The Bishop of Exeter
said, that before their Lordships proceeded to consider tin's bill in committee, he wished to trespass upon their indulgence by making a few observations. He had been deterred from doing this upon the night when their Lordships gave the bill a second reading, in consequence of the late hour to which the discussion of that evening had been protracted, and also by a wish on his part to leave as much time as possible to those of his right rev. brethren who then addressed the House, and who were not so much in the habit of troubling their Lordships as unfortunately happened to be the case with him. In looking at the bill, the object of which was to settle the duties and revenues of the Church, he could not help noticing, in the first place, a matter which appeared to him of no trifling consideration—namely, that the clergy had had no opportunity of expressing their sentiments with reference to the proposed measure until after the ecclesiastical commissioners had actually made their report. From the time the suggestions in the report became known, the expression of their dislike became general; there was not one petition in favour of the bill till within these few days, when the minor canons addressed the House on the subject; yet Parliament heard nothing of them until the other House thought proper to give to the minor canons an interest in the patronage of the chapters. He had himself presented a petition from the vicars-choral of Exeter against the bill, and he had understood from one who was not likely to be uninformed on the subject, that petitions had been presented to the other House bearing from 3,000 to 4,000 signatures. Of this he felt assured, that many petitions had been presented to the Commons, of which no duplicates had ever reached their Lordships. He might say, that the whole of the clergy were opposed to the measure, and he would illustrate this by mentioning the fact, that in one district of the diocese of Gloucester, where the number of the clergy was only fifty, there were forty- 1116 seven who had petitioned against the bill, and but one of the number was really in favour of it; the remaining three or four merely declined signing because they were tired of petitioning, and thought that no good could arise from it. Let their Lordships recollect that this occurred in a diocese where the bishop was a member of the commission. It would probably be remembered by many who heard him, that this subject had been brought under the consideration of the bishops by that Government at the head of which was Earl Grey. After the Reform Bill became law, the Government of that period thought it necessary to look abroad amongst the other institutions of the country for the purpose of seeing what further changes might be effected. At the suggestion of the noble Earl, the most rev. Primate called a meeting of all the bishops, which he attended in the dead of winter, at considerable hazard to his health, and at that meeting, though many subjects were brought forward, yet there was only one point on which they had much discussion, and that was this very subject of deans and chapters. On that occasion he was bound to state that his right rev. Friend (the Bishop of London) advocated the principles upon which the present measure was founded, and in that view of this important subject his right rev. Friend was supported by only two of the bishops. He, and those who thought with him, had, on that occasion, the sanction of the most rev. Primate. On that day, he led the opposition to the principles of the bill, which, as their Lordships knew, were identical with those of the report. Never had there been a more able, a more honest, or a more determined opposition than that which the most rev. Primate offered to the views of his right rev. Friend. That meeting came to a determination which, in effect, amounted to this—that while they were most anxious to render every institution of the Church conducive to the spiritual instruction of the people, they felt it their duty to insist that every one of those institutions be preserved in its full integrity, and they all withdrew from that meeting with the understanding that they were to devise with their chapters the modes best calculated to produce that result. He had already described to their Lordships, the circumstances under which the meeting of the bishops had been called—he had described what took place there, 1117 and he had alluded to its results. He was bound, then, to say, that that was not the manner in which bishops ought to be treated. It would have been more merciful to them at that season of the year to have left them at home, and not summon them to a meeting to be afterwards laughed at; yet the most rev. Primate had told their Lordships that the present was no new measure—that it had long been in his mind. The most rev. Prelate had told the House that he went to the noble Duke with measures to correct some of the evils which surrounded the spiritual condition of the people of this country; and the noble duke in that frank, wise, and just manner, which was to be expected from him, said that the Church must do something for itself before it could hope to receive the help and cooperation of the Government. He applauded that sentiment of the noble Duke—it was just what was to be expected from him; and that sentiment did the noble Duke great honour. But he confessed he was greatly astonished afterwards to hear it advanced as a reason for cashiering the deans and chapters. He was applied to for his opinion upon this subject. He would only recall to the recollection of their Lordships that it had been said, that "some of those who were the least sparing in their attacks both upon the appointment of the commission and their recommendations, did not hesitate to furnish suggestions, some of which, it was perfectly well known, were incorporated with the plans of the commissioners." Now, it was quite true that he did make suggestions: the most rev. Prelate applied to him for his opinions. After he had given them, the moat rev. Prelate told him that his Majesty was about to issue the commission, and requested permission to lay his papers before that commission, and that was the way in which his suggestions had been given to the commissioners. A correspondence took place upon the subject, and here he would take the liberty of noticing what he had not had an opportunity to notice before, that it was actually stated in the journals of the day that he had done all this from base motives, or from a desire to court popularity. He thought their Lordships would see, then, that he was not going too far in giving this explanation of the matter. But the grounds of his astonishment did not end there. In 1118 those papers he stated the case in the strongest way, and argued with all the power he could in favour of that cause, which was, at that time, supported by the most rev. Prelate; therefore, he had not the slightest objection whatever that the suggestions which he had thrown out should be made known, for their Lordships would be perfectly convinced that there was no inconsistency in what he then did, and what he was now doing; neither was there inconsistency in anything he had ever done on the subject. But he wished to let those matters alone. He had only alluded to them in duty to himself and to the Church, and because he heard the authority of the most rev. Prelate quoted by all sides in favour of those propositions, and particularly by many lay peers. He thought it was due to the cause he was bound to support to state those circumstances, which appeared to him materially to impair the authority and judgment of the most rev. Prelate. He would now proceed to speak of the principle of this bill, which might be fairly stated in this way:—" In consequence of the extreme and admitted spiritual destitution of large portions of the population of this country, it is necessary to find funds wherewith to meet that destitution, and that one measure absolutely essential to that end is, that these stations should be deprived of their emoluments, and reduced to find means to be so applied." Now, he must be permitted to say, that if this bill were in itself such a measure as would tend largely to deteriorate the character and efficiency of the Church, he should bold that such an effect was a very great set-off against any advantages that might spring from its tendency to meet the spiritual wants of numerous portions of our countrymen. By depriving the Church of the benefits of those establishments which were now proposed to be done away a considerable deduction was made from the value of the bill. It had been stated by the highest authority, the most rev. Prelate himself, that the two great objects in view were, that there should be a transfer of cathedral property, leaving a sufficient number of canons for the due performance of divine service, and of funds for the sustentation of those magnificent fabrics. Those were the words of the most rev. Prelate, for he noted them down at the time. The noble Viscount (Melbourne) went the full length of saying, that "there 1119 could not be a doubt as to the general principle, that these institutions had no other duties (being sinecures) than the sustentation of the fabrics, and the due performance of divine service." Now, he could by no means admit that they were sinecures. He did not charge the noble Viscount, but other persons, with saying that they were sinecures. One could not walk the streets without hearing them repeatedly called sinecures. Some great persons had said, "We have done away with sinecures in the state, and we must now suppress those of the Church." They were no ordinary individuals who used that language, and it was upon the principle expressed in that language that the present bill proceeded. But those offices were not sinecures. They were not offices sine cura animarum. They were to maintain the services of religion, to preach the word of God, and thus they were to perform duties involving the care of souls. The cathedral was the mother church of the city. It was not a mere extra parochial church, nor a special parish church, but the mother church of the diocese—the church to which all the other churches of the diocese owed their allegiance. This was no inconsiderable point of the question. The preaching in cathedrals was usually of a superior character to that of the ordinary churches. He did not affirm that it was always so, but generally speaking it was so. Hence people resorted to the cathedrals to hear superior sermons, and no doubt when any of their Lordships happened to be sojourning in a cathedral town they took the opportunity of visiting that edifice—Not for the music, but the doctrine there.It was therefore necessary to secure persons of high qualifications to fill the offices in connexion with cathedral establishments. But the indirect advantages of these institutions were enormous. It had been jocosely said, that it was scarcely worth while to keep them up in order that they might perform duties which they had neglected to discharge for the last 300 years. But were there no benefits conferred upon the Christian population of this land by the residence of those who performed the offices of the cathedrals in the cathedral towns? The residence of a body of men of superior education, of 1120 tried experience, and of endowments of a high order, gave to provincial districts a high tone of sentiment, a love of literature, and a respect for all the best institutions of the country. Those, he confidently stated, were some of the fruits and experienced benefits of the residence of such men in such places. He could speak from experience with respect to the city with which he was connected. For a long series of years the Cathedral of Exeter had received the high respect of the inhabitants, from the high character of those who filled its offices. That cathedral had largely contributed to support the high principles for which that city had been celebrated. He did not wish to compare it with other cities, but he would say that Exeter was celebrated for those high principles in a degree which no other part of England had exceeded. Was that a trifle? A population of 40,000 persons had received prodigious and incalculable spiritual advantages from the Cathedral of Exeter, or rather from the body of nine persons connected with it—persons who largely contributed to the maintenance and promotion of all that was excellent in morals and sound in religion, and who had embued the minds of the youth of that city with respect for religion and attention to those duties which in after life would be demanded of them. Surely, then, there was sufficient reason why their Lordships should pause before they did anything to impair or destroy institutions which conferred so many advantages on the surrounding population. But this was not all. He was not going to contend that secular rewards should always be held out to the clergy as inducements to a proper discharge of their duty. He thought it was of inestimable importance to the country that there should be gradations in the clergy, in order that every rank of society should receive spiritual instruction, and that the clergy as body might be able to point out to all in their respective stations the duties which became them, and which as Christians they must discharge. It would not do, therefore, for every clergyman to be a man of wealth, and, generally speaking, the clergy were poor for their station in society. But then their connexion with their brethren, those who held offices in cathedrals, was calculated to gain for them a respect and a consideration which otherwise they could not perhaps receive. 1121 Thus these cathedral preferments became the means, in a cheap way, of endowing the clergy, and giving them that consequence in the estimation of the people which they ought to enjoy. What was the case in Exeter? There were about thirty clergymen in it. Of these perhaps twenty were parochial clergymen. They were rectors chiefly, not interfered with by moduses or circumstances of that kind. But their income was so small that they could not approach the higher society of the city, if they were not sustained by that high consideration for their character which was awarded in consequence of the influence produced by the resident prebendaries and other officers of the cathedral of Exeter. By means, then, of these institutions, the clergy obtained respect amongst the inhabitants. A kind of moral elevation in society was conferred on those clergymen in Exeter, several of whom, as the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack well knew, did not receive 100l. a-year for their services. But there was another advantage he would claim, although he knew it would not be admitted by the noble Viscount, who sneered at the notion of the bishop taking counsel of such persons as the canons of a cathedral, and said that a bishop should judge for himself, and that the fact of his being a Member of that House was a security that he would discharge his duties properly and efficiently. Now, he would go as far as the noble Viscount in saying that the presence of the bishops as members of that House was a security for the proper discharge of their duties to their brethren; for if ever they were guilty of any act of oppression towards a brother, they would assuredly be called to account for it in that House. But that was not enough; and he frankly told their Lordships that such a consideration had not the slightest weight with him. It never entered into his calculation in the discharge of his duty how much or how little he might be responsible to that House or not; at the same time he hoped he should never incur the censure of that House; but if he should, he trusted he should feel it as deeply as it was possible for any man to feel it, because he was sure that the censure would be just or it would not be expressed. But the anticipation of any censure from that House would never have any effect upon his conduct. But he felt that he should require support if he had to con- 1122 sider how he was to deal with a refractory clergyman, and how he was to act in cases of difficulty in other parts of his duty. In such cases it would be of immense advantage to be able to send for the residentiary canons, who were next door to him, as it were, or for the dean, to talk the matter over; and in one of the most important cases he had ever had to deal with, when he had occasion to call to account a clergyman, who appeared to him to have neglected one of the most important of his canonical duties, he sent for all the canons, who were good enough to come, and he had the satisfaction of receiving their support and assistance in the matter. That was a thing not to be thought of lightly. He knew he should be told that four of these persons would yet remain; but he did not think that the smaller number would prove more useful in this respect than in others. There was another important view of the case. These spiritual persons were scattered over the diocese, and thus they connected the diocese with the cathedral; the whole diocese in consequence looked up to the place where the cathedral was fixed, and they looked to the cathedral as the mother church, and as the centre of ecclesiastical union amongst them. The noble Viscount (Viscount Melbourne) had thought fit to say the other night, that theology was a very good thing in its way, but we had enough of it. He had taken down the words of the noble Viscount, spoken, as they were, in very choice English They were—"The study of theology may be a very good thing in its way, but it is not a thing that we want in these days." That was a very important admission for the noble Viscount to make, because it went to explain something that never was explained before. It would be in the recollection of their Lordships that a very few years ago there was a vacancy for a regius professor of divinity at Oxford. It got wind at Oxford that it was the intention of the noble Viscount to advise King William 4th to place in that post an individual whom the University of Oxford thought most unfit to be intrusted with the duty of giving instruction in theology there. He had been assured that representations were made to the most rev. Prelate on that subject, and he was requested to lay the objections to the appointment before his late Majesty; and he had reason to believe that they were 1123 made known to that Sovereign. But notwithstanding the appointment took place. It was clear, then, that on that occasion the noble Viscount did not think theology a grave subject with the University of Oxford, or he would not have insisted upon that appointment being made. But there was something else that astonished him infinitely more; it was, that the noble Viscount should have been permitted to make such a declaration in the presence of a most rev. Prelate, and several other Prelates who were his colleagues in the ecclesiastical commission, and who joined in making the recommendations upon which this bill was framed, without receiving from any one of them a rebuke. Not one of them all had ventured to reprove the noble Viscount for using such language. But it was language for which he ought to have been rebuked, and he therefore entreated the noble Marquess (Marquess of Lansdowne) to tell the noble Viscount (Viscount Melbourne, who was momentarily absent) what took place, and were the noble Viscount present, he should beg the noble Viscount to understand that he was rebuked by him for using that language. In the bill before their Lordships there was a provision announcing in its recital, that whereas her Majesty had expressed her royal will and intention to found two new professorships in the University of Oxford, it was expedient to make some permanent endowment for them, and then the bill went on to enact that the two next canonries of Christchurch which should fall vacant should be applied to form such an endowment. Now, he would ask, what were the subjects on which these two new professors were to give instruction to the University of Oxford? The subject was not theology, certainly. But if it was not theology, was one of the subjects to be geology? No, that would be too close a connexion with theology. He hoped, however, that their Lordships would not agree to pass that clause until they received satisfactory information on the subject. If the Government did not tell the House what it was that the two new professors were to teach, he trusted that their lordships would not agree to the grant of these two canonries for an endowment. Their Lordships had been told that cathedral institutions had done very little good to the country. Now, he thought it must be admitted that they had at least 1124 done some good, and he thought that they might be made to do much more. Let them be called upon to perform a greater amount of duty, but let not the church and the country be deprived of the great benefit which had already been derived from having such bodies. He entreated their Lordships to consider whether the existence of these bodies did not largely contribute towards the maintenance and support of those principles which it had hitherto been the boast of this country to assert and uphold. He therefore earnestly begged of their Lordships to do everything in their power which could have the effect of making these institutions more serviceable to the country, and then, if the parties now members of those bodies shrank from the performance of the duties assigned to them, he should be ready to abolish the institutions altogether. But let not these institutions be destroyed without an effort to augment their utility. If their Lordships destroyed chapters, they would at the same time destroy charters, which used to be considered sacred, and all for the sake of obtaining a revenue of 130,000l. The same principle would hold equally good if any of their Lordships were to be deprived of their estates. It had, indeed, been truly said, that this 130,000l. would enable the Church to take care of a very large portion of the country which was now in a state of great spiritual destitution. He did not deny this; but was it necessary to get this 130,000l. from the deans and chapters? The Government had said, that they could not go to the House of Commons and ask anything for the Church unless the Church did something for itself. Now, he was not only willing that the Church should do something for itself, but that the Church should do everything it could for itself, even in the way of raising money out of its own resources to supply the spiritual necessities of the people. But he would infinitely rather that this sum should be made a charge upon existing deans and chapters than that any one of them should be abolished. This proposal was not made to serve the present turn; he had long entertained this opinion, and had put it before his clergy, who had expressed their concurrence in it. The deans and chapters had as much right to their property as their Lordships had to their estates. He might be told, that the architectonical wisdom 1125 of the Legislature might regulate the application of the property of the Church, but the same architectonical wisdom might with equal justice lay down regulations for the distribution of their Lordships' private property. The estates of a noble Marquess, or a noble Duke, might produce more than 130,000l. a-year, and the Legislature might enact that he should enjoy his estates for his life, and that after the existing limitations had taken effect—for the principle was to preserve vested interests—the whole of his property should be applied to relieve the distress of Glasgow or Paisley. Let their Lordships, however, without violating any principle of property, see what the Church could and would do. He believed that the returns of the amount of Church property showed that the aggregate income of the twenty - six bishops was about 150,000l., and about 200,000l. a-year was derived from the revenues of all the chapters. But did these individuals and these bodies make the most of their properly? He believed not. If it were dealt with as lay property was dealt with, it would certainly produce much more. He asked, therefore, the noble Viscount to enforce on the bishops, and on the deans and chapters, the duty of making as much of their property as it would fetch, and then there would be enough to meet the demands which were made by the spiritual destitution of the country. He would point out a way, too, in which this vast spiritual destitution might be remedied without interfering with the vested interests of the deans and chapters. A right rev. Friend of his told their Lordships some time ago a little history which he thought very amusing. His right rev. Friend came down to the House and gave vent to his indignation at—for he would call things by their right names—the perfidy of the conduct which the Church commission had experienced from the noble Viscount and his colleagues. His right rev. Friend said, that there was an end of all communication together between the Prelates and the other commissioners. His right rev. Friend had also stated, in a charge to his clergy, that upon Sir Robert Peel's retirement from office, the proceedings of the commissioners were for some time suspended, but as soon as Lord Melbourne had settled his administration, he made known to the Archbishop of Canterbury the wish 1126 of the Government, that the commission should be renewed, with a change merely in those members of the commission who had been members of the former Government. Before, however, the Prelates agreed to that request, they required a pledge from the Prime Minister, that the commission should be formed upon the same principles as before, and that no measure affecting the property of the Church should be introduced into Parliament with the consent and sanction of the Government until an inquiry had been instituted by the commission. The pledge was given, a new commission accordingly issued, and the inquiries, which had been for a short time suspended, were resumed. Unanimity among the members of the commission continued up to the time when Ministers took measures for bringing the property belonging to deans and chapters under the control of Parliament, with the avowed intention of applying the sums obtained from the improved value given to the property in aid of the money lost to the Church by the abolition of church-rates. This being regarded, as well it might, as a violation of the pledge which had been given by the Prime Minister, the Prelates announced, that they could no longer take any part in the preparation of measures relating to the property of the Church. His right rev. Friend had told their Lordships, that the question of a different management of the property of deans and chapters had been very much considered in the commission, as it was one considered likely to give a much greater value to the property of the Church. However, the commissioners, excepting those who were members of the Government, signed a representation declaring to the ministers, that they could no longer meet them till this measure of perfidy had been withdrawn. The Government were at that time ready to violate the law to gratify the Dissenters, and it remained to be seen whether they would be willing to act in accordance with the law in order to relieve the spiritual destitution of the Church. Now, all the money that was wanted might be obtained by an improved method of dealing with Church property. The statute of Elizabeth was not meant for the benefit of lessees, but was intended to restrain lessors from impoverishing property of which they were the mere usufructuaries. 1,000,000l. sterling might 1127 be obtained, therefore, by this method, which would be sufficient to endow 3,000 or 4,000 benefices, and relieve the great spiritual destitution which prevailed. If, then, this course was just and reasonable, why should it not be adopted? The present bill did not present itself in so well-considered and perfect a form as might have been expected from the recommendation of the eminent individuals concerned in the commission. Its provisions were, in truth, marvellously ill-considered. The bill left to the cathedral of St. Paul, in London, the four canons residentiary which it already possessed, with all their revenues, while it took from that of Exeter the four canons it now possessed and their revenues. This, he thought, was enough to prove to their Lordships, he did not say the injustice of the measure, but the negligence of the commissioners, in not making the proper inquiries. He submitted to their Lordships, that it would be only fair to leave it to the commissioners to satisfy themselves whether they ought not in certain dioceses to enlarge the number of the prebendaries. He would ask only this—that they should be enabled to go to the extent of six in any diocese, and not more. He believed that such a measure would be found just and right for many reasons. It was absurd to say, that there was no difference between a large and small diocese in the demand for some of the purposes which they were instituted to serve. He hoped the most rev. Prelate would not be displeased with him for what he was now going to say, but would rather give him thanks for it, but he must declare, that the bill dealt with the metropolitan chapter of Canterbury in a manner perfectly disgraceful. That was a chapter which had existed since the time of St. Augustin, who founded the Anglo-Saxon church, having succeeded to the greatest part of the property and privileges of the metropolitan abbey of Canterbury, Under the present constitution of the Church, the most meritorious of the clergy of the diocese might expect to become canons, but the present bill, if it passed, would cut off almost all chance of this. Without any shadow of justice, but merely as a matter of convenience, the commissioners proposed to sweep away the charters of vicars choral, which had existed for 600 years. He must say that this was the last place in the kingdom in which he should have ex- 1128 pected any favour to be shown to such a proposition. Charters used to be considered rather serious things, although of late years he admitted they had lost much of the sacredness of character they once possessed with their Lordships. He was aware that they were now too often considered what Mr. Burke never ceased to be reproached for having once called them, "pieces of parchment with bits of wax at the end of them." Some of the provisions of this bill were absolutely monstrous, showing a direct disregard of things hitherto considered sacred in this country. He would venture to say that the grievous injustice and absurdity of these provisions never would have found an author, if the preparation of the bill had been intrusted to any single Member of the commission. Not one of those eminent persons, he dared to say, possessed a mind so miserably small as to be capable of devising such a scheme. No; it required the united crotchetyness, the no-wisdom of the whole body, to recommend such a measure to their Lordships. He implored those most venerable men to consider well what they were doing, and what was within their power. He had pointed out a mode by which, in strict compliance with the spirit of English law, their Lordships might afford relief to that enormous evil of spiritual destitution, which had been so greatly exposed. He called upon them, by all the considerations which could weigh with men of their station and qualities, to give effect to that course, or to show that they could not, consistently with justice, do so. Let them satisfy him of that, and he would not ask them to adopt it. Let them show that he had demanded what could not be granted with justice, and he would be content that they should refuse it; but he said that they must adopt that course, so far as was consistent with justice, or be assailed by reproaches in their own breasts far more cutting than any that could proceed from him. Their adversary he was not; he venerated the first among them in a degree he could not express, but it was because he did so that he now called on that most rev. Prelate in the presence of the bench of bishops, who were witnesses to his adulation, and upon his right rev. colleagues, to do their utmost to obtain this great boon, which would satisfy one of the most obvious claims of justice. It might be that some who now heard him 1129 would lose various amounts of beneficial interest by acceding to the plan he proposed; but, knowing as he did what were the high principles which actuated the nobles of this land, he did not believe that many among them would be so forgetful of their duty to themselves, their country, and their God, as to refuse to rescue millions of their countrymen from that depth of vice, ignorance, and sin, in which they were at this moment plunged. For himself, he should only say, that within the narrow limits in which he had provided for those who were most dear to him, when God should please to take him hence, he had done so in a great degree by means of Church leases. Holding the opinion he had endeavoured to express, he now declared most solemnly that he was anxious their Lordships should strip his family of the beneficial interest which was inconsistent with justice to the interests of the Church. In saying so he believed he but expressed the sentiments of every right rev. Prelate who had benefited by this species of property. He called on their Lordships to adopt a general measure, in order to give to Church property its due value, and enable Parliament to redress one of the greatest practical evils which had ever afflicted this country.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
rose for the purpose of setting the right rev. Prelate who had just sat down right upon a point on which it was quite evident that he had misunderstood him. The right rev. Prelate understood me to say, that I had gone to his grace the Duke of Wellington, and afterwards to Earl Grey, and had expressed to them my desire for a Church reform. Now, what I stated was this, that the very words which the noble Duke used in his place a few nights ago with respect to this measure, were the words which he employed to me in a conversation, upon this subject. I said, that I had had several confidential communications with the noble Duke upon this subject. The noble Duke told me that something must be done upon it, but that that something must in the first instance come from the Church. I said, that subsequently, when Earl Grey succeeded to the administration, he held to me the same language. Then the right rev. Prelate adverts to a message on the subject which I received from Earl Grey, and which I communicated to the rest of the bishops at Lambeth. I cannot charge my 1130 memory with the exact terms which I then used, but I am ready to receive as correct his statement of what I then said. The right rev. Prelate says also, that because I agreed to that statement, and carried back an answer from the bishops to Earl Grey's message, I was of the same opinion with him up to the year 1834. Now, in my own justification, I must state, that my opinion of reform did not go so far then as the right rev. Prelate has stated. I was very unwilling at that time to be a party to any measure of Church reform—for such was the excitement then existing in the public mind, that I could not bring myself to believe that Church reform could then be entered on with safety to the Church itself. I thought, however, then, as I think now, that something was necessary to be done, but I hardly saw with whom or in what manner that reform could be originated until I saw the formation of the Administration of Sir R. Peel, and until that right hon. Baronet had stated his views upon the subject. In those views I gladly concurred, and the issuing of this commission was the result. I therefore trust that I have now said sufficient to prove that there is no inconsistency on my part with, respect to the opinions which I held and expressed up to the year 1834.
The Bishop of Exeter
was understood to corroborate his former statement by a reference to a charge delivered by the Bishop of London to the clergy of his diocese in the year 1837. His right rev. Friend, in alluding to the outcry which had been raised against the Church Commissioners, said, that it had been stated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his speech to the House of Lords in the year 1836, that "he had long been aware of the necessity of taking strong measures for the correction of the abuses and for the remedy of the anomalies which had crept into the church." His right rev. Friend added, that the Archbishop said, "that the first step after his accession to the primacy was to confer with the noble Duke on the subject of these abuses and these anomalies, and that a bill for their correction and removal was ready at the time when the change took place in the Administration."
The Archbishop of Canterbury
.—That is perfectly true. I have said that I had conferred with the Duke of Wellington on the subject.
The Bishop of Exeter
—Well; I stated nothing more on the subject than that the right rev. Prelate did confer with the noble Duke. But, to proceed with the extract—"On the accession of Earl Grey to power the Archbishop of Canterbury declared his views to Earl Grey, and met from him the same ready concurrence which he had already met from his predecessor in office." What, he would ask, was the meaning of that sentence?
The Archbishop of Canterbury
.—Concurrence to the point that many abuses had crept into the Church, and ought to be corrected, on which point the right, rev. Prelate himself used stronger language, and proposed much more searching and vigorous improvements, than any contained in the present bill.
The Bishop of Exeter
I am bound to say, and I say it with great pain, that after what has just passed, there must be given to the world the correspondence which then look place between me and his grace the Primate.
§ The Duke of Wellington
felt himself called upon to say a few words in reference to what had fallen from the right rev. Prelates who had just addressed the House. He could not inform their Lordships of the terms of the conference which had taken place between himself and his grace the Archbishop of Canterbury: "for, to say the truth," continued the noble Duke, "I do not recollect one word of it. But this I do know, that I never entertained but one opinion on this subject. That opinion was, that it was essentially necessary that additional measures ought to be adopted in this country for preaching the word of God to the people thereof; and that, considering in what degrees the Church of this country was endowed, it was expedient that the first step in order to procure funds for that purpose should be made by the clergy themselves. I always entertained those opinions. When any of the right rev. Prelates opposite conversed with me on this subject, I stated those opinions. I cannot recollect on what, occasion or in what words those opinions were delivered to the most rev. Prelate, but in presenting a petition to your Lordships a few nights ago, from the University of Oxford against this bill, I said I hat in my correspondence with that university I had stated the same opinions, and that latterly I had gone still further, and said, 1132 that those persons must have derived but little advantage from what had recently occurred who did not see that fresh cause was arising every day for thinking that it was absolutely necessary that the first step should be taken by the clergy themselves; and when a commission, consisting of such men as the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, and their other rev. Colleagues, reported that there were means equivalent to this purpose, it was ridiculous to suppose that Parliament, would not insist that those means should be resorted to before the public was called on to find other resources for this most important and most necessary service. I have listened to the debates which have been going on for the last two or three nights, and indeed I may say for many nights before on this important subject, and it appears to me that there is no difference of opinion amongst us on these points—namely, that means must be found of preaching the word of God to the people of England; and I go further—for this point is also not disputed—that those means must proceed in the first instance from the Church, and that they must be exhausted before the public be called on for other means. My Lords, in providing those means, you will not only be performing a duty incumbent upon you, but you will also be following the example of every other nation in the world. It has been my lot to live amongst idolaters—among persons of all creeds, and of all religions—but I never knew yet of a single instance in which public means were not provided sufficient to teach the people the religion of their country. There might be false religions; I know but of one true one; but yet means were never wanting to teach those false religions, and I hope that we shall not have done with this subject until we have found sufficient means for teaching the people of England their duty to their Maker, and their duty to one another, founded on their duty to that Maker. I hope that such will be the result of this discussion, and I feel infinite obligation to the right rev. Prelate opposite, because he has stated broadly in his speech to-night, that if justice is done to the resources of the Church, we shall be fully able to maintain a church such as this great country ought to maintain. And, besides that, we shall be enabled to teach the word of God to every 1133 individual living under the protection of her most sacred Majesty. That is what I most anxiously desire to see, and shall most cordially co-operate in effecting. I think that this bill is a fair commencement of such a consummation so devoutly to be wished for, and I hope that its enactments will be so framed before it comes out of the committee, that they may be the foundation of something more, and tend to the effectual maintenance of the Church on its old system."
The Bishop of London
spoke to the following effect:*—My Lords, I rise with unfeigned reluctance, for the purpose of troubling your Lordships with a few observations upon the speech of my right rev. Friend. Upon all accounts it is expedient that those observations should be as few as it is possible for me to make, consistently with the discharge of a duty which I owe to your Lordships and to myself. I am anxious that this bill should be suffered to go into committee without any unnecessary delay, and I am still more anxious that nothing should fall from me on this occasion, of a nature still further to exacerbate those feelings, which the speech of my rev. Friend is too well calculated to excite. It was not without satisfaction that I heard the debate on the second reading of the bill brought to a close, without a speech from my right rev. Friend, knowing as I did the weight and sharpness of those weapons which he brings to bear upon every controverted question, and believing it to be not improbable, that he would say something in the course of his speech calculated to call forth a reply from the defenders of the bill, which might exasperate those whom it is our duty, no less than our interest, to conciliate as far as possible, to this measure. That apprehension has been unhappily justified by the speech which has now been delivered by my right rev. Friend. I am afraid that in the answer, which I shall feel it my duty to make to his observations, I shall find it extremely difficult to steer my course altogether clear of that rock which I am so desirous of avoiding. I know the difficulty and delicacy of the subject. I can make every* From a correct report published by Fellowes. It had the following notice. In the reports given of this speech in the news papers, one whole division of it, from the beginning of the last paragraph in p. 9 (1139), to the first part of p. 12 (1141) was entirely omitted.1134 allowance for the feelings of a considerable number of my brethren of the clergy who are hostile to this measure; and although they have in some instances given vent to those feelings in a manner not quite consistent with Christian charity or candour, I earnestly desire not to wound them unnecessarily. I must say, that the proceedings and motives of the commissioners have been, from first to last, made the subject of the grossest misrepresentation—I will not say of wilful misrepresentation, but I find it difficult to reconcile with my notions of sincerity and truth the misstatements which have been made by some persons, who either did know or might, and therefore ought to have known the real facts of the case. But let that pass. My Lords, I have never risen to address your Lordships under feelings of more painful embarrassment than those which oppress me on the present occasion. Upon a question of vital importance to the religion and the Church of this country I have the unhappiness to find myself opposed to many, for whom, personally, I entertain the truest regard, and to whose opinions I am accustomed to look with respect. If the question at issue were of less magnitude than it is, if the interests which it involves were but of trivial or temporary importance, I might perhaps, though unconvinced, submit my judgment to theirs, and concede to their authority that which I might not be prepared to yield to their arguments. But the subject now under consideration is of such immeasurable importance, so nearly affecting the glory of God and the well-being of his Church; it is one which I have so long and so painfully considered, that I should be doing violence to my own conscience, and deserting what appears to me to be a sacred duty, did I not come forward and declare the opinion which I entertain, unchanged as it is by anything which I have heard in this House, or read elsewhere upon the subject. I do not mean to say, that there may not be some features of the measure now before your Lordships which require, or admit of modification; we do not pretend that the bill, in its present shape, is a perfect piece of legislation. I will not say, that there may not be some inconsistencies in our recommendations. But I entreat your Lordships to consider the difficulties by which the commissioners have been surrounded. When our first report upon this subject 1135 was made, it was for a time pretty generally approved. Afterwards came objections and remonstrances; these were considered, and alterations were made, to meet them, as far as they could be met consistently with the great objects in view. Then we were assailed from other quarters with objections to our amended propositions; and these also we endeavoured to obviate, at least in part. Lastly there fell a shower of remonstrances against our supposed improvements; and the attempt to satisfy objectors, without sacrificing the principle of our recommendations, appeared to be hopeless. Under these circumstances, my Lords, we may be thought to deserve some indulgence, if the measure which we have ultimately proposed, be not perfect in all its parts. But as to the principle of the measure, and all its main features, my own opinion remains wholly unchanged. I may be thought, perhaps, to expose myself to the charge of obstinacy, in clinging so tenaciously to a position from which so many good and prudent men are seeking to dislodge me. But of obstinacy, my Lords, if by that word be understood a determined adherence to opinions once embraced, to the exclusion of argument, and in despite of conviction, my conscience entirely acquits me. If at this moment I could be convinced, that I have hitherto taken an erroneous view of this most important question. I beg your Lordships to be assured, that no feeling of pride, no false shame, would for a moment restrain me from acknowledging my error, and passing over to the ranks of my opponents. But it is not so. My opinion is unaltered, and I owe a duty to the Church, which I must perform according to my own view of its obligation, not withstanding all the obloquy and unpopularity to which it may subject me; for be it remembered, that the course which the commissioners have felt themselves bound to take, is from the nature of the case, invidious and unpopular, and therefore one, to which nothing but a strong sense of duty would have impelled them. It is always unpopular to meddle with existing institutions in the way of reform and improvement, even where vested rights are respected. The present holders of those rights consider, not unnaturally, that a proposition to deprive their successors of those rights, casts some reflection on themselves, as enjoying that of which the general good requires the surrender. But the unpopularity of the 1136 measure now before your Lordships would never have reached its present height, had not the greatest diligence been used by those, whose feelings were more directly interested, to excite the sympathy of others. The most extraordinary assertions, and the most extraordinary arguments have been employed, to alarm the fears of the clergy, and to move them to active opposition. Many of them, I am persuaded, have been under a delusion on this subject. Many of them have been induced, by the authority, or persuasion of others, to sign petitions, without clearly understanding the real bearings of the case. Many of them, I do not say all, but many, I believe, do not even yet comprehend the exact purport of the bill now under discussion. Many of the arguments which have been urged against it proceed upon the assumption, that the commissioners have recommended the entire abolition of cathedral institutions, instead of merely diminishing the number of their members, and increasing, as I believe, their efficiency. My right rev. Friend has dwelt with exultation, on the fact, that not less than three thousand signatures are attached to petitions against the bill; three thousand, out of twelve or fifteen thousand clergymen interested in the question. My Lords, considering the methods which have been employed to obtain signatures, I am surprised, that a far greater number have not been procured. I could easily get as many to petition upon any subject connected with the Church. The mode by which in the present case a great proportion of these signatures have been obtained, is as follows:—the archdeacon, who has always great influence with the parochial clergy, and justly so, as visiting them every year, and as being in habits of more familiar intercourse with them than their bishop, and who is moreover considered by them as acting, in some degree, with the sanction of the bishop, circulates printed forms of petition against the bill amongst the rural deans; the rural dean goes with them to the parochial clergy; and he must be a bold, or a very well-informed man, who refuses to sign a petition so recommended by his immediate ecclesiastical superiors. One of my right rev. Colleagues in the commission, upon looking over, the other night, a petition which had been presented from one of the archdeaconries of the diocese of Lincoln, found the signatures of some clergymen whom he knew 1137 not to belong to the archdeaconry. All this, however, is wide of the real question at issue, which is, the wisdom and justice of the measure now under your Lordships' consideration. It has been stated, by the learned counsel who were heard at the bar of the House, that a measure of this kind, which goes to suppress certain ancient offices, can be justified only upon one of three grounds, failure in the performance of duty on the part of those who hold those offices, misfeasance, or necessity. It is not necessary for me to dwell upon the first of these grounds. It has been admitted on all sides, that there has been almost from the foundation of our chapters, a failure, on the part of their members, in the performance of the duties prescribed by their respective statutes. But I do not wish to insist upon that topic. I would rather take my stand upon the stronger ground of necessity. The state of things which constitutes that necessity is too notorious to be denied. It is admitted by all parties, that there exists in this country at the present moment an appalling amount of spiritual destitution, and all parties are equally ready to admit the absolute necessity of making some provision for remedying that fearful evil. My Lords, there is no occasion for my troubling your Lordships with any details, in confirmation of that which none deny. But I may be permitted to say, that no person has more ample opportunities of witnessing that spiritual destitution, nor more frequent occasion to deplore it, than I have, as bishop of the diocese in which this vast metropolis is situate. Weekly, almost daily, is brought under my notice some instance of the evil which results from the present state of things. I am continually brought into contact, in the discharge of my official duties, with vast masses of my fellow-creatures, living without God in the world. I traverse the streets of this crowded city with deep and solemn thoughts of the spiritual condition of its inhabitants. I pass the magnificent church which crowns the metropolis, and is consecrated to the noblest of objects, the glory of God, and I ask of myself in what degree it answers that object. I see there a dean, and three residentiaries, with incomes amounting in the aggregate to between 10,000l. and 12,000l. a-year. I see, too, connected with the cathedral twenty-nine clergymen, whose offices are all but sinecures, with an annual income f about 12,000l. at the 1138 present moment, and likely to be very much larger after the lapse of a few years. I proceed a mile or two to the east and north-east and find myself in the midst of an immense population in the most wretched state of destitution and neglect, artizans, mechanics, labourers, beggars, thieves, to the number of at least 300,000. I find there, upon an average, about one church, and one clergyman for every 8,000 or 10,000 souls; in some districts a much smaller amount of spiritual provision; in one parish, for instance, only one church, and one clergyman for 40,000 people. I naturally look back to the vast endowments of St. Paul's, a part of them drawn from these very districts, and consider whether some portion of them may not be applied to remedy, or alleviate, those enormous evils. No, I am told, you may not touch St. Paul's. It is an ancient corporation which must be maintained in its integrity. Not a stall can be spared. The duties performed there are too important, to admit of any diminution of the number of those who perform them. One sermon is preached every Sunday by a residentiary, and another by a clergyman appointed by the bishop and paid by the corporation of London; while the non-residentiaries either preach an occasional sermon on Saints' days, or pay a minor canon for preaching it. And yet, if the principle of perfect integrity as to numbers, and property, is to be maintained, as the opponents of this measure assert, not a farthing must be taken from those splendid endowments, for which so little duty is performed, to furnish spiritual food to some of the thousands of miserable, destitute souls, that are perishing of famine in the neighbourhood of this abundance. Is it then asserted, at this time of day, that there can be no such thing as a lawful re-distribution of Church property? My Lords, the principle of re-distribution is one which must be acted upon from time to time, or the Church, as an endowed Church, will cease to exist. It is a principle which has been acted upon by every branch of the Christian Church; by the Church of Rome in different parts of Europe, and by the Church of this country. What was the alienation of tithes from their original destination, the spiritual instruction of the parishioners, to the uses of religious houses, but a re-distribution of ecclesiastical property? What was the resump- 1139 tion of those tithes, and their appropriation to other purposes, in the time of King Henry 8th., but a fresh re-distribution? The Cathedrals, my Lords, of the new foundation, exist only in virtue of re-distribution, a second re-distribution, made, as it was supposed, for the better advancement of God's glory: and now, the Legislature, which my right rev. Friend has justly designated as the representative of a Christian people, steps in to effect a third, but only a partial redistribution, for the purpose of accomplishing an arrangement most directly tending to that all important end. But I must confess, my Lords, that to hear the principle of re-distribution, and of alienation, so vehemently condemned, and the sacredness and inviolability of capitular rights and property so strenuously asserted by my right rev. Friend, does excite my astonishment; and it will, I think, when you have heard what I am about to state, occasion some surprise to your Lordships. My right rev. Friend has alluded to some suggestions of his own, which were communicated, through the medium of other parties, to the Commissioners. I rejoice that he has this evening, by declaring his willingness to have those suggestions made known to the public, relaxed the inhibition under which he had laid me, by censuring me for having alluded, in my charge, to that communication which he considered to have been confidential. I rejoice, my Lords, that he has, with great candour, taken off that restriction, because I shall be able to show your Lordships, that, as far as the great principle of our recommendations is concerned, they are fully justified by the suggestions of my right rev. Friend, and I do not understand how he can reconcile them with his unqualified condemnation of that principle. In the suggestions on chapters and pre-bends, my right rev. Friend says, "In looking to the great revenues of the Chapter of Durham, it may be well to consider, whether that body may not fairly be required (reserving vested interests) to make these revenues more available to the general interests of the Church." The general interests, my Lords? Why that is the very aim and object of our recommendation. But let us see how my right rev. Friend proceeds to deal with the property of that Chapter, of which he is himself a member. He proposes, in the first place, to take the separate estates of the 1140 dean and prebendaries, averaging, the dean's 4,000l. or 5,000l., and each prebendary's 700l. per annum.Now it will probably," he says, "be considered sufficient, in the case of future incumbents, to leave to them only their share of the common dividend. The peculiar estates, or corpses, as they are called, of the deanery and stalls might be employed in endowing poor benefices with cure of souls.To this, the chapters will perhaps say, we do not object; provided that the benefices so endowed are those of which we are the impropriators, or at least are connected with our estates. But what say the suggestions?As there would be a sum of 12,000l. or 13,000l. per annum, very important good might be effected by it. In particular it might be specially applied to endow thirty or forty benefices in populous manufacturing districts in Yorkshire and Lancashire, reserving the patronage of the benefices so created to the chapter whose funds endow them.The recommendations of the commissioners go but little beyond this. But still, this alienation may be effected without suppressing any dignities. The integrity of numbers, upon which my right rev. Friend insists so strongly, need not be violated. Let us see what the suggestions next propose.In those chapters which are mainly endowed with tithes, it might be advisable to reduce the number of canons, rather than forego this important provision (of augmenting poor vicarages). The Chapter of Windsor has, in the diocese of Exeter alone, at least a dozen very small livings (with scarcely a single house of residence among them), of which the chapter has the great tithes. The consequence of laying the proposed charge on the Chapter of Windsor, would probably be such a reduction of its revenues as might render necessary a reduction of the number of its canons. A similar consequence may follow in other cases. But it appears to be absolutely necessary, for the favourable estimation of chapters in general, that they be no where felt to be the cause of an inadequate endowment of a cure of souls.How can this suggestion be reconciled with my right rev. Friend's emphatic assertion, that the integrity of those bodies was essential to the effective performance of their duties? But this reduction of numbers, in the particular cases alluded to, may, perhaps, be unavoidable; you are not therefore justified in suppressing any other offices. What do the suggestions say? 1141With respect to prebends not having seats in any chapter, of which, in several of the old dioceses there are many, it may be fairly questioned, whether their continuance is at all desirable. Their revenues, upon the next vacancies, might be applied, without invading the fair rights or reasonable expectations of the lessees, to other useful purposes. The tithes held under them might still be leased, with a strict attention, however, to the provision made in the case of chapters, viz., that every lease of tithes belonging to a prebend shall reserve such a sum to be paid to the incumbent, as shall make his income at least 200l. per annum, with a house provided, if necessary, by Gilbert's Act. With this exception, both the tithes and lands belonging to these prebends might be leased on ordinary terms to the present lessees, and the fee might vest for that purpose in the chapter or archdeacon, who might be required to pay the fine to a fund, which, under the direction of the bishop (who is in all cases patron of those stalls) might provide for the endowment or augmentation of benefices with cure of souls which are in need.Here, my Lords, I think we have the principles of suppression, and resumption, and re-distribution, pretty distinctly embodied. It is true, that the commissioners have carried this principle somewhat further than my right rev. Friend proposed; but he must not complain, if, having furnished us with the right principle, we go somewhat beyond him in applying it. But this reminds me of an objection taken by one of the learned counsel at the bar, whose speech was eminently distinguished by talent, ingenuity, research, eloquence, and high feeling. That Gentleman argued, that we, who are bishops, are bound by the oath which we take upon our enthronement, not to consent to any scheme for the alienation of any part of the cathedral property, or for the diminution of their rights: and I deeply lament that one of my right rev. Brethren (the Bishop of Rochester) should also have asserted this, in language calculated to fix a most serious imputation upon us, an imputation in fact of little less than perjury. By that charge, my Lords, my conscience is entirely unscathed. I pledged myself, when I became Bishop of London, to defend the rights and privileges of St. Paul's Cathedral, and to observe the approved customs thereof, and such as should be hereafter approved of, so far as they are not contrary and repugnant to the word of God, and the statutes, laws, provisions, ordinances, and injunctions of this realm, and 1142 the prerogative of the Crown. I have always considered this oath as binding me to defend those rights from all unlawful aggressions; certainly not as precluding me from assenting to any changes effected by competent authority, which I might think would render the institution more conducive to the glory of God. If the oath be construed in a more stringent sense than this, look to the inconvenient consequences which would follow. The bishop would be restrained from assenting to an alienation of the smallest fraction of the revenues of his chapter, even for the best purposes. He could not permit the assignment of an increased stipend to the vicar of a poor benefice of which the dean and chapter are impropriators, certainly not the endowment of a new Church built upon one of their estates, even at their urgent instance; for if he is bound by his oath to maintain all their rights unimpaired, he is bound to maintain them against the act of the chapter themselves, in behalf of their successors: and as every dean, and, I believe, every prebendary, but certainly every dean, takes a similar oath, they would not, according to this interpretation of it, be at liberty to make, even by an unanimous vote, any such alienation: and I do not, I confess, understand how it happens, that the parties, who insist so strongly upon the stringent nature of our oath, as bishops, should have found it so easy to loosen the obligation of their own oaths, as deans and prebendaries, and to recommend, under another shape, the very same thing which they say our oath ought to have restrained us from doing; for they have proposed a taxation upon all capitular property, and the entire, or nearly the entire, alienation of all the property belonging to the non-residentiary prebends. As far as the oath is concerned, it makes no difference that this alienation should be made with the consent of the chapters themselves, for, as has been well observed by the learned counsel, they are guardians of their rights for their successors as well as themselves: their property is the property of the corporation, not of each particular corporator, of the Church, not of the individual dignitary. But I should be glad to learn, whether the non-residentiary prebendaries who are, by the statutes, just as much members of chapters as the canons residentiary, have all been consulted, as to this proposal, so freely made by their brethren, to alienate 1143 all their property; and whether their consents have been obtained; and whether, even if their consents have been given, they were at liberty to give them according to this interpretation of the oath? The deans and canons and prebendaries are just as much bound by it as the bishops, but in truth none of them are bound by it in any other sense than that of resisting unlawful aggression. I say nothing of the oath by which the right rev. Prelate, who has thought fit to insinuate this charge, himself a dean of a Cathedral Church, and every other dean, and every canon, are bound, to observe all the statutes and laudable customs of their respective Cathedrals, very many of which are notoriously disregarded. But to return to the question of necessity. It is stated by the commissioners in their second report, that the evils resulting from the want of sufficient provision for the religious teaching and pastoral superintendence of the people, far outweigh all the other inconveniences occasioned by anomalies in our ecclesiastical establishments. If I am asked what those evils are? I reply, Look at the examples of Newport, and Birmingham, and Sheffield. Inquire at the gaol, the hulk, the penitentiary, what are the fruits of religious destitution and neglect. Read the calendars at every gaol delivery. Hear the charges of our venerable judges, and then determine whether, when we have the means of remedying those evils, in part at least, we shall suffer thousands and thousands of our fellow-creatures to live in ignorance and sin, debarred from those privileges which are their birthright as members of Christ's holy Catholic Church. My Lords, it has been again and again alleged that the scheme of the commissioners was adopted under the influence of fear; and one of the learned counsel observed, that the prudent mariner, who, while the storm is raging, contemplates some desperate measure as a last resource, will not think of putting it into execution when the danger is past. Whether the danger be indeed past, I shall consider presently. But, if it be imputed to the commissioners that they acted under the influence of fear, I, for one, my Lords, and I am persuaded that I may say the same for my colleagues, plead guilty to the charge. But of what fear? Was it the fear of popular clamour? Was it the fear of those demagogues—I retract the term, for 1144 it is not a question of mere political agitation—of those fierce adversaries who beleaguer our Sion, and, at the very moment when she is most active and faithful in the performance of her duties, are loudest with the cry of "Down with her, down with her even to the ground." No, my Lords, the fear which swayed us was no such unworthy, unholy fear as this. It was the fear of being found unfaithful to our trust, in leaving so many of our fellow-Christians under the pressure of evils which it was in our power to alleviate, a prey to the emissaries of infidelity, and disloyalty, and vice; a fear, lest those classes of society which ought to be the basis and strength of the commonwealth, should become, in the total absence of religious principle and moral restraint, its bane, and the instruments of its desolation. That fear, my Lords, undoubtedly we felt; and that fear still weighs upon my mind, and urges me to the adoption of every practicable method of obviating, or lessening the danger, a danger not remote, nor contingent, but present, and urgent; it has already existed too long unregarded; it is approaching, if it has not attained its height; and not a year, not a month is to be lost, in commencing a remedial process. Then, my Lords, as to the calm, of which the learned counsel spoke, as having succeeded a storm, it is very true that the popular clamour for Church reform has, in a great degree, subsided: and that it has done so, is very mainly owing to the proceedings of the commission, which the public have taken as the evidence of a sincere desire on the part of the Church to correct its own abuses, and to give increased efficiency to its movements; and they wait with patience for a more substantial proof of our sincerity. But, my Lords, the learned counsel, and those whom he represents, are grievously mistaken, if they imagine that the calm, or rather lull, which now prevails, will be of long continuance, if no effective measures are taken to remove, or lessen the anomalies which our Cathedral bodies now present, and to make them really conducive to the spiritual instruction of the people. The winds are chained for a season in their cavern; but ere long they will burst forth with redoubled violence, and shipwreck perhaps the vessel of the Established Church. Deans and canons may repose a few years longer in their stalls, unshorn of a single item of 1145 dignity or revenue; but by and by reform will come upon them as a strong man armed, and will take from them their armour wherein they trusted, and divide the spoils. But now, my Lords, for the uses of these venerable institutions; let us see whether, first, they are such as the opponents of this bill describe them, and secondly, if they are, whether it be necessary to their answering these uses, that they should be maintained in all their completeness of numbers, different as those numbers are in different Cathedrals. In the first place, then, it was asserted by one of the learned counsel at the bar, that they are necessary, as furnishing auxiliary theologians to the bishop: that bishops are now too much engaged in business of various kinds to be able to keep pace with the controversial divinity of the day, and that, therefore, their chapters must study controversy for them: so that if I should be called in question for any opinion which I may advance upon a theological subject, I am not to venture upon the difficult task of answering it myself, but I must go to one of my canons, my facetious friend for instance, whose serious petition was presented the other night, and request him to pen a theological pamphlet in my behalf. I am really astonished that such an argument should have been employed. But then the chapters are the bishop's council, and in that capacity can by no means be spared. My Lords, such a council as they are, the bishop will have them still, for it will hardly be pretended that five councillors are not sufficient for him. But, in truth, they are not, and never have been, in this country at least, a council to the bishop; unless, indeed, we go back to those early ages when the bishop resided in his Cathedral city, surrounded by his clergy, who were sent round to the neighbouring villages, sometimes to preach the word, more commonly to minister the sacraments of the Church, but there were then no deans and chapters. I venture to assert that there is no instance to be found, in the annals of the English Church, of any such council as our opponents suppose. It is a mere theoretical fiction. There are, indeed, some papal rescripts which allude to such a custom, in other countries, but they rather find fault with bishops for not using it, than prove its prevalence; and in this country, as I have already said, no such custom ever prevailed. 1146 And how could it, my Lords? The deans and chapters of the old foundation, at a very early period after their institution, sought for and obtained papal exemptions from the bishop's jurisdiction, and then set him at defiance. For instance, the Dean of Salisbury has under his peculiar jurisdiction more than eighty parishes, withdrawn from that of the Bishop; and were that deanery held by a different kind of person from the excellent individual who now holds it, he might most seriously interfere with the right administration of the diocese. But further than this, deans and chapters are not the fittest persons to be councillors to the Bishop. They know nothing of the state of the diocese; they have nothing to do with the parochial clergy; they are not competent to advise the Bishop on matters relating to them. The Bishop's proper councillors are his archdeacons and rural deans, who are thoroughly acquainted with the state of all the parishes, and with the characters of the clergy. Their counsel is indeed of the highest value, and I can safely declare, with regard to myself, that I rarely decide upon any question of importance, affecting a parish or its clergyman, without first consulting the archdeacon and rural dean. It is by means of these officers, and not by parcelling out the diocese, as has been proposed, between the cathedral dignitaries, that its discipline will be best administered. I cannot conceive any plan better calculated to thwart the course of ecclesiastical discipline, and to interfere with the ancient ecclesiastical polity of archdeacons and rural deans, and throw everything into confusion, than this strange and novel contrivance. I do not hesitate my Lords, to say, that if any such functions (entirely novel functions be it observed) should be intrusted to deans and chapters, they would be a nuisance, and not a benefit to the Church. The next use of these institutions is said to be, that they furnish rewards for theological or literary eminence, and quiet retreats for the enjoyment of learned leisure. Works of the highest value to the Church have been produced by the members of capitular bodies, and, therefore, no such works can be looked for, if their number is reduced. I do not admit the soundness of this reasoning; but what, my Lords, are the facts of the case? I would fain be told, how many of our canons residen- 1147 tiary are not also parochial clergymen? And how long is the residence kept by each in his cathedral? for that is the precise measure of the opportunities it affords him of literary leisure. But let us look, my Lords, at the actual working of the system. Let us see whether it deserves the praise which Dr. Paley once bestowed upon the Established Church in Ireland, as providing in its bishoprics stations, "where wasted spirits and declining health are suffered to repose in honourable leisure." I will produce an instance of this working. An excellent clergyman, a man of learning as well as piety, after many years spent in honourably discharging the duties of a laborious station, is appointed to a dignity in one of our best endowed cathedrals. There, it is said, there is an instance of the use of these institutions. Our excellent friend will now be enabled to repose under the shade of his well earned laurels, to enjoy his otium cum dignitate, and after an interval of ease, to resume his labours in the field of literary or theological research. But what happens? In the course of a few months, a chapter living falls, of a few hundred pounds a-year, with a rural population. He takes it, and re-enters upon the duties of a parochial priest; and there goes a part of his literary leisure. Before long a much more valuable benefice becomes vacant, with a much larger population. He is presented to it, and then what becomes, or at least what ought to become, of the remainder of his literary leisure? If this is one of the most important uses of cathedrals, then deans and canons ought to be prohibited from holding any benefice with cure of souls. But it is urged, that the full number of the chapters ought to be kept up, in order that there may be no failure of the preaching in the cathedral; that the sermons delivered there are to be regarded as models; and if the people wish to know what a good sermon is, they must go to the cathedral church. Now certainly, when I go, as I sometimes do, to preach at St. Paul's, I am truly rejoiced to see a numerous congregation, listening to a service extremely well performed, and attentive to the sermon. But I apprehend, that if there were no service at all at St. Paul's, all those who go thither for any other purpose than to hear the music, would attend their own parish churches, where they would hear sermons to the 1148 full as useful as those which are delivered in the cathedral pulpit. Would those, who insist so strongly on the paramount importance of cathedral preaching, return to the system of those earlier ages, when there was no preaching of the word of God but in the cathedral church, and not much of it even there? But, it is said, if you do not think that the preaching in the cathedrals is so eminently useful as we suppose it to be, why not send out your canons to preach in other parts of the diocese? Why not take this method of supplying the spiritual wants of which you complain? I suppose, then, that some ten or twelve residentiaries (taking them to be really residentiaries) are to issue forth every Sunday morning from the stalls of Worcester or Lichfield, and proceed to evangelize the people of Birmingham or Walsall; and then, having preached, to return to their stalls, and leave the people to themselves for the rest of the week. What, my Lords, is this a plan to be proposed at this time of day? Is this, or anything like this, a system to be substituted, even in part, for that which is the glory of our Established Church, and the secret of its efficiency and usefulness, the division of the country into parishes and districts of manageable size, each with its church, its pastor, its schools, its local charities? It astonishes and pains me to hear such visionary notions gravely stated. It seems to me to argue either the strongest ignorance of the real state of the Church and of its wants, or a determination to uphold all its anomalies at all hazards. But supposing all these ends to be as important as they are said to be (and in their proper place and degree they are really important), they may still be answered by cathedral institutions, after the passing of this bill; and here I cannot but complain of a want, on the part of my right rev. Friend, of his usual candour. In speaking of the effect of our recommendations upon those institutions, he has more than once made use of the word "abolish," and so have many of the opponents of our plan. But it is not abolition that we propose. In some cases, we add to the existing numbers of capitular bodies, in some we diminish, but in no case of a cathedral do we abolish. I see no reason why, when that diminution has been effected, all the real practical uses of cathedrals should not be the same as 1149 they are now. The dean might be required to reside six or nine months in the year; nine months was what the commissioners recommended. It might be enacted that there should be always two canons in residence. I am inclined to agree with my right rev. Friend, that in the metropolitical church of Canterbury there ought to be a somewhat larger number of canons than is proposed in the bill; but on account of its dignity, not its duties; for the functions which it has to perform, during the vacancy of the archiepiscopal see, may be performed as well by four as by twelve canons. And this leads me to notice the objection, that if the residentiaries be reduced to four, there will not be a sufficient number for the decent and solemn celebration of divine worship in the cathedrals; that is to say, a dean, and one or two dignitaries, with four or six minor canons, and the present staff of singing men and boys, will not be able to perform the daily service as it ought to be performed. Why not? In what respect need they be deficient? Supposing only one residentiary to attend, with the minor canons and singers, why should the service be less decent and solemn than it is in some of our parish churches, St. James's, Westminster, for instance, where divine service is performed every morning and evening throughout the year, by the rector and his curates, and I venture to say, as decently and solemnly as in any cathedral, bating the music, which it must be remembered is performed exclusively by the minor canons and members of the choir, for it is not intended, I conceive, even by those who insist upon the full number of canons residentiary, to call their musical talents into action. It has been said, my Lords, by more than one of our opponents, and by none with greater asperity, than by my right rev. Friend, that the commissioners have hazarded these recommendations, with a total want of consideration, and in the absence of all that information which might have been obtained by careful inquiry. My Lords, to say that we have proceeded without inquiry, is the very reverse of the truth. We addressed a variety of queries to all the deans and chapters; we examined some of them in person; we considered their memorials; and the materials so obtained, are collected in a pretty thick and closely-printed volume which is now 1150 in your Lordships' House. It is true, that we have not laid that evidence before the public; and we have abstained from doing so, because we did not wish to give unnecessary publicity to some of its details. But there it is, my Lords; and I will now proceed to read a few extracts from it, for the purpose of showing, by an example or two, that we are not so entirely unsupported by the testimony and opinions of others as my right, rev. Friend supposes. We learned from this evidence, that in the Cathedral Churches of Canterbury, York, Chichester, Chester, Carlisle, and Rochester, only one sermon is preached by the residentiary on Sundays. In the returns from some other chapters, it is not stated whether one or two sermons are preached, and therefore it is probable that there is but one. A certain number of sermons are preached on Saints' days, by the non-residentiary prebendaries, either in person, or by substitute, mostly the latter. With respect to a suggestion for annexing a stall or stalls to some poor benefices in Canterbury, which are miserably endowed, Archdeacon Croft, one of the prebendaries, is of opinion, that if chapter property must be touched, it will be better to extinguish the stall, and to appropriate the income to the spiritual instruction of the people, than to annex it to any certain piece of preferment. He would annex a stall to the cathedral for repairs; and prefers the suppression of stalls to taxation. Not so the committee of chapters. The Bishop of Llandaff, in whose absence I may say that, which I should abstain from saying if he were present, that a more liberal and sensible and enlightened man does not exist, nor one whose judgment I should be more disposed to follow, states, after several years' experience as dean of St. Paul's, that the chapters are governed much more by practice than by any written laws; and yet that every prebendary swears to observe the statutes and laudable customs of the Church. With respect to the proposed transfer of some portion of chapter patronage to the bishops, his opinion is thus expressed.I think chapter patronage is very badly intrusted to such bodies as chapter bodies; where the usual practice is, to give livings in rotation, without considering the fitness of the person to be appointed; and if he is not considered decidedly unfit, he has it, when it comes to his turn, as a matter of course. That 1151 I believe to be the ordinary practice of such bodies; in consequence of which there is very little selection on the ground of merit. I think it would be much safer to vest the patronage in the diocesan, under an express declaration, that it is vested in him, as a trustee, for the benefit of the Established Church.To the question, "What is the residence required of a residentiary?" the answer is, "Three months in the year."How many of the residentiaries reside in their houses?—At present only one.Are not all the houses fit for residence?—Yes.The Dean of Salisbury, whose character for piety and judgment needs no testimony of mine, gives the following evidence.Are you of opinion, that the duties of the cathedral might be very well performed by the dean and four residentiaries?—I certainly see no reason why they should not; inasmuch as I perform a fourth part of them alone.From your own observation, would it not be a better arrangement, that the residentiaries should be nominated by the bishop, than that they should be elected by their own body?—Unquestionably.From your experience, as dean of the cathedral church, are you of opinion, that the service might be conducted with sufficient solemnity and propriety, by a dean, four canons, two minor canons, or priest-vicars, six laymen, as singers, and six or eight boys?—Yes; I should think so.Would the service of the Church suffer materially if the whole of the prebends were to be abolished?—Not materially.Do the prebendaries preach themselves?—Some do: chiefly those appointed by the present bishop (Bishop Burgess): but in general they pay a couple of guineas to one of the priest-vicars, and the dean, or canons in residence, preach the sermons.Here, my Lords, we have the opinion of a very able and experienced Dean, that the integrity of our chapters, in regard of numbers, is not so essential as my right rev. Friend asserts it to be, to the efficient performance of their duties. My own opinion is, my Lords, that their duties will be more efficiently performed than they have hitherto been, at least in most cases, the responsibility, being less divided, will be more strongly felt, especially now that the public attention has been specially directed to these institutions. But still, my right rev. Friend, although in his suggestions he has admitted and recommended the principle of suppression and re-distribution, now turns round upon us, and insists upon it, that the whole 1152 corporate property of the chapters is to be left untouched; and that we must have recourse to private property, to supply the wants of the Church; for private property it is, my Lords, though not in legal strictness, yet for practical purposes, when it becomes the subject of settlement and entail. My right rev. Friend truly states, that the improvement of the leasehold property of the Church was under the consideration of the commissioners. We were anxious to discover how far it could be made more available to the great ends of the Establishment, and we not only saw the difficulties of the case ourselves, but we were assured, both by those ministers of the Crown who were commissioners, and by others of not less authority, who were not commissioners, that it would be a hopeless task, to propose to the House of Commons any plan, which should involve a general and immediate invasion of the rights of lessees. No such plan could have been acted upon without the grant of an enormous sum of money by Parliament, which we certainly should not have obtained. Not but what I am of opinion, my Lords, that much may be done, in the way of improving the income arising from the leasehold property of the Church; but it must be done very guardedly and gradually, with a due regard to the customary interests of the lessees; and gradual also, I admit, must be the operation of the measure now proposed; but it will be much more speedy in producing its results than the other: and the danger, my Lords, which we have to encounter, does not admit of tardy methods of procedure, for it is imminent, and pressing, and has already reached its crisis. What other method then remains as an immediate resource (for as to the plan of voluntary contributions, I need not do more than allude to it) than to appropriate, to the infinitely important purposes of parochial instruction, some portion of the capitular revenues? and if this is to be done, it has appeared to us, that the most effectual and simple mode of doing it, is that of suppressing all the sinecures of the Church, and also a certain number of offices with duties annexed, that number being greater than appeared to be requisite for the performance of those duties. But no, the objectors say, this cannot in any case be justified; whether you are at liberty or not to take any part of the revenues, you cannot innocently do away with any of 1153 the offices themselves; for they are spiritual offices, and no spiritual office may be abolished. My Lords, I deny, that the offices of dean and canon, although they are commonly held by spiritual persons, are essentially spiritual offices properly so called. They are ecclesiastical offices, not spiritual. This is the doctrine of writers both on the canon and common law, and a proof of its truth is, that at this moment a prebend is held by the Queen's professor of Law at Oxford, who is a layman; and, which your Lordships will probably be surprised to hear, her Majesty is herself a prebendary of the collegiate church of Brecon. The offices of bishops, priests, and deacons, are spiritual offices; not so those of deans and canons. The parochial clergy, under their bishops, are the legitimate guardians of the spiritual interests of the people, not the chapters, although they contribute indirectly to the same good end; and I can never consent to have the two classes placed on the same level with reference to the essential principles of our Church. There remains only one other point in the speech of my right rev. Friend, upon which I think it necessary to touch. It relates to that part of the bill which provides for the suppression of the corporations of vicars-choral, or minor canons. He deplores, with much feeling, the extinction of those ancient and venerable bodies, and complains, perhaps with some justice, that their light is to be put out, without any reason being assigned for so violent a measure. And I must confess, my Lords, that it does appear upon the face of it, to be a somewhat harsh proceeding, while we leave the corporations of major canons, though shorn of some portion of their strength, to abolish those of the minor canons altogether. The reasons of that recommendation, it is true, have not been specified by the commissioners, from motives which would make me still unwilling to assign them, were it not that I am compelled to do so by the observations of my right rev. Friend. The truth is, my Lords, that the existence of these subordinate corporations, partly dependant upon the dean and chapter, and partly independent of them, has been a serious inconvenience, and an impediment to the discipline and good order of the Cathedrals. They are self-elected, and have their own estates; the consequence is, that they are ill paid by the chapters, 1154 and not being exclusively appointed by them, are not so amenable as they ought to be to their authority. If the dean and chapter are answerable for the due performance of the cathedral services, they ought to have the appointment of those who are to perform them. In future this will be the case. The minor canons, who after all really do the work of the cathedrals, will be more carefully selected and better paid, and their duties more satisfactorily performed. There are many other points, my Lords, upon which I would gladly touch, were it possible to do so, without transgressing the limits by which I think it right, on the present occasion, to circumscribe myself. I would not unwillingly have wiped off some of the aspersions which have been so unsparingly cast upon the commissioners, and upon myself in particular. Of the various imputations which it has been attempted to fasten upon us, least of all do we deserve that which my right rev. Friend threw out at the close of his speech, of having made our recommendations without inquiry and without consideration. My Lords, the most careful inquiry, the most patient deliberation, have marked every stage of our proceedings. If towards the conclusion of our labours, as commissioners of inquiry, now two years ago, we had less communication with the capitular bodies than they might think themselves entitled to, it was in consequence of the attacks which they made upon us, and of the manifestation of a spirit of hostility which gave us little encouragement to enter into further correspondence with them. Nevertheless, we were not deterred by that circumstance from endeavouring to make our recommendations as little unpalatable to them, as it appeared to us possible to make them, consistently with their fundamental principle. We have acted conscientiously in the performance of an ungracious duty, according to our own convictions of what was best for the real interests of the Church and the country. We knew from the first that we were undertaking an invidious and unpopular task. We have submitted to much misrepresentation and obloquy, to which it was difficult to reply, without stating facts and employing arguments, which we would rather have forborne from using. I rejoice that I have now had an opportunity of stating to your Lordships the reasons which induced me (and I speak for myself alone) 1155 to give my hearty assent to the proposals of the commissioners as to all their leading features, susceptible as they may be of modification and improvement; and it is a great consolation to me to feel assured that, if your Lordships should pass this bill into a law, many years will not elapse before the great body of the Christian people of this land will do justice to the motives and the prudence of the commissioners, and acknowledge the benefits resulting from their labours. They will thank us for having done all in our power to lessen those evils which are now the bane of the Church, and if left unremedied will soon prove its destruction; they will be grateful to us for having set an example, on the part of the Church, of making a sacrifice—a sacrifice, be it remembered, only from one part of the Church to another—from the less useful to the more efficient—and of employing the means with which the providence of God has intrusted her, so as to accomplish the greatest practicable amount of good. If the measure now before your Lordships should fail of producing these anticipated benefits, it will fail from other causes than from a want of consideration, and caution, and careful deliberation, on the part of those upon the strength of whose recommendations it has been now proposed.
§ The House in Committee. Several amendments were proposed, which were ordered to be printed. Bill to be further considered.