HL Deb 21 April 1856 vol 141 cc1251-68

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


rose to move the second reading of the Church Discipline Bill, and said that the object of the measure was to introduce an improved system of Church discipline, and, generally, an amendment in the administration of the Ecclesiastical Courts. Their Lordships were well aware that from remote ages these courts had exercised jurisdiction in many matters, some of which were of a purely temporal character, some of a mixed character, and others of a purely spiritual character. These courts had exercised jurisdiction in respect to wills and the payment of legacies, which he considered to be matters of a purely temporal character. It was unnecessary to inquire how these courts first obtained this jurisdiction—it was sufficient to say that it was obtained through their connection wish the Church:—at any rate, they had enjoyed for ages the right of granting probates, and of deciding what was or what was not the will of a deceased per son. These courts also exercised jurisdiction in matters concerning the law of marriage, and had the power of granting divorces, not so as to enable persons to marry again, but a mensa et thoro, by which parties were enabled to live separate and to have independent rights to a certain extent. These matters he looked upon to be of a mixed character; for though the Roman Catholic Church considered that marriage was one of the sacraments, and it was at one time considered a sacrament in this country, yet for some long time past it was held to be, although accompanied with religious sanction, only a matter of a temporal nature. Then those courts had jurisdiction over a number of matters purely ecclesiastical, such as the spiritual correction of clerks in cases of misconduct, and also in a vast number of other matters connected with the discipline of the Church. Two years ago he had the honour of introducing a Bill, which passed this House, to transfer from these courts their jurisdiction in matters testamentary; and he had also brought in a Bill for constituting a new court for the decision of subjects relating to marriage and divorce; but these Bills did not pass through Parliament. An observation was, however, made by several noble Lords that it was not the proper way to legislate in the matter to introduce Bills such as the above, without pointing out what provision Government were prepared to make in respect to those matters which were still left under the jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts. He did not feel the whole force of the remark; but as it was repeated, and some weight appeared to be attached to it, the Government thought it their duty to make known what course they recommended their Lordships to sanction in respect to what they considered the purely ecclesiastical part of the jurisdiction of these courts; and it was with that view he now asked their Lordships to sanction the second reading of the present Bill. The present Bill which he had presented to their Lordships related solely to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the courts. It was called the Church Discipline Bill; that was considered by some to be an improper title, and not an accurate description of the Bill; but there was nothing in the preamble or title which limited the Bill to Church discipline. There was no attempt, either in preamble or title, to disguise or conceal what was the real nature and scope of the measure. Their Lordships were probably aware that the ecclesiastical jurisdiction was exercised in a number of courts, termed Courts Provincial, Courts Diocesan, and a number of smaller courts, which might be considered excrescences from the Diocesan Courts, and from some of which the appeal was to the Diocesan Courts, and from others to the Archiepiscopal Courts. The Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1832 gave the number of these smaller courts as 300, and termed them Courts of Peculiars. In ancient times the appeal from the Archiepiscopal Courts was to the See of Rome; but that was done away with in the reign of Henry VIII., and an appeal was constituted to delegates, sometimes called an appeal to the King in Chancery. The party appealing appealed to the King in the Court of Chancery, and the Lord Chancellor in each particular case created a certain number of Commissioners called delegates, to form a court of appeal pro hac vice. The practice was to name one or two temporal Judges, one or two advocates of Doctors' Commons, and, in some cases, high ecclesiastical personages were nominated. The court so constituted was the Ecclesiastical Court which was to inquire into the matter of appeal. This was the last court of appeal known in ecclesiastical matters; but the King being supreme in all ecclesiastical as well as civil cases was not finally bound by its decision, but might grant what was called a Commission of Review. This was only done in very strong cases, and the power to grant the commission was in the Lord Chancellor. Such was the state of the Ecclesiastical Courts until quite modern times; and, with some modifications, was their state now. Their Lordships wore aware at the close of the last year of the reign of George IV., when the noble and learned Lord opposite held the Great Seal, a commission was issued, directing certain persons skilled in common law and ecclesiastical law to inquire into the whole state of those courts. Fifteen Commissioners were named, amongst whom were numbered several distinguished prelates and several ornaments of the legal profession. His most rev. Friend the late Archbishop of Canterbury was one; the present right rev. the Bishop of London was another; and Lords Tenterden and Wynford, Chief Justice Tindal, Dr. Lushington, Sir W. Alexander, and a number more of the highest names were selected. These Commissioners reported in the year 1832. In their Report they pointed out as being in an extremely unsatisfactory state the jurisdiction of the courts in a great number of matters, and, amongst others, what they called the purely ecclesiastical jurisdiction. They referred to the exercise of jurisdiction in ecclesiastical matters, as distinguished from temporal matters, as very unsatisfactory. The course of proceeding in such matters was pointed out as being cumbrous, dilatory, and expensive. For instance, if a clergyman were charged with misconduct, the course pursued was to exhibit articles against him in the courts, charging him with specified offences; to that he was required to put in a cumbrous answer termed a responsive allegation, and to that another allegation might be put in on the other side; witnesses were then examined upon written interrogatories in support of the respective allegations to a most inconvenient extent. The Commissioners proceeded to detail the further steps, which they described as unnecessarily cumbrous and expensive, pointing out that the expenses frequently ran to £1,500, and that the average duration of a suit was two years. The Commissioners recommended an improvement on this system, but did not distinctly point out what it was they wanted. The matter then slept until 1840, when the Act of 2 & 3 Vict. c. 86, was passed. He would state shortly what were the provisions of that Act, as it might be necessary for their Lordships to see how far they would be inclined to alter or agree to them. By the Act of 1840 a Bishop, in the case of a complaint against a clergyman, was authorised to issue a commission of inquiry to five persons, one of whom was to be either his vicar-general, or chancellor, or archdeacon, but with that exception, the five persons were to be selected by the Bishop. They were to inquire, upon oath, as to the validity of the charges against any clerk against whom a complaint of misconduct was made. The clerk against whom the complaint was made was to be cited before the commission; they were to examine witnesses, and then make a report to the Bishop as to whether a primâ facie case had been established whereon to take further proceedings. If their report was in the negative, then the matter dropped; if in the affirmative, articles of charge were to be exhibited against the person charged, and the case was to be determined by the Bishop, assisted by three assessors, one of whom was to be an advocate or barrister; one of the others was to be either a deacon or chancellor, or some functionary in his cathedral; and the three to be at the selection of the Bishop. An appeal was given from the Bishop to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and any Archbishop or Bishop who was a member of the Privy Council was authorised to act as a member of the Judicial Committee for the purpose of hearing such appeal. This machinery was found to be so unmanageable and inconvenient, that instead of being better it was almost worse than the old system. It was remarked that it was inefficient, and that while the preliminary inquiry had not the safeguards of a real trial, it was too cumbrous for a mere preliminary inquiry. He remembered one case in particular which illustrated that—the case of "Parnell v. Craig," in which the proceedings commenced in March, 1845. The Commissioners, who sat for nine days, no doubt at an enormous expense, agreed upon a report. Mr. Craig was not satisfied with it, and brought the case into the Court of Arches in November, 1845, where it remained "hung up," and pending at an enormous cost, until 1847. There was then an appeal to the Judicial Committee, and in March, 1849, four years from the commencement, the Judicial Committee decided that there was no ground for the action, and the defendant was set free, subject only to the enormous costs of the suit. He believed that the Court over which his noble and learned Friend the Lord Chief Justice presided had decided that when proceedings had once been instituted the Archbishop could not refuse to exercise his jurisdiction. [Lord CAMPBELL: Not after the Commissioners have reported that there is a primâ facie case for further proceedings.] The state of the law was felt to be so unsatisfactory that, in 1847, the Bishop of London introduced into that House a Bill having for its object to reduce those anomalies to a very considerable extent. The principal provisions of the Bill were these. The preliminary inquiry was got rid of altogether, although there might be a private inquiry by the Bishop, with the consent of the party accused; when articles had been exhibited against any party, and had been duly served upon him, the Bishop was to require him to appear before him. If the party neglected to appear, or appearing denied the truth of the allegation against him, the Bishop was to proceed to hear the cause personally with his vicar-general as assessor, or by his vicar-general or commissary, assisted by four members of a Diocesan Council provided by the Bill. All questions of fact were to be decided by the opinion of the greater number of those constituting the court; and all questions of law and the apportionment of the punishment in case of conviction by the Bishop, or his vicar-general or commissary, whichever presided in the court. The evidence was to be taken vivâ voce in open court, and upon oath. An appeal was given by this Bill to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; every Bishop being of the Privy Council, except in the case of the Bishop of the diocess before whom the complaint originated, was to be a member of the Judicial Committee for the purposes of that appeal. These provisions, however, applied only to the case of a clerk accused of certain ecclesiastical offences. In the case of the clergyman being accused of heresy or false doctrine, the course to be pursued was that directed by law before the Act of 1832, namely, before the Court of Delegates. The Bill was referred to a Select Committee, by which very extensive charges were proposed, especially as regards the constitution of the court of appeal. An entirely new court was proposed for the decision of appeals in the case of heresy and false doctrine. In the case of England and Wales, it was to consist of the two Archbishops, the Lord Chancellor, three Bishops, the Master of the Rolls, the senior Vice-Chancellor, the three senior Puisne Judges, the Dean of Arches, the Chancellor of London, and the Regius and Margaret Professors of Divinity of Oxford and Cambridge. So that this tribunal would be composed of no less than seventeen persons, of whom nine were ecclesiastics and eight laymen. As of course it would be impossible to get a full court together, it was directed that the quorum should consist of nine of these, five ecclesiastics, three laymen, and one of the two lay Judges of the Ecclesiastical Courts—namely, three Bishops, one Equity Judge, two Puisne Judges, the Dean of the Arches Court or the Chancellor of London, and two of the Divinity Professors. To this court, also, appeals from the Consistory Courts in Ireland were to be addressed. In the case of offences by clerks against the ecclesiastical laws, the Select Committee proposed that the cognisance of the offence should belong to the Bishop of the diocess, or to the Archbishop of the province, in the case of the offender holding benefices in two diocesses, or to the Archbishop of Canterbury where the benefices lay in several provinces, or the offence was charged to have been committed out of England and Ireland. It was proposed to be provided that every archdeacon should summon all the incumbents in the archdeaconry to elect twelve of their number, the aggregate of whom should form a jury list for the diocess, out of whom four should be chosen by lot to act as assessors to the Bishop at every trial under the Act. The jury so constituted was to try all questions of fact, and give their decision on the evidence as to the proof of the allegations; and all questions of law and evidence and the award of punishment were to be decided by the Bishop, or his vicar-general or commissary. From the decision of this court an appeal was given; in the case of England to the court of appeal to be constituted by the Act, and in Ireland to the High Court of Delegates, as before the Act. Such was the measure introduced by the Bishop of London; and, had it been possible to make it workable, every pains had been taken to make it so; for the Bill was certainly a specimen of mature deliberation as to the best way of dealing with the subject. The Bill never went further than a Select Committee in 1847. It was reintroduced in 1848, again in 1849, and he believed again in 1850, but nothing was done. The change, therefore, that was admitted to be necessary in 1832, and obvious in 1840, was still to be accomplished by a mode calculated to give real satisfaction. Their Lordships were aware that for the last two years a great deal more discussion had taken place in the meetings of Convocation than had been usual in later times. In the year 1853 a Report was made from a Committee of the Upper House of Convocation, and to that Report he would call their Lordships' attention. The Committee came to the following Resolutions— That they are unanimously of opinion that the present state of the law touching the discipline of the clergy is unsatisfactory, and that it needs amendment. That the great expenses and delays attending such proceedings, which amount frequently to a denial of justice, have not been removed by the recent Acts upon this subject. That the provisions of the last Act, which governs the present administration of the law, are inadequate for their purpose. That the preliminary inquiry under that Act savours too much of an actual trial, without its safeguards or conclusion; while it has been doubted whether those provisions, which were intended to govern the actual trial, could safely be used for its conduct. That the present provision for hearing and deciding final appeals is not such as to give general satisfaction. That it is highly important that these evils should be corrected. That, in the judgment of the Committee, it is desirable that all causes against clerks, involving questions of heresy or false doctrine, blasphemy or schism, should be heard as they might have been before the passing of the Act 2 & 3 Will. IV. chap. 92, saving as regards the composition of the court of final appeal. They would suggest the expediency of considering whether the best solution of this question would not be to restore this jurisdiction to the Queen in Chancery, and to enable Her Majesty, when any appeals shall be presented from the court of the province in matters ecclesiastical, in which any clerk in holy orders shall be a party, except in causes matrimonial or testamentary, to remit the cause for re-hearing in the court of the Archbishop, providing that they should sit under the authority of the Great Seal, with the Judge of that court, and other ecclesiastical and common law Judges to hear and decide finally in the cause. Such were the rcommendations made by the Upper House of Convocation. Nothing, however, was done; and when, in 1854, the Government were told they were guilty of shortcoming in their Testamentary Jurisdiction Bill, in not showing how they intended to provide for the other branches of the ecclesiastical system, it appeared to him to be necessary that the Government should make up their minds with regard to a measure regarding church discipline. The present Bill was a slight modification of the Bill framed last year, which he had submitted to the right rev. Prelate the Archbishop of Canterbury, in order that he might consult his right rev. Brethren and ascertain how far it would be satisfactory to them; for he had no desire to do anything that would meet with their decided opposition. He felt bound to say that he had received very little encouragement from the right rev. Prelates. On the 11th of June last year he received a letter from his most rev. Friend to the effect that, in accordance with the desire expressed by him (the Lord Chancellor) such of the Bishops as he had been able to consult had taken into serious consideration the Church Discipline Bill, and he regretted to say that the general opinion was unfavourable; that they considered it as tending to transfer the appeal from the Bishop to the Archbishop, and from the Archbishop to the Crown; the court of appeal provided by the Bill, the Bishops regarded as a more desirable body than that which existed under the present law, but less so than the court recommended by the Committee of Convocation; and that, therefore, they could not promise to give his recommendation their support. He must say he had read with respectful attention this letter, without being able to see that its objections were well founded, or that the Bill tended to transfer the jurisdiction as asserted. However, he thought it to he his duty to make some slight alterations in order to remove all doubts upon the two points in question; and having done so, he thought it his duty to submit the Bill to their Lordships, although it had not the sanction of the right rev. Prelates. Under all the circumstances he thought he should have been guilty of a dereliction of duty had he not stepped in to supply a deficiency which was admitted to exist. Accordingly the day before the Easter recess he laid the present Bill on the table of the House; and concurrently with his doing so another circumstance occurred to which he thought it right to call the attention of their Lordships. He had adverted to the Report of the Upper House of Convocation in the year 1853; and on the very day before he laid the Bill on the table the Lower House of Convocation made a Report to the Upper House, a copy of which he held in his hand on this very subject. That Report, without expressing any very definite opinions, suggested two modes by either of which a satisfactory court of final appeal might be constituted. One of these was the Judicial Committee of Privy Council, with the addition of fifteen ecclesiastics, consisting of the four Archbishops from England and Ireland, the Bishop of London, four other Bishops to be chosen in a manner to be agreed upon, the two divinity Professors of Oxford, the two divinity Professors of Cambridge, one divinity Professor of Durham, and one divinity Professor of Dublin—in all fifteen ecclesiastics to be added pro hac vice to the Judicial Committee. The other plan they suggested was that the final appeal should be to Her Majesty, who should refer the case by warrant under her sign manual to a special court, consisting of a certain number of Archbishops and Bishops, with a certain number of ecclesiastical Judges and divinity Professors. After he had laid his Bill upon the table a right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Exeter) moved for the production of a copy of the Bill of 1847, he presumed for the purpose of contrasting it with the measure he (the Lord Chancellor) had brought in; and subseqently the right rev. Prelate himself introduced that Bill ipsissimis verbis as it passed the Committee in 1847. The question now lay, therefore, between these two different courses—would their Lordships stand still and do nothing, or would they adopt the second reading of his (the Lord Chancellor's) Bill or the Bill of the right rev. Prelate? The Bill of the right rev. Prelate proposed that articles should be filed and served on the party charged, who would then answer, and be tried either by the Bishop of the diocess, who would have for his assessor his vicar-general, or his chancellor, or some special commissary; and that the facts be tried by a jury of four beneficed clergymen. If the matter related to heresy or false doctrine, there was to be a final appeal to the seventeen persons whom he had mentioned. If it did not relate to such matters—that was, in England—then to the Judicial Committee of Privy Council. In Ireland there was to be an appeal to the Court of Delegates. Now, he meant to say that that plan was open to almost every conceivable objection. Who was to be the Judge on the trial? The Bishop could relieve himself, if he chose it, from responsibility by delegating his power to his assessor, to whom, if a competent person, there could be no objection; but that assessor, whether he sat with the Bishop as assessor, or presided without him, he must call Judge. And who was to be the assessor? The Bishop's chancellor, if qualified, and if not qualified, then an assessor who was to be an advocate of seven years' standing, or a barrister-at-law of ten years' standing. "If qualified." That phrase suggested what was at the root of all this—that in nine cases out of ten, as the right rev. Prelate who introduced the Bill must be aware, the chancellor or vicar-general was not a properly qualified person. Why, in the twenty-seven diocesses of England, there were twenty-eight chancellors (there being two for the see of Gloucester and Bristol), and of these not less than fourteen were clergymen. He did not mean to say that there might not be clergymen eminently qualified for such an office; but they were not likely to impress the public with the notion that they were so qualified, and he did not know that it was very desirable they should be so qualified—it might very materially interfere with their ordinary duties. Certainly, he knew one chancellor who was a clergyman—the chancellor of the right rev. Prelate—whose friendship he had had the honour to possess for nearly half a century, and he did not hesitate to say that a more; able man than Mr. Chancellor Martin did not exist. But he must speak out upon this question plainly, and he must express his belief that these gentlemen, as a body, would fail to impress the public with a belief in their competency to exercise such functions. Moreover, a new chancellor was not appointed every time that a vacancy in a see was filled up, but the chancellor of one Bishop remained to his successor. Further, of the twenty-six vicars-general or chancellors in Ireland, not less than seventeen were ecclesiastics, whilst only nine were lawyers. He contended, therefore, that such a tribunal as that was eminently unfitted for the trial of any question to which judicial habits were necessary. In framing this Bill and in constituting what they supposed to be proper courts, the right rev. Prelates who promoted and supported the Bill had fallen into a very great mistake. What was the question in charges of heresy and false doctrine, which had to be decided by a human tribunal? Not the question whether, looking at the matter spiritually, one party or the other was right. That was not the question those tribunals would have to decide; but whether, according to the construction of the Act of Uniformity, the Canons, the Articles, or other ecclesiastical enactments, the maintaining of such and such a doctrine was doing that which was prohibited by law: and to decide that, he took leave to say, not only that ecclesiastical functionaries were not the best, but that they were the very worst, judges. The better ecclesiastics they were, the more difficult would it be for them to separate the question of whether an accused party was maintaining doctrine not warranted by Scripture from the question, whether the party was maintaining doctrine not warranted by the Articles and the Liturgy. He ventured to think, therefore, that the original constitution of the tribunal was eminently defective; for the question was to be tried by a Bishop assisted by his chancellor, who might be an unqualified person, and as a substitute for whom the Bishop was pro hac vice to appoint a special commissary, who was to be considered by him as competent. Then, as to disputed facts. Immorality or indecency might sometimes form the charges against clergymen as well as laymen. And how were these to be tried? By a jury consisting of four beneficed clergymen. But how were beneficed clergymen better qualified to decide on such facts than a common jury? They might, perhaps, be as well qualified, but why better? He disliked this provision of the Bill of the right rev. Prelate—it gave the jury too much of an ecclesiastical character, and made it appear to be something that it really was not. He did not object to disputed facts being tried by a small jury of four; but why not select the jury as juries generally were selected? He did not think it would do good to the cause of religion, or the Church, or the character of the clergy themselves, for ecclesiastics to be summoned to decide as a jury on these facts. Moreover, in trying cases which did not, primâ facie, appear to refer to heresy and false doctrine, questions might arise of a mixed description in which these matters would be involved; and in the event of any such questions incidentally arising on the trial, the Bill of the right rev. Prelate provided that the court might submit a case to the other tribunal provided by the Act; that was to say, they might summon the two Archbishops, the Lord Chancellor, three, English Bishops, the Master of the Rolls, the Vice Chancellor, three Puisne Judges, the Dean of Arches, the Chancellor of London, and four divinity Professors—a quorum to contain a preponderance of the ecclesiastical bench—and lay the point before them for their decision. But the idea of getting such a tribunal together was, in his opinion, preposterous. Instead of a year or two—as it was complained was the case at present—half a century would elapse before the decision of such a tribunal could be obtained. This led him back to the tribunal of appeal proposed by the right rev. Prelate's Bill; and here his objection rested on the same ground as did his objection to the constitution of the original court. There were to be five ecclesiastics, four divinity Professors of Oxford and Cambridge, and eight laymen, and a quorum was to contain not less than five ecclesiastics. To this he objected on the short ground, that it was a tribunal which from its very nature must necessarily be ecclesiastical, and which would not comprehend that its duty was to decide according to law, and not according to what it might consider to be the true interpretation of any question deducible from holy writ. Well, that plan was in competition with others which had been suggested by the two Houses of Convocation. The Upper House suggested as the best court of final appeal, in truth, a return to the old system of Delegates, but without the possibility of reviewing their proceedings. On the other hand, the Lower House of Convocation, on the 13th of March, suggested the Judicial Committee, with the addition of not less than fifteen ecclesiastics. He would now state to their Lordships how it was that he had endeavoured to grapple with this, he confessed, most difficult subject. He proposed, then, in the first place that every Archbishop in his province, and every Bishop in his diocess shall preside in all proceedings in his court, but never without the presence of a chancellor as assessor; but that in every proceeding other than on a question involving points of doctrine, the chancellor should, by the written direction of the Bishop, act as sole judge. His Bill consequently proposed to constitute four ecclesiastical judges or chancellors, who should supersede what he would venture to call the generally inefficient vicars-general throughout the kingdom. When he said that, however, he wished it to be understood, that he was perfectly aware that there were exceptions, and that some of those gentlemen were eminently qualified to discharge the duty of their office. It was thought that the proper persons to appoint those chancellors would be, not the Crown, but the right rev. Prelates themselves: they were not, however, to elect them as a body;—that duty would be committed to the two English and two Irish Archbishops and the Bishop of London, or any three of them. The salaries of the chancellors would be a maximum of £3,000 or a minimum of £2,000, payable out of what he had called "The Common Fund.'' In all suits or proceedings involving questions concerning the doctrine or the rights and ceremonies of the Church, the Bishop, though he must have the presence of a chancellor as assessor, must preside personally—for while he thought that the ecclesiastical element was not the best for deciding, he had at the same time thought it not wise to leave the decision of such questions to the lay element. In any such suit, however, involving the doctrines and rites of the Church, the clerk may address a petition to the Archbishop to take, hear, and determine the cause in his own court, and the Archbishop may, if he think fit, thereupon remove it into his Provincial Court, in those cases in which by law he may now do so. The Bill provided, that all disputed allegations of fact should be tried by a jury, but instead of a jury of four beneficed clergymen, as proposed in the Bill of the right rev. Prelate, it was to be a jury of five laymen, members of the Established Church and qualified as special jurors. The witnesses were to give their evidence vivâ voce,—and the jury were to give their verdict as in the trial of issues at Nisi Prius. If cither party were dissatisfied with the Diocesan Court, he might appeal to the Provincial Court of the Archbishop. With respect to the ultimate court of appeal, he proposed that it should be as it was now, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; but on the application of both parties to a cause in the Diocesan Court, the Archbishop may transmit an appeal per saltum to the Judicial Committee. Inasmuch as this court of appeal would be a court of appeal from Ireland as well as England, he proposed that the two English and the two Irish Archbishops with the Bishop of London, should be ex-officio members of the Judicial Committee for the purpose of these appeals, and that any Bishop, whether of England or Ireland, might be appointed by the Crown to be a member of the Judicial Committee to the same purpose. He further proposed to combine the several diocesan registries into one general metropolitan registry, over which the chancellors would exercise a general superintendence, and the expenses of which would be more than met by the amount now paid in the shape of registration fees in the diocesan registries. All fees and money arising under this Bill were to be paid into the Bank of England to the credit of the Ecclesiastical Courts Commissioners, and the account was to be designated "The Common Fund," and out of it were to be defrayed all the expenses to be incurred in carrying this Bill into effect. All fees payable in respect of any suit or proceeding, and in respect of the business transacted in the registries, were, as far as possible, to be collected by stamps. He had been anxious to give the Bishops efficient legal advice, and he found upon estimating the fees on licences and other matters which would come into the Common Fund, that they would be sufficient to pay the salaries of the chancellors and other salaries, to keep up the registry with a proper staff, and to yield a surplus which would provide each Bishop with a secretary; he had therefore authorised the Archbishop and the Bishop of London, or any four of them, to apply an adequate portion of the Common Fund to providing and paying a secretary for each Archbishop and Bishop to transact the business of the several sees—the salary he should propose to be £200 or £300 a year, or more if necessary, and the funds were equal to meet it; but the sum he had mentioned was as much as a Bishop's chancellor now ordinarily received in the shape of salary. Such was the measure he proposed to remedy the admitted defects. of the existing law. The subject was beset with difficulties, as all would admit, but he thought the present Bill would remedy many of the anomalies now so much complained of. He had endeavoured to frame a measure which should unite the advantages of rendering the proceedings cheap and expeditious. He had provided each Bishop with competent legal advice in the shape of a secretary with a sufficient salary. He had provided a proper assessor for the Bishop when he was deciding upon those cases which were proper for him to decide in person, and a proper substitute in those which might advantageously be confided to a delegate. He had provided a proper tribunal for deciding upon disputed facts; and he had provided, he thought, a better tribunal of ultimate appeal than any that had yet been suggested—either by the Bill of the right rev. Prelate, or by the Houses of Convocation. The Bill, he could assure their Lordships, had been conceived in no hostile spirit, either to the Prelates, or to the Established Church, and he trusted they would not hesitate to give it a second reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.


said, that he rose with unfeigned reluctance to oppose the Bill which had been proposed to their Lordships by the noble and learned Lord. He was sensible of the responsibility which he incurred by objecting to a measure, introduced by such high authority, on a subject part of which at least was generally acknowledged to require the interference of the Legislature, Still, he confessed that much of the embarrassment which he might otherwise feel on this occasion was relieved by the strong; conviction which he entertained that the Bill in question had received little other benefit from the patronage of the noble and learned Lord than its introduction under the sanction of his name, and the powerful advocacy with which he had now explained its nature to their Lordships, He felt satisfied that if his noble and learned Friend had designed to be the author of a measure affecting the administration of the affairs of the Church in the degree in which they were affected by this Bill, he would not have allowed those who were most interested in those affairs to hear of his intention, for the first time, when a Bill of nearly 200 clauses was laid upon the table; he would have followed the course which a long and honourable legal career had made familiar to him; he would have examined into the facts of the case; he would have sought out witnesses to prove the facts; he would have consulted those who were conversant with the matters treated of; he would have required evidence of the things requiring remedy, and would have provided what the occasion needed, and no more. He would not have proposed to overthrow the whole system on which the affairs of the Church had been hitherto administered, without proof of its necessity. He would not have introduced a machinery altogether new and complicated, without securing a prospect of its working well and easily, to the satisfaction of the parties concerned. He (the Archbishop of Canterbury) had alluded to one source of embarrassment arising out of his opposition to this Bill. It was not the only one. He had another cause of uneasiness in the fact that the Bill had received the sanction of his brethren on the Irish Bench, and, in particular, was supported by the most rev. Primate, whose authority must deservedly have great weight with their Lordships, who knew how long he had presided over the Irish branch of our Church, with so much advantage to the interests of religion. If the unity of the Church of England and Ireland, to which the noble and learned Lord had alluded, depended on the passing or the rejection of the Bill, or was at all affected by it, he, for one, would not oppose it. That unity must not be disturbed. Happily, there was no such danger. That which was essential to the unity of the two branches of the same Church was uniformity of doctrine, and to maintain that identity he allowed it to he necessary that there should be for both countries the same court of final appeal. This must be provided for by some alteration of the present appellate jurisdiction. But it was not necessary that their mode of administering the ordinary affairs of the Church should be in all respects the same. It was very possible that the changes which had taken place in the Irish branch of the Church during the last twenty years—the suppression and consolidation of sees—might require a fresh organisation of their registries, and, for aught he knew, have rendered a central registry desirable. Such was not the case in England, where our diocesan registries were correctly kept, and easily accessible. He trusted, therefore, that his right rev. Colleagues would perceive that no disrespect was shown them, if the English Bishops declined to adopt a change of system which was totally uncalled for, and would be simply inconvenient in the diocesses in England. It was not his intention to follow the noble and learned Lord through the details of the Bill, and to show its objectionable character both in principle and practice. This office would devolve upon those who were to follow him. Their Lordships must have already seen how little it corresponded with its title, as a Bill "for better enforcing Church discipline, and the laws ecclesiastical." A great part of it might more justly be described as a Bill for putting the ecclesiastical authority in commission; and this fur no imaginable purpose, except to provide a remuneration for certain officers under the name of chancellors, whose only business it would be to sign and seal documents which they had, or ought to have, no concern in framing, and to sit as assessors to a Bishop when a charge of delinquency was brought against any of his clergy. He was happy to say that such charges were not so frequent as to require such expensive provision. The amendments which the Act on Church discipline confessedly required might be made without a total change of the existing ecclesiastical system. This, he trusted, would be proved in the course of the evening to their Lordships' entire satisfaction, He only regretted that the usages of the House did not permit him to shape the Motion with which he should conclude in terms which sounded more courteous than that the further consideration of this Bill be postponed until that day six months.

Amendment moved, to leave out "now," and insert "this day six months."

THE BISHOP or DERRY rose to support the Bill, and said, in the unavoidable absence of his Grace the Archbishop of Armagh, he had to state, for the information of their Lordships, that when this subject was under discussion last year, the Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland held a meeting, at which they adopted the following Resolutions:— The Irish Archbishops and Bishops are unanimous in their desire that there may be one court of final appeal for the United Church of England and Ireland, and that in the constitution of that court the Queen's supremacy should be maintained intact. They, therefore, approve of the Court of Appeal in the proposed Church Discipline and Registry Bill, and they cannot give their sanction to the recommendation of the Committee of the Convocation of Canterbury, which would make the decision of the Queen in Chancery or Court of Delegates final, thereby withdrawing from the Queen in Council the power of reviewing all such decisions—a power which now belongs, and for ages past has belonged, to the Sovereign in Council. The Irish Archbishops and Bishops are convinced that the Church would derive great advantage from combining the several diocesan registries into a well-organised central registry. And they are ready to forego their private patronage in this respect, feeling that they ought not to allow a regard for their personal or family interests to stand in the way of a reform demanded by the voice of the country. The Irish Archbishops and Bishops deem it to be of great importance to the Colonial Church that a final court of appeal in ecclesiastical matters should speedily be established, in order to secure uniformity in doctrine and discipline throughout the colonial diocesses. For these reasons the Irish Archbishops and Bishops are unanimous in wishing that the Bill prepared by direction of the Solicitor General should be brought into Parliament, reserving to themselves the right of suggesting amendments in the details of the Bill when it is passing through the House of Lords. And on the 29th of November last the following statement, addressed to Viscount Palmerston, was drawn up by the Prelates whose names were attached to it:—