HL Deb 19 June 1860 vol 159 cc618-65

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


said, that in moving the second reading of a Bill for the abolition of Church Rates, he felt that he must crave more than a usual portion of their Lordships' indulgence. He was aware he should be obliged, in the discharge of the duty he had undertaken, to uttér opinions adverse to those entertained by many noble Lords then present, and fearing that much he had to say would be uncongenial to their feelings and sentiments, he had cause to apprehend that they might visit upon the cause the awkwardness of the advocate who promoted it. When the noble Duke below him brought this subject forward in 1858, the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), the leader of the Conservative party, said he should like to see the Peer who would be bold enough to undertake the task he had now risen to perform. But so far from being a reproach to him that he now came forward to declare his opinions in their Lordships' House, it would be rather a reproach to him if he failed to support in that House the principles which he had conscientiously sustained elsewhere during thirty years of Parliamentary life, and which he held in common with many with whom he had always acted, and who had placed in him entire confidence. He could not also but remember the ups and downs that had befallen all political questions in the present generation, but which, after causing as much division as the measure which he had now the boldness to present to their Lordships, had been ultimately settled by enactment according to the popular views. A few years before the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832 it was impossible to excite public interest in the subject of reform, and Parliament refused to transfer the franchise from East Retford to Birmingham. The Government of Lord Melbourne were expelled from office in 1841 for proposing a fixed duty of 8s. on corn, and in 1846 the corn laws were swept away from the statute book. The conduct of Parliament upon the admission of the Jews to seats in the Legislature was even more analogous to the present case. In 1841 the Jewish Civil Disabilities Removal Bill was introduced and thrown out. In 1845 it was carried by Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst. In 1848 the second reading of the Bill for admitting the Jews to Parliament was car- ried in the other House by a majority of 70. In 1851 the Bill was read a second time by a majority of 25. It was re-introduced in 1853, and in 1858 the Bill was again brought up to their Lordships' House. The door was then left ajar by their Lordships by which the Jews were allowed to gain admission into the other House. The present Bill might also meet with repeated rejections, but he trusted would ultimately meet with similar success. Their Lordships had predicted all sorts of danger from the admission of the Jews to Parliament—it was said to be not only a question affecting the Church of England, but even the ark of Christianity itself was said to be in peril. But what had been the result of the passing of that measure? The result of admitting the Jews had been that four or five Gentlemen of undoubted character and position had taken their seats in the other House; yet the Church was not in danger from their presence, and the ark of Christianity was still as safe as it had ever been. The remembrance of these circumstances led him to hope that at some time or other something effectual would be done on behalf of those who prayed to be relieved from the obligation of church rates. He knew it would be said of him that in coming forward to propose this Bill, he was an enemy of the Church. He could assure their Lordships that by early education and mature conviction he was a sincere friend to a Church establishment, and that in asking their Lordships to agree to this Bill he was persuaded that he was by no means the enemy of the Church, but was really promoting its continuance and popularity. The law, as it had been declared by the highest legal authorities and by the Report of the Committee, declared that the payment of church rates was a legal obligation, but that it was supported by no legal remedy. Now, that appeared to him to he a most anomalous state of things. He could understand what a religious or moral obligation was; but he confessed he could not understand what a legal obligation was without a legal remedy. He should like to know what was the value of such an obligation—what it would fetch in the market? Well, that was the position in which church rates at present stood in this country. They might say, how do those rates differ from a poor rate, or a highway rate? There was, however, a wide distinction between the two cases, as had been shown by the able evidence of Mr. Sotheron Estcourt—a Gentleman well qualified to give an opinion upon all such subjects, having discharged with great ability the high office of Secretary of State for the Home Department under the Government of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby). Mr. Estcourt said that the difference presented by this question was to be found in the religious element which it involved. No man's religion led him to assert that no roads should be made, but there were numbers of persons who said that there ought to be no compulsory rate for the Church. The legal duty of asking for the rate might be discharged by the churchwardens and the clergyman, but no moving power existed of compelling a church rate to be made. He would not go into the antiquarian branch of this subject, which had been fully expounded by Mr. Toulmin Smith, one of the witnesses examined before the Committee. He would, therefore, only remark that if the tax were obnoxious and odious to large classes of the community, it was of very little consequence whether it existed in the time of Alfred the Great or Edward the Confessor, when the rate was perhaps paid willingly, and when there were no Dissenters. Their Lordships were now asked to deal with an acknowledged evil. Lawyers, divines, statesmen, and politicians had for the last twenty years, agreed in declaring that church rates were a great and crying evil, and that matters could not long remain in their existing state. Looking back to the course of legislation during the last half century, it was painful to think how little had been yielded to reason, and how much to fear. In 1829, when he first entered Parliament, the claims of the Roman Catholics had just been yielded to the fear of Irish insurrection. The Reform Bill was next granted from the fear of English commotion. The Corn Laws were repealed from the fear of a famine in Ireland. He did not mention these facts by way of menace. Their Lordships might reject this Bill, and there would be no Birmingham Unions and no marchings to London; but there would he heart-burnings and hatred, the odium theologicum, animosities' in parishes and brawlings in churches, and strife and religious—he would not say hatred—but discord. Attempts to effect a compromise of this question had been undertaken by such men as Lord Althorp and Mr. Walpole; and if any two men were ever formed by nature to carry out a compro- mise, they were the men; for they were friends of the Church, and enemies to no class—mild in manners, conciliatory in conduct—but both completely failed. Lord Althorp proposed to take £250,000 out of £550,000, which was the amount at that time raised by church rates, and put it on the land-tax, leaving the rest to be raised in the old way; but his proposal was not accepted either by Churchmen or Dissenters, and it fell to the ground. If they compared the two proposals of Lord Althorp and Mr. Walpole together, they would see how much the state of the case had altered. Lord Althorp stated the amount of the church rates at £550,000; whereas Mr. Walpole stated the amount to have fallen to £250,000, while the voluntary subscriptions were £260,000. So that while there was a great falling off in the church rates, the voluntary rate, raised to supply the deficiency, had risen to £260,000. The next compromise attempted, to which he would refer, was that of Sir John Easthope, who proposed to throw the maintenance of the fabric of the church on the pew-rents. He wished to call their Lordships' attention particularly to this proposal, because it was opposed by the members of the Church of England, on the ground that the Church of England was the Church of the poor man, and that pew-rents would interfere with his privilege. That was, no doubt, a beautiful boast; but was it a matter of fact? He feared that there was no better foundation for it, than for some of the laudations of Blackstone and De Lolme on some portions of our constitution, as it existed in former times; and it reminded him of the answer of Horne Tooke, when it was said that the law courts were open to every one, that "so was the London Tavern, if they could pay for it." On the subject of the church being open to the poor without pew-rents, he would refer to the Report of the Committee on Religious Destitution. In that Report special reference was made to three of the principal churches at the West-end of the Metropolis: St. James's, St. George's, Hanover Square, and the parish of St. Marylebone. In St. James's the Report stated the seats were all let, producing a rental of £1,400 a year, though there was no legal authority to raise more than £30 per annum by pew-rents. The same state of things existed in the other two churches; and he might observe that it was so in all the great towns of England—the pews were rented by, or appropriated to, the rich; and the poor were deprived of their proper right of accommodation. No doubt there were what were called free seats; but be believed these were generally occupied by a better class of persons than those for whom they were especially designed. He asked their Lordships if they ever saw at church, in any large town, more than one or two persons who could be strictly called poor? Those who occupied the free seats were well-dressed persons, who could easily afford to pay 6d. or 1s. for the accommodation, if they chose to do so. That was not making the Church of England the Church of the poor. He believed it was the original intention of the Church of England to do so; but it was not acted upon; and he must say that nowhere had the principle been carried out, except among the Roman Catholics. In the churches abroad it was a common thing to see the poor and the rich admitted together; the beggar and the noble worshipping side by side. And he did not know that the same thing could be witnessed in any other Church. The transference of the church rates to pew-rents was one mode of settling this question, which had been proposed: he did not, however, recommend it now; and he only mentioned it to show that there were other means besides the present of raising the funds necessary for the maintenance and repair of churches. Sir John Easthope's plan, therefore, like all the others, failed. Various other plans had been introduced by persons of different religious persuasions, and by men of all political opinions—by Mr. Packe, Mr. Sotheron Estcourt, and Mr. Miles, all eminent Conservatives; by the Marquess of Bland-ford, Sir William Clay, Sir Morton Peto, Mr. Alcock, Mr. Evans, Sir W. Page Wood, Mr. Puller; but every one of them had failed. That being the case, it appeared to him hopeless to endeavour to substitute anything in the place of the existing church rates. In 1855 there appeared, as a reformer of church rates, the most eminent individual who had ever acted in that capacity. He meant the most rev. Prelate below him (the Archbishop of Canterbury.) He introduced a Church rate Bill in that year; and his only reason for not proceeding with it was, that he was given to understand that legislation on such a subject could net properly originate in their Lordships' House. That Bill aimed at a compromise; but it was not a measure founded entirely on the principles of the Church of England, though it contained the most practical proposal ever made on the question. It was that, after the rejection of a church rate twice by a parish, it should cease for ever; and he made a distinction that had never been proposed before. The most rev. Prelate proposed to exempt all the Metropolitan and Urban parishes, and to leave church rates to be collected exclusively in the rural parishes. He could not conceive a more moderate and practical scheme; and he much regretted that it was not carried into effect. It was one that he believed would have satisfied all reasonable Dissenters. But the effect of that Bill was to abandon the high ground taken up by Churchmen. Infidelity prevailed most in the Urban parishes, and there, too, Dissenters were most numerous. It was, therefore, there that the Church required all the resources it could command, and yet, in these urban parishes the most rev. Prelate proposed to give up church rates, because they could no longer be raised there. The Bill which he (Lord Lyveden) now proposed had been first introduced into their Lordships' House in 1858, when it was rejected by a very large majority; but the noble Earl opposite (Earl Derby), who was then in power, thought the subject was of such importance that he undertook that a Bill should be introduced by the Government. In the following year, therefore, a Bill was introduced in the House of Commons by Mr. Walpole, which proposed that any one should be relieved from the obligation of paying church rates who chose to say that he was a conscientious Dissenter. The Bill contained other provisions modifying the law of mortmain, and authorizing the rate to be levied upon the owner, instead of the occupier. But the compromise failed to obtain the sanction of the House of Commons. The next step was the introduction of Sir John Trelawny's Bill, which was passing rapidly through the other House when their Lordships adopted their usual course when the Commons were pressing an unpalatable measure upon them, and appointed a Committee to consider the subject. He found no fault with the proceedings of that Committee, but would only remark that, being appointed at the end of the Session, the attendance was scanty and the evidence incomplete. The effect produced by the publication of that evidence was nevertheless considerable. Three witnesses were examined whose evidence produced great effect—Dr. Foster, Mr. Morley, and Mr. Osborne. The two first-named gentlemen frankly avowed that the abolition of church rates was not their ultimate object, but that they wished to destroy the whole Church Establishment. That avowal ought not to have caused much surprise, for it had repeatedly been made by Mr. Hume, Mr. Pellatt, Mr. Sharman Crawford, and others in the House of Commons. It was, however, made a ground of argument against the abolition of church rates that those who chiefly promoted that proceeding were anxious to go still further. He did not think there was any force in that argument, because it had not been shown how, if church rates were abolished, the position of the Dissenters to attack the Church would be strengthened. He believed it would be just the contrary, for the country could never be agitated upon a merely theoretical question. Only a real grievance such as church rates were could sustain agitation, and he thought that by yielding an equivocal, uncertain right, the position of the Church would be greatly strengthened. The Committee also examined Mr. Osborne, a Wesleyan Minister, whose evidence likewise created a great effect, for he said that he personally, and other Wesleyans, did not object to church rates, but at the same time there were no means of ascertaining the general sentiments of the body to which he belonged. That opinion, however, he (Lord Lyveden) begged leave to say was expressed in the 815 petitions that had been presented to Parliament from Wesleyan Methodists in favour of the abolition of church rates. The evidence of the witnesses whom he had mentioned had a certain effect, and was, no doubt, one of the causes of the diminished majority in the other House. But there was another cause for the decrease in the majority. If it was desired to pass liberal measures through the House of Commons the first and last Sessions of a Parliament were the most auspicious periods. In 1859, when fresh from the hustings, hon. Gentlemen were ready to vote for the abolition of church rates; but in 1860 their fervour had somewhat abated. Probably in 1861–2-or-3, as the case might be, they would again vote against church rates before reappearing upon the hustings. The Report of the Committee was drawn up with considerable care; and he (Lord Lyveden) thought it was to be regretted that the noble Duke who presided over the Committee (the Duke of Marlborough) had not thought fit to introduce a Bill founded on the Report, or to have met the present Bill by Resolutions in accordance with that Report. The principal recommendation in the Report was that persons desirous of being exempted from the payment of church rates should give notice of their ob- jections to the churchwardens, and such persons should not be permitted to take part in any vestry called for the purpose of making or applying such rate. There was no requirement of a religious or conscientious objection, but any ground of objection whatever was to exempt a man from the rate. Objections had been made to the voluntary principle that it would be humiliating to clergymen to require them to go round their parishes to beg subscriptions. But there would be just the same humiliation if the recommendation of the Committee were carried out, for the clergymen would have to go round and invite persons not to object to the rate. A more complete voluntary system could not be conceived than the plan set forth by the Committee. He held that the Resolutions of the Committee gave up completely the whole compulsory system, and with it the whole theory of the Church of England. He had now mentioned the various compromises that had been suggested upon this subject. It was clear that compensations, compromises, and substitutes had all been exhausted, and nothing was left but to deal boldly with the question. Ever since 1834 they had had this before them as an acknowledged evil, and he thought they could no longer vote for the continuance of a state of things, which it had been admitted, even from all official benches, could no longer be maintained. Majorities might dwindle down at one time and increase at another, and he quite admitted that a majority of nine was an ominous one, as they had already rejected a Bill which had passed the Commons by that majority. He hoped, however, that he would not hear from the right rev. Bench, or from the noble Lords opposite, that they were determined to maintain a rate, the maintenance of which they had already declared to be impossible. He believed the present position of affairs to be much worse for the Church than for the Dissenters, and be did not state it upon his own authority, but upon the authority of men well qualified to express a sound judgment on the matter. Mr. Gladstone said— Now, I say, in the first place, that the state of the law of church rates is a very great grievance to the Church itself. In a multitude of parishes the church rate is contested. If it is obtained amidst animosities and heartburnings, where it is so contested it inflicts far greater evil, misfortune, and impediment on the Church than it confers benefit on it; and if the rate is lost what again happens? Why, that the church is left entirely without support from the rate, and so far is put on the same footing as the fabrics belonging to other denominations of Christians; but only so far, because it is left to those denominations who are connected with other fabrics to associate themselves as a body of private individuals for the maintenance of their own fabrics, and to take into their own hands exclusively the management of the funds they may please to vote for such a purpose; but that it is not competent for the members of the Established Church to do. Take the case of a parish where the bulk of the ratepayers were indisposed to support these rates, but where a portion of them were disposed to do so. It is not competent for that part of the parishioners who are so disposed to constitute themselves into a body for the purpose of applying their means to that object, and it is beyond all doubt that if, notwithstanding these difficulties, gentlemen belonging to the Church of England choose to subscribe for the maintenance of their church, the application and disposal of the money they thus raise is not placed under their own control, but they are open to be run in upon, and to have the control of the application of their money taken out of their hands and put into the hands of the very men who perhaps the week previous had voted against the levying of a church rate. That, I say, is a great grievance to the Church."—[3 Hansard, cxxxiv. 449.] This was, in point of fact, a great grievance to the Church, and it was a grievance which, as long as this impost remained, it would be impossible to remedy. If, on the other hand, the rate were got rid of, a measure might be at once introduced and carried, enabling the Church to tax its own members, and no Dissenters could offer plausible objection to such a Bill, or if they did they would be laughed out of Parliament. On the contrary, he believed that if they could but get rid of this bone of contention, the Dissenters would themselves come forward and assist the Church in doing that which nothing but the existing state of the law prevented them from now doing. He deprecated agitation with respect to Church matters as much as any one could, but it was in vain to suppose that if this Bill was rejected the agitation would cease, for, on the contrary, it would be stronger than ever. But on what ground were the conscientious objections of the Dissenters now disregarded? Could anything be said against the Dissenting body on the ground of immorality and irreligion? The names of Bunyan, Baxter, Lardner, and Robert Hall would rise to every one's lips in conjunction with the names of other men whom the Church would be too glad to receive into her bosom. He would not enter into any statistics to show the relative number of Dissenters and Churchmen in this country, or the exact number of petitions presented on one side or the other. He would even assume the truth of the calculation made by that very sanguine friend of the Establishment, Dr. Hume, of Liverpool, that the members of the Church comprise 67 per cent of the population. But, he would ask, was not every one of their Lordships aware that in every large town there were numbers of Protestant Dissenters who were most anxious, on conscientious grounds, to be relieved from this impost? Why was it that Parliament did not impose an education rate? Because they thought that a compulsory impost would diminish the voluntary subscriptions. The same principle applied in the present instance; and he would ask where religion had ever been advanced by compulsory levies? Nay, was not Christianity itself more benefitted by the fiery persecution of ancient times than any religion had been by despoiling others? Probably a Dissenter would have no great objection to contribute towards the repair of a structure which he venerated and an edifice he admired; and if the compulsory rate were abolished he believed the Dissenters would be most willing to subscribe towards such an object. Sir Morton Peto, for example, had subscribed £500 towards the erection of a parish church at Plaistow, and this would be the case with many other Dissenters if the support of the Church edifices were left to depend on voluntary efforts. It was for the interests of the Church itself, then, that the removal of this impost was most to be desired, and it was Dissent which gained most by its continuance. At all events if the Bill were not passed, care should be taken to lay down what were the legal charges to be defrayed out of a church rate. The Rev. Mr. Champneys said these charges comprised the repairs of the edifice, the washing of the surplice, and the cost of the communion wine. Now, it was only natural that Dissenters should object to the last two items. Mr. Champneys had stated that when he first succeeded to his present charge he found that the washing of the surplice cost twelve guineas annually, and the communion wine eighteen guineas, there being only sixteen communicants. In that case wine appeared to have been given to the churchwardens, clergyman, and other persons; and was it surprising that, with such abuses, the Dissenters complained of paying church rates —and especially that they should complain of being obliged to pay for washing the surplice, when they considered the very wearing such a garment an empty ceremony? These were the grounds upon which he asked their Lordships to pass this measure. He should prefer a substitute if one could be found, but a substitute had been looked for in vain, and the supporters of the change, therefore, had been compelled to resort to entire abolition. It appeared to be hoped that the agitation on this question would subside. That reminded him of the man in the play whose house was on fire, and who was proceeding to assist in extinguishing the fire, when he exclaimed—"A sudden thought strikes me. Perhaps it will go out of itself." Now, this agitation would not go out of itself, and he entreated their Lordships not to relax in their endeavours to make it subside by reasonable legislation. True it was that from various causes the majority had diminished in the other House, but none of the remarkable men who had given in their adhesion to the Bill failed to support it still. It should be steadily borne in mind that the chief supporters of the measure in the other House were not Dissenters, whose wish it might be to destroy the Establishment; Churchmen were its leading advocates. The majority comprised seven Cabinet Ministers, one ex-Premier, and the present Prime Minister, of whom he should not hear from the right rev. Bench that he was an unworthy son of the Church, or that his recent appointments to the episcopal Bench had been prejudicial to the Establishment. Among other Members in that majority he recognized the rising hopes of the country. Who stood higher in public esteem than Lord Stanley? His Lordship was for the abolition of church rates, and so were Lord Ashley, Lord Grosvenor, and the Marquess of Hartington. Were those enemies of the Establishment, or were they not as sincere friends to the Church as any of their Lordships could be? He trusted that if he had not been able to carry conviction to their Lordships' minds, he had said nothing calculated to offend their religious feelings or even their political prejudices. Before he sat down, perhaps he might be allowed to address one word in the way of remonstrance to the right rev. Bench. If he were addressing an assembly of attorneys who strained to the utmost every possible technicality of the law, he would deserve to be laughed at if he engaged in any Quixotic endeavour to induce them to give up any right, however uncertain, for the sake of peace and good will. But he was now speaking to men who knew there was no exercise of the Christian virtues equal to that of self-sacrifice, and who had themselves for the benefit of the Church and the advancement of religion consented to be shorn of some portion of their episcopal revenues, and divested themselves of their feudal pomp and power. He entreated them, then, to open their arras to embrace, not to raise their hands to strike, their Dissenting brethren; but, in the words of Mr. Secretary Stanley in 1834, to consider whether the interests of the Church were advanced by the desecration of the House of God by squabbles about church rates at each succeeding Easter; or, in the words of Sir Robert Peel, whether social harmony should be allowed to be interrupted by these discussions. He beseeched them not to allow this reproach, however unjust, to remain upon these noble edifices raised by a pure religion to the worship of the true God. In the sincere and solemn conviction that if the present measure passed it would tend to make the Church more popular and to promote the interests of religion itself, he moved the second reading of the Bill.

Moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.


said, that in rising to move an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, he must congratulate the House on the temperate spirit of the noble Lord's speech; but at the same time he did not perceive that the noble Lord's arguments were founded on any more substantial grounds than these—that the measure ought to meet with their Lordships' approval because all measures of compromise had turned out failures; that church rates constituted a bone of contention, and ought to be removed; and that the noble Lord was himself an advocate for voluntaryism in the most extensive form. With regard to the first ground, he asked why had all measures of compromise been such entire failures? It was, in the first place, because the rejection of those measures had proceeded from a body of persons who were arrayed against this right belonging to the Established Church, and who had declared that no compromise should be accepted but that nothing would satisfy them save the total and unconditional abolition of church rates. In reference to the noble Lord's statement, that this rate was a bono of contention, and excited dissatisfaction among the Dissenting portion of the community, and that their Lordships must be reminded what would be the feelings of the Dissenters when they heard that this Bill had been rejected, he desired their Lordships to consider, on the other hand, what would be the feeling of thousands and thousands of members of the Established Church if they saw a right which generations had sanctioned violently taken away for no better reason than because the noble Lord said that all measures of compromise had failed, and because certain persons conceived that church rates were a stumbling-block in the way of the proper development of the voluntary principle? He wished to disabuse their Lordships' minds of some of the fallacies uttered by the noble Lord. The noble Lord said that the existing state of the law was that there existed a legal obligation without a legal remedy. That was true; but why? At one time there was a legal remedy in the Ecclesiastical Courts, but the expensive and protractive nature of the proceedings there had indisposed persons to apply to those tribunals. He could not, however, admit the soundness of the noble Lord's argument, because, even if it were true that there was no legal remedy, it would be the duty of their Lordships to provide a legal remedy by legislation. The noble Lord had referred to the Wesleyan Methodists, and their testimony was of a very important character, for they numbered more than one-half of the entire Dissenting community of this country. The noble Lord spoke of petitions from persons of the Wesleyan body, and the inference from the noble Lord's remarks was, that the Wesleyans might be considered favourable, as a body, to the abolition of church rates. Now, the Wesleyan Methodists were divided into two sections, and the Old Connection, greatly outnumbering the "New," and containing all the most influential members of the body, had never raised its voice against church rates, or taken part in the agitation which had been got up to procure their abolition. Moreover, the agitation against church rates was not authorized by that important body, the Conference. The noble Lord gave, as a proof of the feeling against church rates, that the amount collected had diminished; but this fact was capable of another explanation. In many cases in which contests had been threatened through the organization which the abolitionists had formed, the rate was given up, rather than bitterness and exasperation should be introduced into parishes. It was no indication whatever of the general feeling of the people against church rates, but rather indicated the desire of churchmen themselves to keep the rate down to the lowest possible amount. The noble Lord had argued that their Lordships ought to assent to the abolition of church rates just as they had ultimately given their assent to Parliamentary Reform, to the repeal of the Corn Laws, and to the removal of Jewish Disabilities. But in the case of Parliamentary Reform there was an acknowledged evil to be remedied, and the measure by which it was proposed that that object should be attained had been carried by increasing majorities in the other branch of the Legislature. The repeal of the Corn Laws was a measure of a similar description; and it might further be said that the Irish famine had rendered it impossible to maintain the system which had been abolished. With regard to the removal of the Jewish Disabilities, he had to state that, although he had not himself concurred in the decision of their Lordships upon that point, he was ready to admit that as it was a matter which peculiarly affected the other House it could not be supposed that their Lordships would perpetually oppose the wishes of that House upon the subject. But the present question stood upon a different ground. It was one which affected the highest interests and the deepest feelings of the people of this country; it was one which affected the stability of the Established Church. Their Lordships had at a former period made a stand upon a question affecting the interests of religion— namely, the appropriation of Irish ecclesiastical property, and the success which had attended their efforts upon that occasion would, he hoped, afford an omen of the results which would follow their opposition to the present measure. He wanted to know who were in favour of the present measure of abolition. It was doubtful whether the noble Lord himself was really anxious that the Bill should pass, because, although the measure was brought up from the other House on the 30th of April, it was not until near the end of May that he announced his intention to move the second reading. Was the Church in favour of the Bill? The noble Lord had quoted the names of churchmen in the House of Commons who had voted for the measure. But did those Members represent the Church of England? The noble Lord himself had told them how singularly the opinions of Members of the House of Commons had varied upon that question, according to the amount of public pressure to which they had been exposed. But were the right rev. Prelates favourable to that proposal? And were not they to be regarded as more fitting representatives of the Church than those Members of the other House who had voted of late years in the majorities by which the Bill had been carried? Was the country itself really in favour of that abolition scheme? When the Bill was read a second time in the House of Commons, on the 8th of February, there had been only twelve petitions, with 407 signatures, presented in its favour; and the second reading had at that time been carried by a much smaller majority than that of the preceding year; that majority having fallen from upwards of seventy to only twenty-nine. The promoters of the measure felt that such a circumstance called for a renewal of agitation upon their parts; an organized system was put in force by the Liberation of Religion Society, for the purpose of obtaining a popular demonstration against church rates; and the result was, that by the 28th of March there had been presented to the other House in favour of the present Bill 4,972 petitions, containing 546,000 signatures. But the rapid success which had attended the efforts of that society were not, he contended, an evidence of the true state of public opinion. Petitions could only evince with any certainty the feeling of the country when they were presented, not in any sudden mass, but equably and steadily from different parts of the country. Was Viscount Palmerston himself in favour of the Bill? In the debate on the Bill of 1855 the noble Viscount said— When we are talking of a measure which deeply affects great interests, and, I may almost say, universal feelings of the country, we must cast our eyes a little further than the door of this House; and we must consider whether a measure which is brought under our discussion is one which is likely to pass into law if we approve it. I certainly cannot bring myself to think that this measure, as it is now proposed by my hon. Friend, is likely to receive the sanction of both branches of the Legislature; nor do I think that it does contain such arrangements for providing for the support of the fabrics of churches as would be sufficient to secure their maintenance.…. If I was prepared to support the measure of my hon. Friend, with some trifling alterations, I should consent to go into Committee to propose those alterations; but as I do not see in this Bill any substantial foundation upon which a measure could be framed that would be satisfactory, I think I should be acting in a manner of which the House and the country would have a right to complain if I were to support it for the sake of any momentary popularity out of doors, or of a few cheers from this side of the House. A person in my position; ought not to support a measure unless he thinks that measure is likely to be successful in its future stages, especially when it deals with a question of such importance as this is to the interests, the feelings, and the deepest religious sentiments of the community. With great regret, therefore, and acting under a sense of duty, I must, as far as my personal Vote is concerned, oppose the second reading of this Bill."—[3 Hansard, cxxxviii. 687, 690.] Such was the opinion of Lord Palmerston in 1855, and, therefore, it might well he asked whether the Government were united upon the question. The noble Lord had gone into a variety of details concerning the different compromises which had been proposed for the settlement of this question. But the question now before their Lordships was one of abolition, pure and simple. Had a case been made out for the immediate and absolute abolition of church rates? He maintained that it had not. The passing of such a measure would be a violation of Magna Chart a itself—the foundation of all our liberties—which provided in express terms that the Church should be free, and have her "old rights and liberties inviolable." If church rates did not constitute one of the rights of the Church, he should like the noble Lord to inform him what did. Another reason why the present Bill should not pass was that the decision of their Lordships' House had considerably modified the question, and produced a favourable effect upon the public. Dr. Lushington stated to the Committee that since the House of Lords decided that the majority in a vestry had a right to determine whether a rate should be levied or not, the number of disputes in regard to church rates which had come under his notice had very much diminished, and that within the last seven years he recollected scarcely any. That evidence destroyed the argument of the noble Lord that the contention and ill-feeling which prevailed on this subject urgently demanded a remedy, no matter how injurious that remedy might prove to the interests of the Church. The peace of the people was not at stake, for the number of disputes in regard to church rates had diminished. Besides, if it was to be held that everything which created dispute and heart-burning should be done away with, they must proceed to abolish municipal and other elections, which certainly disturbed the public peace far more than church rates. Another most extraordinary reason which was advanced in favour of this measure was that no compromise could be found. Because they could not amend the law, they were called upon to destroy it. In the same way it might be argued that a physician, perplexed with a difficult case, for which he could discover no cure, had no resource but to put a summary end at once to the life and sufferings of the patient. The noble Lord adjured the right rev. Bench to stay the uplifted hand, and not to inflict further injury on the Dissenters. It was acknowledged, however, by the Dissenters themselves, in various little tracts and manuals which they had published, that the law as it stood was so reasonable, so equitable, so justly administered, that it was scarcely possible to lay and levy a rate where the parishioners thought proper to resist it. The noble Lord argued that the abolition of the rates would enlarge the Christian sympathies and open the purses of Churchmen in a remarkable degree, and that contributions for the purposes of the Church would flow in from every quarter. The fact was that the Church of England already depended for support on a voluntary basis to a greater extent than any other denomination in the country. From the Report of the Incorporated Society for promoting the Enlargement, Building, and Repairing of Churches and Chapels, he learned that in 1858 grants to the amount of £13,000 were made by the Society to meet local contributions to the amount of £175,000; in 1859, the Society's grants amounted to £17,000, the local contributions being £195,000; and in 1860, the grants were £22,000 to £240,000 of local contributions. That was an example of the support which the Church derived from voluntary contributions. [Hear, hear!] He understood what those cheers meant. Noble Lords opposite believed that if so much was done for the Church already by voluntary effort, a little more might easily be accomplished. He feared that that "little more" would prove the last straw which would break the camel's back; and that, not from the want of liberality or means on the part of members of the Church, but from the irregularity of the source, voluntary contributions would fail to replace the rates. It was the peculiar advantage of the church rates that they supplied steadily an ever-recurring want which it was impossible to meet with the desirable regularity by any other means. He asked their Lordships to look also to what the Church was doing in the way of education. In 1854 the grants made by the Privy Council to meet the contributions of the Church for educations purposes amounted to £209,000, while the grants to all the other denominations amounted to only £116,000. In 1855 the Government grants to the Church were £240,000, against £129,000, to all other denominations; and in 1856, £268,000, against £155,000. Churchmen, therefore, were not niggard of their means; they did not repose upon their endowments; the ministers of the Church were actively exerting themselves to procure contributions for religious and educational purposes; and when it was said that voluntaryism was practicable for Dissenters, but was not practicable for Churchmen, he had to answer that the Church was to as great, or even a greater degree, a voluntary institution as any dissenting sect in this country. Let it be observed, too, that there were some important differences between dissenting chapels and churches devoted to the performance of the service of the Established religion. The chapels of the Dissenters were small, inexpensive buildings, those connected with the Church were large and costly. When once a church was erected in connection with the Establishment, it was solemnly dedicated to the service of religion, and must immutably remain so. On the other hand, a dissenting chapel could be removed from place to place. If the congregation fell off, the chapel could be at once shut up and disposed of. Then, again, the Church of England was essentially the Church of the poor man. The plan of providing for the sustentation of the Church by means of pew-rents was incompatible with the proper accommodation of the poor, for many localities were occupied wholly by classes too poor to pay for seats. In the midst of any poor population there were generally to be found some large factories, the proprietors of which, residing at a distance in some more agreeable or salubrious spot, and contributing liberally to the church and schools near his residence, might not be disposed to support those in the neighbourhood of their works, unless legally bound to do so. In such places church rates were the only source available for ensuring the decent performance of divine service. Such cases were pointed out in the evidence before the Committee. He had further to observe that the maintenance of the large edifices of the Established Church were often attended with extraordinary outlay. Dr. Miller, of Birmingham, stated that the restoration of the spire of his church had cost not less than £7,000. He had been enabled to raise that large sum because he was a very popular minister; but their Lordships could not, as a general rule, trust to the popularity of ministers as a resource for maintaining the great ecclesiastical edifices of this country. Again, it appeared that Mr. Yorke, of Birmingham, had restored his church at an expense of £7,000; but he stated that the demands he had to make in consequence upon his parishioners had become such a nuisance that his influence over them had considerably declined. He could go further than many of these parties in reference to the effect of the abolition of church rates in parishes. In many cases they had evidence to show that the diminution of poor rates was actually attributable to the voluntary contributions raised for the relief of the sick and poor. The minister's duty was to visit all the sick and poor in the parish. He had a district visiting society, which was supplied with funds voluntarily contributed, but once put another item in a voluntary form on the liberality of the parishioners, and these funds would inevitably suffer, and these rates would again rise. He would advert, before concluding, to the special nature of the evidence adduced before their Lordships' Committee, as regarded the ulterior objects of those persons who had sought to carry a Bill for the abolition of church rates? Some years ago he stated to their Lordships what be believed were the ulterior objects in the minds of some persons with regard to church rates, and on that occasion the noble Duke opposite stated that he did not believe there were any persons who entertained those views, and that church rates were sought to be got rid of simply and solely on the ground of finance and of their oppressiveness to our dissenting brethren. Lord John Russell, in 1854, saw a little further into this question, and his words were— We have a national Church, we have a hereditary aristocracy, and a hereditary monarchy, and all these things will stand together. My opinion is that they will decay and fall together, and I see no reason why we should prefer the institutions of the United States. I shall, therefore, oppose this Bill as tending to subvert one of the institutions of the State. Before the Committee appointed to inquire into this question two gentlemen were examined, who had taken part in the promotion of this Bill, as regarded their Parliamentary action. Dr. Foster, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and Control, was asked:— Will you state generally what are the objec- tions you have to church rates, irrespective of that more vital and ultimate end that you have alluded to? He replied:— Perhaps I should preface that by saying that I do not think we have particularly encouraged any movement against church rates, any further than by assisting those who have come to us for advice with the advice that they wanted, and also by undertaking the conduct of the Parliamentary movement. With regard to our objections I should say that I think the objections of the society are derived solely from their being one means of connection between Church and State, to use a common expression. He entertained no doubt that the Parliamentary action of this Committee had been extended to their Lordships' House, and that they had been in communication with the noble Lord who had moved the second reading of this Bill. These persons, in their authorized publication, spoke of the present measure under the significant designation of "our Bill. Were their Lordships aware of the extent of the action of this "Parliamentary Committee" upon the constituencies? Mr. Morley, a member of this Society, was asked by the Chairman the following question:— You stated, I believe, that you thought that even the existence of a Government depended upon this question being settled in the form in which you wish it to be settled; do you think that the existence of a Government would be imperilled by any proposition being made in the House of Commons that churchmen should have the power of rating themselves. Mr. Morley's answer was, No, probably not; I merely meant to refer to the fact that there is in every constituency a representative body of the views which I have put before the Committee. The particular society to which reference has been made has correspondents in every constituency, and there is a degree of cooperation with them, not on behalf only, I beg the Committee to believe, of mere noisy talkers, but of earnest thoughtful persons, in every constituency, and in every moderately large town, and there is a course of action which candidates understand perfectly well, and which is found to be operative on this particular question. The organization of this body was shown in the fact that in eight weeks they had caused 4,000 petitions with 500,000 signatures to be got up and presented to the other House of Parliament. It was clear from the objects avowed by the Society that even if this question should be settled tomorrow the Society would continue their exertions as long as a broad acre was left to the Church or a commuted tithe continued to be paid. Dr. Foster gave the following evidence relative to the objects of the Liberation Society:— Chairman: I believe you are chairman of a Society for the Liberation of Religion?—No; I am chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of that Society; its full name is the Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and Control. May I ask you what the objects are which the society have in view?—They are stated in a prospectus, which is printed. To state them shortly, they are these:—We wish to, what is commonly called, separate the Church from the State; we wish to take away all funds and property with which the State has endowed any religious denomination whatever; we wish also to free all denominations of persons who may happen to be under special legislation, on religious grounds, from such special legislation. When you speak of those whom the State has endowed will you be so good as to explain your meaning a little more fully?—I mean those who are in possession of public property. If I understand you rightly, your society considers that there are various laws affecting the Church which maintain-its connection with the State, and whatever those laws relate to they wish to see them done away?—Yes, I think that represents our view; but your Lordships will understand me to speak entirely upon my own personal responsibility; I have not consulted with any one as to coming here. Has it not been in furtherance of that object that your society have taken the active part they have in the church rate question?—Yes. He could say for himself he was most anxious that this question should be fairly, equitably, and justly settled; but the course recommended by the noble Lord (Lord Lyveden) neither satisfied the demands of justice nor sound policy. Their Lordships had undoubted evidence before them to show that the object of the organization to which he had referred was not only directed to obtain the abolition of church rates, but also the secularization, as it was called, of the entire amount of Church property which was now applicable for the religious wants and interests of the millions of poor of this country. If no compromise upon this question had hitherto been arrived at it was from no fault of the friends of the Church of England, who had proposed several compromises, but was owing to those who declared they would accept no compromise upon this question. For these reasons he thought their Lordships would not act in a manner consistent with fairness to the Church, or with justice and sound policy, if they agreed to the second reading of this Bill. He would therefore move that the Bill be read a second time on that day three months.

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


said, he wished to occupy a very few minutes to correct what he considered as a mistake of the law by his noble Friend in moving the second reading of the Bill, which it was material should be rightly understood in disposing of this Motion. His noble Friend supposed there was no legal obligation on the vestry to make a rate, and that the majority had the option to make it or not. This was an error, very prevalent, too, out of doors. A pretty general supposition was that the decision of their Lordships in the Braintree case established this. There could not be a greater mistake. The duty to repair the churches was as old as the time of Canute, whose laws declared that all the people were to do so; and in the statute of Circumspecte Agatis, passed in the 31st year of Edward III. it was declared that the Court Christian had the consonance of that subject as a spiritual matter, and was not to be interfered with. This had been the constant rule since, though there were cases in the Year Books which might lead to the supposition that the non-repair of churches might be enforced at common law; but this obligation on the parish, though enforceable by the spiritual courts only, was analogous to the obligation of parishes to repair roads, or counties to repair bridges. How was this obligation to be carried into effect? The law supplied a reasonable remedy; before the statutes were passed for that purpose, in the case of highways and bridges the inhabitants of the parish were to meet and to make a by-law for that purpose. They were like a corporation for that purpose, and the majority assembled might make a by-law, and if it was a reasonable by-law and equal to every one it bound the whole. Thus, a by-law that one was to contribute materials, another labour, another carriages, another horses, if all were equally dealt with, was binding, and could be enforced against all. The same with counties and bridges. The inhabitants had not the option to make that bylaw or not as they thought fit, and if they did not choose to do so the pariah or county was indictable at common law. But with respect to the repair of churches, if the vestry refused to make such a by-law, originally in any reasonable mode, but for many years back by imposing church rates, the only remedy was by proceeding in the Ecclesiastical Court, by interdict, if the whole parish neglected that duty—a remedy which, according to his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack, in a very able pamphlet which he had published some years ago on the subject of church rates, had become ineffectual by the change of religion. The whole parish could not be excommunicated, but individuals who contumaciously refused to discharge that duty of repairing might be excommunicated. This was clearly laid down in many old authorities; and as late as in 1843 and in preceding years there would be found cases in the Ecclesiastical Courts on the subject, and particularly in the very able and elaborate judgment of Sir Herbert Jenner Fust, who held that the articles against a person for contumacy in impeding the making a church rate were admissible to proof. He was, as a Judge, concerned in all the decisions in the Braintree case. The Court of Queen's Bench held in one that a minority of the vestry, who were willing to do their duty, could make the rate, and the majority threw away their votes; but that decision, though supported by the Exchequer Chamber, was overruled by that House, and very properly so. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Cranworth), then a Baron of the Exchequer, delivered a most able and satisfactory judgment, in which he pointed out in the strongest manner why the Court of Queen's Bench was wrong in holding that the vote of less than the majority would not be unavailing; that those who refused were undoubtedly liable to be punished. It was cigar, therefore, that the Ecclesiastical Court could now enforce by censure of individuals as contumacious; but the remedy was difficult and expensive, and could not be practically effective.


expressed his surprise that the noble Duke who had moved the Amendment, instead of discussing the compromises proposed by the Report of the Committee appointed to inquire into this subject should have rested his argument on the principle that church rates ought to be maintained as they now were, and that he should have given expression to the opinion that the law should be made such as would render it more easy to enforce their payment. The noble Duke went back as far as Magna Charta, and told them that if church rates were abolished it would be a violation of the Great Charter, which guaranteed to the Church all its rights and privileges. He was afraid that, in this sense of the term violation, the Great Charter had been very frequently violated since its promulgation, and he must say that in spite of his great veneration for Magna Charta, he would not shrink from adding this one more violation to the long list that preceded it. The noble Duke referred to the statement made by the noble Lord who opened the debate, that though payment of church rates might be a legal duty, yet there was no remedy in case of refusal to pay. It was true, said the noble Duke, that there was no penalty now, but there was a time when the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical courts was powerful, and when the legal obligation to pay could be enforced; and the noble Duke seemed to desire the return of those halcyon days, and a revival of all the ancient powers of the ecclesiastical courts. But their Lordships were not called upon to go back to the days of the Great Charter, or to the time when the ecclesiastical jurisdiction was all powerful. They had to look at this question as it was presented to them at the present moment, and at all that had taken place regarding it during the last thirty years. He must say that the noble Duke's description of the law as it now stood was not quite satisfactory, and he preferred taking it as it was described in the Report of the Committee now before him. That Report stated that, by the judgment of the House of Lords in the Braintree case, the law was declared to be that a church rate could only be assessed by a majority of the vestry; and it appeared from the evidence that for neglecting to pay there was no penalty at common law. It was this state of things, therefore, their Lordships had to deal with. The noble Duke seemed to think that there was in reality no reason why any person should be relieved from the payment of church rates. He did not mean to say the noble Duke would not be willing, as a matter of grace and favour, and because he could not help it, to relieve those who were not Members of the Church of England from the payment of church rates; but the whole course of his argument went to show that there was in reality no grievance. He seemed to think that the whole of the objections to church rates rested on the agitation of the peculiar views held by the Society for relieving the Church from State Control. But the fact was, that this was a question under discussion thirty years ago, and that during that time the grievance had been admitted by every statesman of eminence almost without exception. For thirty years there had been a succession of attempts made to settle the question, and as far back as 1834, a Bill was brought in which proposed that church rates should terminate, and that the maintenance of the fabric of the Church should be provided for in some other way. The noble Duke spoke as if the Dissenters were the only persons who opposed a compromise; but there was a time when the defenders of church rates refused compromises, which might have been accepted with advantage to the Church. A succession of compromises had been offered, but all had been rejected by the advocates of church rates; and by their own conduct they had now rendered compromise impossible. From the period of the Government of Earl Grey to that of Lord Melbourne and of Sir Robert Peel propositions had been made and rejected. At a later period a proposal had been offered with a like result. An hon. Friend of his in the other House, and a friend of the Church, proposed a plan in 1853 by which Dissenters should be registered in order to exempt them from payment of church rates. That was refused; and since then there had been various suggestions from both sides, including a Bill introduced by the noble Duke, which stated in its preamble "Whereas it is expedient to abolish church rates, &c." Although, no doubt, the noble Duke intended really to continue them for the support of the fabric. Last year the Government of the noble Earl opposite undertook to deal with the Question, and introduced a Bill which would have enabled landowners and trustees to make some permanent charge on land that they possessed or held in trust for the benefit of the Church, and church rates were to be abolished in those parishes in which such charge was made; but failing that, the Bill provided that any person who would say that he conscientiously objected to the levying of any particular church rate after it had been made, should be relieved from the payment of that particular rate. That seemed to him the clearest possible admission that there was then a grievance affecting the Dissenters which required to be got rid of; for it would not be supposed that a Conservative Government, and especially that Mr. Walpole would propose to give up anything belonging to the Church unless he were induced to do so by just and reasonable views. That Bill was rejected by a large majority; and that was the condition in which the question was left when their Lordships appointed a Committee last year. That Committee itself admitted that there was a grievance, for the Committee recommended a measure which would exempt from paying church; rates persons who should simply say that, they objected to pay. On looking at that Report he was led to refer to a remark of the noble Duke in reference to his noble Friend behind him, that his noble Friend (Lord Lyveden) could not be very eager in reference to this Bill, as it was introduced on April 30, and the 19th of June had now arrived. But the Report of the Committee was dated February 28, 1860, and if the noble Duke and his friends had been anxious to meet the question he ought to have done so by laying a Bill before the House, or agreeing to the second reading of this measure and then proposing Amendments in Committee. But, in truth, the noble Lords opposite did not like their own child, and wanted no compromise at all. They thought there was a temporary change of opinion in the other House, and they sought to make the most of that circumstance. That, however, was not a wise policy to adopt in reference to a great question that had been a long time in agitation. It was impossible to believe that the present state of things could continue long. There was a grievance admitted to exist which as long as it existed would cause irritation and ill feeling. The only question that could be seriously argued now was how to remedy that grievance without inflicting a greater injury on the Church of England, and to settle the question for ever—for unless some permanent settlement was effected all efforts would be useless, and the agitation and irritation which all deplored would go on increasing. Was there any compromise which was now practicable? Two suggested compromises had been alluded to. One of these was to sustain the fabric of the church out of the funds other than rates at the disposal of the Church; another proposal was that made by Sir George Grey, to substitute pew-rents for church rates. He (Earl de Grey) did not say he was enamoured of pew-rents. He agreed that it was a distinguishing characteristic of the Church of England to be considered as the "poor man's Church," and he would object as much as any one to any measure that would have a tendency to exclude the poor from their parish churches. Further, he would say that his own individual wishes were to abolish pews altogether, and that all should be seated alike; but they all knew it would be impossible to do so, as any attempt of that kind would drive people away from the churches. But if the true theory was that all seats should be open to all alike, then the appropriation of particular seats was a privilege, and if it was a privilege, then those who enjoyed it might fairly be called upon to pay for it, and thus contribute to the fund for the maintenance of the church in which the pew was occupied. The proposition of Sir George Grey received little support, owing to the extraordinary conduct of the supporters of church rates, who, after leaving Mr. Newdegate in a ridiculous minority, joined with Sir John Trelawny and his friends to defeat Sir G. Grey's proposition. Then there was the proposal to register Dissenters, or, what was very much the same thing, a statement that they objected to pay church rates; but he, as a friend of the Church, objected to any system which marked men as Dissenters and tended to prevent them from that occasional conformity which was of advantage to the Church in various ways. Such a plan would reduce the Church to the level of a sect, and would go far to destroy its national character. For these reasons he had always objected to any plan which proposed to register Dissenters. Then came the compromise proposed by the Committee of their Lordships' House; and that compromise was in reality the giving up of church rates altogether, for it was proposed to substitute for church rates what was called a "voluntary rate." [The Marquess of SALISBURY: No!] Surely a rate that a man could exempt himself from paying was a voluntary rate; and a voluntary rate seemed to him to be something like a contradiction in terms. If they acted in such a way they would, in fact, abolish the tax, whilst they would encumber themselves with a machinery which would deprive them of much voluntary support. No compromise could be effectual; they must either retain the law as it stood, or come to an abolition of church rates, and trust to voluntary efforts for the means of sustaining the fabric of the church. "But," said the noble Duke, "if you read this Report you will find that if you destroy this outwork of the Church, you will lay open all her defences, and Dr. Foster and Mr. Morley will march in triumphant." Having, however, read the evidence in that Report, he must say that it had made on his mind a totally different impression; and he came to this conclusion, that it was not true that the majority of those who desired the abolition of church rates had ulterior objects in view, although it might be the case with Dr. Foster and the Society for the Liberation of Religion. The majo- rity of those who opposed church rates did so on grounds applying to the rate itself, and did not desire to look beyond. In several parts of his evidence given in the Report, Mr. Morley said that the majority of Dissenters who wished for the abolition of church rates did not look for it as a step to anything beyond, though he stated that his own opinion was against the continuance of the Church Establishment. He knew Mr. Morley, and he desired to speak of him with every respect; but his opinion must not be taken to be the opinion of the majority of those who desired the abolition of church rates. A glance at the names of those who had voted for the Bill in the other House would satisfy their Lordships that there was no ground for the theory adopted by the noble Duke, that the measure had been supported by hon. Members simply from fear of their constituents. The majority in the other House had not been actuated by any such motives, and were inspired by no animosity towards the Church. Here was a grievance, the existence of which was admitted by all parties, which was felt in every parish, and the continuance of which placed in the hands of Mr. Morley, Dr. Foster, and the Liberation Society their only powerful weapon against the Established Church. If their agitation had spread, and was, as they said, a growing agitation, its growth and its continuance were, in his opinion, duo mainly to the maintenance of church rates. Believing therefore, as he did, that the present system entailed a distinct hardship upon Dissenters, and that that hardship had been admitted by almost everybody whose opinion on this question was worth having; believing that the existence of the grievance inflicted great injury on the Established Church by weaning from her the affection of a large portion of the people; believing that the impost tended to destroy peace and harmony throughout the country, and to prevent that community of Christian feeling which ought to exist among various denominations of Christians; seeing no mode of compromise open, though if a feasible compromise were proposed in Committee he should gladly support it, he should feel it his duty to vote for the second reading, not only because he had always been anxious to do justice to his Dissenting fellow-subjects, but because he desired to widen the basis and to strengthen the fabric of the Church of which he was a member.


My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down alluded to a Bill which I ventured to propose some years ago, and has gently adverted to an objection to which it was liable. But the very proposal of such a Bill should satisfy the noble Baron who appealed to the Members of this Bench, that there is no want of readiness on their part to agree to any measures of conciliation, which they thought consistent with their duty. There are many matters, my Lords, of grave importance connected with the subject before you, into which I shall not enter:—I will confine myself to two arguments which have been principally urged both by the noble Lord who moved the second reading, and by the noble Earl who has last spoken. These points are, first, that it would promote the best interests of the Church itself to deprive it of all external legal aid; and, secondly, that the rate is levied on Dissenters from our Church, and that it is unjust to charge them with the expenses of an Establishment to which they cannot consistently conform. My Lords, in regard to the first of these arguments, which concerns the welfare of the Church, I have no doubt that the noble Lord the mover and supporter of the Bill is sincere in his belief of the superior excellence of the voluntary principle. But it is at least singular that two parties having, unhappily, different ends in view should concur in the same argument. The noble Lord, a member of the Church, and whoso object it is to benefit the Church, believes that he should best attain that object by depriving the Church of all public or legal support. The members of the Liberation Society, whose avowed object it is to overthrow the Established Church, maintain the same opinion. They affirm that the Church would be raised in its spiritual character if it were released from all connection with the State. It is a singular coincidence. But I greatly fear that in this instance the adversaries of the Church judge most correctly, and have the best means of judging. They know by experience how it weakens the best interests of a Church that the clergy should be dependent upon their congregations; and they know also that the effect of abolishing the rate would be eventually to destroy that independence which has hitherto been the characteristic of the ministers of the Church of England. My Lords, in reference to the other point, in 90 out of every 100 of our parishes the rate is a matter of course, enforced by law and custom and considered in the annual rent; and is paid without any more complaint than is made against any other tax. But, annul the law, remove the agreement with the landlord—i. e., take away the obligation, and where shall we find even the £15 or £20 which the fabric and services of the humblest church require? It sounds well in theory to boast of the excellence of the voluntary system. But it may be more correctly described as the begging system, and it is to the begging system which I object as the support of our churches, for I believe the effect, more especially upon our parochial clergy, would be very serious. The clergyman would have no other resource than to place himself under an annual obligation to his parishioners, or to provide from his own means for the repairs of his church and the maintenance of public worship. Is this the condition to which you would reduce our parochial clergy, many thousands of whom reside on benefices yielding less than £200 per annum? My Lords, when you consider how largely, according to their power, and beyond their power, the clergy do now contribute towards the schools and clubs and various charitable plans which are in operation in almost every parish, you surely will not impose upon them the additional tax of supporting the churches in which they officiate, and providing the expenses indispensable to the decent worship of God. Very few words will suffice in alluding to the more common and hackneyed argument for the abolition—namely, the injustice done to Dissenters by charging them with the expenses of a Church to which they do not belong. My Lords, I will not resort to the natural reply, that they hold the property on which the rate is levied on this condition. The argument is incontrovertible. But I confess that I earnestly desire the success of a measure which shall annihilate the plausible objection, and put an end to a question which has been so long debated, and will continue to be debated while the debateable ground remains. I trust that Parliament will enact a law which shall make a rate compulsory upon Churchmen, and upon Churchmen only—a rate so far voluntary that it shall not attach upon Dissenters, and so far compulsory that the members of the Church shall pay an equal share towards the maintenance of the church and the proper performances of the services, according to the rateable value of the property which they possess or occupy. This was the conclusion to which the Select Committee allud- ed to by the noble Earl was brought after a full and patient inquiry. I trust it will become a legislative measure. I do not say that it is free from objection. I do not deny that it is a concession rather than a compromise. But I think that the concession may be defended, that it may be justified, as conferring a benefit on- both parties. It would relieve the Dissenter from the temptation to which he is now exposed, and which must be, I think, very distressing to his conscience—the temptation to stir up strife in parishes which would otherwise be peaceful and harmonious. And it would relieve the clergy from the annoyance of such disturbances, and leave the Church to conduct its own affairs without the interference of those who do not belong to its communion. My Lords, I regret that, according to the forms and privileges of the House of Commons, such a measure cannot originate with your Lordships; but I hope that it may be introduced into the Lower House and meet with the concurrence of both Houses of Parliament. Meanwhile, my Lords, I trust that you will agree with the noble Duke and reject the Bill which is now before you.


said, that the noble Lords who had addressed the House in favour of the present measure rested their support mainly upon this argument, that as church rates were not generally paid under the present law, the only compromise possible was to throw the maintenance of the fabric of the Church at once upon the voluntary contributions of its supporters; that, in fact, the churches were to be supported in the same manner as the chapels of Dissenters were, by those only who used them. If he were prepared to agree in the main conclusions of his noble Friends, still he would venture to urge their Lordships not to give their assent to the second reading of this Bill; and for this simple reason. If they were to deprive the Church of the advantage of church rates as a mode of supporting the fabric—if they were to leave the parishes of this country without any legal security for the maintenance of the ancient fabrics so dear to the hearts of the inhabitants—at all events they were bound to take care that those who were anxious to make the sacrifices necessary to maintain them should be at liberty to do so without any improper interference on the part of others. But he asked their Lordships to look at this Bill, and to observe the manner in which it was drawn. It abolished for ever church rates, but it made no provision whatever in reference to the future property in churches. The fabric of the Church would remain, as at present, the property of the inhabitants of the parishes, including the Dissenters. If they were to pass this Bill in its naked form, as it stood, the churches would be reduced to this anomalous and extraordinary state— the parish would be deprived of all means of levying rates for the support of the church; and, if voluntary subscriptions were collected for that purpose, the friends of the Church would have no assurance that those who refused to join in the subscriptions would not come forward to control and overrule their desire as to the manner in which the money was to be expended. It would commit the monstrous injustice of giving to those who did not subscribe one farthing towards the Church an equal right with those who contributed their money, to declare how that money was to be appropriated. He might be told that this fault in the Bill might be remedied by an Amendment in Committee. It was, however, by no means easy to correct this evil by an Amendment in Committee. It required a very careful provision in order to secure to those who were willing to take upon themselves the burden of maintaining the fabric of the church the proper control of their own money. If there were really a bonâ fide desire to get rid of church rates, and in getting rid of them to give to those who adhered to the Church the powers of managing the Church for their own benefit, the promoters of the Bill ought themselves to have introduced a provision to that effect. If their Lordships gave this Bill a second reading they would give to the advocates of this unjust change this advantage—they would admit the principle that church rates ought not to be maintained, and at the same time they would obtain no security from the other side that they would consent to a reasonable adjustment of this question. But he should not rest his argument upon such low grounds. He was prepared to take much higher ground, and to maintain that the law as it stood was a just and proper one. Formerly he admitted that the law imposed a grievance upon Dissenters when it held that the minority of a parish, with the consent of the churchwardens, might impose a tax upon the parish at large. That was, no doubt, a grievance. But the law now, as decided by the highest authorities, was practically reduced to this principle—that the majority of a parish was at liberty, if they thought fit, to tax themselves for the maintenance of the ancient fabric of the church to which they were devoted. He was aware that there were other defects in the existing law which he should be glad to see remedied. In his opinion, the defects were simply these. In the first place, there was a want of restrictive conditions in respect to the applicability of church rates. The existing law, however, ought not to be made responsible for this defect. He thought, however, it would be right and proper to restrict more clearly the application of church rates to the necessary repairs of the fabric of the Church. To such a restriction he believed that the friends of the Church would readily assent. Again, it should be recollected that a great change had taken place of late years in some parishes, so that those who were now rated to church rates were not the same as those who had formerly been rated. He thought that the rates ought to be confined to those parts of the parishes for the advantage of which the churches really required to be maintained. Lastly, it was a fault of the existing law that those who imposed church rates were liable to be defeated in the carrying out of their desires by a small minority who could avail themselves of technical means to effect their object. That was a serious evil, and one which he thought demanded a remedy. But, granting that those amendments of the law were necessary, he, for one, was not prepared to say that any further change should be made in it. Lot him ask, was it not consistent with the whole spirit of our Government, both local and general, that the people should have the right to tax themselves for all purposes affecting themselves? It was said that it was unjust on the minority that they should be compelled to pay a tax imposed by the will of the majority. But how would such an argument apply to the administration of Government generally? For example, he was of opinion that the war in China was unjust and impolitic; that, in fact, it was a great sin committed by this nation, and that it would bring down punishment upon it. But did he, therefore, mean for a moment to argue that he should be excused from contributing his share to the taxation which was deemed necessary to defray the cost of such a war? He never thought of urging so untenable a claim. So with regard to sanitary arrangements, lighting, and other parochial matters. In all such cases the majority were constantly in the habit of imposing burdens upon the minority—burdens, too, which were often new and unexpected. The obligation to pay church rates, on the contrary, was a burden which had existed from time immemorial; and as to the particular grievance of this tax upon Dissenters, the objection was at once disposed of by the undeniable fact that no one individual was charged with this impost who had not acquired his property expressly subject to it. Moreover, he maintained that, to abolish church rates would be to plunder, not so much the Church, as the poor inhabitants of the parish. The poor had inherited from their ancestors the right to have the church maintained for their benefit, and by abolishing church rates their Lordships would, as far as they could, deprive them of that right. It had been said that the existing state of the law was objectionable, because there were great anomalies in its exercise —that church rates were levied in some parishes and not levied in others; but what was thus termed an objection to the law was, in his opinion, its greatest recommendation. There was great variety in the circumstances of parishes. In some it was expedient that rates should be levied, in others it was equally expedient that it should not be levied. He thought it would he inexpedient to levy rates in parishes where there was a pretty equal division of the population among different religious denominations, and where, consequently, the Dissenters formed a large minority. There was also very often an objection to levy rates in towns, where there were various other means—among others pew-rents—by which provision for the maintenance of the churches could be made. In towns, to prevent confusion, pews must be appropriated to particular individuals, and in that case he saw no reason why those who were able to do so should not pay for the advantage they thus possessed. It was otherwise in the country. In many country parishes there were not more than three or four persons who could afford to pay pew-rents, which consequently, in such places, would be highly objectionable. At one time it was proposed by law to make a distinction between town and country parishes. The proposal was abandoned, because it was found impossible to distinguish with accuracy what were urban and what rural parishes. But what the law could not do the self-working machinery of the vestry could do. The vestry knew where a rate was desirable and where it was not, and the practical re- sult of the existing system was that rates were levied in those country parishes where they were urgently required, and were not levied in towns where they were unnecessary. He should regard it, moreover, as an invasion of the liberty of the inhabitants of a parish to say that they should not be allowed, even if they thought fit, to impose a rate. In country parishes it would be impossible to meet an annually recurring expense, however small, by way of subsciption. Their Lordships knew how difficult it was to collect a subscription even for a temporary purpose—some individual either refused to subscribe at all or subscribed in a very niggardly manner; his fellow-parishioners naturally disliked to give more than their fair share, and in that way the subscription failed altogether—but it was quite impossible to rely for any length of time upon the collection of subscriptions. The practical result of abolishing church rates would be that the expense in many cases would fall upon the clergyman, who was already far too severely burdened. When they were told that it was a grievance to levy church rates by the free vote of the inhabitants, he would ask their Lordships to recollect a fact which they had upon the authority of the opponents of church rates themselves—namely, that the difficulty of levying the rates was so great that any man who was determined could in a short time get rid of them in his parish. That was to a certain extent true, but if it was true what did it prove when coupled with the other fact, that only in a very small minority of country parishes had any such attempt ever been made at all? The natural inference was that the levying of rates in the vast majority of country parishes was so entirely in accord with the sense of the inhabitants that any man inclined to oppose the rate was, from very shame, compelled to hold his tongue. It had been said that church-rates were the cause of much ill-feeling and party spirit, and that their abolition would put an end to all the disputes that arose out of them. He admitted that the existing system did produce dissensions in parishes and vestries; but precisely in the same manner a lover of despotism might say that a wise Sovereign could govern a country far better than noisy people collected in a Parliament, and that free institutions were invariably attended by party divisions and great animosities. The reply was, that even with that drawback free institutions were incomparably to be preferred to the opposite system. So it was true that in vestries there were differences of opinion, as there were in town councils and in Parliaments. But, on the other hand, his belief was that there were some not inconsiderable advantages connected with the existing machinery for imposing church rates. The mere fact of having the question of how the church was to be maintained brought into discussion by the parishioners themselves, invested church matters with a lively interest for the people generally, and united the clergyman and his flock in the pursuit of a common object. There were many parishes in which the inhabitants took so deep an interest in the maintenance of this or that fine old church, that they readily paid large rates, even beyond what the law required. He was happy to think that there had been growing up in the country a change in the feeling of the people towards the Church. In the county in which he lived, this change was very marked. Thirty or forty years ago the churches in his part of the country were in a state that made one ashamed that they should be seen; but now, on the contrary, there seemed to be a feeling of emulation in the various parishes as to which parish church should present the best appearance and afford the greatest accommodation to the people. He believed it would be a great evil to check that tendency and to prevent the parishioners from meeting together and raising funds in the manner they now did. A great effort ought to be made by all who really loved the Church to increase its foundations and widen its basis. He saw in every direction the Church extending its means of usefulness, and when he saw that he was persuaded of the inexpediency of depriving it of this resource, which could be raised in such a manner as to disarm objections. He could not help concurring to a great extent in what had been said by the noble Lord on the bench below as to the inexpediency of agreeing to the proposal alluded to in the Committee of their Lordships' House of excluding Dissenters from taking any part in Church affairs. It appeared to him that the proposal of exempting Dissenters from rates was inconsistent with the whole principle of rates. If he were driven to a choice he would prefer that the church rates should be altogether abolished, and the control and management of the fabrics of the Church given over to those who would voluntarily maintain them, rather than that such a course as was recom- mended in the Report of the Committee should be adopted. But he could not admit that any just or fatal objection had been made to the present system. The law, as it now stood, worked very well in the great majority of parishes, and he, for one, could not consent to surrender what he believed to be a great principle, more especially after the revelations which were made in the evidence before the Committee, which showed how different were the ulterior views of the honest opponents, who acted from conscientious motives, and those unscrupulous persons who had entirely other objects in view. His noble Friend who introduced the Bill said it was a common fallacy to object to a measure because some of its promoters wished for a great deal more. He owned that, as a general rule, that was no reason why what was just and right should not be done; but the case was different when a great principle was involved. It was his belief that if they once conceded the principle that the inhabitants of a parish were at liberty to tax themselves, if they thought fit, for the maintenance of the fabrics of the church they would virtually concede the whole principle upon which an established Church could be upheld.


said, he was much gratified to find that a measure of this nature, which in former years had created so much irritation, could be debated in the tone and temper that had been manifested that evening. On the one hand noble Lords who a few years since maintained the law as it stood, and would admit of no change, were now willing that some compromise should be made, and the most rev. Primate had that evening expressed himself ready to support any measure which should remove the grievances under which the Dissenters laboured. On the other hand, when it was said that this measure was urged on Parliament by persons whose real desire was to destroy the Church of England, he could not agree that that was an accurate statement. Church rates were sought to be abolished purely and simply because conscientious objections had been felt towards them by a large body of Protestant Dissenters. Church rates had been spoken of as constituting a part of the patrimony of the Church, in the same way as tithes; but he could never believe that a revenue so precarious as church rates could be placed on the same footing as tithes, which were a bonâ fide tax on land. To class them together would supply those who wished to overthrow the Church with a dangerous argument, because in the event of church rates being abolished they would insist that tithes ought to follow. He believed that the pecuniary loss which the Church would sustain from the abolition of church rates had been much exaggerated. A very large majority of the landowners of this country were members of the Established Church, and it was, he thought, a libel and an unworthy imputation on the part of noble Lords opposite, that the money these landowners gained by the abolition of church rates they would put into their own pockets. Their Lordships had to consider whether it was worth while for the sake of the revenue raised by means of church rates to excite the discontent and irritation which this impost produced. So far as Churchmen were concerned he did not look upon this as a question of principle, and the matter now under their Lordships' consideration was what course was most desirable to be taken in the interest of the Church itself. The noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) said, and no doubt with truth, that a section of those who were opposed to church rates wished to overthrow the Church altogether in its relation to the State; but in all reforms there was a party who wished to go further than the rest, and it might as well be argued that at no time should there ever be any concession of Parliamentary Reform because among those who asked for Reform persons might be found who held very extreme views. An arrangement had been thought possible by which some provision should be made for maintaining the fabrics of the church. If a good measure of compromise were before their Lordships he should prefer it to the present Bill, but he should prefer the total abolition of church rates to the continuance of the present state of things. Believing that any advantage derived by the Church from compulsory rates was more than counterbalanced by the ill-feeling and heartburnings which they occasioned he should vote for the second reading of the Bill.


said, there were one or two points in the speech of the noble Lord who had moved the second reading of the Bill (Lord Lyveden), on which he wished to offer some observations. First, the noble Lord said, that the poor could not find accommodation in the churches in cities and towns, and that there were very few free sittings.


I said that there were free sittings, but that the poor did not occupy them.


thought that if the noble Lord entered the parts of the churches in which there were free sittings, he would find a great many of them occupied by the poor, especially in the country towns. The noble Lord referred to Manchester, and stated that there was in the churches in that town a system of pew-rents established which actually prevented the poor from obtaining sittings in the churches. It seemed to him that that was an argument in favour of church rates, as opposed to pew-rents; and that if they had church rates in Manchester the result would be that provision would be made for free sittings for the poor. It might be perfectly true that there were many honest and conscientious Dissenters, who objected to the payment of church rates, and who had no ulterior views, and were actuated only by conscientious scruples; but it could not be denied that there also existed a class of Dissenters, whose object in endeavouring to obtain the abolition of church rates, was to reduce the Established Church to the simple position of a religious sect. They desired to see the Church separated from the State, and were agitating church rate abolition, solely with a view to that end. He should certainly vote against the Bill, because he believed that it would not produce peace in this country; but that it would, on the contrary, encourage Dissenters in their hostility to the Church; because he felt that if he, as a landowner, was to support it, he should be supporting a proposal to free his property from a charge with which he had inherited it, and which he was in honesty bound to defray; and, above all, because he was persuaded that the measure would deprive the poor man of a right that had been handed down to him from time immemorial.


said, it was admitted on all hands that the present state of the law affecting church rates was unsatisfactory and required amendment; and, accordingly, many suggestions had been made for modifying and amending the law, though as yet none had been put forward that had proved generally acceptable. The noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) gave as a reason for not abolishing church rates, that the parish churches were expensive, and that clergymen did not like to go round among Churchmen for subscriptions to maintain them. He did not think that a good reason for insisting on the retention of the rates; but, after all, what was it that the Church was asked, to give up? From a Return made last year, it appeared that the average rate raised during seven years in 10,000 parishes was £248,000. Divide that sum by the parishes, and it would be found that the amount was only £24 in each parish. Surely such a sum as that was not worth disputing for, and not worth the labour of collection. They were told that the remission of church rates would just put so much money into the pockets of the landlords. What an enormous sum this £24 a year would be to the landlords of any parish ! But the fact was that if church rates were abolished, the persons on whom the new charges that the change would occasion would principally fall must necessarily be the landlords themselves. They might surely put aside altogether the idea that the fabric of the Church would be in danger if this sum of £24 were lost. He did not say there might not be in some places some inconvenience; but it must be, after all, very immaterial. The noble Earl (Earl Grey) said he would keep up the rate for the maintenance of the fabric, but not for the small, continually recurring expenses: but it was with regard to those small expenses that the greatest difficulty existed. He thought the existence of the rate caused ill-will among the different classes of society—an evil which the money obtained would never compensate for. It was said the opposition to church rates proceeded from an organized society established for the separation of Church and State. Even if it were so, he did not think it a good argument. There were many organized societies in this country, but they generally failed if they did not take up some question that was popular. It appeared that within a period of eight weeks not fewer than 400,000 people subscribed petitions for the abolition of church rates, and surely that showed great strength on the part of the opponents of the rate. His belief was that the repeal of church rates would strengthen the Church. The question was now put as a test to candidates for seats in Parliament in all the great towns, and the result was that the Members for great constituencies were driven to take up a position injurious to the Established Church. He believed, therefore, that the repeal would be an advantage to the Church. It was manifestly absurd to proceed year after year with a aw that could not be enforced. Their Lordships might reject this Bill, but, practically, the question was settled in towns, and was gradually settling itself in country townships. Still he thought it was unwise to give constituencies the continued opportunity of making this question a test of candidates for Parliament, and, therefore, he hoped the House would agree to the second reading. ["Divide!"]


—My Lords, I would not have risen to protract this debate but that I wish to say a few words in explanation of the vote I am about to give. I came down to the House with my mind prepared to repeat the vote which I gave two years ago against a measure of a similar description; but my confidence in my ability to do so had been shaken by what has since taken place, both in this and the other House of Parliament. I have found an altered tone in the House of Commons. Many of those who in former years were anxious to devise a course which should be agreeable to Dissenters and at the same time in accordance with the feelings of the Members of the Church, now exhibit a different spirit, and all compromise is repudiated; and they have voted against the Bill avowedly with the intention of making it impossible to pass this House. Then, when I looked to this House, I found that a Committee had been appointed on the Motion of the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough), the result of which was a proposal that is described by the noble Earl below the gangway (Earl Grey) as worse than entire abolition, and which surrenders completely the principle of the supporters of the church-rate system. Nevertheless I frankly confess that I come to the conclusion of voting for the second reading of this Bill with great pain and hesitation, and I came down to the House, as my noble Friends near me are aware, hoping that the debate would take such a turn as would enable me to vote against the second reading. But I find that the noble Duke, the author of the Resolution on the Report of the Committee, not only moves the rejection of the Bill, but does so in a speech in which he places the maintenance of church rates on the highest pinnacle of principle, and quite abandoning that conciliatory tone which he has hitherto invariably shown in the discussion on this question both in this and in the other branch of the Legislature. I have further heard—and I have heard with great pain—from the most reverend Primate—to differ from whom is always a source of pain, both on account of his high position, his eminent abilities, and his estimable character — I heard from him a speech the tone of which was quite different from that of former speeches upon this question. The most rev. Prelate on a former occasion himself brought in a Bill abolishing church rates in parishes where the levying of a rate had been successfully resisted for two consecutive years; but now he holds that church rates should be inviolably maintained. Reference has been made to what fell from me on a former occasion. What I said then was that a great majority of those who opposed church rates were not opposed to the existence and prosperity of the Church. I see now the position in which this question is now placed. I see in my own neighbourhood the progress which the spirit of opposition to these rates is making; that, while a few years ago Dissenters were the only opponents in rural districts and small towns of 5,000 or 6,000 inhabitants, Members of the Church are now opposed to the levying of these rates, although I know Dissenters who not only support but cheerfully pay them. While I should regret that the Bill in its present shape should pass into law —["Hear!"]—that cheer is premature, for I will give a reason for supporting the Bill—when I find noble Lords prepared to say that they will not adopt any other mode of settlement if this Bill is rejected, but will maintain church rates as at present, then I see no other practical way of bringing the question to a speedy solution than by passing the second reading of this Bill, and endeavouring in Committee to introduce such Amendments as shall reconcile the abolition of church rates with the interests of the Church of England itself. Therefore I am prepared to vote for the second reading.


I said that while I objected to the abolition of church rates, which I believed to be essential for the maintenance of the churches, I wished that the rate should be compulsory on members of the Church alone.


Then, if church rates are abolished as regards Dissenters, and are compulsory upon members of the Church alone, it seems to me that it will be a penal tax imposed upon them.


said, he should not have trespassed on their Lordships' time, being well convinced in his own mind of the propriety of adhering to the opinions he had formerly expressed upon this question, had it not been for one or two statements contained in the speech of the noble Duke (the Duke of Newcastle), and which it was impossible for him to pass without observation. The noble Duke had justified the change he intended to make in his vote, though not in his opinion, wholly irrespective of the merits of the question itself, and on grounds on which, he ventured to say, the noble Duke had no sufficient foundation. The noble Duke stated that he still disapproved of the measure, and that he was extremely unwilling to see it passed into law; but that in the vague and vain expectation that some Amendment might be proposed and adopted by their Lordships, and, in the consequent sanguine expectation that it would be accepted by the other House, he proposed to vote for the second reading of a Bill which he considers dangerous in principle and hostile to the interests of the Church. "But," said the noble Duke, "I found my change of opinion upon the altered course pursued by the House of Commons in legislating on this question." Now the altered course pursued by the House of Commons indicated, he was happy to say, a greatly increased feeling on the part of the Members of that House for maintaining the existing law; because when he saw the majorities in that House successively diminishing from 74 to 59, and then to 29, and finally to what the noble Lord who introduced the measure (Lord Lyveden) designated as the "ominous number of 9," he considered that it indicated a very considerable alteration of opinion on the part of the House of Commons in favour of the maintenance, at all events of the principle, of the existing law; and he must say he thought that if the noble Lord who opened the discussion had been a Member of their Lordships' House last year, and had seen the overwhelming expression of opinion by which the measure was negatived, or if he had been a Member of the House of Commons, and had seen their constantly dwindling and meagre majorities in support of it, he would have exercised that discretion which was the better part of valour, and would have abstained from inviting their Lordships to a renewed expression of opinion on the subject. The noble Duke gave as a reason for his altered vote on this occasion, that he would have voted as he had formerly done, if he had not seen on the part of its opponents in the House of Commons an absence of that conciliatory spirit that formerly characterized their proceedings. Now, he ventured to ask their Lordships, with all confidence, on which side had there been this absence of a conciliatory spirit? Why, their Lordships had been told in the opening of the debate, and with reference to the question on which they had to divide, that concession and compromise were impossible, and that it was absolutely necessary that they should choose between the maintenance of the existing law, or the absolute, unconditional, and entire abolition of church rates. And that had been the language of all parties who had supported the abolition of church rates. What, on the other hand, was the course that had been pursued by that side of their Lordships' House? One after another they had proposed this concession, and that compromise, and that course of conciliation to their opponents, but without success; and the result of all these overtures of compromise, made for the purpose of showing their good feeling and their desire not to push the principle to an extremity, had been met by the idle allegation that they had sacrificed their own principle, that they were abandoning their whole case, and bringing forward measures that in fact were worse than the total abolition of church rates. That was the spirit in which all attempts at concession, compromise, and conciliation had been met; and that being the case, he thought it was too much for the noble Duke at the last moment of the discussion to get up and say, that he had changed his vote in consequence of there being that total absence of the conciliatory spirit of which he speaks. He must also contradict the noble Duke— he did not mean contradiction in any discourteous sense of the word—but he must protest against the statement he had made, that in the recommendations of the Select Committee of the House of Lords they had practically abandoned the principle of church rates. What they had done was this—they had maintained the right of the majority of the parishioners to tax themselves for their own purposes. Now to levy church rates by equal rate was opposed to voluntary contribution. They had in the same Report—and it was a point which had been passed over and been omitted to be considered—recommended that, in consideration of their taking that course, the law should be strengthened for the recovery of the compulsory rate so imposed. If they had consented for the sake of peace to an exemption of those persons who might claim exemption from the payment on the right of abstract justice—in which they did not concur—if they had consented to their exemption under these circumstances from contributing to the general burdens of the parish—they had at the same time provided that the persons so exempted should not in any degree be entitled to take part in the administration of the funds to which they did not contribute their fair and proper proportion. Perhaps that might be thought the extreme of concession; but it was one he was quite ready to justify—one he was not ashamed of, and though it was one which might not be consistent with strict justice, on the other hand they had not proposed that those who from conscientious motives, declined to contribute to the general object —they did not propose to deprive them of the rights of parishioners, but they proposed to deprive them of any power in administering or regulating the funds from contributing which they themselves had requested to be exempted. They had endeavoured to maintain the principle while they desired to modify and ameliorate the practice; but that was widely different from acting on or acceding to the proposals that were now being made, of leaving to every person the option whether they should contribute at all, or how much they should contribute, and leaving every church throughout the country liable to be closed or abandoned at the caprice of those whose bounden duty it was to maintain and support the fabric. He repudiated the idea that they had conceded the principle by the exceptions they had consented to introduce; and, on the other hand, he thought that if there had been any absence of conciliation and concession, it was not on the supporters of the existing law that that charge could in any fairness be fixed. They had endeavoured to meet their opponents half way, and more than half way; but they were told, in reply, by them that there was no alternative between the acceptance of absolute abolition or the maintenance of the present law; and if that be the alternative demanded and required, great as the objections might be to some of the provisions of the present law, and desirous as he might be to amend that law, if their opponents will permit them to do so, and which they admit will be an advantage; yet if the maintenance of the existing law, or the absolute abolition of the provision that had been made by the law from time immemorial for the main- tenance of the fabric of the Established Church, and for securing the blessings of religion to every poor man in every parish throughout the kingdom were to be put in competition—if that was to be the alternative, then, without hesitation and with all its imperfections, he was for the maintenance altogether of the existing law as against any proposition whatever for the abolition of church rates.


said, he was quite satisfied to leave the discussion where it was, and should be only too happy if the division were as satisfactory to him as the debate had been. He felt, however, bound to reply to an observation of the noble Earl who had just sat down, in reference to his inexperience in their Lordships' House. The noble Earl had thought proper to read him a lecture, and had told him he would have exercised a better discretion if he had not persevered in the discussion of this measure, and that if he had seen the division in their Lordships' House on the last occasion of a vote of this kind, or had witnessed the altered attitude in which the Commons regarded the question, he would probably have desisted from the attempt. That was quite a new doctrine to him, and he was surprised to hear it fall from the noble Earl. He had always been led to believe the importance of small majorities and large minorities; but whether he was accompanied by a majority or a minority, be it large or small, he should not be deterred —and he hoped his conduct would not be regarded as discreditable by their Lordships, if, when thoroughly convinced of the propriety of a measure, he persevered in it whether he were backed by large majorities or by small. The noble Earl did not consider the Report of the Select Committee an abandonment of the compulsory scheme. Now, could anything be more voluntary than a system which allowed any man to object, whether with reason or without reason? He was surprised that the noble Earl, who was so powerful a reasoner, should attempt to justify the Report on that ground. He wished that he could feel as satisfied with the probable result of the division as he did with the debate, but nothing which had been said led him to abate his confidence in the voluntary system.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? their Lordships divided:—Contents 31; Not-Contents 128: Majority 97.

Resolved in the Negative; and Bill to be read 2a this Day Three Months.

Newcastle, D. Dunfermline, L.
Somerset, D. Ebury, L.
Foley, L. [Teller.]
Abingdon, E.
Airlie, E. Leigh, L.
Albemarle, E. Lyveden, L. [Teller.]
De Grey, E. Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo)
Ducie, E. Mostyn, L.
Durham, E. Portman, L.
Granville, E. Skene, L. (E. Fife.)
Minto, E. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Spencer, E.
Strafford, E. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Taunton, L.
Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.) Teynham, L.
Truro, L.
Belper, L. Vivian, L.
Congleton, L. Wodehouse, L.
Canterbury, Archbp. Saint Germans, E.
Campbell, L. (L. Chancellor.) Shaftesbury, E.
Shrewsbury, E.
Cleveland, D. Stradbroke, E.
Marlborough, D. Tankerville, E.
Rutland, D. Verulam, E.
Bath, M. [Teller.] De Vesci, V.
Bristol, M. Doneraile, V.
Camden, M. Dungannon, V.
Exeter, M. Eversley, V.
Normanby, M. Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)
Salisbury, M.
Westmeath, M. Lifford, V.
Melville, V.
Abergavenny, E. Sidmouth, V.
Amherst, E. St. Vincent, V.
Aylesford, E.
Bandon, E. Bangor, Bp.
Bantry, E. Bath and Wells, Bp.
Beauchamp, E. Carlisle, Bp.
Cardigan, E. Cashel, &c, Bp.
Carnarvon, E. Chichester, Bp.
Cathcart, E. Derry and Raphoe, Bp.
Cawdor, E. Durham, Bp.
Chesterfield, E. Gloucester and Bristol, Bp.
Chichester, E.
Dartmouth, E. Hereford, Bp.
De La Warr, E. Llandaff, Bp.
Derby, E. London, Bp.
Desart, E. Ripon, Bp.
Devon, E. Salisbnry, Bp.
Ellenborough, E. St. David's, Bp.
Erne, E. Winchester, Bp.
Grey, E. Abinger, L.
Haddington, E. Bagot, L.
Hardwicke, E. Bateman, L.
Harrington, E. Berners, L.
Ilchester, E. Blayney, L.
Leven and Melville, E. Bolton, L.
Lonsdale, E. Boston, L.
Mayo, E. Braybrooke, L.
Morton, E. Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)
Nelson, E.
Orkney, E. Chelmsford, L.
Pomfret, E. Churchill, L.
Portarlington, E. Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.)
Powis, E.
Romney, E. Clinton, L.
Clonbrock, L. Northwick, L.
Colchester, L. Polwarth, L.
Colville of Culross, L. [Teller.] Ravensworth, L.
Rayleigh, L.
Cranworth, L. Redesdale, L.
Crewe, L.
Delamere, L. Saltoun, L.
Denman, L. Scarsdale, L.
De Ros, L. Sheffield, L. (E. Sheffield.)
Dinevor, L.
Downes, L. Sondes, L.
Egerton, L. Southampton, L.
Farnham, L. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Feversham, L.
Gage, L. (V. Gage.) Strathspey, L.(E. Seafield.)
Grantley, L,
Kenyon, L. Talbot de Malahide, L.
Kingsdown, L. Templemore, L.
Leconfield, L. Tenterden, L.
Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.) Thurlow, L.
Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford,)
Lyttleton, L.
Maryborough, L. (E. Mornington.) Wynford, L.

House adjourned at Half-past Ten o'clock, to Thursday next, Half-past Ten o'clock.