HL Deb 06 August 1840 vol 55 cc1358-61

The Ecclesiastical Duties and Revenues Bill was committed, and several amendments agreed to.

The House having resumed, the standing orders, Nos. 26 and 155 were dispensed with, after the Earl of Harrowby had warmly protested against this indecent haste.

The report ordered to be received.

The Bishop of Exeter

rose to move a proviso to be added to the 24th clause, to exempt the deanery of Exeter from the general operation of the clause. The ground upon which he made this motion would be gathered from the following facts:—The crown lawyers applied to the Court of Queen's Bench to issue a mandamus to compel the chapter of Exeter to admit the person whom the Crown had chosen to appoint as dean. After a full and careful consideration, the court came to an unanimous decision, which it delivered in the following terms:— We are of opinion that no court would be justified in originating proceedings, of which the termination desired by the applicant could be obtained only by a jury affirming by their verdict, as a fact, that which the said court is fully persuaded to be false, and no man acquainted with the subject believes to be true. Language so strong as that was seldom employed by the Court of Queen's Bench in its decisions. But that was not all. The Crown having insisted that it had the right to recommend the dean to the adoption of the chapter, the court proceeded in its decision, to say:— The deanery of Exeter is a private foundation, of which the Crown is not the patron or founder, and cannot furnish any ground on which the court would be warranted in issuing a writ of mandamus. The writ, therefore, must be discharged. If this decision of the court had been given before the ecclesiastical commissioners drew up their recommendations, he was perfectly certain that the deanery of Exeter would have been excepted. The decision of the court, however, was comparatively recent, whilst the recommendations of the commissioners were made in 1837. Under the circumstances he had stated, he was sure their Lordships would have no difficulty in agreeing to the proviso he now proposed, which was to take the deanery of Exeter out of the operation of the clause.

Viscount Melbourne

said, that notwithstanding the peculiar circumstances which had no doubt been accurately detailed by the right rev. Prelate, he apprehended that as the appointment of the deanery of Exeter had been for more than two hundred years in the recommendation of the Crown, and as fourteen successive appointments had been thus made, their Lordships would not see fit to alter the clause. Unquestionably the matter had been brought before the Queen's Bench, and that court had decided they could not give relief in the form in which it was brought before them, but at the same time the court had intimated a strong opinion on the main question of right. Upon the grounds, then, of ancient usage—upon the ground that the deanery in question bad been for such a length of time in the recommendation, and, in fact, in the gift of the Crown—upon the ground of public policy that these high dignities should be in the gift of the Crown—he thought that Parliament ought to continue in the Crown that which had been attached to it so long. Upon these general grounds, not disguising that the question was one of no small difficulty, he considered their Lordships would do well to keep the clause in its present form.

Their Lordships divided—Contents 21; Not contents 31: Majority 10.

Proviso rejected.

The Bishop of Salisbury

said, he had a another proviso to propose, which he trusted would meet with their Lordship's approbation. It related to the residentiary prebends of the old foundation, whose stipends it was proposed to vest in the hands of the commissioners for the improvement of the livings of the parochial clergy. Agreeing with the proposition of the commissioners, that these offices should be retained as honorary distinctions, he wished that this object should be attained in such a manner as at once to promote the efficiency of the cathedral establishments, and of the parochial administrations. Although these offices were termed sinecures, the holders of them had some statuteable duty to perform, such as preaching at the cathedral at certain periods. Now, it was highly desirable that this duty should be continued or resumed, if for some time back omitted; and the distinction might with great benefit be conferred on the rural deans; but though the attendance at the cathedral would cost but little, it was a charge which these clergymen could not conveniently bear. He therefore merely asked what would cover these expenses. His proviso was to this effect:—"That, under the authority hereinafter mentioned, such stipend, not exceeding 20l., shall be provided out of the said endowments, as by that authority shall be deemed sufficient."

The Bishop of London:

The bill retained these prebends as honorary distinctions. Nothing more was asked for in all the petitions presented on the subject; and he thought they preserved that character much better by having no allowance, than if 20l. a year were assigned to each. Indeed, in his opinion, they were absolutely useless, except as marks of honour; and so generally was this view adopted, that one of the most able opponents of the bill in that House (the Bishop of Exeter) declared his opinion that the proceeds would be much better devoted in increasing small curacies. He could state as to his own diocese that these prebends seldom attended, and when they did they preached to very small audiences.

The Bishop of Salisbury,

in reply, observed that this bill was drawn up too much in accordance with the wants of the diocese of London alone, and maintained that his right rev. Friend the Bishop of Exeter was favourable to his proposition.

Lord Lyttelton

proposed a clause, providing that the four canonries of Ely should be attached to the fifteen professorships of Cambridge, and that selection should be with the bishops. He also proposed that the master of Jesus should be included amongst the persons eligible to these canonries.

The Bishop of Lichfield

expressed his entire approval of the general principles of this important measure, and also of the clause now proposed, which was in entire accordance with the spirit of this measure. This clause would act as a stimulus to the profession, and he had no doubt that these four stalls would be always filled by the most eminent men in the University.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

opposed the clause, as the subject had been deliberately considered by the commissioners, and the resolution they came to was embodied in the bill as it now stood.

The Bishop of Gloucester

supported the clause on the ground that, with the exception of that of divinity, the professorships of Cambridge had no other remuneration beyond 40l. a year, and were, therefore, obliged to seek to increase their incomes by other employments. The present clause would lend to put these gentlemen upon a footing which the interests of learning deserved.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

opposed the clause as being a very inconvenient infraction of the general rule on which the bill was founded.

Their Lordships divided—Contents 20; Not-contents 20: Majority 0.

By the rules of the House, therefore, the not-contents had it, and the clause was rejected.

Lord Lyttelton

then proposed a clause that certain stalls should be appropriated to professorships in the University of Cambridge.

The Archbishop of Canterbury opposed the clause.

Their Lordships divided—Contents 19; Not-contents 25: Majority 6.

The report with amendments was adopted, and the bill read a third time and passed.