HL Deb 13 July 1866 vol 184 cc787-810

said, he desired to call their Lordships' attention to the notice given by the most rev. Primate of the Northern Province to move— That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the connection of the Colonial Church with the Church at Home; and to move that the Petition presented from Miss Angela Burdett Coutts in reference to certain Bishoprics of the united Church of England and Ireland in Her Majesty's Colonies may be referred to the said Committee. He had been requested by his most rev. Brother to explain the course which he intended to pursue in reference to that Motion. Their Lordships would recollect that when this question was brought before the House, some few weeks since, a general impression existed that the matter was of so complicated and so delicate a nature that it would be impossible to deal with it in any comprehensive way without previously submitting the subject to a Select Committee; and accordingly the most rev. Prelate gave notice of his intention to move for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the connection of the Colonial Church with the Church at home. He was now instructed to say, on behalf of that most rev. Prelate, that, owing to the delay which had unavoidably taken place in consequence of recent events, it was impossible that any legislation upon this subject could be proceeded with during the short remainder of the Session, and that, therefore, he was desirous of withdrawing his Motion, and of expressing a wish that all proceedings in the matter should be postponed until next session. However, their Lordships were doubtless aware that a Bill having reference to this subject had been lately introduced into the other House of Parliament, and in the event of that Bill coming before their Lordships for discussion during the present Session, his most rev. Friend would again ask that the question should be referred to a Select Committee. There were two reasons alleged for speed in legislating upon this complicated subject. The first was founded upon the fact that several bishoprics had been vacant for a long time, and could not be filled up while the present uncertainty existed with reference to the validity of letters patent. He held in his hand two letters, one from a Colonial Bishop who had lately resigned his see, and another from the expectant Bishop who had been appointed to a vacant see, in which both parties expressed great anxiety that the consecrations should take place with as little delay as possible. There was no reason, however, why the same course should not be adopted in these instances as was followed in the case of the vacant bishopric of Rupert's Land, which had been filled up, without letters patent, under a Royal licence to the Archbishop of Canterbury to proceed with the consecration of the new Bishop. In the cases he alluded to—namely, the sees of Victoria, Hong Kong, and of Nelson, in New Zealand, there was no reason why this course should not be adopted. The second reason why it was supposed that legislation was required immediately arose from the construction of a clause in the 59 Geo. III. c. 60, which appeared to invalidate the right of clergy ordained for the colonies to officiate in the character of curates or incumbents in the United Kingdom; whereas the whole intention of that clause was to prevent persons who had resigned their sees from still continuing to exercise their functions as if they remained in possession of their offices. This construction of the Act appeared to impose a very great hardship upon the clergy ordained by Colonial Bishops; but nothing would be more simple than to introduce a very short Act by which any hardship arising out of that clause might be remedied, and he had taken the liberty of drawing up a short Bill, which he would lay before their Lordships merely for the purpose of having it printed, in order to show how easily the matter might be dealt with. The other evils which had been referred to when the question was before their Lordships on a former occasion were very considerable; but, at the same time, they were so complicated, and involved so many difficult considerations, that it would be impossible to proceed to a full discussion of them until a great deal of information affecting them had been collected by a Select Committee. In the event of the subject dropping, he would withdraw the notice which his most rev. Friend (the Archbishop of York) had placed upon the paper; but in the event of the matter going on he would postpone the notice for a week.


then rose to move a humble Address to Her Majesty, that there might be laid on the table of the House Copies of all Documents, Declarations of Trust, Correspondence, and Acts of Colonial Legislation relating to the endowment by Miss Burdett Coutts of several Colonial Bishoprics, with a view to show to whom the several sums advanced by Miss Burdett Coutts for the establishment of Colonial Bishops were paid, and under whose authority and on what trusts, or upon what conditions, and how and by whom, the same were applied, and in the purchase of what property or in the investment of what funds the same are now vested, and in whose names the same now stand or are vested, and upon what trusts, either declared by the Colonial Bishops and others for whose benefit the money was advanced, or by the Act of any of the Colonial Legislatures, or any other authority. The noble and learned Lord proceeded to say that the case of Miss Burdett Coutts was different from that of any ordinary subscriber to public institutions. She regarded herself as the trustee of a portion of her income for the promotion of certain good objects, and when she had subscribed £60,000 for the endowment of colonial bishoprics, she did not do so without feeling that it was her bounden duty to see that the trust was performed. As long as these endowments answered the purposes for which they were given, and worked for the benefit of the United Church of England and Ireland, Miss Coutts was, of course, perfectly contented. And it must be remembered that in subscribing the money she acted under the sanction of the highest authorities, for the letters patent were granted with the approval of the Lord Chancellor and Law Officers of the Crown, as well as of the Bishops. To say, therefore, that she had made a mistake was hardly just, for no one could have supposed at that time that these bishoprics were not established on the firmest basis. Every one at that time agreed that such Bishops had ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Churches in the colonies, and that they were in close connection with the Mother Church. It was upon that ground, and that ground alone, that Miss Coutts had subscribed the large sum of £60,000. But since that time a vast change bad taken place—all the ideas then entertained as to the state of the law on the subject had turned out to be unfounded. Every one now knew how the law really stood, and he thought, therefore, that for a Committee of their Lordships to inquire into that point would be a mere waste of time. The law was that where Colonial Legislatures existed, the Crown by its own power alone could not grant letters patent giving Bishops jurisdiction over the Church in those colonies. The Church in such colonies was a voluntary association, and was on the same footing as the Wesleyans or any other denomination of Dissenters. The intention of the lady who founded these bishoprics was that the relation between the Church and the State in the colonies should be maintained, and that the Royal supremacy in matters ecclesiastical should be upheld; and she was naturally aggrieved when she found that these Bishops were not Bishops in the sense of possessing the slightest authority beyond what might be voluntarily accorded to them; that the Colonial Churches were not subject to the supremacy of the Crown, and that they might hold whatever doctrines they pleased. Miss Coutts was entitled to say that these Bishops were not the Bishops she intended to endow, that is, they did not hold the position which was represented to her, and therefore the money ought to be returned to her, unless they could confer on the Colonial Bishops the same standing, and position, in all respects as the Bishops at home enjoyed. Miss Coutts, of course, did not desire to have the money returned to her if her original object could be carried out; but she protested against its appropriation to any kind of bishoprics other than such as Her Majesty's letters patent were originally believed to have created, and under which the respective Bishops received their consecration. The endowments ought certainly in all justice to fall back to her, unless the bishoprics were of the same force in all respects as they were supposed to be at the time she endowed them. He would read to their Lordships the lady's own account of what she claimed in her petition to the Queen— I am desirous to record my most emphatic protest against my endowments being appropriated to any kind of bishopric other than such as Her Majesty's letters patent purposed when the respective Bishops received their consecration. She then presses the Government to take measures to make good the patents. She continues— If, on the other hand, no legal means can be devised for making good the failure, then I must claim for myself and my heirs the endowments which I undertook to provide on the faith of the validity of the public acts of the Crown and the Church of England. Nothing could be more just. He would now call their Lordships' attention to the conduct pursued by the Colonial Bishops after the decision of the Privy Council had been given. After those decisions had been pronounced the Colonial Bishops took steps, every one of which was directly contrary to what might have been expected from them. After the endowments had been secured by acts of the Colonial Legislatures, the Bishops of New Zealand presented a petition stating in effect that they had received their endowments, but as they considered that they were merely volunteer Bishops, they craved leave to surrender their patents and to rely in future upon the powers of their official position, and to be allowed amongst other things to consecrate their successors independently of the Crown; and they stated also that, in conjunction with the representations of the clergy and laity of their respective dioceses, they had agreed upon a constitution for the Members of the United Church of England and Ireland by voluntary compact for the ordering and management of property, the promotion of discipline, and the maintenance of sound doctrine; they added that that constitution had been recognized by an Act of the Colonial Legislature, and that they had established tribunals for the removal of doubts. In their petition they expressed their conviction that the right of appointing Bishops was no part of the prerogative of the Crown, inasmuch as the bishoprics had been endowed from private resources. He wished to speak with respect and approbation of the conduct of those Bishops, if he could do so conscientiously; but he could not help thinking that the course which they had taken would be disapproved of by every member of the Church. They declared it to be the inherent right of the Bishops of New Zealand to fill up vacancies in their own order without any letters patent or Royal mandate. What did the Government of New Zealand do? The Council, what we should call the Cabinet Council, issued a Minute in August, 1865, in relation to the Bishops' petition, in which they expressed their opinion as to the status of the Colonial Bishops. The Minute said, that it having been established by the judgment of the Privy Council that the Crown had no authority over the Colonial branch of the Church of England it followed that the Crown ought not to incorporate bishoprics of that religious denomination by patent, except under the advice of the Colonial Ministers—advice which, of course, would not be given in the case of one religious body to the exclusion of others. This was their opinion. To ask now a Committee of this House to state what these relations were would be perfectly farcical. That had been settled by all the authorities, not merely settled by law, but it had been accepted by the Crown and the Church. It was, in fact, a fait accompli. The Colonial Bishops had no more claim to these endowments than he had. What, then, was to be done? He should make the same appeal to his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) as he should have addressed to his predecessors if still in office. A noble Lord who usually spoke from the cross-bench (Earl Grey) had said that the Imperial Legislature could by its own interest and paramount power rescind any improper Act of the Colonial Legislature; and from that it would seem the noble Earl meant to suggest that some strong measure of Parliament should be taken to place in a state of legality those patents which had been declared to be illegal. He entirely differed from that view. He agreed as to the right; but the Imperial Parliament would never exercise it except for the benefit of the colony or on some great national demand for justice. The present state of things arose out of the common mistake of all parties; and the present Bishops should not suffer. The late Government never intended to exercise the Imperial power to cure the evil; for they introduced a Bill in the other House to authorize the Colonial Bishops to surrender their patents. These Bishops were now left as a voluntary body—not higher or lower than the Wesleyans. It would be too hard to compel the colonies to accept the Bishops as holding ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and these Bishops are themselves unwilling to renounce their independence. He would leave to the present men the enjoyment of these endowments during their lives. After that he would exercise every power which belonged to Parliament and the Government of the country to compel them, if necessary, to yield up those endowments to those who furnished them for very different objects. Should the Government, after a deliberate consideration of the facts he had stated, be of opinion that right had not been done and that wrong had been done, it was their bounden duty as Ministers of the Crown to see that the wrong was put right. If the endowments are to be retained, ecclesiastical jurisdiction should be maintained. He blamed no one; he asked no hasty step; he sought no inconsiderate measure; he wanted nothing that would lead to litigation; but he called upon the Government of the colony to endeavour to meet the Government of this country in making an arrangement which would meet the justice of this case.

Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that there may be laid on the Table of the House, Copies of all Documents, Declarations of Trust, Correspondence, and Acts of Colonial Legislation relating to the Endowment by Miss Burdett Coutts of several Colonial Bishoprics, with a view to show to whom the several Sums advanced by Miss Burdett Coutts for the Establishment of Colonial Bishops were paid, and under whose Authority and on what Trusts, or upon what Conditions, and how and by whom, the same were applied, and in the Purchase of what Property or in the Investment of what Funds the same are now vested, and in whose Names the same now stand or are vested, and upon what Trusts, either declared by the Colonial Bishops and others for whose Benefit the Money was advanced or by the Act of any of the Colonial Legislatures or any other Authority."—(The Lord St. Leonards.)


said, he thought the noble and learned Lord (Lord St. Leonards) had occupied the time of the House in dealing with a question which it was altogether premature to discuss, inasmuch as the conduct and position of these Colonial Bishops, who now sought to keep possession of funds which were given under circumstances so different and for purposes, he might say, so entirely different from those to which it was proposed to divert them, were the subjects of litigation in a Court of Law. No one could entertain a stronger hope than he did that the distinguished lady whose petition had been presented to the House about a month ago should receive satisfaction from the decision which those courts might arrive at; because he thought it perfectly clear that that lady, who, by an act of munificence almost unparalleled in the annals of private charity, had, with other subscribers, endowed certain bishoprics to be maintained strictly in connection with the Church of England, had a perfect right to complain that the endowments should be directed to other objects, and he sincerely hoped the litigation which had been instituted for their restitution would be successful. He must also express his regret that the right rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of York) should have practically withdrawn his Motion for a Committee of Inquiry, for he believed that, although the subject was no doubt a complicated one, and the Session would soon be at an end, a Committee would be enabled after a very few days' sitting to clear up many of those difficulties and misconceptions which gave it that character. It was, however, under any circumstances, quite clear that the Government could not during the present Session proceed with the measure which had been introduced by the late Government, and which was now pending in the other House of Parliament, or deal with the question by a measure of their own. But be that as it might, he did not rise for the purpose of defending the provisions of the dead Bill of a defunct Administration, or to inquire whether it ought to be taken up by the present Administration, or whether they would or would not be able to carry it through this Session, for to do so would, in his opinion, be—notwithstanding what had fallen from the noble and learned Lord —a great waste of time. His chief object in rising was to express his own firm conviction that the time had come when Parliament must sever altogether the connection which had hitherto been suffered to exist between the Colonial Church and the Government of England—which was a thing entirely different from the severance of the Colonial Church from the Church in this country. What, he would ask, was the nature of the connection between the Colonial Church and the Government at home. The question was one which could hardly, he was afraid, be answered without having recourse to arguments and assumptions in which many Members of their Lordships' House might not concur. When the subject was discussed a month ago, the right rev. Prelate who presided over the diocese of Oxford, in a very able speech, which was virtually a defence of the principle of the measure then pending before the House of Commons, spoke of the Colonial Church as enjoying none of the advantages while being under what be called "the trammels" of the Establishment. His noble Friend (Lord Houghton) who sat on the Bench below him deprecated the use of the word "trammels," observing that those things which the right rev. Prelate looked upon as "trammels" he regarded as advantages. Now he (the Duke of Argyll), however, thought they might arrive at the truth on this matter without using expressions which involved any disputable propositions. He would even grant, for the sake of argument, that the Christian Church had no power, organization, or discipline whatsoever except such as it derived from the civil law. But what was to be done where, as in the case of the colonies, civil authority would have nothing to do with an Established Church or a quasi-religious Establishment? In this country the Established Church possessed great advantages as a consequence of the position which it occupied in regard to the State. Her chief Ministers were Members of their Lordships' House, and, besides, her disci- pline, though carried into effect by means of a machinery which was extremely cumbrous, was supported by law. The Church in the colonies, however, derived no assistance from the civil law. There was a determination on the part of the Colonial Legislatures not to afford aid to any body in the position, or quasi-position, of Church Establishments. Religious bodies, therefore, occupied in the colonies the position simply of voluntary associations. They were, so far as civil law is concerned, in a state, in fact, of absolute helplessness, and any government or discipline which they can ever have must be secured by their own voluntary action. This had been long known to those who had paid any attention to the subject; and when the question of law was brought before the Privy Council it was immediately seen that the idea that the Church in the Colonies enjoyed the same advantages as were enjoyed by the Church in England were based on an entire misconception of the facts, and the possibilities of the case. A good deal had been said upon what he (the Duke of Argyll) looked upon as the least important part of the judgment of the Privy Council —namely, the invalidity of the patents under which the Bishops were supposed to hold their sees; but the really important part of that decision was the declarations of constitutional principle which the judgment involved. He would, with the permission of the House, read a few sentences from that judgment, which their Lordships would see went to the root of the question, whether the Church in the colonies could have any other government than that voluntarily established by itself. The declaration of the Privy Council was as follows—and a more important declaration, he would venture to say, had never emanated even from that august tribunal:— The United Church of England and Ireland is not a part of the Constitution in any colonial settlement, nor can its authorities, or those who bear office in it, claim to be recognized by the law of the colony otherwise than as the members of a voluntary association. Then came the following sentence:— It cannot be said that any ecclesiastical tribunal or jurisdiction is required in any colony or settlement where there is no Established Church, and in the case of a settled colony the ecclesiastical law of England cannot, for the same reason, be treated as part of the law which the settlers carried with them from the mother country. That being so, the connection which had hitherto been supposed to exist between the Colonial Church and the Government of the mother country had, it was clear, been swept away in all those colonies in which constitutional government had been established. He did wish to say a word on many of the clauses of the Bill of the late Government to which the noble and learned Lord had referred. They had been drawn up under the sanction of the Law Officers in order to meet legal doubts which were suffered to arise in reference to various points — such, for instance, as the validity of marriages. The necessity or expediency of these clauses would be investigated by the new Government, but to the general principle of the measure in which they were embraced there could, he thought, be no objection. What else, indeed, remained to be done? The attempt might be made to legalize the patents which had been found to be invalid. Parliament might go further and give to Colonial Churches the position of quasi-Establishments; ecclesiastical courts might be set on foot in the colonies with the necessary power and jurisdiction; but was any Government, he would like to know, prepared to enter on that course? In answer to the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Oxford), his noble Friend (Earl Grey), about a month ago, stated that it was perfectly within the power of this country to set up an Established Church in any of our colonies. Well, it was no doubt in the power of the Imperial Parliament to do so, just as it was in its power to pass the Stamp Act. We might by the help of armies and iron-clads force an Established Church upon the colonies, but he would venture to say that there was no measure which the colonial constitutional Governments would more vigorously, or, in his opinion, more justly resist. What was the only other course? It was precisely that which the late Government proposed —namely, to sever the connection, now become purely nominal and useless, between those Churches and the Government at home. He knew that that would appear to many noble Lords a very formidable step. What, they would ask, would then become of the Royal supremacy? Now, he agreed with the right rev. Prelate opposite (the Bishop of Oxford) that the expression "Royal supremacy" was one of the most delusive possible. He understood his right rev. Friend, when he said so, to mean that the Royal supremacy, which was invaluable at home, had no meaning in the colonies. But for his own part he believed that the "supremacy of the Crown" was a form of expression which covered and included several ideas which were wholly distinct, some of which were of equal value in England, Scotland, Ireland, and all over the world; while others were of no value whatever, except as connected with the peculiar conditions of England. As a matter of historical fact there was not the slightest doubt that the assertion of the Royal supremacy was looked upon as the shortest and simplest way of negativing the supremacy of the Pope. The Government and people of this country were determined to deny the supremacy of the Pope, and the most emphatic expression of that determination was the counter-assertion of the supremacy of the Crown. In illustration of this he might mention that the oath of supremacy was up to the time of William and Mary both affirmative and negative; but in that reign it was thought unnecessary to retain the affirmative part of the oath. In this sense the Colonial Churches might maintain the supremacy of the Crown if they chose to do so. But if they chose to submit to the supremacy of the Pope, as some eminent clergymen in the Church of England had already declared they were prepared to do, Parliament could not prevent them. If, as he believed, they were resolved to maintain their independence of the Pope, the supremacy of the Crown in that sense would be upheld as much as ever by the Colonial Churches. Then there was another meaning of the "supremacy of the Crown," and that was that the Crown was the fountain of all coercive jurisdiction. In that sense the supremacy of the Crown was of universal application. No mere voluntary body, unsupported by the civil law, would have jurisdiction of that kind; they might ejec members of their own body, and the Reform Club and the Carlton had coercive jurisdiction in the same sense. He had heard it suggested by some noble Lords that the Churches in the colonies might have a voluntary constitution under which they might agree that their appeals should still lie to the Privy Council. But he did not think that the Privy Council would consent to receive such appeals, any more than they would receive appeals from the Free Church of Scotland, or from the Wesleyan Methodists, or from any dissenting Church in this country. If, then, there were to be appeals to the Privy Council it could, he imagined, only be through the legislative action of the Colonial and the Imperial Legislatures; and that he believed to be a course from which they were precluded by the circumstances in which they were placed. As regarded England, perhaps the most important meaning of the supremacy of the Crown, was the supremacy of lawyers over divines in the legal interpretation of the Articles. That was a meaning which was very seldom referred to by the clergy, and indeed it was a matter upon which opinion in the Church was very much divided. There were many persons who objected to the final court of appeal being composed entirely of laymen; but his own belief was that in the present condition of the Church of England, embracing as it did such varieties of opinion, it would not last a month if the judicial interpretation of its Articles were intrusted to the clergy. He could well understand that the Church of England and Parliament should guard most zealously the supremacy of the Crown in this sense, because it represented in their eyes the power of judicial interpretation, and was one of the securities for that comprehensiveness which belonged to the Church of England. But perhaps the most important of all the ideas and principles involved in the supremacy of the Crown was the power of the laity in the government of the Church. In the Church of England, as now constituted, there could be no Act framed—no change in its Articles—no legislation whatever in regard to it, without the assent and consent of Parliament; and, more than that, there could be no change in the legislation of the Church of England, except at the instance and by the initiation of the civil government. He would not enter into the question whether that was a state of things which was the best in the interests of Christian truth, but such was the existing constitution of the Established Church, and that constitution would be fundamentally changed if any alteration were made in this. But why should not the laity in the colonies assert the same rights and privileges in the government of their Church? There were already symptoms that the laity would do so. In consequence of the disputes now going on in the diocese of Natal and the metropolitan diocese of Cape Town, an association had been formed by the laity to protest against the action, which they considered irregular and tyrannical, of the Bishop of Cape Town. One of the objects of that association was to withstand any attempt at separation from the Church of England as by law established, and they stated that that step was necessitated by the course of action taken by the clergy in concert with the Bishop of Cape Town to subvert one of the principles of the Church of England as by law established. In this there was an appearance of just and constitutional jealousy in reference to synodical action being usurped exclusively by the clergy. The question undoubtedly was beset with difficulties, and in the present divided state of opinion in the Church he (the Duke of Argyll) believed it would be impossible with a free Church to maintain in one communion men so divided in opinion. He doubted even whether it was advantageous to the interests of Christian truth that those who so differed should be combined in the same ecclesiastical organization; but he trusted that Parliament and the laity and the country generally would not be deterred from allowing the Churches of the colonies full liberty and freedom by the unfortunate form which synodical action had taken in the Church at Cape Town. They proceeded there without any representation of the laity, so far as he understood, and the sentence pronounced was repugnant to the Christian sense of the world. He did not thus speak of the sentence as merely proposing to depose Bishop Colenso from his diocese, but as excommunicating him from all membership in the Christian Church, and denouncing him as a heathen and publican. He had often heard that sentence discussed, but never defended; and he would refer to what took place in the colony to show the effect of such a sentence upon the minds of the laity and the constituted authorities. Unless the civil government kept the ecclesiastical power in check there was a strong tendency to encroach on liberty. In this case the Dean of Natal was ordered by a Civil Court to give Bishop Colenso access to a registry in his own diocese; but the Dean would not, because he said the Bishop had ceased to be Bishop, and because he had been excommunicated. The Civil Court naturally and properly asserted the supremacy of the Crown, meaning thereby the supremacy of the civil power over the Church, which we might trust the colonies to assert, and this Civil Court insisted upon the Dean giving the Bishop access to those registries. The Dean, however, continued to refuse, and he was found guilty of contempt of court, one of the Judges however observing that they would not im- prison him because they would not make a martyr of him. They did, however, place him under legal excommunication, the effect of which he understood was that he would not have access to the Civil Courts in any suit in which he might be interested. It was remarked that this civil excommunication would do the Dean more harm than spiritual excommunication would do Bishop Colenso. These were the feelings produced in the colonies by the out-rageous form of the sentence passed on Bishop Colenso. The only course open to Her Majesty's Government was to terminate their nominal connection with the Colonial Churches, and to leave them by voluntary agreement to make constitutions for themselves, precisely as had been done in several instances. For example, in New Zealand, according to an Address to Her Majesty contained in papers lately laid before Parliament, the clergy and laity had met and agreed among themselves upon a constitution by which they would maintain discipline among their own members; they had done this as a voluntary body, and they desired nothing more than to be treated as such; they asked for the rescinding of a patent which professed to convey to them a power they did not possess; and they desired to be left to themselves to maintain their own liberties, discipline, and organization. Again, was there a more powerful and thriving religious community in the world than the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States? In its constitution there was full and complete representation not only of the clergy but also of the laity; its opinions as regarded doctrine were, he believed, Conservative; and the constitution was found to work satisfactorily. He deeply regretted that a Committee was not to be moved for in this matter this Session, because he believed a short investigation would show that there was no choice but to cut entirely the connection which now existed between the Government and the Colonial Churches, which was powerless for good, but most powerful for evil, because it induced the laity to look for protection where none could be found, and because it prevented them from defending themselves against their clergy, or from supporting their clergy if they wished to do so by an efficient voluntary organization. Whenever such a Committee should be appointed he earnestly trusted that its members would not cast such a reproach upon the great communion to which the majority of that House belonged, as to assume that it was incapable of using to its own advantage, and to the advantage of Christian truth, that perfect freedom from legal restraint which was the natural condition of the Church of Christ, and under which every other Communion had been found to flourish.


said, he doubted whether any good could arise from discussing this question on the present occasion. From his own experience of the colonies he could assure their Lordships there was nothing more likely to produce irritation in the colonies than bringing the opinion of noble Lords, and especially of right rev. Prelates, to bear on this question. He hoped his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies would oppose any legislation on the subject this Session. He had always thought that the establishment in the colonies of Bishops under English episcopal authority had not turned out as well as was expected, and he feared that even the magnificent gift of a benevolent and liberal lady, instead of achieving the object for which it was intended, had only served to produce dissension. A Committee such as had been intended by the most rev. Primate could have attained no practical result in the short period remaining of the present Session. Such an inquiry must eventually take place, but until that time arrived it would be much better to leave these questions undiscussed.


My Lords, I think the House will agree that the discussion of this question, in the short period that remains of the Session, can lead to no practical result. I may safely say that of all the questions which have demanded my attention in the Colonial Office, there is none more intricate than this question of the Colonial Church, and none that requires more anxious and careful deliberation. It is now about eighty years since the first Colonial Bishopric was established; and during the whole of that time comparatively little doubt has existed as to the validity of the letters patent. But, last year, came the judgment to which so frequent reference has been made, which had the effect of pronouncing that the letters patent of the Crown issued to a Colonial Bishop in colonies possessed of representative institutions unconfirmed by the local Legislature or by the Imperial Parliament, would be invalid. That judgment constituted a complete revolution in all ecclesiastical matters relating to the Church in the colonies. I will endeavour to steer clear of many points which I think have been unnecessarily raised during this discussion, but I feel it necessary to say a few words before the discussion closes. The area over which the influence of the judgment of the Privy Council stretches is very large, including at least twenty-five sees. There are sees in Crown colonies which would be unaffected by the judgment. There are, secondly, Colonial sees which have been created under Acts of Parliament, and which would probably be unaffected by the judgment. Thirdly, there are sees which have been created by the authority of these letters patent, which are declared to be invalid in colonies which have representative Legislatures. And, fourthly, there are sees which have been created in colonies that have independent representative Legislatures, the Bishops of which sees have been occasionally alluded to, and sometimes recognized, directly or indirectly, by either the Colonial or the Imperial Legislature. And, lastly, there is the single see of Rupert's Land, which stands upon a somewhat different footing from every other see. Out of all these, only twenty-five bishoprics appear to be affected by this decision. What the effects of the judgment are it is my duty to state in two or three words. The right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London) has said that there are two principal reasons why we should not legislate hastily; but hasty legislation, for any number of reasons, would be objectionable. But, first of all, there was the doubt raised by this judgment with regard to the status of the Colonial Bishops, and next there was the doubt raised as to the status of the Colonial clergy. Now, in looking at the question as far as it affected the Colonial Bishops, the House must bear in mind the circumstance which has been alluded to more than once this evening, of a Colonial Bishop possessing two distinct kinds of jurisdiction—namely, a spiritual jurisdiction, and also what, for want of a better term, I may call a diocesan jurisdiction. The spiritual jurisdiction comes by virtue of his office, and with it the State is not concerned at all. But when you come to the diocesan jurisdiction, that is obviously derived solely from the letters patent. Now, keeping that distinction in mind, it will be seen that the doubt which Parliament has to remove relates solely to the diocesan jurisdiction. Now, by the judgment of the Privy Council, that jurisdiction, if not annulled, was, at all events, materially altered. The Bishops act in a quasi-civil capacity. They are trustees; they receive and pay away money, and they have become connected with many transactions of a civil nature in the colony. Their civil functions naturally become considerably invalidated as soon as you invalidate the power which conferred the diocesan jurisdiction. I will express it by a homely but apt illustration. It seems to me that the case of the Colonial Bishops is very much analagous to that of a person who for many years had been supposed to be an unmarried woman, and had entered into all the civil transactions of life, discharging duties, incurring liabilities, accepting trusts and guardianships; and who, in the end, turned out not to have been a single woman, but married all the time. In such a case the whole character of the civil acts which she had performed would be entirely altered; and in the same way it is doubtful whether many of the civil acts performed by a Colonial Bishop are not materially altered in their character, and whether the Bishop himself is any longer that which he was supposed to be. The key-stone of the arch having been withdrawn, the whole fabric is in danger. There is really a very serious doubt as regards the Colonial Bishops, and a still more serious one as regards the status of the Colonial clergy. By an Act passed in the reign of George III. it was provided that no person ordained by any other Bishop than a Bishop possessing episcopal jurisdiction should be at liberty to hold any benefice in England or Ireland, or to officiate as a minister of the Established Church in any part of Her Majesty's dominions. Now, the House will see that the clergy of these twenty-five Colonial sees have been ordained, for the most part, by Bishops who were probably without such a jurisdiction as is contemplated by the Act. The Acts, therefore, performed by these clergymen are of very doubtful authenticity. I think, therefore, that a doubtful state of the law is a great hardship both to the clergy, who are at the mercy of any one who raises the question, and also to the laity, whose marriages have been solemnized by persons who legally had not the power of solemnizing them. With regard to the colony which was the birthplace and is now unfortunately the theatre of all these contentions, I know of nothing more distressing than to see the feuds and contentions of two rival Bishops in one diocese, with the probability of a third being consecrated. But this is not all; for in consequence of the late judgment several Bishops who have been appointed to Colonial sees have not yet received consecration. Then, again, no fewer than five New Zealand Bishops have tendered their letters patent to the Crown, and asked to be relieved from all the duties and obligations which these letters patent had imposed upon them. Under all these circumstances, it certainly is my opinion that some measure of redress should be introduced with the view of removing the practical inconveniences which now exist. With reference to the Bill introduced by the late Government, without pledging myself to the details of the Bill, I should for myself be perfectly willing to accept a similar measure; but when I come to consider the late period of the Session, that the Bill itself has not gone beyond the first reading, and that opposition to it is threatened, I find it absolutely impossible to proceed with that measure; and, therefore, Her Majesty's Government have reluctantly decided to undertake no legislation on the subject during the present Session. For the same reason I am glad that the most rev. Primate has intimated his intention of withdrawing the Motion for the appointment of a Select Committee. With respect to the other Motion of the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London) I shall be glad to supply all the information in my power. The Colonial Office, however, really possesses very little information which would throw light on the subject. As to the Motion of my noble and learned Friend (Lord St. Leonards), I can only say that he shall have whatever information I can give, though he has asked for a great deal which we are unable to supply. I am not, however, in any sense prepared to entertain the proposal of my noble and learned Friend, that we should communicate with the local Governments in order to effect the restoration of these endowments. The question as to whether they do or do not revert to the Crown is one which, it appears to me, neither the Colonial Government nor the Imperial Parliament can settle. It is, as it appears to me, a matter to be decided by the Law Courts alone. Before I sit down I must say two or three words on some of the points raised by the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll.) Although Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to accede to any legislation this year, I quite agree that the question is one which ought not to be long postponed. It seems to me, my Lords, very important that we should not look at this matter simply and solely from an English point of view. On the contrary, we ought to ascertain what view the colonists themselves take of it; and I think that the opinion of a Colonial Churchman brought up in the colony, was attached to its institutions, and at the same time a devoted member of the Church of England, should, after all, principally suggest itself to our consideration. Now, how would such a man regard this question? He would take into consideration the advantages and the disadvantages arising from the Church being connected with the State. He would probably perceive that the power of the Crown to make a Bishop a corporation is a useful power, and of advantage to the Colonial Church. On the other hand, he might think that Dissenting and Roman Catholic property in the colonies was held not one iota less firmly under trusts than the Church property was under a corporation. Again, he might also say that there was an advantage in the Crown being able to confer precedence. But what does this really mean? It simply amounts to the Bishop being entitled to go out of a room immediately after the Lieutenant Governor and the Commander of the troops. Again, he might deem it an advantage for Colonial Bishops to have territorial titles. For my own part I feel that a mere title, unsupported by any more substantial advantage is but a barren honour. On the other hand, if a Colonial Churchman, such as I have imagined, looked at the disadvantages of the case, he would see dissensions existing and difficulties arising at times regarding the standards of faith. At any rate he would feel this—that in a civil point of view an Established Church in the colonies is either in a position of disadvantage or advantage as regards the rest of the community. If of disadvantage, it is obviously unjust to the Colonial Church; if, on the other hand, the relationship with the Church of England at home be an advantage, then it is inconsistent with the general tenour of the Colonial institutions that any religious body should be placed in a position above that of another. On taking a general view of Colonial society you will see from year to year an increase of civil action; and it has been the policy of this country to give almost absolute freedom in many of the colonies which possess representative institutions, and they have deliberately reduced the Church in many instances to the level of the other religious bodies. Therefore, it seems to me that, such being the case, it would amount to a revolution if we were to attempt to deprive them of that liberty of action in ecclesiastical matters. The Church has met with varied treatment in the several colonies; but, whatever may be the difficulties which prevail, he who looks at the general state of Colonial affairs will perceive that there is a steady, uniform, unbroken tendency in the direction of greater freedom and greater independence in the Colonial Churches. That has been the view which has been held by successive Colonial Secretaries. It is the view which was entertained by a noble Lord (Lord Taunton) not now present, who held the office of Colonial Secretary in a previous Government; it is a view which has been expressed in more than one despatch of the late Duke of Newcastle; and lastly, it was the view taken by my immediate predecessor, Mr. Cardwell, if I may infer so much from the Bill he introduced into the other House. There has even been a distinct tendency in the various legal decisions towards the same end. It was in the year 1835 that the late Lord Lyndhurst laid down the principle of the law on the subject in Dr. Warren's case as applying to Dissenters in England. Subsequently that judgment was taken up by Lord Kingsdown, who applied the case of the Dissenters of England to the Church in the colonies, laying down as a broad principle that the Church of England in the colonies was like any other religious denomination, being neither a better nor a worse position than those denominations. And lastly, came the judgment of the Privy Council in Dr. Colenso's case. I do not wish to argue now upon the right and the wrong of this question. I conceive that it is my duty as Colonial Minister, on taking into consideration the state of the colonies, and the state of things which there exists—especially after the judgment of the highest legal authority in the kingdom, that the Church of England in the colonies is neither in a better nor a worse position than other denominations—to endeavour, as far as possible, to hold the scales equally between all parties. It is the duty of the Colonial Secretary, I contend, as far as he has any weight or authority in the colonies, not to allow any single denomination in colonies which are affected by the judgment in Dr. Colenso's case to attach to itself any advantage or superiority over the others. For my own part, I do not feel that there is any risk of the spiritual ties being severed by this procedure. On the contrary, during recent years there has been a tendency to increase them. It has been clearly shown by experience that as you give civil liberty to those colonies their loyalty to the Crown increases; and so I believe that if you deal generously with the colonies in ecclesiastical matters you will find that their allegiance to the Church of England will increase in proportion to the liberty you bestow upon them. It appears to me that there is this alternative—Parliament must either re-enact coercive powers and diocesan jurisdiction, or you must accept the principle which has already been laid down in the Law Courts. If you were to re-enact those coercive powers it would be tantamount, as the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) remarked, to the creation of an Established Church in the colonies. Upon this supposition, however, it would be idle to waste words. Measures of such a character would neither be accepted by the Colonial Legislatures nor would the Imperial Parliament agree to them. But I believe you may have a Church in the colonies instinct with life and faith—a Church which may become a means of purifying the masses and constitute a great civilizing power—and I believe that those who like Miss Burdett Coutts shall contribute to this in any degree, either by bestowing their wealth or by whatever means, may console themselves with the feeling that they have done their duty both to God and to the State.


said, he did not rise for the purpose of continuing the debate, but for the purpose of correcting an unintentional misstatement of his noble and learned Friend (Lord St. Leonards), which, if it went out to the colonies uncontradicted, would give great pain to one of the best and greatest men who had devoted himself to the work of evangelization in the colonies—the Bishop of New Zealand. His noble and learned Friend stated that the Bishop of New Zealand and other Bishops, having first secured the great munificence of Miss Burdett Coutts for the endowment of the bishoprics, were going to transfer the trusts, and so to prevent the action of the law in redressing the wrong that had been done by employing money for one purpose which had been granted for another. Now, in the first place, not a single sixpence of the munificent gift of Miss Burdett Coutts went to the colony of New Zealand; and, conse- quently, the whole thing fell to the ground. Certain trusts in the colony had been transferred, but those who contributed the money had been consulted by the Bishop of New Zealand in every step. There was therefore not the shadow of foundation for the denunciation which had been passed upon his right rev. Brother in New Zealand. The Bishops of those sees which had been created by the munificence of that good lady had done nothing beyond acquiescing in the decision of the Court at home. He would like also to correct a mistake into which the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll) had fallen in the course of his clear and able statement. He said that the supremacy of the Crown at home meant the maintenance of the laic right in the Church, and that if that were to be taken away from the Colonial Church much evil would accrue from the jealousy of synodical action. His noble Friend did not appear to know that the laity were abundantly represented in every synod. Every congregation elected two lay members, and had equal votes with the clergy. The whole of this line of argument of his noble Friend, therefore, was beside the mark. The noble Duke was also in error in regard to the sentence of excommunication passed upon Dr. Colenso. The noble Duke had represented that Bishop Colenso was deprived of his episcopacy as part of the sentence for his errors in doctrine; but the fact was the synod called upon the Bishop of Cape Town to proceed to excommunicate the Bishop if he adhered to his errors, and this excommunication was carried out in the same way as until recently in the Ecclesiastical Courts here. Excommunication was the only resource. A man must either be left contumaciously to reject altogether the sentence of the synod, or the only remaining step must be taken—namely, that of excommunication. These were the observations he rose to address to their Lordships, and having done so he did not wish further to prolong the discussion.


hoped that Her Majesty's Government would take the opportunity now afforded them by the withdrawal of the present Bill for considering and re-considering very attentively the important questions involved in it—no less than the future relation between the National Church of the mother country, and its branches in the several colonies—with all the effects direct and indirect, both civil and Ecclesiastical, of the total severance of the connection which had hitherto existed. It was no light matter to leave these Churches without the control, without the guidance rather, which that connection had hitherto afforded. It should be recollected that these Colonial Churches were not large aggregations of churches like the Episcopal Church of the United States, whose very numbers and organization with their synod and their two - and - twenty Bishops, formed them into almost a National Church, and gave no mean security for their continued faith and discipline. Our Colonial Churches had nowhere that extended organization—in many cases none at all. Each diocese was an unit in itself—a Bishop and half-a-dozen clergymen. Might not many such spring up in each colony, each claiming connection and communion with our Church, some high and some low—and how was the mother Church to decide which to acknowledge? Or was she to acknowledge several, each claiming authority over the same area? He knew that, as the law was now decided, there was considerable difficulty in the question; but it did not appear to him to be insuperable. Was it impossible by Act of Parliament to give to the Privy Council authority to decide questions, referred to them voluntarily by churches in the colonies, who decided to have their decision, and thus retain that security for retaining the faith and discipline of the Church of England which many of them desired to retain; for it was a great mistake to suppose that this severance was desired by the colonists themselves. At any rate, he had little evidence of it; but rather in the contrary direction. We had reason to believe that many were extremely averse to it. Why should we cut the Gordian knot thus rudely, instead of looking out for some means of disentangling it? He hoped that the Government would make use of the interval now afforded them, both for ascertaining the feelings of the colonists, and for discovering a solution of the difficulty, which should not involve to the Colonial Churches the loss of the connection with the mother Church.

On Question, Resolved in the Negative.