HL Deb 21 July 1856 vol 143 cc1094-102

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3°.

LORD REDESDALE moved, that the Bill be read a third time that day three months. No Amendment had been introduced to remove the objections which he entertained to the measure; the correspondence which had been presented was of a most meagre character, and afforded but little information as to the negotiation which had taken place; and, believing still that too much of condition was attached to the retirement of the two right rev. Prelates, that the Bill was therefore of a simoniacal character, and that both politically and as regarded the Church, the worst consequences might be apprehended from it, he hoped their Lordships would not allow it to pass a third reading.

Amendment moved, to leave out "now," and insert "this Day Three Months."


protested that there had been no negotiation whatever. When his right rev. Friend (the Bishop of Oxford) moved for the production of this correspondence, he said that he believed there were only two letters on the subject from the Bishop of London, and but one from the Bishop of Durham, and that he did not know even whether there was any answer by letter on the part of the Treasury. Of negotiation there had been none. It was perfectly true that, at a late period last year, the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of Canterbury did, either verbally or by letter, inform his noble Friend at the head of the Government that it was the wish of the Bishop of Durham to resign; but nothing approaching to negotiation, and not one word of intercourse ever took place on the subject, as he believed, until the letter of the Bishop of Durham which appeared in the correspondence.


said, he must take leave to remind the noble and learned Lord that on a former occasion he had himself stated that there had been no negotiation; but the correspondence now produced showed that negotiation there had been. As to the correspondence, perhaps their Lordships might be in possession of the whole of that which had taken place with regard to the see of London, but it was not possible that all had been published relative to the Bishop of Durham. Why, there was not even the simple acknowledgment on the part of the Prime Minister of the proposition made to him, of his assent to it, or of the course which the Government intended to pursue. There was only a letter from the right rev. Prelate, in which he stated that he was ready to resign upon the assurance from the Government that there would be guaranteed to him an allowance of £4,500 a year. Now, he (the Earl of Derby) presumed that that assurance had been given to the right rev. Prelate. Unless, therefore, this was a note got up for the purpose of being laid before Parliament, there must, he apprehended, be some further correspondence. The noble and learned Lord now declared that there had been no negotiation, but what did this letter say?


denied having said that there had been no negotiation. What he meant to convey was, that there had been none except what appeared from the correspondence.


Their Lordships had been told the other day that there was no negotiation whatever, that the resignation was a spontaneous act on the one part and was so accepted on the other. Now, the Bishop of Durham himself stated that he could have wished to name a later date for his resignation, but that the noble Earl (the Earl of Chichester) informed him that this might be inconvenient to the Government, and he therefore acquiesced. The Bishop of Durham, for the sake of the convenience of the Government, having thus consented to give up his see on the 1st of August, although it would be inconvenient to him to leave the palace by that day, the noble Earl having informed him that a later day than the first of August would be inconvenient to the Government—[The Earl of CHICHESTER: I did not tell him that or anything of the kind.] Well, the Bishop of Durham said so, at any rate. Here were the papers put in injustification of the course taken by the Government; and this correspondence, he maintained, showed a distinct negotiation in order to consult the convenience of the Government, and then it suited those who entered into the negotiation to say that this was not a correct representation of what took place.


explained that the right rev. Prelate was under some misapprehension;—he had had no authority from the Government to negotiate with the Bishop of Durham; he had merely visited him as a friend to whom he had mentioned his wish to retire. By "inconvenient" he did not allude at all to the convenience of the Government; but he had used the word in the sense only of its not being creditable to his own character to delay his resignation beyond the day which was fixed for the resignation of the Bishop of London.


said, it did not appear from this correspondence that any day whatever had been fixed for the resignation of the Bishop of London.


said, he had voted for the second reading of the Bill, not because he thought it was a good measure, but upon the faith of the noble and learned Lord's statement that the greatest possible inconvenience would arise to the public if it did not pass. He was led to believe that the two dioceses were suffering from the illness of their Bishops; but, on the declaration of the noble Duke opposite, that he had the authority of the Bishop of Durham for stating that his diocese had not suffered in the least from his absence, he could not believe that, so far as that diocese was concerned, there was any great urgency in the case. It would have been very much better to proceed by a general measure, and he was afraid that the passing of this Bill would retard the introduction of such a general measure. They might have followed the example of the Roman Catholic Church in this particular by appointing coadjutors or suffragan Bishops, whose incomes might have been provided out of the revenues of the respective dioceses. His original objections to the Bill were very much increased by a perusal of the correspondence. The transaction might not amount legally to simony; but, looking to the meaning of the word, for a Bishop to offer to place his see in the hands of the Minister on condition of being secured a certain income by law was as much simony as anything possibly could be. The present was a very good time for considering the expediency of dividing the diocese of London. There were two cathedrals, two deans, two episcopal residences, and, above all, an ample revenue. Having voted in favour of the Bill, he should not now oppose it, but should refrain altogether from voting.


defended the measure, with respect to which no more negotiation had taken place than had occurred if any other course had been taken. If a general measure had been brought forward the same process—simoniacal though it might be—must have been followed. Communications must have been entered into with the Bishops to ascertain what provision they would require, and the Legislature would have been called on to enact it in the same manner.


said, he did not know whether this Bill involved an act of simony or not; but this he did know—that when the Bill got down to the other House, it would be designated by a much stronger name than "simony." It would be looked on there as a bargain between the Prime Minister and the Bishops, by which they, for a consideration, placed their sees in his hands—and for such transactions they had a strong name there, which they would not hesitate to apply. The allowances stipulated for were £6,000 a year in the one case, and £4,500 in the other. Suppose the House of Commons should decline to ratify this bargain, and should reduce the allowances to £3,000 a year in both cases, what a position the Government would be placed in. Their Lordships had become a party to the contract and must reject the compromise of the Commons. Of what avail, then, were all the protestations they had heard as to the necessity of this measure to avoid a scandal in the Church? This was one of the worst measures which had ever been laid before Parliament, because it singled out two individuals—who had always been looked upon with great jealousy in certain quarters on account of their large income, and he was astonished that the Government could send such a scheme down to the other House to encounter the rude treatment of Radicals and Church reformers. It should have been a general measure intended to meet all cases.


thought the Bishops had had but scant justice done them in this debate. If they had expressed their willingness to appoint suffragan Bishops, and to pay them the income which was to be paid to their successors, every one would have said that they had done well; but what they had done was even more disinterested. The noble Duke had stated that when the Bill went down to the other House it would be said there that the Minister had been bargaining for two bishoprics, and he thought that the proposition of a general measure would have been more advisable. Now, if that course had been followed the Minister would have been accused of taking advantage of the particular circumstances of two bishoprics to introduce a measure giving him the reversionary appointment of a large number of Bishops. He conceived that much of the feeling which had been excited in respect to the Bill was to be attributed to the attempt of the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack to press it to a second reading at a time when the printed copies of the measure had not been distributed, and when their Lordships had not had an opportunity of knowing it was to come on.


looked on the Bill as establishing a most inconvenient and dangerous precedent. The measure was derogatory to the Church, and the correspondence laid on the table proved that there had been a bargain.


said, that the discussion on the Bill had not removed his objections to it. The whole course of this debate showed how unwise it was to make this a matter of individual legislation, for owing to these two particular Sees being dealt with in this way, every person who spoke on the subject, however careful he might be, ran the risk of having his statements turned into personal imputations. The Government were said to be actuated by a desire to obtain patronage, and the Bishops by a craving for money allowances; and by this means the discussion partook of a character which a general measure would have avoided. Simony, if their Lordships looked into the law respecting it, would be found to have two aspects. The expression of an intention to engage in a corrupt bargain was an evil of the deepest dye. Now, he at once and altogether acquitted the right rev. Prelates in question and those who brought in the present Bill, of the slightest tendency to an intention to commit that moral evil, and he acquitted the Government of any wrong intention to grasp at patronage—on the contrary, he was convinced that they were all actuated by a sincere conviction that the Bill was necessary for the good of the State and the interest of the Church. But there was not only the moral aspect of simony; there was, over and above, the legal aspect. Now, the present Bill did, in the most direct way, pass a peculiar privilegium or indemnity for the commission of the legal offence of simony. The legal offence was stated by 31 Eliz. c. 6, to consist in "corruptly taking for or in respect of resigning or exchanging the same directly or indirectly any pension or reward whatever." [A NOBLE LORD: Yes—corruptly taking.] Yes, the word "corruptly" was certainly used, but it was the bargain and not the incentive to it that was declared to be corrupt—the thing done and not the motive that actuated; and thus this Bill was a violation of the letter as well as of the spirit of the law. A noble and learned Lord had pointed out to him that the preamble of the Bill recited falsely the correspondence on which it professed to be founded, and observed that these words, "Whereas the said Bishops on relinquishing the income to which they are entitled in respect of their Sees are willing to receive the annual sums hereinafter provided for them during their lives," &c., had no counterpart in the correspondence, there being no expression of a willingness, after resignation, to accept those sums. The noble and learned Lord had, therefore, drawn up certain words to be inserted instead of the words now in the preamble, and they were to the following effect:— Whereas the said Bishop of London, on being secured during his life the clear annuity of £6,000, and the Bishop of Durham, on the assurance that an allowance of £4,520 would be granted to him, &c., were willing to resign. The noble and learned Lord observed, that the words now in the Bill showed a shrinking from putting into plain English the direct bargain which the words implied, and being obliged to leave the House, he asked whether he (the Bishop of Oxford) would move his Amendment. He objected, then, to this Bill, for the reasons he had just stated; and, secondly, because he objected to the passing of the Bill for two of his own order, making a penal law not applicable to their future acts, and because it placed the Bishops on a different footing from the rest of the Ministry—from rectors, vicars, and other spiritual persons of the Church, He felt this to be an insuperable objection. In what an invidious position would the Bishops be placed if they were called upon to enforce the law against the clergy, they being at the same time a privileged class, exempt from the penalties of that law. As one of the class proposed to be so privileged he rejected their offer. Let the law of simony be dealt with as a whole; let this privilege, if it must be created, extend to those of the clergy who led lives of hardship and want, and who required it far more than the Bishops; but, for the sake of every class in the Church, let them not pass for the highest rank in the clergy a relaxation from which the lower ranks were to derive no benefit. There was another point to which he wished to call their Lordships' attention. By the 9 Geo. IV., c. 94, rectors and vicars were allowed to resign in favour of certain near relations of the patron, without incurring the penalties of simony; but a special provision was inserted, preventing that privilege from being exercised when the living was in the hands of the Crown. What, then, became of the argument, that they might deal with this case safely because the Crown was the patron? The Bill went right against the stream of precedent. It had been argued that, as it was manifest that there was no corruption in this case, as a necessary consequence there could be no simony. But by the law of simony, although both clerk and patron were ignorant of the transaction, and no corruption could therefore be attributed to them, yet if any other party were cognisant of an arrangement whereby money was to pass in consequence of the resignation of the benefice, the clerk would lose the benefice and never again be capable of presentation to it; and the patron would lose his patronage for that turn which would vest in the Crown. Although, therefore, there was in this case the most perfect purity—an almost heroic purity upon everything relating to money, on the part of his right rev. Friend—although it was perfectly impossible that his right rev. Friend could have dirtied his hands by any arrangement advantageous to himself, but detrimental to the interests of the Church, still, according to law, there remained a stain of simony upon the whole transaction which they were endeavouring by this Act to remove. He was anxious that their Lordships should understand the full force of the words in his right rev. Friend's letter—" if allowed by law." He had reason for saying that the meaning of those words was:— "If the general law you are about to introduce allows you, then deal with my case." He did not impute, and he never had imputed, to the Government, any attempt to deceive his right rev. Friend; but he did believe, upon his conscience, that they were holding his right rev. Friend to a bargain which he had made under a view of the case different from that which they had taken. He believed that his right rev. Friend had learnt from him as soon as from any one the nature of the Bill. His right rev. Friend had asked him what was being done with the general measure; he replied, that it had been sent back to the Government, and there was reason to expect the Government would introduce it; and his right rev. Friend also received information upon Churchill what he thought sufficient authority, although certainly not from a Member of the Government, that a general measure was within twenty-four hours to be laid before Parliament. In consequence of that expectation, he used the words "if allowed by law" in his letter, expressing his willingness to do this act, if he could do it under the general measure. Before proceeding with the Bill, they ought therefore to ascertain whether his right rev. Friend desired that it should pass, now the general measure had been dropped. He was sure that his right rev. Friend had not been informed that the general measure had not been introduced, and that this Bill was a privilegium to exempt him from penalties which would still attach to others in his position before his consent to the Bill had been obtained. He said, that the Government had not dealt fairly with one who had dealt generously and nobly with the public through a long public life. On all these grounds he must give his solemn non-content to the third reading of the Bill.


intended to vote against the Bill, and regretted that the Government had not fully investigated the law respecting coadjutor Bishops before introducing it. He thought they might have proposed a general measure which would have been beneficial to the whole community.


wished it to be understood, as the question might be raised in another place, that he did not admit that the Acts to which this Bill referred would constitute simony at all, even without any Act of Parliament on the subject. As at present advised, he did not believe that the Statute of Elizabeth applied to Bishops.

On Question that "now" stand part of the Motion, their Lordships divided:— Content 26; Not-Content 15:—Majority 11.

List of the CONTENT.
Lord Chancellor. Chichester
DUKES. Fortescue
Argyll Harrowby
Cleveland Kingston
Lansdowne Middleton
Besborough Carlisle
BARONS. Kinnaird
Byron Monteagle
Calthorpe Panmure
Camoys Portman
Churchill Saye and Sele
De Mauley Stuart de Decies
De Tabley Stanley of Alderley
List of the NOT CONTENT.
Somerset Dungannon
Salisbury Colchester
EARLS. Colville
Aberdeen Denman
Derby Dynevor
Desart Redesdale
Elgin Wynford.

Resolved in the Affirmative.

Bill read 3a accordingly.


proposed a clause to the effect, that any surplus revenue from the two bishoprics should be paid to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and kept distinct until Parliament should determine whether and in what way Bishops should be allowed to resign their bishoprics from age and incapacity.


said, he could not agree to the proposal.

Clause negatived.

Amendments made: Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

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