HL Deb 30 May 1865 vol 179 cc1045-50

Amendments reported (according to Order.)


said, he wished to call attention to the last paragraph of the declaration to be made in reference to the use of the Book of Common Prayer. He objected to the words "none other, except so far as shall be ordered by lawful authority," and he would leave the declaration as it stood ending with the words, "In public prayer and administration of the Sacraments I will use the form in the same Book prescribed." This was a measure of peace, and he should very much regret that any dissension should be created by the insertion of words in the declaration which might arouse scruples. They would get rid of all difficulties by excluding the words to which he objected. He hoped the noble Earl would consider this matter before the third reading.


said, he should be very unwilling to make any change in the form of declaration as it had been framed by the Commissioners after due and careful consideratiion.


said, he thought the words "lawful authority" required some definition. If there was any "law- ful authority" his suggestion would not interfere with it.


desired to point out that the words objected to were not intended to provide for any alteration in the ordinary Liturgy, but to meet such cases as thanksgivings and other special services. As the matter at present stood, some clergymen scrupled to use any prayers which were not provided in the Liturgy. The "lawful authority" was the Queen in Council, and there could be no real objection to the words.


pointed out that the meaning of the latter portion of the declaration was in reality "except so far as shall be occasionally ordered by lawful authority."


thought that the words "none other" were very important, and very necessary to be retained in the declaration.


said, that the words had been inserted in the declaration with the desire to afford relief to the consciences of some of the clergy, and that this would be done by the retention of the words. The declaration had been very carefully considered and framed by the Commissioners, and he hoped that their Lordships would not allow them to be rejected.


said, there could be no difficulty in acquiescing in these words, if their Lordships observed what was the existing "lawful authority." At present there was no lawful authority, except that of Parliament, to make any change in the Book of Common Prayer. But there was a lawful authority—namely, the Queen in Council, which could add to the Liturgy special prayers and thanksgivings for particular occasions. The exception objected to referred to this lawful authority. There could be no difficulty in allowing it to remain as a part of the declaration.


, as a Member of the Commission, desired to say that when the words were recommended by that body, the Commissioners believed that they were doing good service to many clergymen who at present were perplexed by scruples in regard to the use of special services. The Commissioners had certainly made no express mention of the power of the Queen in Council to add prayers to the Liturgy on special occasions; but they certainly expected, that when the subject should be considered by Parliament some attempt would be made to define the meaning of the words "lawful authority," or, at all events, to enumerate the cases which might be regarded as exceptions. Some such course might still be adopted, and the objections of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Chelmsford), for which there was some foundation, might then be removed.


intimated that he should not press his objection at present, but would prefer that the matter should be further discussed on the third reading.


desired to draw attention to the ninth clause of the Bill, which appeared to him to be initiating a new feature in legislation, and which was not strictly mentioned in the Report of the Commissioners. Up to this time of the declarations and subscriptions made by the clergy, some rested upon the authority of Convocations with the assent and license of the Crown, and some rested upon the authority of Acts of Parliament. Generally speaking, the declarations rested upon the authority of Acts of Parliament, and the subscriptions upon canonical enactments of Convocations with the assent of the Crown. They were now trying to bring these two classes of enactments and these two authorities into one hand. But if this ninth clause should be agreed to, it would be a new limitation of the power of Convocations, and therefore he would propose, if Her Majesty's Government had no objection, to add the words "saving and excepting the rights of the Convocations of the two Provinces in any way." If, however, there were any real objection, he would not press his Amendment.


said, that the clause was framed in accordance with the recommendations of the Commissioners, and he hoped, therefore, that the right rev. Prelate would not press his Amendment.

Amendment (by Leave of the House) withdrawn.


desired to remind their Lordships that the Bill before them was substantially a measure of relief; and, as the noble Earl the President of the Council had described it, of peace and conciliation. He did not doubt that Her Majesty's Government, in advising the issuing of the Commission, had been influenced by the opinions expressed in the House of Commons and elsewhere as to the multiplicity of the oaths and subscriptions required to be taken. He concurred in the recommendations of the Report of the Commissioners, but regretted that on one important point deeply affecting the Church, though it was understood that considerable discussion had taken place on the point, no recommendation had been made by the Commissioners. He was anxious to know the reasons which had induced the Commissioners to leave untouched the present oath of supremacy. The words which he proposed to omit might be omitted on the ground that they were altogether unnecessary. By the very first word of the declaration proposed by this Bill every clergyman was required to declare his assent to the Thirty-nine Articles, and one of these was that the Bishop of Rome had no jurisdiction in the realm of England; and, therefore, he really and substantially assented to everything to which his assent was required by the oath of supremacy, only that the Article limited the matter to jurisdiction, whereas the oath of supremacy declared that no foreign prince, &c, had, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within the realm. Jurisdiction, he presumed, meant that which could be enforced in Courts of Law. But the very multiplicity of terms in the oath of supremacy created an objection. Now, he proposed to omit from the oath of supremacy the words relating to the spiritual jurisdiction of the Pope in this country. An oath ought not to convey to the person taking it that it expressed that which was false. Such oaths tended to sap the foundations of public morality, and to destroy eventually the security for which they were proposed. His objections to the oath were two—first, that it conveyed not only to scrupulous but to intelligent persons an impression that it stated what was not true; secondly, that its terms were not clear and unambiguous, as all terms in oaths ought to be. Of late years the alterations in the law affecting Roman Catholics had greatly altered the relation between them and Protestants—indeed, by the Act of 1829 this very oath of supremacy had been changed in favour of the Roman Catholics. It was on the assumption that the Pope had ecclesiastical jurisdiction that the A postolical Letter had been issued portioning out England into different dioceses, followed by the letter of Cardinal Wiseman. Now, the question was whether, when they came to consider the oaths, declarations, and subscriptions taken by the clergy, they ought not to take these facts into consideration. The question was whether, when doubts existed on the subject, it was not advisable to revise the oath, so as to remove these doubts, and make it clear what the Legislature intended. He did not wish to sweep away the oath altogether, but he proposed the omission from the clause "hath or ought to have any spiritual power or jurisdiction within this realm," of the words "hath or." These words had caused all the difficulty.


hoped the right rev. Prelate would not press his Amendment. No doubt scruples had been felt with regard to this oath. At the same time, authoritative declarations had been made by eminent Prelates and lawyers as to the mode in which this oath ought to be construed; and those declarations had been very generally received as satisfactory. It might deserve consideration whether the oath of supremacy should not be altered; but it was not desirable to change the oath of supremacy to be taken by the clergy, leaving the laity to take it as it stood. If altered at all it ought to be altered in a separate Act, applicable to everybody who took the oath. Again, it was desirable that this Bill should go down to the other House representing exactly the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and he appealed to the right rev. Prelate on these two grounds to withdraw his Amendment.


opposed the Amendment on much stronger grounds than those stated by the noble Earl. The right rev. Prelate proposed to strike out one or two apparently very innocent words; but they happened to be the very pith, marrow, and substance of the oath. They were levelled at all usurped authority, and were a positive denial that any foreign Prince had or ought to have any jurisdiction within this realm. Strike out the words "hath or" and you only put the case hypothetically, or as a matter of opinion, that no foreign Prince ought to have such jurisdiction. It was a settled matter of law, and did not rest upon supposition. When they saw the Pope claiming a right to exercise a jurisdiction in this country, as was the case when the kingdom was parcelled out, were they to sweep away the landmarks by which their liberties were conserved? Was it because the Pope's authority had been claimed or exercised here contrary to law, that they wore no longer to declare on oath what the law actually was? The law declared, and all men were bound by it, that no foreign Prince, Power, or Potentate "hath or ought" to have any jurisdiction in this country, and by that declaration they should stand.


said, he had been rather expressing the scruples of other persons than his own; but, knowing that those scruples existed, and that this Bill was intended for the relief of scrupulous consciences, he had felt it his duty to bring the subject forward. He hoped that some day or other the difficulties he had pointed out might be wholly removed, but meanwhile he should withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment (by Leave of the House) withdrawn.

THE BISHOP OF WINCHESTER moved the insertion of a clause extending the operation of the Act to the Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark, and to the Isle of Man, so as to render the subscription the same in all parts of the diocese.

Clause agreed to.


asked in what position this Bill would place the colonial clergy? Would they be compellable to take the oaths which this Bill abolished? Their Lordships had seen from the recent judgment of the Judicial Committee how much doubt existed with regard to the position of the colonial Church, and it was desirable that no doubt should exist whether this Bill would apply to the clergy in the colonies.


said, it would require more time than he could spend, and perhaps greater effort than he could employ, to render the judgment of the Privy Council intelligible to the noble Earl. But the other question raised by him was more intelligible, and might be answered more easily. The Bill related to clergy ordained within the precincts of Great Britain and Ireland and the Channel Islands. It would have no application to clergymen in the colonies, unless they were ordained in this country.

Amendments made; Bill to be read 3a on Thursday next; and to be printed as amended. (No. 138).

House adjourned at a quarter past Seven o'clock, to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.