HL Deb 12 February 1847 vol 89 cc1225-9

said, that in consequence of a statement made by the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) on a recent occasion, in presenting a petition from the churchwardens of Manchester, the Dean of Manchester considered that an opinion had gone abroad extremely detrimental to his character, and that an imputation had been cast upon him, not perhaps for neglecting to discharge a legal duty, but, at all events, for the neglect of a moral duty. The dean had accordingly written a letter, which he had requested him to read to the House, for the purpose of removing the stigma which attached to his conduct after the statement made by the noble Lord. The letter was as follows:—

"My dear Lord—Having read the report in The Times of that which was stated by Lord Stanley in the House of Lords, on the presentation of a petition from the three churchwardens of Manchester, I find that one point in the petition, which is unfounded, but much relied upon by his Lordship, had been overlooked by me, and that he seems disposed, upon that ground, to cast on the chapter the heavy reproach of a violation of moral duties, though neither he nor the petitioners can charge them with any violation of the law. That point is an assertion absolutely false, that 'it was arranged that, of the whole income of the college, the warden was to have two shares, each fellow one, and each chaplain one-half, or, at that time, 70l., 35l., and 17l. 10s. respectively;' from which he draws a conclusion that the fines imposed were intended to amount to more than half the entire income. If that were true, the position of the chaplains would have immeasurably exceeded that of the members of the chapter, for there is a reservation of all their fees and rights to the chaplains. But there is no such allotment of a share to them, and these fixed stipends had no reference to the ultimate and entire funds of the college. It appears that by misrule the property had been leased out on fines, so that it possessed little besides reversionary interests; and the chapter were ordered in the first instance to take what they were then actually receiving, however small the funds might be, 'ex collegii fructibus et redditibus temtis seu tantillis quantum eidem nunc annuatim accrescunt;' but, when the income should be increased by reversions, they should take the special stipends mentioned, of 70l., 35l., and 17l. 10s. But, after that, the charter proceeds to will, that out of the increased funds of the college, the warden should take two shares, and each of the fellows one, without limitation; but with a proviso that the choir, which was fallen into decay, should be first repaired in a suitable manner, and houses provided for their accommodation, the stipend being the sum which they had a right to take in the first instance, that is, before applying any portion of the funds to those purposes; after the completion of which, they were to divide the annual income—two-sixths to the warden, and one to each fellow. It is, therefore, certain that the original intention was not to proportion the fine to the increasing revenues, but to limit the fines to a fixed amount, while the expectation of a future increase of the funds to be enjoyed by the chapter was expressly avowed; nor do these funds arise mainly out of rectorial tithes, but out of the especial endowments of the college also. The charter did not enforce, as asserted, and did not intend to enforce, by the forfeiture of half their income when it should be increased, the constant presence of all the members of the chapter, except as specially allowed, without penalty. The complaint set forth was, that successive wardens had entirely absented themselves, and performed no duty what- soever. I should be strictly discharging the real intentions of the charter if I were to permit and direct one or two of the canons to abide without paying any fines during all this Session of Parliament in London, for the purpose of striving that the chapter should take no detriment from this hostile petition to the House of Lords; but I think it unnecessary, though in the reign of Charles the First it would probably have been thought expedient. No abuse has crept in by lapse of time. It was intended from the first that the warden and fellows should hold other preferment, and the days of absence were not to enable them to perform duties elsewhere, but to attend to their private affairs, 'dum necessaria sibi obit negotia.' The very first warden after the charter was rector of Ashton: and most of the wardens, and, I believe, of the fellows, in succession, have held preferment with their stalls. The present canons, before the late acceptance of St. Bees, were almost the first who, having no other preferment, have made Manchester their usual place of residence; and, in fact, it is not neglect of duty, but the increased attention of the chapter to the wants of the population of Manchester, that has suggested this bitterly-worded and grossly inaccurate petition against them. "Considering that Lord Stanley is reported, I would fain hope incorrectly, to have charged us with a violation of moral duty, I hope that the House of Lords will favour me by permitting this letter to be read in their presence.—I remain, my dear Lord, yours faithfully, "W. HERBERT. "Manchester, Feb. 11, 1847. "P.S.—The fifth warden held the wardenship with the bishoprick of Chester."

said, he would not quarrel with the latitude taken by the noble Marquess in reading this letter, although he thought it was hardly regular to read a letter of such a description, referring to a former statement made in their Lordships' House. Still, as this was a personal question, he was willing to allow every opportunity for explanation. He was sorry that the statement he had made should hurt the feelings of the dean and canons of Manchester. He had the honour of a slight acquaintance with the dean, and none whatever with any other member of the chapter, or with the churchwardens, whose petition he had presented. But he must be permitted to say, that upon the statement read by the noble Marquess, the case was left precisely where it was always his intention to leave it, viz., upon the point of the non-fulfilment of a moral duty. What he had said was, that from the time of the earliest charters downwards, complaints of non-residence had always been made, and that it was the object of the founder to secure the continued residence of the warden and fellows, for the breach of which regulation some of the charters were forfeited. There could, therefore, be no doubt that it was the intention of the founder that there should be residence. The noble Marquess made his (Lord Stanley's) case stronger than he supposed it to be, because it appeared that when the fines for non-residence were imposed, the revenues of the body were lower than he imagined. When the fines were first imposed, they amounted to more than one-half of the income of the college, and there was, therefore, a sufficient restriction upon non-residence. At that time, the warden was to have 70l., the fellows 35l. each, and the chaplains 17l. 10s. a year each. But now, when the increased income of some of these gentlemen amounted to 1,000l. or 800l. a year, the fine became an absolute nullity. It was now asserted that these were not rectorial tithes, but chapter tithes, and that question deserved inquiry. But the points which still remained manifest were, that it was intended the dean and chapter of Manchester should reside; that they did not reside; and that they violated, not only the intention of the founder, but also the moral duty which devolved upon them with reference to the population of Manchester. They had avoided the legal responsibility, and they had not fulfilled the moral obligation which had devolved upon them. One word with regard to the statement that the petition had been agreed to at a meeting attended by six persons only. He had some communication on this subject with the parties by letter, before he left the country. He had been consulted on the prudence of convening a public meeting by advertisement; and it was suggested to him that if that course were followed, it might lead to much violence and ill-feeling. He had replied that he thought it would be a wise and judicious course to abstain from calling a public meeting, and he represented that the churchwardens were charged with the welfare of the parish, and that he thought under the circumstances they would exercise a wise discretion if they did not call a meeting of that description. The dean would, therefore, probably find himself mistaken in supposing that the churchwardens had held a public meeting. The dean stated that he should hold himself warranted if he sent two of the canons to watch the proceedings of Parliament. For himself, he (Lord Stanley) thought the question of so much importance, as affecting the spiritual interests of a large population, that if their Lordships were of opinion that a Committee of that House should be appointed to consider the expe- diency of altering the law, and of imposing more stringent restrictions upon the canons in respect of residence, he should be prepared to vote for such a Committee; or, if necessary, he would himself move for the appointment of such a Committee.


would observe that in the place of the dean and chapter appointing two of the canons to watch over the proceedings of their Lordships' House, they had better appoint them to watch over their own. He would strongly recommend these reverend persons to fulfil the obligations of their office, and to reside. They had all sworn to reside, and they ought to know that they could not escape from the obligation of an oath by paying the penalty prescribed for breaking it.


said, that as this was not a question of a political character, and as it was an open question, he begged to remark that he adhered to the opinion he had expressed on a former occasion. The question was, whether the will and the intention of the donor or the founder ought not to be obeyed. He gave each of the canons sixty days on which they might be absent, and the warden eighty; and nothing could more strongly express his intention that they should not absent themselves for a longer period. There was no ground for the allegations that the payment of the penalty was a sufficient excuse for non-residence. A court of law would compel the performance of a covenant, although a penalty might attach to the nonperformance, and the courts of equity held that there must be a specific performance of a contract, and that a party could not get off by paying the penalty. The Lord Chancellor would compel him specifically to perform the contract.