HL Deb 23 June 1864 vol 176 cc143-50

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


in moving the second reading of the Bill, said he had been asked to undertake the charge of the measure by a clergyman in his diocese, who was at once the incumbent of his parish, the patron of the living, and the founder of a large chartered school in his parish, and who in these three capacities found himself inconvenienced from the want of some such powers as this Bill would confer. He had submitted the Bill to Convocation, and he believed that no objection had been taken to it in either House; and he had received communications from a large number of beneficed clergymen, all on the whole in its favour. The object of the Bill was twofold. The first provision was to allow the Bishop of a diocese to license one or more of the masters of any collegiate school or college, being in priest's orders, to perform divine service in the chapel of a school, and to administer the sacraments strictly to the inmates of the school exempt from all control from or responsibility to the incumbent of the parish. In Committee on the Bill he proposed to strike out the words in one of the clauses "or connected therewith," as he thought they were too large, and might include those who properly belonged to the care of the parish clergyman. He should also propose to introduce a provision for the disposal of the alms collected at the communion in these chapels. When one of these schools was built in a small parish, there was sometimes great inconvenience occasioned to the parishioners, the church of the parish being, perhaps, hardly large enough to receive the pupils without displacing the other worshippers. It was desirable that the boys should have full facilities for their religious duties, while at the same time the latter ought not to be incommoded. There was also a special advantage in making the head of a school the religious instructor. It sanctified the relation between master and pupil, and it might also be said to carry out the wishes of the parents who had selected the head of the school as the instructor of their boys. Neither was it really an interference with the proper duties of a parochial clergyman, because the parish church was founded for the parishioners and not for these schools, which had sprung up since. No one would be more ready to oppose any interference with the rights and independence of the parochial clergy than himself, but he believed that nothing but good would flow from this Bill. He had received a letter on this point from the parish priest of Hurst Pierpoint, in Sussex, in which parish there was one of the largest of these schools, who expressed his hearty gratification at the Bill. The only other provision of the Bill was to allow, with the consent of the clergyman of the parish and the Bishop of the diocese, the parish church to be used for these services until a chapel should be built for the school; of course at times which would not interfere with the regular service of the church. He hoped, there- fore, that their Lordships would allow the Bill to be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Bishop of Oxford.)


said, he entertained grave objections to the Bill; and he hoped that the right rev. Prelate would be induced either to withdraw the measure altogether for the present Session, or give their Lordships ample time for its consideration. He would undertake to say that the provisions of this measure were wholly unknown throughout the country. It was only ordered to be printed on the 20th June, and he was sure that not twenty of the 20,000 beneficed clergy throughout the kingdom knew a word about it. It appeared to him that the Bill would interfere seriously with the rights and independence of the parochial clergymen of die Church of England. The 3rd clause authorized the use of the parish church (with the consent of the incumbent) as the college chapel. Now the Rubrics directed that the money collected during the Sacrament should be applied to pious and charitable uses; but here there was no provision that the minister of the parish should receive it—it might be applied to building the college chapel. Then Clause 5 would enable the Bishop to license any one to perform "the services aforesaid," though it was difficult to put a precise meaning upon that expression. The effect of the clause would be that the Bishop of the diocese would have power, with or without the assent of the rector or vicar, to thrust any one into his pulpit. He did not say that such was the intention of the right rev. Prelate, but that was the interpretation which the Bill would bear. That being the case, without going further into the provisions of the Bill, to many of which he entirely objected, he must express his hope that the right rev. Prelate would not press the measure, otherwise he (Lord Shaftesbury) should feel it his duty to move that it be read a second time that day six months.


said, that he certainly was not prepared for the opposition threatened to the Bill, which simply legalized that which had been constantly the practice in parishes where there were chartered schools, and set at rest some questions which had sometimes been raised in matters of detail. He certainly should be very sorry to see any Bill adopted by Parliament which would affect injuriously the position of the parochial clergy.


said, that the most rev. Prelate had spoken of chartered schools, and if the Bill were confined to them the objection to it might not have been very strong; but the provisions of the Bill went much further, and, therefore, if his noble Friend divided their Lordships upon the question he should vote for the Amendment.


said, he was of opinion that the Bill would introduce a very dangerous innovation. He had no doubt of the good intentions of the right rev. Prelate who had introduced the Bill; but, at the same time, he must observe that there was no grammar school in the kingdom which might not come within its provisions. There was nothing which, from the earliest times, had been more specially enjoined by the founders of these institutions than that the scholars should attend divine service in the parish church—it was the particular desire of the founders to connect their foundations with the parochial system. This desire their Lordships were now asked by this Bill entirely to set aside. They were asked to sanction a measure which would allow within the walls of any private chapel the performance of a service in which any amount of ceremony, any sensuous observance, might be displayed, though it might be entirely at variance with the mode in which Divine worship was usually performed in parish churches. There would be in such cases no public superintendence, and there would be no opportunity of discovering what were the forms of worship, or what ceremonies and solemnities were introduced. He thought it would be better to adhere to the old and wholesome injunction in the charters, that the master with his scholars should attend the parish church on the Sunday. With respect to some of the latter provisions, he would ask the right rev. Prelate to pause before proceeding with them, and if the right rev. Prelate persisted, he thought the best course would be to support the Motion which the noble Earl had threatened.


said, that after the expression of opinion they had just heard he thought it might be wise to defer the second reading, but was surprised to hear that there was anything dangerous in the principle of the Bill. The system which it was sought to establish was that in use at all the great schools; and at Rugby it was regarded as one of the greatest improvements introduced by his illustrious predecessor, that he had the boys in the school chapel and kept their religious instruction entirely in his own hands. The greatest satisfaction was expressed with that change, though if the law had been put in force it might have been put a stop to by the clergyman of the parish. The intention now was to legalize that which could be at present done only by sufferance. At the same time, if any danger was likely to result from the Bill, it might be well to give time for consideration.


said, he trusted his noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury) would withdraw his opposition and allow the Bill to be read the second time. There might be questions of detail which it would be necessary to consider in Committee, but the principle of the Bill was a very simple one, the object being to give facilities for affording religious instruction in schools. He could not say that the law as it at present stood was in a satisfactory state. The law allowed Roman Catholic and Dissenting ministers to give religious instruction to the boys under their care, and why should ministers of the Established Church be debarred from doing so?


thought that his noble Friend's objections were not entirely without foundation, for some of the provisions of the Bill would seriously interfere with the rights of rectors and vicars. The object of the Bill might be a very desirable one, but without the general consent of the clergy it might lead to considerable evil; and the clergy ought, therefore, to have time to consider its provisions. The right rev. Prelate who spoke last (the Bishop of London) had stated what was the practice at Rugby, and said that it was by the sufferance of the rector. But it was a very different thing between a rector allowing these services to take place in his parish and the giving of power by an Act of Parliament, which would enable these services to be performed without the consent of the rector or vicar.


said, he was in the hands of their Lordships, so far as the progress of the measure was concerned, but he had not yet heard any reasons to induce him to desist from persevering with the Bill, the opponents of which seemed, he must say, to view it with preternatural suspicion. He should call it trifling with their Lordships if he had not thoroughly considered much more than had been urged upon their Lordships. He was at a loss to understand what opposition there could be to the principle of the Bill, and really until he had read that day in a newspaper which represented the extreme views of the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury), some of the views which the noble Earl had just expressed, he was ignorant of the intention to offer any opposition to the progress of the Bill. The objections taken by the noble Earl were purely matters of detail. Surely, every one of their Lordships would feel that the sort of preaching required by a common agricultural population was not that which would be suitable to their sons; the classes of hearers were entirely different, and their powers of comprehending what was said to them were altogether diverse; besides which there was a great advantage in bringing boys under the direct spiritual teaching of their masters! Those sermons of Dr. Arnold, which they all so much admired, would not have been delivered by him if he had been preaching to a mixed congregation. The kind of objections which had been urged showed the animus of the opposition, and it was evidently a previously formed conclusion that there must be some mischief in the Bill. As to the validity of the objection, that every parish minister might have somebody holding different views "thrust" upon him, this Bill applied only to incorporated schools, and he would ask how many of the 10,000 parishes of England had incorporated schools in them? Then, as to the pious zeal of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who spoke of the "sensuous observances" that were to be performed in these chapels, he thought such an objection scarcely deserved an answer. Did not the noble and learned Lord know that these chapels must be licensed by the Bishop of the diocese? Surely that formed a sufficient answer to the complaint of the noble and learned Lord. The truth was that there was an evil to be remedied. They were positively told, indeed, that differences would be most likely to arise when these rights were regulated by Act of Parliament than at present. That was contrary to all the experience he had ever had of human nature. This was a simple measure for allowing that to be done with reference to chartered schools which the experience of all our great schools had shown to be essential to their well being and their good order. This Bill was calculated to bring peace and not war into every parish which it affected, and only those parishes were concerned which possessed chartered schools, and instead of being applicable to every school that called itself a college it would only be applicable to incorporated schools. It seemed to him that there was great force in the argument of the noble Earl (Earl Grey), that while you allowed ministers of every other denomination to minister in things spiritual to the children under their charges, you laid an embargo on priests of your own Church to do this under the direct licence of the Bishop. He could see no ground for consenting to delay, and he hoped their Lordships would not be deterred by the objections which had been stated, but would give the Bill a second reading.


said, that the Bill involved a large question, and he would rather that longer time were given for considering its provisions.


suggested that the Bill should be read a second time, and that a late day might be fixed for the Committee.


said, he was quite ready to assent to that course. He thought the measure might be very properly considered at that stage of the Session, and that when the House was so full it was an appropriate occasion for their Lordships to give their assent to the principle of the Bill. Mutters of detail might be considered in Committee.


said, he was satisfied that nothing could be worse than to establish a kind of monastic system, which would have the effect of withdrawing the boys from the parish church. At the same time it was not only advisable, but absolutely necessary, that the boys should be for a certain time subject to the religious tuition of their masters. He still believed that, under the fifth clause, the Bishop of the discese, with or without the consent of the incumbent, might license the master to occupy the pulpit of the parish church.


said, he challenged the noble Earl to mention any portion of the Bill which would be open to such an interpretation. It was expressly stated in the words of the Bill, as it was the intention of the framer, that the master could only enter the pulpit of the parish church with the consent of the incumbent, received from time to time.


said, that he believed, and others concurred in that belief, that the fifth clause was liable to that interpretation. He, therefore, thought the matter was one which required further consideration.


was understood to say the consent of the rector was undoubtedly necessary, but it would be open to question whether the consent would not be binding after it had been once given.


said, he proposed that it should be necessary to procure the consent of the incumbent from time to time.

Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday, the 5th of July next.