HL Deb 21 June 1839 vol 48 cc689-91
The Archbishop of Canterbury

complained of a passage which he had read in one of the morning papers (the Morning Post) contained in what purported to be a report of a speech made by a right hon. Gentleman in another place which he would not more particularly name. The passage ran thus: He was the last man in the House to undervalue petitions; but he could show the House, on better authority than his, that there were occasions on which petitions were got up, particularly on religious matters, in which neither the character of the getters-up or the suggesters would stand inquiry. There had been, for instance, a petition got up by bad clergymen of the University of Oxford on a subject relating to the Church. Now, that was a petition in which, above all others, they would expect to find truth, learning, and conclusive reasoning; but no such thing; it appeared, on high authority, that the bishop of the diocese could command from his clergy as many petitions on any subject as he might choose to call for. The House would ask on whose authority he stated this. He would tell them, but would read a letter more first:—' On the subject of petitions generally bearing on church subjects, I must say, that if the parties who oppose the bill (it was the Church Discipline Bill) are no better informed than the clergy of Oxford on the subject, I trust their opposition will have very little weight.' He concluded with the following words: 'I entertain the strictest conviction that the petitions which come before you on this subject are full of misstatements, but certainly misstatements made without a disposition to deceive. I give these petitioners credit for a wish to support the Church, but it will be for the House to judge of the allegations and to judge also of the expediency of complying with the prayer of persons who betray total ignorance of the real facts of the case on which they petition.' These were the petitions presented from clergymen of the University of Oxford against the Church Discipline Bill; they came from men of respect able character and authority; and the person who thus characterised them was his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury. This was the character he gave of petitions got up on a religious outcry. He stated that they might be well intended, but that they betrayed the greatest ignorance. Nothing (said the most rev. Prelate) could be more inconvenient than for a Member of one House—and more especially a Member who stood very high in station, and who was deserving to be respected on account of his station, talent, and other qualities—nothing, he said could be more inconvenient, or indeed more irregular, than for a Member of the House of Commons to cite by name what had passed in their Lordships' House. This very statement showed the inconvenience of that practice, for a more incorrect statement—not intentionally so, he was perfectly certain, because he knew the candour of the right hon. Gentleman sufficiently well to be convinced that he would not say anything which he did not believe to be true—but still a more incorrect statement never was made. The right hon. Gentleman had been misinformed as to what he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) had said on the occasion to which reference was made. When was it, he would ask, that he ever said, any such thing as that "neither the character of the getters-up or the suggesters of the petition would stand inquiry? When did he ever make any reflection on the character of the gentlemen and clergy of Oxford? It so happened that he only knew the name of one of the persons who were concerned in getting up the petition in question; and of that one person, and of all who were connected with him, he might say, there were none more respectable for character, for learning, or for piety; and that it was absolutely impossible he (the most rev. Prelate) could have said that their characters would not stand inquiry. Then it was said that "the petition was got up by bad clergy- men of the university of Oxford." Who those "bad clergymen" were, he was greatly at a loss to know. There must be a misprint, a misrepresentation here. Those words never could have been used by the right hon. Gentleman.

Subject dropped.

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