HL Deb 02 July 1861 vol 164 cc177-86

Order of the Day for the House to be put into a Committee read.


moved that the House do go into Committee on the Bill, and said that it had come down from the Select Committee so altered that not one of the original clauses remained. Still, however, the substance and scope of the measure remained, and what was new consisted for the most part of restrictions on the operation of the scheme. To some of the new clauses he had a strong objection, and which he hoped to get altered. He was not very sanguine, owing to the lateness of the Session, and the pressure of business in the other House of Parliament, that the Bill would become law in the course of the present Session, but, nevertheless, it was, he considered, of the greatest importance in reference to future legislation upon the subject that their Lordships should pass this Bill.


said, that the Bill had been referred to a Select Committee under very singular circumstances, a distinct understanding having been entered into with the noble Lord that the measure should be entirely remodelled. The great difficulty he had with regard to the Bill was his great respect for the noble Lord who had devoted great time and attention to the subject with a most sincere desire to arrive at a good result. He could not, however, say that that good result would be found embodied in the present Bill—in fact, he should have distinctly opposed its further progress had he not been to some extent concerned in remodelling it in the Committee. Some good result might, perhaps, arise ultimately out of the discussions that had taken place; but in fact, without any offence to the Mover of the Bill; he grieved to say that he must look upon it at present as little better than a sham. It seemed to be based on a joke, to which he had before alluded, attributed to the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, who, when he was waited on by a deputation, said that if people were willing to pay for Bishops he did not see why they should not have them. This measure appeared to go upon that principle. Under the Bill if any body of persons could get together some £120,000 they might have a Bishop for their money. If this matter were postponed for another Session there might be a chance of some useful legislation being obtained, but there was not the remotest chance of this Bill passing the House of Commons. The original Bill was a revolutionary Bill and it was with great qualms of conscience that the right rev. Bench had voted for the second reading, with the understanding that it would be greatly changed in Select Committee. It proposed that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should have the power of altering the existing constitution of the Church of England. When a vacancy took place in a See, it was to be referred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners whether they would chop up the See into a number of little Sees, and the income into a number of little incomes, and so alter the whole Parliamentary arrangement that was come to twenty years ago. He had a great respect for the Ecclesiastical Commission, of which he was a member, but even ecclesiastical bodies were liable to be governed by one or two members, and he was scarcely prepared to admit that the noble Earl at the head of the Commission (the Earl of Chichester), or, it might be, its estimable Secretary should have the power of remodelling the Church of England. The Ecclesiastical Commission was thus called in to avoid an appeal to Parliament on the erection of each new See: but the evils of an appeal to Parliament in such matters might be exaggerated. The Church could never maintain her position in this country unless she carried with her the sympathies of the people, and where else could she gather the expressions of that sympathy better than by looking to the representatives of the people? On this account he had never feared, as some did, discussions in the other House of Parliament. Many disagreeable things might be spoken there, but unpleasant sayings never left any sting behind them unless there was some truth in them. He, therefore, would prefer that whatever changes were made should be made by the Legislature, and that the whole case should be laid before Parliament. But not only did he feel a difficulty with regard to the mode in which the noble Lord proposed to make these changes, but he felt that the changes themselves were not desirable as originally proposed in the Bill. He did not think it desirable greatly to multiply the number of Bishops. Two of his right rev. Friends had got into some disgrace with a noble Duke opposite for saying that it would be possible to over-govern a diocese; but he believed they spoke nothing but the truth. It did not do to be perpetually interfering with the clergy; men would perform responsible duties better for being left more to themselves. The very size of the present dioceses generally was a guarantee that their administration would be such as the government of free and intelligent men ought always to be. Some nine months ago he wrote to the noble Lord pointing out to him that this Bill was not the one thing needed in the Church of England. There were principles in the Bill which might be dangerous to legislation at some future period. He was one of those who voted in the Committee that no portion of the funds belonging to the Ecclesiastical Commission should be applicable to these new Sees; and he did so because these new Sees were to be the creation, not of Parliament, but of Ecclesiastical Commission itself. An increase in the number of Bishops might be imperatively necessary at some future time—the result of the census might show it to be necessary; but by laying it down in this Bill that the common fund of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should not be applicable for this purpose Parliament would be tying its hands from what might be then a very useful course. What he thought the Church of England wanted was not a multiplication of her machinery, but an increase its working power. There were many parts of the Church system which might be made much more efficient than they now were. For example, he desired to see the deans of cathedral churches put into such a position as would give them the power of being more distinctly useful than they were at present. The reason why the public now grudged to these dignitaries their small incomes was that the duties which they were called upon to perform were not understood. As it was their position was one of great honour, but their duties were not distinct, nor did they receive incomes on which they could maintain their position. If, by being made suffragan Bishops, or by any other plan, they were enabled to perform useful work, the public would not grudge them the means of properly maintaining their position. With regard to the Archdeacons, they should have stalls in our cathedral churches. In this way alone £4,000 a year would be saved in the expenditure of the Ecclesiastical Commission, and this sum might with the greatest propriety be employed in founding a new See. Above all, he believed, that what was most wanted in the Church of England was some reform of her ecclesiastical law. He wished to see some check put upon the ruinous expenditure by which the discipline of the Church was at present maintained, and upon the length of time during which these cases hung undecided. Suppose a clergyman to be accused of some grave offence; suppose him to be tried, and the case to go lingering on from September, 1859, to the end of July, 1861—was this fair either to the accused or to the Church? If he were guilty, what a miserable state of things it was that for two years he should be able to resist the power of the Church of which he was a member; and if he were innocent, how unjust that for the same space of time he should be exposed to the annoyance, the vexation, and the harrassing anxiety of an undecided lawsuit? How could he after that time recover his character or his position in the Church? Then, with regard to the costs these suits, it had pleased Parliament to make the revenue of the See which he held sufficient to bear such expenses, but there were other less amply endowed bishoprics as to which it was felt to be a very hard thing to cast upon them the burden of maintaining the discipline of the Church. These were serious evils in the present system of the Church, and he wished for serious legislation respecting them. He did not desire to vote against the present Bill, but he could not vote in its favour, nor could he with confidence recommend their Lordships to pass such a measure.


(who was almost inaudible) was understood to say that it was an auspicious day for the Church of England when her Bishops addressed themselves to their Lordships with the ability, the good sense, and the conciliatory temper which had just been exhibited by the right rev. Prelate. So long as the Bishops of the Church maintained such a spirit and tone he felt confident that, whether their number were multiplied or restricted, they would continue to preserve the respect and to command the influence which it was so desirable they should possess. As to the decision of their Lordships upon the Bill now before them, that was a secondary matter. But after having given this subject much and anxious consideration he joined the right rev. Prelate in expressing an earnest hope that the noble Lord would withdraw this measure. The Bill could not in any case progress beyond their Lordships' House in the present Session, and was it wise or dignified to press it further under these circumstances and with this prospect? He believed the ultimate accomplishment of the object which the noble Lord had at heart would be best promoted by the withdrawal of the Bill.


thought the noble Lord could hardly be serious in pressing him to withdraw the Motion for going into Committee on this Bill. The Select Committee which had considered this subject has not reported that it was undesirable to proceed with the Bill, and it was entirely out of his power to accede to the suggestion now made to him. As to the remark that there was no probability of the measure passing in the present Session, that was perhaps true; but he thought it a great advantage that a Bill should pass through one House of Parliament, even if it were not accepted by both.


also objected to the further progress of this measure at the present time, but not for the reasons urged by the right rev. Prelate, who, he thought, had misstated or misunderstood the case. The measure had been introduced in their Lordships' House not as a means of evading popular opinion, but because, looking to the vast amount of business which occupied the attention of the other House, the subject of the increase of the Episcopate was not likely to receive the attention which its importance demanded. It was very desirable that a general measure of this character should receive the sanction of the Legislature for another reason. If new Sees were to be created it was necessary that the funds for their endowment should be provided by voluntary contributions. The right rev. Prelate had adverted to this, and quoted an admission of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that if the people desired more Bishops, and were rich enough to pay for them, there was no reason why they should not have them. It seemed to him that the right rev. Prelate endorsed the opinion of the noble Lord; its principle was embodied in the provisions of this Bill. But if the people were to be called upon to endow those new Sees out of their own voluntary contributions, then it was highly desirable that some such measure as this should have previously received the sanction of the Legislature, in order to give full effect to the purposes for which the funds were contributed. It was impossible to suppose that the large sum of £120,000 would ever be raised—which must be raised to provide an endowment for every one of the new Sees—if, after all the trouble and self denial connected with raising the money it were still to remain uncertain whether the See itself would receive the sanction of the Legislature. He also understood that the principle of this measure was in accordance with the opinion of the members of Her Majesty's Government, for he remembered on a former occasion that the noble Duke at the head of the Colonial Department said that the sub-division of dioceses ought not to be dealt with piecemeal, but that there ought to be some general measure applicable to the whole country. Now that was very much the ground on which this measure proceeded, and it was founded on the recommendations of the Cathedral Commission of 1857. His noble Friend had bestowed much care and attention in preparing the measure in accordance with those recommendations, and nothing, therefore, could be more natural than that his noble Friend should be anxious that the Bill should pass. For himself he was very anxious that the measure should pass; but he would be guided very much by the course which the noble Lord himself intended to pursue under the present circumstances. If his noble Friend did not think that there was a chance of the Bill passing the other House of Parliament, then it would be matter for the consideration of his noble Friend whether he would think it right to pledge their Lordships' House to all the provisions and details of this Bill. He laid the more stress on this advice, on account of one of the provisions in this measure, which was inserted in accordance with what they were told was the opinion of the country—though he, for one, hoped the time was not far distant when the Parliament and the country would think it right to reconsider the question—he alluded to the provision that no part of the common fund of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should be applicable to the endowment of the new Sees. He should not oppose that proviso, though he thought he could give good reasons why it should not be adopted. He believed his noble Friend himself did not approve of the clause, but had agreed to its insertion from the impression that otherwise it would not pass in the other House of Parliament. But if it was not likely to pass the other House on other grounds he thought it would not be wise to pledge their Lordships' House to that opinion.


said, the noble Duke had quoted quite correctly an answer which he gave last summer, when he was asked whether the noble Lord at the head of the Government would not suspend the appointment to the then vacant See of Rochester, to allow time to consider whether the diocese should be subdivided. He then stated his opinion that it would not be desirable while the See was vacant to enter into new arrangements. He was not, therefore, unfriendly to some measure—he would not say this precise measure—but to some measure of the kind now brought forward by his noble Friend. But after the appeal which had been made to him by the noble Duke) who, was a much more decided supporter of the Bill than he (the Duke of Newcastle) was, he could only hope that this noble Friend would not press the measure further on the present occasion. With the feeling evinced on all sides he could not but fear that further discussion at the present time would be rather prejudicial to the objects his noble Friend had in view. He would only say, further, that he could not concur in the opinion of the noble Duke, that the time might come when it would be thought desirable that the common fund should be applied to the endowment of episcopal Sees. He was of opinion that such an application of the fund would be most pernicious and improper.


said, he felt very anxious on this subject, as he belonged to a diocese that was universally admitted to be too large for the charge of one Bishop—he meant the See of Rochester; and, therefore, he was in favour of the principle of the measure of his noble Friend. But there was a Resolution come to by the Select Committee which took away all the interest he ever had in the Bill, which was that no new bishopric should be constituted until such a sum of money had been raised as would be sufficient not only to provide a residence for the Bishop, but also for an annual income equal to the lowest amount prescribed for the existing Bishops by Act of Parliament—that was to say £4,200. That he thought was not likely to be done—not because the money could not be raised, but because the working clergy did not want an increase of that sort of Bishop; they wanted Bishops with smaller incomes; and, if he might say it without offence to the right rev. Bench, they wanted Bishops who would be nearer to themselves, and not Prince Bishops. He hoped this Bill would not be pressed. He knew from painful experience how galling it was to give up a measure on which much care, and even much affection, had been bestowed; but then the noble Lord must see there was no chance of passing the measure at the present time.


wished to add his persuasions to those that had already been pressed on the noble Lord to induce him not to proceed with the present Bill. He would not have ventured to give an opinion on the subject, if it had not been for the observations made by the noble Lord himself. The noble Lord considered that great benefit would arise to the cause which he had so much and so zealously at heart if the Bill were to pass their Lordships' House; but, from what he had observed, it was uncertain whether it would pass their Lordships' House, and if it were likely so to pass, ought it to go down to the House of Commons, where the noble Lord had apparently made up his mind that it would either be rejected or dropped? Under these circumstances he ventured to urge on the noble Lord not to press his measure—a course which, however, he would hardly have ventured to take if he had not observed that the same advice was given to the noble Lord, not only by Members of the House generally, but more especially by those noble Lords who were equally zealous with the noble Lord himself in the promotion of the interests of the Church of England. He wished to point out to the noble Lord that he had already obtained one great and important object—he had had the question fully ventilated in the House and in the Select Committee, and he had obtained the opinions of those whose sentiments were of the greatest weight and value on all subjects of this nature. He inferred from the speech of the right rev. Prelate that the noble Lord would not have the support of the right rev. Bench on this question; and seeing this, and seeing also that other noble Lords who had occupied their whole lives with questions of this nature were averse to proceeding further, he put it to the noble Lord whether it would be wise to press his Bill.


observed that the House was naturally indisposed, from personal respect for the noble Lord who had introduced the Bill, to vote against it, but no single Peer who had spoken had signified his approval of it. Every Peer who had addressed the House, except the noble Lord himself, had either objected to the whole or to parts of it, or thought it was unadvisable to proceed with it this Session. For himself, he would be inclined to support a Bill emanating from a Select Committee, but after the discussion which had taken place and the almost unanimous opinion that had been expressed, he should feel it his duty, if the Bill were pressed, to vote against proceeding further with it at present.


was understood to say that unless all Bills for the benefit of the English Church were to be rejected in that House, their Lordships ought to read the Bill a second time. The speech of the right rev. Prelate (Bishop of London) came home to every true Churchmen. Four years ago Bill for the Amendment of Church Discipline was brought in by the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lore Cranworth). The first Vote he gave in the House was in support of that measure, but it was opposed by every one of the Bishops. He trusted, however, that if the great labours of the right rev. Prelate (Bishop of London) permitted, he would himself introduce a Bill to enable Bishops at a smaller cost than £5,000 or £6,000 in each case to punish clergymen guilty of open immorality.


explained that he gave his support to the clause to which objection had been made, because he was assured that it was in accordance with general public opinion, which, however, he was not disposed to believe. He did not feel justified in withdrawing the Bill.

On Question—their Lordships divided—Contents 11; Not Contents 68: Majority 57.

Resolved in the negative.

York, Archbp. Dungannon, V
Lifford, V. [Teller.]
Bath, M.
Chichester, Bp.
Denbigh, E.
Haddington, E. Lyttelton, L. [Teller.]
Powis, E. Redesdale, L.
Romney, E.
Westbury, L. (L. Chancellor.) Granville, E.
Hardwicke, E.
Harrington, E.
Newcastle, D. Harrowby, E.
Somerset, D. Lonsdale, E.
Malmesbury, E.
Normanby, M. Manvers, E.
Caithness, E. Mayo, E.
Camperdowen, E. Shaftesbury, E.
Cardigan, E. Stanhope, E.
Clarendon, E. Stradbroke, E.
De Grey, E. Wilton, E.
Ducie, E. Winton, E. (E. Eglinton)
Ellenborough, E.
Ellesmere, E. Bolingbroke and St.
John, V. Fortescue, L. (V. Ebrington.)
De Vesci, V.
Falmouth, V. Hamilton, L. (L. Belhaven and Stenton.)
Melville, V.
Stratford de Redcliffe, V. Harris, L.
Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)
Sydney, V.
Lyveden, L.
Carlisle, Bp. Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)
Ripon, Bp. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Abercromby, L.
Aveland, L. Overstone, L.
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Brodrick, L. (V. Middleton,) Rivers, L.
Sheffield, L. (E. Sheffield.)
Camoys, L. [Teller.]
Carew, L. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Chelmsford, L.
Churston, L. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Colville of Culross, L.
Conyers, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Cranworth, L. Sundrige, L. (D. Argyll.)
Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne.)
Talbot de Malahide, L.
De Tabley, L. Taunton, L.
Digby, L. Wensleydale, L.
Ebury, L. Wodehouse, L.
Foley, L. [Teller.]