HL Deb 24 June 1853 vol 128 cc685-95

* My Lords, I have first to thank the noble Lord opposite (Lord Berners), whose notice stands first on the paper of to-day, and the other noble Lords, for the kind courtesy with which they have permitted me at the earliest possible moment to bring before your Lordships the Motion I wish to make; and I am sure that it is not necessary for me to ask of your Lordships on the present occasion that measure of indulgence which your Lordships are always ready to extend to those who desire to vindicate their personal character from imputations cast upon it in respect of their conduct in any public capacity. This, my Lords, is a desire which every Member of your Lordships' House may rightly feel; but which assumes a character of even sacred duty in one holding such an office as I have been called to fill, and who feels that if he be indeed guilty of the charges brought against him, religion itself is, in the eyes of men, wounded in his person, and shares, though it ought not, in the dishonour which attaches to its unworthy minister.

My Lords, I have been publicly accused, as many of your Lordships are aware, of "selfish malversation of funds dedicated to the highest purposes," and of "having received and retained" large sums of money "more than my due." I hope to be able to show your Lordships that there is not any ground for these charges; and, in order that I may do this, I must request you to bear with me while I state, as succinctly as I can, the real facts of that case to which these charges apply.

It is familiar to many of your Lordships, though perhaps not equally known to all, that the Act 6 & 7 Will. IV., c. 77, constituted a Board of Commissioners, with powers to make inquiry into the revenues of the several sees, and to attach to the more largely endowed such fixed charges, to take effect on each new incumbency, as should leave to the respective bishops incomes approximating as near as might be to those which were intended for the respective sees.

Now, my Lords, there are two points with respect to this Commission and its functions which, in reference to this case, it is essential to bear in mind:—First, as to the constitution of the Commission itself, that it was not the present body of Ecclesiastical Commissioners, which comprises all the bishops, but a smaller body, consisting of thirteen persons, eight of them laymen, and five only ecclesiastics. The laymen were some of them members of the Administration, sitting at the board in virtue of the offices they held; others were specially named as persons particularly interested in the work for which the Commission was appointed, and willing and well qualified to give their assistance in it. These were—the late Earl of Har-rowby, Mr. Hobhouse, and Sir H. Jen-ncr Fust. The ecclesiastics were the late Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishops of London, Lincoln, and Gloucester; none of whom were themselves subject to the powers of the Commission. I, therefore, was not a member of this Commission. They were not to me, as they have been falsely termed, "brother Commissioners." They were not persons who could do a job for me to-day, and for whom I might do a job to-morrow, as has been coarsely insinuated; but they were persons with whom I was not in any special relation—with none of whom, with the exception of my kind friend and patron the late Archbishop of York, was I at that time in any habits of intimacy, and with most of whom I had hardly any, even the slightest, personal acquaintance. Secondly, as to the functions of this Commission— It was not their duty to assign fixed incomes to the several sees; but to affix such charges upon the more largely endowed sees as should, "upon due inquiry and consideration, be determined upon." The charges were to be fixed; the income was left uncertain. It might be more or it might be less, as chance or other circumstances might determine; and the reason why this course was adopted was always stated to be that the bishops would thus have a personal interest in the management of their property, as whatever additional income was obtained by better management would rightfully appertain to them during their incumbency, and the benefit of it accrue to the common fund of the episcopate only from the larger charge which would be laid upon their successors. Now, my Lords, when I entered upon the possession of the see of Salisbury, in the year 1837, these Commissioners had, in a previous report, recommended that no charge should he affixed upon this see; hut upon finding, at the time of the death of my predecessor, that a return of the income for the last seven years exhibited a surplus, in consequence of some large fines received by him, they proposed to alter their decision, and to charge my see with the payment of 800l. a year. Now, my Lords, I need hardly say, that an average of seven years must exhibit a very uncertain means of judgment as to the future amount of an income in great measure derived from fines upon leases for lives; and, if this must always be the case, it was more especially so in respect of the see of Salisbury, the property of which consists of a very small number of large estates, and the income of which, therefore, falls in at the most uncertain periods, and varies most extremely in amount. I have received in some years as little as 2,500l. I have received as much as 16,600l., and every possible variation between these extremes. It was upon this ground that I was strongly advised by persons whom I had reason to think much better acquainted both with the property of the see, and with business of this kind, than I could pretend to be myself, to propose to the Commissioners that, instead of founding their decision upon the average of the last seven years, they should institute an inquiry into the state of the property, and the condition of the leases, and base their judgment upon that. A somewhat extended correspondence ensued, in which the Commissioners made different suggestions, hut in which I adhered steadfastly, and almost exclusively, to this point. Now, my Lords, I certainly will not undertake to say that in a long correspondence, written with the freedom and unreserve of a supposed private communication, and which assumed somewhat the character of a controversy in which each party endeavoured to make good his own position—I certainly will not say that every argument, or every expression I may have used, is such as, on fuller knowledge and reconsideration, after the lapse of sixteen years, I would now select or employ. But I thought then, and I think now, that the general principle I had in view was legitimate and just, and that I supported it by arguments I was entitled to advance. It appeared so, I presume, to the Commissioners themselves, for they finally adopted my suggestion. The leases of my property were made the subject of a reference to the eminent actu- ary, Mr. Morgan; and it was mainly upon the opinion which he gave respecting them that the Commissioners resolved that there were not sufficient grounds to justify them in affixing any charge upon my see. If they were in error in that decision, the responsibility was exclusively with them. They were not induced to arrive at it by personal favour to myself. I was not one of their body; I was not in a situation of mutual confidence with them; but, whether rightly or wrongly, I am sorry to say, rather at that time in one of opposition and controversy. I believe that they exercised their judgment as fair and honest men, as they thought, on the whole, right in a matter in which the materials of judgment were very insufficient, in which experience has shown that it was impossible to arrive at any certainty, and in which, therefore, any decision was very likely to be falsified by its results. Undoubtedly the result did show how very uncertain such materials of judgment were, and, therefore, how unsatisfactory that system was, and that state of the law, which exposed men on the one hand to grievous loss; or, on the other, to imputations such as those which have now been cast upon me. Had I died during the first four years of my incumbency, the former would have been my lot. In the following three years there came those large receipts which have given the foundation for these charges. At the end of seven years the receipts from my see averaged 7,482l.; and the average in the following corresponding period was 5,993l.; so that the whole average of the fourteen years was 6,737l.

Now, my Lords, I freely admit that the difference between this amount and that which had been contemplated as the income of my see is a large one. I freely admit that it exhibits an imperfection in the system then in force for the regulation of episcopal incomes, for which it was desirable to find a remedy. But what I am at the present moment concerned to show is only this: first, that I could not have anticipated such a result from materials in my hands at the time of my correspondence with the Commissioners; and, secondly, that when this surplus did accrue, it was one to the possession and use of which I was rightfully entitled. Now, in order to this, I assert that the difference between this result and that which both the Commissioners and myself had anticipated, is in part indeed to be ascribed to the uncertainty necessarily attaching to property of this kind. But it is in part, also, to be accounted for by a system of better management, for which, at the time of this correspondence, I did not know that there was either the occasion or the means. I think I can give your Lordships the proof of this. I hold in my hands a letter from the steward of my manors, a gentleman of high character and ability, a barrister, whose name, Mr. Alfred Caswall, may be known to some of your Lordships in connexion with the law of copyhold property. He saw in the papers the attack which was made upon me, and, though it might not have occurred to me to apply to him—indeed, I did not know that he was in England—he immediately wrote to me of his own accord respecting it, and I will take the liberty of reading part of his letter to your Lordships:—

"Temple, Juno 21, 1853.

"My Lord—I was sorry on my way to London this morning to see the virulent and unfair article in the Times of this morning. Allow me to say one or two words. I have been steward of the diocese about three months longer than you have been its bishop. As to the probable value of the copyhold portion of the estates, you could form no opinion beyond this which I had ascertained—namely, that the average animal receipts for the last seven years from one manor had been 23l. 5s. 8d.; and from another manor, 308l.9s. 6d.; total, 331l. 15s. 2d My predecessor was an aged man, who died, after a long illness, at eighty-four, and naturally had not been very active, so that the results of the first seven years of your episcopate gave to the first of these manors an average income of 120l. 14s. Id,; and to the other an average income of 712l. 13s. 3d; total, 833l. 7s. 1d. This increase could not at this time have been calculated upon. * * *

"I would wish to say that in all your dealings with me you have never interfered on the subject of fines, but have left me full authority to act according to my own judgment; and when I have thought allowances needful, I have never found you otherwise than willing to comply with my suggestions.

"Mr. Burder, no doubt, in regard to the leaseholds, can say much the same as I do, which amounts to this—that of late years all persons connected with Church property have paid more attention to its management than they did formerly. But because this has been done, is it a lair principle that existing interests should suffer? Had Mr. Burder and I been careless in our respective offices, nothing I suppose would have been said on the subject. It is simply by steady careful management that the increase was obtained; and it is a strange doctrine that a tenant for life is not to reap the advantage of his own or his agents' improvements—a doctrine no less strange than injurious to all progress. If the compact had been as it now stands by your voluntary act, that all surplus income after a fixed sum should be paid to the Commissioners, I could better have understood the article in the Times. —I remain, my Lord, your faithful servant,


Now, I beg your Lordships to observe, that this relates to one comparatively small part of the property—the copyhold manors; and that on these you have the assertion of my steward, that the receipts were raised by better management from 300l. to 800l. in seven years; and therefore, that in this comparatively small part of the property— 500l. a year—one-fourth of the whole surplus is accounted for on the principle of better management. The same thing in a measure no doubt applies to the leaseholds. I do not, indeed, claim any merit to myself, as if I had been personally instrumental in introducing a better management of the property. In truth, I was not in the least aware that there was any opportunity for doing so, and I have not done any such thing. But I have had trustworthy agents, and I have placed confidence in them, and I have not troubled myself about the details. When applications have been made for renewals, the properties have been surveyed by an experienced surveyor; and those who are acquainted with business of this kind will easily understand that the fact that I entered upon my episcopate at the age of thirty-six enabled my agents with less difficulty to enforce fair terms of renewal than might have been the case had I been more advanced in life. I merely instructed them always to estimate the fines on reasonable and moderate terms, and assured them that I would not be induced by any circumstances to accept other terms than those which they should advise me were due to the Church, whose trustee I was. It is, my Lords, in my power to give your Lordships proof also on this part of the subject. I hold in my hand a letter from a Gentleman, known, probably, personally to many of your Lordships—known, at all events by name, as a highly respected Member of the other House of Parliament —I mean Mr. Sotheron, Member for North Wilts. He, my Lords, is a lessee of the see of Salisbury; and, having seen this attack upon me, he has, with the courtesy of a gentleman, and the kind feeling of a friend, written me a letter respecting it, which, by his permission, I will take the liberty of reading to your Lordships:—

51, Eaton-place, June 23.

"My dear Lord—On my return to London last night, I read the bitter article in the Times of the 21st, in which your transactions with the Commis sioners in regard to the income of the see of Salisbury are impugned. A part of the charge set forth in that article is, that you understate the estimate of probable income which would be derived from renewals of leases held upon lives. I am one of the tenants of the see, holding under a lease of three lives, and about ten years ago one of those lives dropped. I was then called upon by your agents to pay a fine for inserting a new life in the lease, fully a third larger in amount than I had reckoned upon, judging by the experience of former renewals. I expected the fine would be set at a sum rather under 6,000l.; but the sum required of me was rather under 10,000l., which, accordingly, after some demur, I paid, having been satisfied that although this valuation was much more favourable to the see than it had been upon former occasions, yet that it was based upon strictly accurate calculations, which I could not invalidate or reduce. If your agents dealt with your other tenants in a similar manner, as doubtless was the case on similar occasions, I cannot wonder that the income of the see, derived from such sources during your episcopate, owing to better management, should have proved much larger upon an average of years than either you or your tenants could have expected or reckoned on beforehand.— Believe me, my dear Lord, yours very sincerely,


And thus, my Lords, I conceive that it is shown that a very large part, at least, of that surplus which has thus accrued in the revenues of my see, is one which, as both Mr. Gaswall and Mr. Sotheron assert, I could not have expected or reckoned upon beforehand, hut which is to he referred to that better management which it was the express intention of the law to promote, by giving to the bishop a personal interest in the proceeds of it during his incumbency. This is proved by Mr. Caswall's letter in the case of the copyholds; it is proved by Mr. Sotheron's in the case of the leaseholds; and therefore I assert that the surplus which has thus accrued was not one which was not rightfully my due, but one which the express provisions of this Act were designed to promote, and which the bishop was intended to retain. And this, therefore, is my answer to that part of the charge which relates to receiving and retaining a large sum more than that which was rightfully my due.

But another part of this charge refers to a "selfish malversation of funds dedicated to the highest purposes;" and I must, therefore, however reluctantly, crave permission to say a few words as to this. My Lords, I am conscious of many and grievous faults. I look back upon the long years of my ministry, and see sad shortcomings and painful deficiencies. May a merciful God pardon me for them! But of an avaricious love of money, or of a selfish expenditure of it, my heart and conscience do not accuse me. I believe that the revenues of my see, of whatever amount, being rightfully dedicated to the highest purposes, have not been selfishly diverted from them. I believe that this surplus was, in my hands, made not less instrumental in promoting the cause of true religion, and the ministrations of the Church, than if it had been paid over to the Commissioners. I am sure at least of this—that it has not been either hoarded for myself or my family, or spent for my personal gratification. I have been Bishop of Salisbury for sixteen years, in possession of these revenues, and I can truly assert that I have not from the income of my see saved a single shilling. While at no former period of my life, neither when I lived as a Fellow of a College, nor when I was incumbent of a small benefice in the country, have I found it so impossible, or have I been so little willing to spend money in the gratification of personal tastes. Were I to die to-morrow, my family would have no other provision than that arising from my and their very small private means, and such moderate addition thereto as I have felt in my duty to make by insurance on my life. My son will inherit only this patrimony; but I hope that I may add that, in spite of calumnies such as these, he will

I have also that which I trust he will value above hoarded wealth—the inheritance of a father's unblemished name. I have now, my Lords, disposed of the two points of which this charge consists. I know that I have trespassed very long upon your Lordships' patience in doing so; and I believe that I might safely leave the case at this point in your Lordships' hands, and trust to you to do me justice respecting it. But there is yet one more point to which it is necessary that I should advert in order to the completeness of the whole; and I the rather wish to explain this point, because it is one which my assailant, be he who he may, may possibly be ignorant of, and I am willing and desire to believe this is the case; for had he known it, he could hardly, I think, have done me the wrong of which I now complain. I said, my Lords, that this is not any new business. It relates to a correspondence which took place sixteen years ago—sixteen years ago, my Lords! a long time this to go back to rake up charges such as these, even if there were ground for them. But, my Lords, not only this; but six years ago these same charges were brought forward by an hon. Gentleman in the House of Commons, Mr. Horsman; and I replied to him at that time in a letter, which was published in the papers of the day. In that letter, after vindicating my position in respect of this income under the existing law, I went on to say, "I am very sensible of the inconvenience of the existing mode of regulating the Episcopal incomes, and I shall be very glad if any arrangements can be adopted by which these inconveniences can be avoided, and which shall not be open to other and greater objections." At that time there was no other mode that could be adopted. The existing arrangements were established by law. One bishop might lose under them; another bishop might gain; but neither had any possible means of remedying this, however much it were wished. But two years after this time, in the year 1850, a new law was passed, by which it was enacted, that all bishops appointed after that time should have fixed instead of fluctuating incomes; that, instead of the charge being fixed, and the income left to fluctuate, the income should be fixed, and the surplus, if there was one, be paid over to the Commissioners, or the deficiency, if such arose, be made good by them. And while this law was made imperative upon all bishops appointed after that time, existing bishops were permitted, should they wish, to adopt the same regulations. No sooner, my Lords, did that law pass, than I at once signified my intention of placing myself under its provisions. I was, I believe, the first of my right rev. Brethren who did so. I see that the noble Earl the First Estates Commissioner (the Earl of Chichester) signifies by his assent that this was the case. I announced this intention in person to the Secretary of the Commission, when at the close of that year I sent in my septennial return. I repeated it to the noble Earl and his Colleagues at a meeting I had with them shortly after; and I then formally placed my offer on record in that letter, for the production of which I am about to move, and which, in conclusion, I will take the liberty of reading to your Lordships:—

"40, Chesham-place, July 18, 1851.

"My dear Sir—Though I signified to you personally early in February of the present year my intention of proposing to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to enter into the arrangement for receiving a fixed income under the Act of last year, and I afterwards formally announced this willing-ness on my part in an interview with the Estates Committee, it appears to me desirable to record in writing the circumstances under which I make this proposal, in case any question should at any future time arise respecting it.

"It appears by my return that the average net income of my see for the last seven £5,993
"That for the previous septennial period it was 7,482
"Average of fourteen years £6,737

"I believe that the difference between this result and that which was anticipated at the time of my entrance upon the charge of the diocese of Salisbury is to be attributed in part to the want of accurate information respecting the revenues of the see at that time, and in part to an improvement in their value, arising from a more careful and exact management of the property during my incumbency.

"It was the object of the Act 6 & 7 Will. IV., c. 77, to give the bishop a pecuniary interest in such management, by securing to him during his incumbency the enjoyment of any increased income which might arise from it; and it was on this ground that the Commissioners of Inquiry stated in their third report, bearing date May 20, 1836, that the arrangements in this respect proposed to be established by that Act appeared to them 'less open to objection than any other that had presented themselves,' in spite of some obvious inconveniences inevitably attending them.

"Since that time the general opinion on this subject appears to have undergone a change, and this change has at length been marked by the provision in the Act of last Session, which determines that bishops hereafter appointed shall have fixed instead of fluctuating incomes, and makes it lawful for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to enter into arrangements for the same purpose with such existing bishops as may signify their willingness to do so.

"It is my object in this letter to record this willingness on my part, and to signify my consent to receive in future a fixed income of 5.000l. per annum, in lieu of that which I might otherwise derive from the revenues of my see.

"In making this proposal I do not wish to offer any opinion as to what the future receipts of the see may be expected to be. I leave the commissioners to exercise their own judgment as to this from the materials which they now have in their hands, only adding that if they should wish for any further information as to the existing leases of the property of the see, I shall be happy to supply it.


"J. J. Chalk, Esq."

My Lords, I have now done; and, although I fear that I have trespassed too long upon your Lordships' patience, I must add that, though I have not the right to ask your Lordships for any expression of your opinion, if there be any one of your Lordships who feels a doubt as to any part of my statement, and would have the goodness to put to me any questions respecting it, he will add thereby to the load of obli- gation I have already incurred. It has been my object to show—

First: That the Commissioners, to my correspondence with whom these charges relate, were a body of whom I was not one; that they were principally laymen of high station; that they were all, with one exception, persons with whom I had not any special relations whatever of friendship or intimacy.

Second: That for the decision they came to they alone were responsible, while I, in a position of controversy with them presented to them such arguments and considerations as I was rightly entitled to advance.

Third: That if the result was different from both their expectations and my own, this is mainly to be ascribed to that improved management for which it was the object of the law to give occasion. I have proved this in respect of the copyholds by Mr, Caswall's letter. I have proved it in respect of the leaseholds by Mr. Sotheron's.

Fourth: I have asserted what, had it been fitting, I could have proved, that I have not selfishly perverted from sacred purposes the funds I not wrongfully, but rightfully, retained.

Fifth: I have admitted, nevertheless, that the law which made such imputations possible was in itself bad; but I have proved my sense of this by taking the earliest opportunity of placing myself under the new regulations in this respect. At the ago of fifty I have resigned voluntarily an income which has averaged to me for fourteen years 6,737l., and which I could legally and equitably have retained; and I have accepted in lieu thereof the fixed income of 5,000l., which the law has assigned to my successor.

My Lords, this is my case. I thank you from my heart for the opportunity you have given me of stating it; and I leave it, I hope not with presumption, but yet I will say with the confidence of conscious integrity, in your Lordships' hands.

The right rev. Prelate concluded by moving—that the Letter of the Bishop of Salisbury to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, of 18th July, 1851, be laid before the House.

Motion agreed to.

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