used a mild term—out of doors, which its rejection might incur, but would save them from all unpleasant comment on the subject by exercising his own discretion and withdrawing it. It was not true, as had been stated, that the reason he had not given notice of his intention to bring forward these Bills, arose from the opposition which he anticipated from the Bench of Bishops.
The Earl of Wicklow
said, although it was true that there were one or two Irish Bishops in the House when these Bills were brought in, it never could have occurred to them, that they were bound to communicate with the Lord Primate upon the subject, or that he was not aware of the intention of the noble and learned Lord to introduce such measures. Indeed it was not understood, that either of the Bills had any relation whatever to the Irish Church, although it was now stated, that they applied equally to both establishments. All he could say was, that if this was correct, the abstract of the Bill which appeared in the Times, and which, he made no doubt, was furnished to that paper by the noble and learned Lord himself, was incorrect. [The Lord Chancellor: No, not by me.] The noble and learned Lord denied, that the abstract published in the Times was furnished by him; but was it not a little singular that such an abstract should have reached the hands of the editor of a newspaper before the Bill was printed. Now, it was his opinion, that their Lordships had a right to complain of this publication. From this abstract, however, it appeared, that the Bill related not to the Church of Ireland, but to the Church of England and Wales; and, if that were the case, surely it ought not, in common courtesy, to have been brought forward in the absence of 1268 the whole of the English Bench of Bishops. Having stated thus much, he would only add, that on the evening in question, a noble friend of his had presented a petition regarding the condition of the Irish clergy; and the discussion on that subject having concluded, the order of the day for proceeding with the examination of witnesses in the Warwick Borough Bill was moved. After the petition to which he had referred was disposed of, and, on ascertaining from the noble and learned Lord himself that there was no more public business before the House, he went away, and, therefore, their Lordships might judge of the surprise which he experienced when he learned, that these Bills had been laid upon the Table.
The Lord Chancellor
might have said, as the noble Earl stated, that there was no other business before the House. If he were asked by one, he was by forty or fifty noble Lords on the night fixed for the Scotch Roman Catholic' Marriages Bill, whether there was any other business, and his answer was, "the Scotch Roman Catholic Marriages Bill has been put off, and will not therefore come on to-night." But he begged to assure the noble Earl, and he might weigh and deliberate upon it as much as he pleased, that he (the Lord Chancellor) would not go out of his way an inch—a hair's-breadth—to save any measure of his from the observations, or any speech of his from being answered by either the noble Earl, the illustrious Duke, or the noble Duke. There might perhaps be some noble Lords, whose presence he could dispense with upon certain occasions, but their absence or presence was alike indifferent to him.
The Earl of Winchilsea
thought, that common civility ought to have induced the noble and learned Lord to have consulted the heads of the Church before any such step as this was taken. It might be true, that the noble and learned Lord acted regularly in placing the Bills upon the table, but clearly he was wanting in courtesy in not having first communicated with the Bishops upon the subject. The noble and learned Lord had been led into something like warmth in resisting the demands of the Dissenters for the severance of Church and State, and a sudden thought seemed to have struck him, two days subsequently, that something must be done to operate as a peace-offering to that body, and hence this Bill. An impression had 1269 gone abroad, that the heads of the Church were not indisposed to the measures. This impression arose from the inference that was drawn from the silence of the right rev. Prelates who sat in that House; but it was now clear that they were ignorant that such measures were to be introduced, and could not, therefore, have opposed them. For his part, he knew not what the measures were; but this he would say, that, if they went to get rid of the abuses of the Church—if the object of them was to do away with pluralities and non-residence, they should have his support. He believed that there were 1,200 parishes, in which there was no resident clergyman, and that he considered an evil. He wished to know whether the measures were intended to interfere with the small livings in the gift of the Lord Chancellor as an officer of the Crown?
The Lord Chancellor
replied, that neither of the Bills contained any thing relating to those livings, and therefore it was untrue, as the noble Duke had stated, that they in any way trenched upon the royal prerogative. With respect to the abstract that appeared in the newspapers, all he could say was, that it was utterly impossible it could have been prepared by him, or any person connected with him. He had not himself seen that abstract, but, from those who had, he learned that it was erroneous, and represented the Bill as unlike that which in reality it was. It stated, that a clergyman having a living of 2,500l., might subsequently take another, provided the income of the second did not exceed 100l. This was not the case; and, if the abstract said it was, all he could say was, that it was very different from the Bill.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
was understood to say, that before any measure of importance was introduced, proper notice of the intention to bring it forward ought to have been given. The Bills referred to, if he understood rightly, involved the whole of the Church Establishment, and, therefore, no such step should have been taken without first consulting the right rev. Prelates who were members of that House. The explanation of his most rev. friend (the Archbishop of Canterbury), mild and temperate as it was, like every thing that emanated from him, would remove the impression which had gone abroad, that the bench of bishops had been guilty of any omission on this occasion. With re- 1270 spect to the declaration made by the noble and learned Lord, as to the expediency of putting an end to pluralities and non-residence, all he need say was, that he (the Earl of Harrowby) concurred in that opinion, having himself, on a former occasion, endeavoured to remove those evils. If this was the principle of the Bill, he was by no means adverse to it, agreeing, as he did, that pluralities ought to be diminished; but, although he said so much, he did not think that a fortnight, a month, or even the probable extent of the Session, would afford sufficient time to consider the matter fully, in order to come to a just and proper decision upon it. Before any such step was taken, they should have the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners before them. Without the information to be furnished by that Report, it would be impossible for them to judge of the extent to which they should go; and, although he had confessed himself favourable to the abolition of pluralities, he still thought, that hasty legislation, in so important a matter, was by no means advisable, and ought to be avoided. There were 700 livings which did not contain fifty inhabitants, and more than 1,000, where the number of inhabitants did not exceed 100 in each; and that being the case, he should like to know whether it would be right to insert, that each minute fraction of this kind should be at the expense of a resident clergyman? Such an idea was literally preposterous. Upwards of 2,000 parishes, the incomes of which were 80l., 90l., and 100l., had no residences for a clergyman, although the inhabitants were numerous; and, in such places, he admitted, residence ought to be provided for, and the person who held the living disabled from holding any other benefice. If they wished to abolish pluralities, they should be prepared to pay the price for it. They should be ready to make the revenues of the Church in every parish in the kingdom sufficient for the support of the resident clergy. But could they call on the public to do this? He was by no means averse to a different arrangement of the revenues of the Church, provided the rights of property were not violated; and he would be willing to convert to more useful purposes parts of the Church establishment, which, though by some regarded as highly ornamental and useful, he could not help considering as partly ornamental, partly useful, and 1271 partly detrimental. He declared, that it would be wholly impossible to bestow upon the subject any thing like due consideration between this and the time fixed for the second reading of the Bill; and as he thought they would not be justified in absolutely putting an end to pluralities and non-residence, without full and ample information, he hoped the measure would not be pressed forward until at least the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was received. In any steps they might take, their object should be, the security of the Church, and, in no measure that was brought forward, should that object be lost sight of.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
said, the noble and learned Lord had said, that before he brought in these Bills, he had consulted with his colleagues. He wished, therefore, to know, from the noble and learned Lord, whether they were to understand, that he had brought them in with the sanction of his colleagues, or simply on his own authority? He was free to admit, that the noble and learned Lord was a high authority; but still, when a measure of this kind came before their Lordships, and under such peculiar circumstances, it was only right that they should know exactly whether the Bills rested solely on the authority of the noble and learned Lord, or whether they had the sanction of his colleagues?
The Lord Chancellor
, in reply, said, that an unusually wide course had been taken by noble Lords on the present occasion. It was, he believed, customary for members of either that or the other House of Parliament, though Ministers of the Crown, to bring in measures in their capacity of Members, and not of Ministers, without being stopped on the threshold by questions such as had been put to him. Now, he begged to tell the noble Lords by whom these questions had been put, that the measures rested on their own merits, and that, on the second reading, those noble Lords would have an opportunity of forming their own opinion as to what those merits were. For his part, he did not know that objection would be taken to any part of the Bills, and that was all he felt disposed to state at the present moment. The noble Earl (Earl Harrowby) had observed, that it was unfortunate that such measures should have been framed before the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was pre- 1272 pared. It was no doubt true, that, in consequence of this, they were much more imperfect than they would otherwise have been; but, as there had been no valuation of the revenues of the Church, since the time of Henry 8th, it was necessary to provide some machinery to effect that purpose. Should the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners be received before the Bill had made any great progress, the information it might contain could be used; but, although it might perhaps be trusted as correct with regard to value generally, it was, nevertheless, clear, that inquiry would still have to be made with respect to value in particular cases. He begged, in conclusion, to say, that he was quite ready to receive any suggestion the noble Earl might think fit to make as to delay; but he must, at the same time, say, that, unless some other objections than those which had been stated were urged, he must continue of the opinion, that it was important that the measures should be passed during the present Session. If the noble Earl induced their Lordships to agree with him, it would be virtually and practically throwing the Bills out for the Session.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
was satisfied with the explanation of the noble and learned Lord. He would only add, that he did not intend to throw any imputation on the noble and learned Lord.
§ The subject was dropped.