HL Deb 27 April 1855 vol 137 cc1834-50

, in presenting two petitions on the subject of church-rates, said, that the petitioners were the advocates for peace upon this question, provided that the real interests of the Church were not sacrificed or the churches themselves injured. One of those petitions was signed by a number of the most respectable inhabitants of the city of Exeter, and he must say in that petition the question was excellently argued. In pursuance of the notice he had given, he would take the present opportunity of inviting their Lordships' attention to the existing state of the law upon this subject. It was one of no small importance, and at this moment one of no ordinary interest; for in a few days it was likely a step would be taken in another place in relation to this matter of great moment to the Church; and he must say from what had occurred there were some persons required to be enlightened on what the state of the law now was. He considered that the declaration recently made by the First Minister of the Crown upon this subject was one for which all churchmen and the country generally were deeply indebted, for Lord Palmerston was said to have expressed himself, upon the Motion of Sir W. Clay for leave to bring in a Bill for the abolition of church-rates, in these terms— If the law were that a compulsory power existed, requiring every parish to levy a rate, then I agree that that would be the best mode of providing for the fabric of the Church." [3 Hansard, p. 1368]. That was a most gratifying and encouraging declaration, and he sincerely thanked the noble Lord for it, and doubted not that his colleagues were prepared to assist him in carrying it into effect. But the noble Lord added something which was not so encouraging, but which in his (the Bishop of Exeter's) opinion did not affect the force of what he had previously said, for he believed the noble Lord in that portion of his statement spoke under an entire misconception of the law. He stated that those hon. Gentlemen who were opposed to the maintenance of church-rates as part of the law of the land appeared to forget that, by a recent decision—no doubt alluding to the recent decision in the Braintree case—there was no power to enforce that law. He (the Bishop of Exeter) was prepared to prove that that decision left the law respecting church-rates exactly as it found it, and that it only stated that the particular mode adopted in that case of giving effect to the law was wrong, and that the churchwardens were entirely under a misapprehension as to the course it was their duty to pursue. He had ventured, a few days ago, to appeal to the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack, whether that was not the condition in which that decision left the law, and that noble and learned Lord said it was. The noble and learned Lord, however, did not stop there, but, giving the great weight of his official position to his opinion, he stated that the law respecting church-rates was absolutely effete, that there was no power of enforcing them, and that they must be content to look upon church-rates as a bygone institution. The noble and learned Lord had remarked that— The right rev. Prelate was quite correct, and, no doubt, it was still the duty of the vestries to keep the churches in repair, and supply the articles necessary for Divine service; but the difficulty was as to the means of enforcing the duty. In ancient times it was excommunication or interdict; but the very mention of these would be considered trifling, as they had been disused since the Reformation; and although it was one of the matters referred to Archbishop Cranmer, at that era to provide a substitute for the ancient remedy of excommunication, it was not done. Notwithstanding, therefore, that old legal maxim, 'ubi jus ibi remedium,' there really was no remedium for the enforcement of the duty of the vestry to raise a rate for the repair of a church. A rate made by a minority at the vestry was held invalid by the House of Lords. When, therefore, it was said that it was the duty of the vestry to make a rate when necessary, it must be borne it mind that, practically, there was no means of enforcing the duty; still, however, it remained."—[See 3 Hansard, p. 1500]. Now, he (the Bishop of Exeter) thought his noble and learned Friend had not given due consideration to the matter when he uttered that opinion; for it was plain that those persons who were opposed to the exercise of the right of levying a rate for churches considered the existing state of the law to be a very serious one, and Mr. Courtauld, in his evidence, made the following statement— I do not mean to say that in the present state of the law it is not competent for a church-rate to be enforced, even in such a parish as Braintree, where the dissentients are a large majority, because I have always felt thoroughly satisfied that there was a power in the ecclesiastical tribunals to punish by unlimited imprisonment—that is to say, by imprisonment until repentance and submission—all parties who, being called upon to join in making a church-rate, refused to attend a vestry meeting, and so to join in it, and we, in Braintree, are seriously apprehensive that such a power will be resorted to. That apprehension rests, in the first place, upon certain very significant passages in the judgment of Mr. Baron Parke. After that evidence could it be said that the law was a dead letter; and that if it were put in motion it would not prove effectual? In the Exchequer Chamber in Hilary Term, 1850, Mr. Baron Rolfe (the noble and learned Lord now on the woolsack), in the case of "Gosling v. Veley," maintained this doctrine, that under the existing law all parties in the parish might be punished indiscriminately for contumacy in neglecting to make a rate, and that the palliation of a doctrine apparently so unjust was, that the churchwardens should take care that the punishment should fall on the obstinate parishioners only. If excommunication, however, were the punishment to be inflicted, he could not see how a distinction was to be made, for excommunication could not pass against a whole body but an individual, and therefore would pass against every individual of the whole body. Having shown that the parties were subject to excommunication for the non-repair of the church, his next step would be to show that the parties were subject to imprisonment. Chief Justice Tindal, in delivering judgment for himself and seven other Judges, of whom the noble and learned Lord was one, in the case of "Binder v. Veley," said, the repair of the fabric of the church was a duty which the parishioners were compellable to perform, and not one which they might either voluntarily perform, or decline to perform, at their own discretion, but the law was imperative in directing the performance of this work as a compellable duty; when therefore the parishioners assembled in vestry they did not assemble to determine whether they ought to repair the church and maintain the service, for as to that they were concluded by the law, but how the work might most effectually and most conveniently be done, The judgment stated further that the parishioners could no more cast from them the burden of repairing the church than they could that of maintaining highways and bridges, and also that it left wholly untouched the power which the spiritual court possessed of enforcing church-rates. The learned Chief Justice also said that the spiritual court was empowered to compel the churchwardens to repair the church by spiritual censure, and might punish those parishioners who refused to perform their duty by excommunication; that was (said the learned Judge) since the statute of the 53d of George III., chap. 26, by imprisonment. This power still remained, and the spiritual court could now enforce, by imprisonment, the repairing of the church. But that this was considered to be the case by the Legislature appeared from an Act passed so recently as the statute of the 2nd and 3rd William IV., chap. 93, by which after reciting the inconveniences that had arisen front the process of the Ecclesiastical Courts being inoperative out of the limits of their respective jurisdictions, it was enacted, that any person who, having the privilege of peerage or of Parliament, or others, was ordered by lawful decree of any ecclesiastical court to pay any sum of money, and should not on monition pay the same, on certification thereof, sequestration might issue out of Chancery against the real and personal estate of such person. [Lord CAMPBELL: that refers to the nonpayment of the rates, and not the making of them.] He was speaking altogether as to the effect of the law on church-rates, both as to the making of them and as to the non-payment of them. He therefore said that the Legislature, even in their own time, had given to a sentence in the Ecclesiastical Court enforcing church-rates what was equivalent to an execution at common law and a judgment, and over and above all this sequestration of their lands out of Chancery. Instead, therefore, of the remedy for default in payment being less stringent, church-rates had this advantage over tithes or rates for highways and bridges; that church-rates could be enforced by sequestration, and he was consequently at a loss to understand upon what ground it could be contended that the present law was a dead letter. The noble and learned Lord on the woolsack need not feel annoyed at having overlooked this Act. This position reminded him of an incident in the life of Lord Chancellor Thurlow. Lord Thurlow was once called to account for having stated something to be law which was not. Lord Thurlow, in language which their Lordships could not expect him to repeat, reiterated that his decision was correct, and thereupon the objector showed him an act of Parliament. What was Lord Thurlow's reply? Why, that he should have felt ashamed of himself if he had been ignorant of the law of the land; but with regard to Acts of Parliament, he never pretended to know them, and he believed there was no one that did. He was aware that there had been long a desire to put church-rates on a different footing from any other charges on land. Lord Stanley stated that church-rates and tithes were quite distinct. There was one distinction between church-rates and tithes which certainly did exist, and was a distinction in favour of church-rates. For tithes they did not go to the land for the remedy, but they sued the party for subtracting the tithes. In the same way for highways, they did not go to the land for the remedy, but proceeded by indictment against the person. But in the case of church-rates they could not only go to the land, but to the person. The evidence given before the other House by an eminent lawyer, Dr. Lushington, was very remarkable. He did not know whether it was attributable to any connexion with the Radical constituency which that learned Gentleman had so long represented, but it was marvellous to see an ecclesiastical Judge having a strong bias against church-rates. Dr. Lushington being asked by the Committee if church-rates were at any time regarded as a poll-tax, said they were certainly of that nature. He never was more surprised than when he read that opinion, because church-rates were essentially contradictory to a poll-tax—a poll-tax being an equal tax on all persons, and church-rates being a tax according to property. If anything could surprise him more than the statement, it was the reason given by the learned Gentleman for it—that it was obvious they were of the nature of a poll-tax, because, whenever there had been a charge upon land, as in the case of tithes, there had always been a power of distress and seizing the lands. He had no hesitation in saying, that there was not, and never had been, that power in the case of tithes, and if he were wrong in expressing that opinion he hoped he should be corrected; but that being so, church-rates possessed an advantage over all other charges upon the person in respect of land, inasmuch as they were charges upon the land also. It appeared, therefore, that there was a remedy in the case of church-rates, that the remedy was imprisonment; that there was no legal difficulty in having recourse to it, and that it was totally without foundation to say, that the law of church-rates could not be enforced. Those who advocated an alteration of the law urged as a reason, that such was the disposition of the people that it was impossible to carry it into effect. In that House, the very sanctuary of justice, they ought not to be told that justice was not to be performed because it was unpopular in any quarter. The extent of that popularity was, however, greatly exaggerated. A right rev. Friend, after careful investigation, found that 4 per cent of the whole parishes in the kingdom was the whole extent of the resistance to church-rates. Then it was said, the number of cases did not show the amount of agitation. That might be very true; but if the Legislature attended to agitation, he believed they could not stop with the abolition of church-rates, they would have to go much further and to abolish —he would not say higher institutions, for he did not believe there could be higher than the Church—but institutions in a worldly point of view more important. And in what had this antichurch-rate agitation originated? He did not scruple to say, that this agitation had originated, not in a real popular movement but in a conspiracy, and that the conspiracy was recorded unblushingly in the evidence of Mr. Courtauld, who said, It had been previously determined as a very available mode of practically opposing a rate, that a Dissenter (and I was to have been the individual) should be the churchwarden. He did not recognize Mr. Courtauld as a Dissenter; Mr. Courtauld was something more than a Dissenter, being a Unitarian; and he protested against his calling himself a Dissenter. He put it to their Lordships whether a number of persons combining for the purpose of preventing not merely a lawful act, but what it was the duty of the parties to do, was not a conspiracy?—whether, in law, it did not amount to a very grave misdemeanour, for which the parties, if prosecuted, would be liable to very heavy punishment? But he had not done full justice to the origin of his agitation in merely terming it a conspiracy—it was a conspiracy carried on by premeditated wilful perjury and subornation of perjury. He said that, because Mr. Courtauld was elected churchwarden in order to prevent the performance of the proper duties of the office. The duty of a churchwarden was stated upon high authority, that of Dr. Lushington in his evidence before the Committee, as follows:— The proper duty of a churchwarden is, as soon as ever he comes into office, to see what is requisite and necessary for the sustentation of the church, that is, the repair of the fabric, and the finding of things requisite for the decent performance of Divine Service; those are, strictly speaking, the expenses that ought to fall upon the church-rate. It is his duty to make an estimate in the first instance; to call a vestry immediately; to lay before the vestry that estimate, and to ask from them a rate; if they refuse him the rate, he has done his duty. He wrote to the learned Judge who gave this opinion (Dr. Lushington), asking him whether there was not here an important omission—whether it was not the further duty of the churchwarden to present to the ordinary "the want of repair, that he had caused an estimate to be laid before the vestry, and that a rate had been refused." The learned Judge answered him, that "Such was the further duty of the churchwarden, and he authorised him to state that such was his judgment." The churchwarden's solemn declaration, in lieu of oath, was as follows— That I will well and truly perform the office of church warden within the parish of—, for the ensuing year, to the best of my skill and ability; and that I will present all such persons and things as by the laws ecclesiastical of this realm are presentable. Their Lordships would now be enabled to judge of the morality of the gentlemen who conspired to procure Dissenters to be elected churchwardens, with a view to defeat the raising of church rates, which it was their duty to cause to be raised, and of which duty they were once solemnly sworn and now were solemnly "affirmed" to the performance. An indictment for perjury would not lie for the breach of a promise attested by oath; but it was morally perjury, and so in the case of a promise by way of solemn affirmation—which, by statute, was substituted for oath—to discharge a duty, such affirmation being made with the deliberate object of preventing it from being performed. Morally such conduct was justly accusable of perjury, and subornation of perjury and conspiracy to commit such crimes and violate the law. Yet the wealthy person who had set on foot this odious conspiracy had not scrupled to profess before the Committee scruples of "conscience," forsooth, as to payment of church-rates. This reminded one irresistibly of "straining at a gnat and swallow- ing a camel," But when they came to be examined into, these "conscientious scruples" turned out to be extremely curious. It appeared that Mr. Courtauld, although he refused to be rated either in the parish of Bocking or Braintree, in each of which he had property, yet in the neighbouring parish of Gosfield he was rated and paid the rate. Mr. Courtauld was asked this question by the Committee—"You have stated that you have yourself individually, and those with whom you act, unconquerable objections in point of conscience to the payment of church-rates imposed upon the parish of Braintree?" Mr. Courtauld replied, "I have." Whercon one of the Committee naturally asked how he could consistently and conscientiously pay a church-rate in the parish of Gosfield, whilst he refused to pay them in the parishes of Bocking and Braintree? The answer was remarkable, and he coidd well understand the curiosity evinced by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst), but he would defy his noble and learned Friend to guess what it was. Mr. Courtauld replied, "In the parish of Gosfield I have been permitted to construct a family vault and erect—[What?]—a family mausoleum." So that the gentleman who agitated against church-rates in one parish was a hyper-churchman in another, where he had aspired to the distinction of a family mausoleum. This was the right royal style! Few of their Lordships had mausoleums. "Mausoleum" was an Asiatic term of dignity and splendour, and here was the arch-agitator of Bocking and Braintree desirous of becoming the satrap of Gosfield. But when a magnificent estate, lent by an ancestor of the Duke of Buckingham to Louis XVIII., when an exile in this country, came into the possession of a wealthy person, ambitious of a "mausoleum," although the originator of the agitation against church-rates, it was very remarkable that he should select for its site the church or churchyard, and place it under the protection of church-rates. Mr. Courtauld added—"I am, consequently, in the habit of resorting to the parish church of Gosfield"—not on Sundays; let him not be suspected of anything so wrong, but—"on the death of any member of our family, and am thereby a partaker of the advantages resulting from the church of Gosfield." He wished Mr. Courtauld had had more consideration for the poor of those parishes in which he had acquired the enormous wealth that permitted him to extend his possessions into Gosfield, and to indulge his aspirations for a mausoleum. Would it not have been more decent if this wealthy person had taken some slight care that the hundreds of poor people, members of the Church of England, should have had the means of worshipping God in their own parish church? All that this wealthy agitator, however, cared for, it appeared, so far as parish churches were concerned, was that he should have a "mausoleum" in one of them, and the opportunity of interring therein any of the members of his distinguished family. Mr. Courtauld added— I should, however, explain that I, individually, do not partake of what is called the conscientious objection which is taken by many of my brother Dissenters. He again, in the name of the Dissenters, objected to Mr. Courtauld calling himself a Dissenter. Mr. Courtauld also said that the question of the church-rate struggle, taken per se, was gone comparatively into insignificance, but was interesting to Dissenters, as bearing upon the important question of the separation of Church and State. This statement startled the Committee—one of whom said, "that is a large question, will you explain what you mean by separation of Church and State?" To which the witness answered, "I do not know how I can explain it better than by the words themselves—'separation of Church and State.'" The witness was a person of shrewdness. The words were significant enough, and amply described what the authors of this anti-church-rate agitation aimed at. It was well for their Lordships, then, to bear in mind that the concealed and ultimate object of any legislation for the abolition of church-rates was the separation of Church and State. If it was asked whether the present state of things was desirable, he (the Bishop of Exeter) answered that he deplored, regretted, and deprecated it; but he deplored it most deeply on account of the unscrupulous means by which the agitation was carried on, and the weak concessions made to it; so that there was no security that, ere long, their Lordships' House might not be polluted by the proposition of some measure for the abolition of churchrates—that is, for the separation of Church and State, which was the real and ultimate object of the promoters of such a measure. He would gladly see some measure by which the interests of religion might be secured with less opening for the dissension and acrimony which the present system tended to produce. But that it was not easy to devise such a system was shown by the successive failures of all that had been proposed; and he believed that no system could be projected less liable to evil than that which now existed. He had no special love for church-rates, but he agreed with the First Lord of the Treasury, who had said— If the law were that a compulsory power existed, requiring every parish to levy a rate, then that would be the best mode of providing for the fabric of the church. Assuming—what he could not but assume—that some compulsory system was necessary, he did not believe that any better system than the present one could be invented. With regard to the voluntary system, he admitted that in many populous parishes, particularly in great cities, the church people might themselves do what was necessary for the keeping the churches in repair, and the country ought to be grateful to them for so doing; but he must caution them that all such voluntary measures had a fearful tendency to rob the poor of their rights and privileges. The Peers of England never would desert the poor of England; and, whatever measures they adopted, they must remember that the poor man has as good a right to a seat in church as the highest, the richest, and the proudest had to his rank, wealth, and station. The danger of voluntary measures was that those who contributed money would claim peculiar rights with regard to pews and sittings, and he was sorry that he was able to illustrate that danger by referring to the state of things in the city in which their Lordships were assembled. The parish of St. James, Westminster, contained a population of 36,400, of whom 20,000 were poor. The parish church contained 1,300 sittings let and appropriated, while there were only 400 free sittings for adults—of which not more than 200 were tolerably good—and 100 for children. In St. James's Chapel, York Street, there were 550 sittings let and appropriated, and not a single free sitting had been provided. St. Phillip's Chapel, Regent Street, contained 850 sittings let and appropriated, while the number of free sittings for adults was only fifty, and for children forty. In this chapel there were also 376 sittings in the roof, but they were out of sight and never occupied. He now came to a case of a better description—that of Archbishop Tenison's Chapel, in Regent Street, in which there were 550 sittings let and appropriated, and 400 free sittings for adults and seventy for children, all of which sittings were excellent. Then, again, in St. Luke's Church, Berwick Street, there were 400 sittings let and appropriated, and 380 free sittings for adults, of which 240 were good, and 600 for children. The population of these parishes amounted to 36,400, and their Lordships would perceive how inadequate the church accommodation was; but such results, he believed, they must expect from the voluntary system in towns. They had been told that one-fourth of the parishes in the country resisted church-rates; but, even if they left things as they at present were, he entreated their Lordships not to be induced, by apprehensions of dangers which it was said would arise if agitation on this question were allowed to spread, to desist from earnestly and strenuously resisting any attempt which might be made for the abolition of church-rates.


felt it necessary to make some remarks, although it was a great disadvantage to have to follow the right rev. Prelate in debate, because the House, whether they concurred with the right rev. Prelate or not, always found him very entertaining. On the present occasion, too, the right rev. Prelate had very greatly amused their Lordships; but in the latter part of his speech, he had entirely lost sight of the subject of the petitions lie had presented and of the subject he had brought before the House; for however much it might be lamented that, in the large London parishes, where the churches were originally built for a population of one or two thousand, the accommodation was inadequate for either rich or poor, when it was multiplied to 30,000 or 40,000, it was not, surely, any fault of the church-rates that such deficiencies existed. No law had ever recognised the obligation of levying church-rates to build new churches as population advanced;—that had been done under special Acts of Parliament, from time to time passed; and if the Church Building Acts did not make adequate provision, that was quite a different question. The right rev. Prelate had, in a very entertaining way, described to their Lordships the aspiring ambition of what he called the House of Courtauld, and had amused their Lordships with his remarks upon the evidence of a gentleman of that name; but really, whether Mr. Courtauld was, or not, a Dissenter, as he described himself to be, that, with other private and personal matters, to which the right rev. Prelate had referred, were matters with which their Lordships had no concern at all. But to the former part of the address, he (the Lord Chancellor) felt himself bound to make some observations, inasmuch as the right rev. Prelate had insinuated that he (the Lord Chancellor) had, not intentionally, but through ignorance, misled their Lordships on a former occasion, and inadequately represented the state of the law as regards church-rates. Now he (the Lord Chancellor) would not shelter himself behind the example of Lord Thurlow, who replied to a similar remark (although in language far less courtly than that of the right rev. Prelate), "I don't consider myself bound to know all Acts of Parliament." He (the Lord Chancellor) admitted that if he had ever, unintentionally and in ignorance, misled their Lordships, he should ask their forgiveness, but he would say now exactly what he said the other night, because it happened to be a subject which, from accidental causes, had been present to his mind judicially, ever since he had occupied a seat on the bench; and therefore if he now forgot the result of that consideration he had formerly bestowed upon it, he should be quite unpardonable. It was about fifteen years ago that this question arose at Braintree, as to whether, when the parish would not make a church-rate, the churchwardens could not do it in invitos. That came to be considered, first in the Court of Queen's Bench, and was then carried into the Exchequer Chamber, and elaborately discussed, he (the Lord Chancellor) being one of the Judges of the Exchequer at that time, and his noble and learned Friend (Lord Campbell) being then, as he believed, Attorney General, was one of the counsel by whom the question was argued. It was very deeply considered, and certainly there was no disposition on the part of the Judges to warp the law; they looked into it most laboriously, endeavouring rather, if they could, to find that there was authority for saying that the churchwardens could impose that rate; and they would have been glad to come to that conclusion; but they found that there was no such authority, and consequently they declared against the rate. But, in delivering the unanimous opinion of the Judges to that effect, Chief Justice Tindal did throw out a suggestion which he (the Lord Chancellor) was sorry for, and which he did not conceive to possess any weight; but, although the Chief Justice was delegated to declare the opinion of the Judges together, he (the Lord Chancellor) should protest against its being considered, that every opinion expressed by him, and not material to the discussion, should be taken as what the other Judges who were present concurred in. He thought at the time that the suggestion of Lord Chief Justice Tindal would involve parties in expense, without any beneficial result. That suggestion was, whether, as it was the duty of the parish, by the ancient immemorial law of the land, to keep the church in repair, there might not be some doubt whether, when the parishioners were met to see how that should be done, those who chose to say, "We will not vote anything," did not put themselves in the same position as voters who, in the election of a Member of Parliament, chose to throw away their votes on something quite beside the purpose of the election; and whether the remaining parishioners might not then, although the minority, proceed to make the rate. The course thus suggested by Chief Justice Tindal was taken, and the question came before the Court of Exchequer again; and in the beginning of 1850 the Judges delivered their opinion. He, himself, thought the minority had no such power; and he gave his reasons. Mr. Baron Parke and Lord Truro took this same view; but the majority of the Judges decided in favour of the rate. It was brought, by appeal, before the House of Lords, but he (the Lord Chancellor) took no part in their Lordships' decision, though he thought it was a perfectly correct one. This being the state of the law, the churchwardens could not make a rate; the minority could not make it; then who could make it? The right rev. Prelate had asked, whether the parish was not liable? Undoubtedly, the repair of the church was part of the trina necessitas, so called by the old Saxon law, to keep the churches, the roads, and the bridges in repair. But it was an obvious maxim, that where there was no legal remedium, there was no jus; and such an obligation could not be enforced. The remedy, such as it was, was absolutely impracticable, and one it was quite ridiculous to speak of. In ancient times the predecessors of the right rev. Prelate, when the Church of England was Roman Catholic, knew how to enforce anything of this sort. It was doubtful whe- ther they ever imposed an interdict upon a whole parish, but they could excommunicate all the parishioners individually. But, to talk of that being a remedy in these days was absurd. The right rev. Prelate said, there was practically a substitute for it; and he referred to an Act by which, in case of a person under sentence of an ecclesiastical court, the Court of Chancery could formerly issue a writ de excommunicato capiendo, under which the person might be imprisoned. It is not quite so now; but if the person refused to submit to the sentence of the Ecclesiastical Court, that being certified to the Court of Chancery, a decree might be made requiring him to do so; and if he still refused, that would be taken as a contempt of Chancery, and a writ de contumace capiendo might be issued, and the defendant be put in prison—it was to be presumed, in such a case as the right rev. Prelate contemplated, until the church was repaired. But practically, there was no remedy; for nobody was bound to lay a rate: that was only the method adopted, by way of a bye-law, to keep the church in repair; and all the Ecclesiastical Court could do was, to lay hold of any parishioner, whether he was one who had voted for a church-rate or not, and to proceed against him, because his parish had not got its church in repair. But it was perfectly ridiculous to suppose that, in the nineteenth century, this could be tolerated for a moment. Such was the state of the law; and if the right rev. Prelate thought the case would be remedied by retaining the law in that state, others would not be so sanguine of it; because no sane man would ever institute any such proceeding. The right rev. Prelate had referred to some modern Acts of Parliament, giving the power of sequestration. But for what? Not for not having the church repaired, or for not snaking a rate, but for not paying a rate which had been lawfully imposed. No question if a rate was lawfully made, there were plenty of means of enforcing the payment of it; but the difficulty was to get the rate properly made. This subject had engaged the attention of the Government and of preceding Governments, and the real desideratum was to find out some mode of keeping all these valuable buildings in repair without causing that irritation of the minds of persons dissenting from the Church which they not unnaturally felt at being called upon to maintain a church to which they did not belong. He agreed with the right rev. Prelate that to talk of not paying the rate from conscientious scruples was in most cases a mockery; but the fact was that persons objected to pay church-rates, because they did not like the expense of having to keep up their own places of worship, and being bound at the same time to contribute to those of churchmen. It might not be a very highminded feeling, but it was not very unnatural. Any person who should propose a plan which should offer a reasonable security for keeping the churches in repair without irritating the feelings of those who differed from the Church, would confer a great boon upon the community, and would deserve well of the country. It would be wrong now for him (the Lord Chancellor) to say what the Government contemplated. An hon. Gentleman in the other House had obtained leave to introduce a Bill upon this subject; but he could not yet say how far that measure might be adopted or improved upon, or whether, later in the Session, or next Session, the Government might not feel it expedient to undertake the question.


said, he entirely concurred with the right reverend Prelate, that the abolition of church-rates would, through the Church, strike at the cause of religion, and at the rights especially of the poorer members of the Church of England. He very much doubted whether the means for enforcing the levying of a church-rate could be applied: but, at the same time, he was confident that their Lordships would not agree to the Bill which was likely to come up from the other House, and the object of which was, he understood, simply to abolish church-rates. He was by no means without hope that eventually a measure would be devised which would secure the rights of the poor, and provide efficiently for the maintenance of the fabric and for the necessaries requisite for the performance of divine service, and yet should not be encumbered with the many difficulties which at present rendered the enforcement of church-rates almost nugatory.


thought that the House and the public were very much indebted to the right rev. Prelate who had initiated the present discussion. The subject was one of the highest importance and would not brook delay. The Bill, as their Lordships knew, was pending in the House of Commons, which would probably be shortly laid before their Lordships, for the total abolition of church-rates, without providing any substitute. To that Bill he never would give his assent, for he believed it was absolutely necessary to maintain the establishment and to provide for the efficient performance of religious worship. He confessed that the proposal for the total abolition of church-rates deeply shocked him, and he was surprised that it had met with support from some quarters in which he thought a strong opposition would have been manifested; for he looked upon such a measure as neither more nor less than one of spoliation. While, however, he thought the right rev. Prelate had done good service in bringing the matter before the attention of the House, he was of opinion that the right rev. Bishop had made use of a false argument in opposition to the Bill; for he could confirm the statement of the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack, that at present there was no means whatever of enforcing the making of a church-rate, although, when the church-rate had been made by the majority of the district, there was no difficulty in enforcing its payment. In the Roman Catholic times of this country there was no such difficulty, for the effect of the ecclesiastical censure was then tremendous, and those who refused to make the rate were cursed with bell, book, and candle, and cut off from the benefit of the sacraments. Since the Reformation there had been no instance of a successful personal proceeding against persons who refused to make a church-rate. The first attempt was made in the time of Lord Kenyon, when an application was made for a mandamus to compel the making of the rate; but that learned Lord had decided that he had no power to interfere, and referred the parties to the ecclesiastical tribunal, and that decision had been followed to the present time. He (Lord Campbell) believed that if stringent measures were adopted, such as imprisoning parties who refused to make the rate, the effect would be most injurious upon the interests of the Church. He should rejoice if some measure could be suggested which, like the measure in substitution for the church-cess in Ireland, would provide for the support of the fabric and the maintenance of Divine worship in churches, while at the same time it would relieve Dissenters from the payment of a rate to which they conscientiously objected.


briefly re- plied, reiterating his statement, that by the statute of 1833 it was distinctly provided that every order made by an ecclesiastical court should be obeyed, under the penalty of writ de contumace copiendo. Whether it were for the enforcement of a rate already made, or for the making of a rate, it was the same thing; and he was able to say, as he had said before, that it had been proved by experience to be effectual, for in several cases it had been put in force; and as soon as the threat of putting it in force was made known, the rate was made. By the very confession of the agitators at Braintree, they dreaded the exercise of that power.

Petition to lie on the Table.