HL Deb 17 May 1870 vol 201 cc791-809

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


My Lords, in asking your Lordships to read this Bill a second, time, I wish first to state why I think some measure on the subject is desirable. The existing state of the law is, in my opinion, exceedingly injurious to the Church in the highest sense of that word—that is, to the whole body of the people, with whose spiritual concerns the Church of England is charged. Benefices in the Church of England with cure of souls are provisions or endowments held by certain persons chargeable with important spiritual duties. The endowments are not their private property, but are a trust held upon the continued discharge of the duties for which the endowments are designed. They are not endowments for the clergyman, but for the parish; and it is contrary to the first principles of right that a temporary holder of them, if through his own carelessness he becomes unable to discharge the duties, should be able to divert the endowment from the parish, and thus prevent the possibility of another and worthier person being appointed to discharge them. That a clergyman should be able to incur debts, giving his creditors the security of the endowment, which is not his but the parishioners'—that he should have the power of making over to his creditors the income which is to support the clergyman, and leaving the parish—as is continually the case—uncared for, or with an income in the Bishop's hands wholly insufficient to provide for its spiritual wants, is so utterly wrong, on the very face of it, that it demands an immediate and stringent remedy. This is no fanciful or imaginary evil. Were it not invidious, I could point to small endowments all consumed in sequestration, the parishioners for whose sake they were created being defrauded of that which the endowments were intended to provide. I could point to benefices largely endowed—say with £2,000 a year—which have been for 30 years under sequestration, the sum which by the existing law the Bishop is able to take out of the sequestrators' hands for the supply of the population being only £200 a year, while the population in one instance numbers 20,000. This, £1,800, which those who cared for the parish had given as an endowment to the parishioners, is taken from them to pay the debts of the incumbent, while the parish is spiritually starved. Now, to remedy this evil, the Bill proposes that any clergyman who shall become bankrupt, and be unable to obtain a certificate from the Bankruptcy Court, shall, at the discretion of the Bishop or Archbishop, forfeit his benefice. This may appear too stringent; but I propose, as has been done in all Bills of this kind, to give discretionary power as to the time and mode of enforcing such deprivation to the Bishop, with an appeal to the Archbishop of the Province; for there may be cases of unforeseen misfortune, in which the incumbent ought to have time to recover himself. Such a discretion could not be vested more safely than in the Bishop or Archbishop, for they are high functionaries, who are at any moment liable to be called to account in this House for the use of that discretion. So far from its being an injury to the clergy thus to deprive them of the right which has grown up of pledging their endowments for debts, it is a positive advantage to them. The present state of the law is injurious to them in continually tempting them to live beyond their income, for it gives their creditors this false security for the payment of the debts they may allow them to incur. There can be no greater evil to any class than a legislative temptation to incur debts, and this especially applies to the clergy, who, taken altogether, are the worst paid of all the different professions in this country. Numbers of them have to maintain a position in their parishes, to support charities and schools, and, as we have a married clergy, their families also. Only, therefore, by the closest and most continued economy are they able barely to keep themselves out of debt. To men so circumstanced the temptation to obtain goods on credit under the idea that the creditors will be able out of their benefices to insure payment is a most cruel one to hold out. The result is, that if a man of this class once gets into a difficulty he never gets right; and I have been told by clergymen how deeply they regret that the law was not altered when they entered on the clerical life, that they might not have been subjected to this temptation, and might not have incurred debts which have embittered their whole lives. The remedy which I propose is no injustice or hardship. Beneficed clerks are by law restrained from charging their benefices with any payment or pension, and the abolition of sequestrations will therefore simply carry out the general principle of the law. It will, moreover, put the body of the clergy on the same footing with the rank to which I belong, for there is no power of sequestrating the income of a Bishop. I do not shut my eyes to the fact that the Bill may be open to difficulties and objections—for there are difficulties and objections in the way of every mode of dealing with this matter; but, after much thought upon it, I am quite convinced that the abolition of sequestrations and forfeiture of the benefice are the only remedy. The Bill is, no doubt, susceptible of amendment, and it does not stand alone, for another measure has been introduced in your Lordships' House with which the honoured name of a noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) is connected. If your Lordships think proper to refer my Bill to a Select Committee, I shall offer no objection; but I hope you will not send both Bills to a Committee, for they proceed on directly opposite principles. It is for your Lordships to determine the principle on which you mean to legislate, leaving a Select Committee to work out the details and remove objections. The other Bill, it seems to me, would actually increase the evil of sequestrations, and no one of its chief provisions would be workable. It provides, for instance, that a clergyman who shall not within a certain time pay his debts shall be deemed to have committed an act of bankruptcy. Now, that is more severe than anything in my Bill, for I propose to go through the intermediate stages of a debtor sum- mons and petition in Bankruptcy—thus giving the clergyman and his friends an opportunity of meeting the emergency. It deals with existing as well as with future sequestrations. As to the former, which my Bill does not touch, it provides that the Bishop shall ascertain the whole amount of the debts of the sequestered clergyman, throwing on him the responsibility of finding the right amount—a task for which a Bishop has no qualifications, and one which ought not to be thrown on him. Then he is to apply to the Queen Anne's Bounty Office for a sum sufficient to pay off the whole amount, and the life of the incumbent is to be insured for the sum so borrowed, in order that it may be repaid at his death. Now, I am quite sure the Queen Anne's Bounty Office would not grant money on such a security, for many of these lives are not insurable at all in any office. The Bishop would first have to create an insurance company which would take the life. Suppose, moreover, the clergyman is guilty of some misconduct or of suicide, the insurance policy may be forfeited. Then, again, the 17th clause provides for the payment of arrears on the policy; whereas, if the payments, are allowed to fall into arrear, the policy lapses. This is an illustration of the accuracy which pervades the Bill. It proposes, again, that the Bishop shall consider what claims are to be admitted and what rejected, what is the total amount, how the money is to be raised, and in what proportion and in what order the payments are to be made—in short, he is to be a kind of Bankruptcy Commissioner. These are matters quite alien to the education of a Bishop, and for which no Bishop would willingly become responsible, since he would have no hope of doing justice in the case. After all this cumbrous machinery, moreover, no benefit is secured to the parishioners, for the living is still liable to sequestration for the purpose of meeting the claims of creditors, insurance charges, and so on—so that we get back to the sequestration of the living after all. It proposes, too, that no living with a population of 1,000, and with an income not exceeding £500, shall be subject to sequestration. Now, in by far the largest number of sequestrations the livings are under £500, the population being frequently 1,000, and in these cases there will be no power of recovering anything from the indebted clergyman, who will continue to the end of his life in possession of his £500 a year. Parliament surely could not assent to such a provision—which is made, moreover, to apply to all livings of £300 a year and under, so that such clergymen would be able to incur any amount of debts and give their creditors no remedy. That would be most unfair to the creditors. It is proposed also that the Bishop, in the case of these sequestered livings, shall have power to appoint any number of curates he pleases, and to assign them what salaries he pleases; so that if there is a large population he might appoint five curates at £100 or £150 a year each, thus absorbing the whole income of the living, and rendering the sequestration nugatory. I will not go further into these remarks. I hope that if your Lordships determine to send my Bill to a Select Committee, you will not trouble it with the other Bill, which is exactly opposite to it in principle, and is encumbered with so many details that the Committee would find it difficult to dispose of the matter.

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


I am sure your Lordships will all agree in the eloquent description of the right rev. Prelate, of the great misfortune which befalls any parish where the incumbent falls into pecuniary difficulties, and where, above all, under the process of sequestration, its spiritual duties are very imperfectly performed. To see an evil, however, is one thing—to say what is the best remedy to be applied is another; and I wish to state, in a few words, the objections which I see to the right rev. Prelate's Bill. In the first place, its title is misleading. Its title is—"An Act to abolish Sequestrations for debt, and to provide a more effectual remedy for securing payment of the debts of Beneficed Clerks"—and the same object is expressed in the Preamble; yet the Bill, while abolishing sequestration altogether, not only makes no new provision for securing payment, but abolishes the only means by which, in nine cases out of 10, payment can be obtained. Whether that is right or not—whether it be right or wrong to say that benefices shall not for the future be held answerable for the payment of the incumbent's debts—I protest against such a Bill being introduced, which professes to do that which its provisions do not even attempt to do. The Bill professes to be a Bill providing a more effectual remedy for securing the payment of the debts of beneficed clerks. But what is the principle of the Bill? The principle of the measure is, that for the future a freehold benefice is to be absolutely forfeited—absolutely forfeited—subject to the discretion of the Bishop, if the holder, from misfortune or any other cause, fall into bankruptcy. Now, even if that were the best possible rule for the future, but that Parliament will consent to apply the rule to those who at present hold benefices I greatly doubt. I cannot imagine that Parliament will ever sanction the principle that the present holders of a freehold benefice, who entered in their freeholds under certain perfectly known conditions, shall be made to forfeit it by a process that is at present utterly unknown to the law. I hope, therefore, that as a matter of course, the right rev. Prelate will be prepared to except from the operation of his Bill all existing holders of benefices. But more than that—I want your Lordships to consider whether it will be wise in Parliament to say for the future, that wherever a freehold office is attached to the performance of certain duties—and I believe there are no duties more important than the spiritual duties of a parish—if the holder of that office becomes bankrupt, then the freehold is to be abolished, and the benefice to be forfeited. You cannot stop short in the application of that principle to benefices. If it is to be applied to benefices it must be applied to freehold offices of every kind which are connected with duties to be performed. You must lay down the rule—for if it be good for one description of office it is good for all—that wherever an office is held, the duties of which are not efficiently performed, it must be forfeited. I would also take exception to one postulate which was laid down by the right rev. Prelate. He said the endowment was not the property of the holder, but of the parish.


What I said was that the object for which the endowment was given was not the benefit of the parson, but of the parishioners.


I quite agree with that statement; but it is the services of the incumbent which belong to the parish, and provided they are rendered in a proper way the expenditure of his income is his own affair, and not that of the parish. The right of the parishioners cannot go beyond the right to the proper performance of the duties. Now, let us go a step further and see what the Bill proposes. The Bill leaves to the discretion of the Bishop, subject to appeal to the Archbishop, the question whether the benefice shall be forfeited or not, in the event of bankruptcy. I admit that if there is to be a discretion it could not be reposed in better hands; but will Parliament lay down the rule that the holder of a freehold benefice shall, for the future, hold his office at the discretion of the Bishop of his diocese? Is the Bishop to sit as a kind of Bankruptcy Judge, to consider the circumstances which have led the bankrupt clergyman into embarrassment, to pass an opinion on his conduct and say whether the benefice shall be forfeited or not, with no remedy except an appeal to the Archbishop? Will Parliament place such power even in such good hands? If, too, the Bishop decides that the benefice is not to be forfeited, what is to be done with the creditors? Is the clergyman to retain his benefice and not pay his debts? The Bill does not explain this point, for it makes no provision for the creditors in case the living is not forfeited. It proceeds on the principle that unless the bankrupt obtains his discharge the benefice is to be forfeited; but it is well known that a common condition of discharge is for a certain portion of the income or salary of the insolvent to be set aside for the purpose of paying the debts. The Bankruptcy Judge, therefore, would have power to discharge the bankrupt on such a condition, and the fact of discharge would entitle the bankrupt to retain possession of his benefice; yet, as at present with sequestrations, a portion of the income would be diverted to the payment of his creditors. The right rev. Prelate urges that the Bill, though it may at first sight appear harsh, is in reality a merciful one to the clergy; because moneylenders and others are now induced to tempt clergymen to get into debt, knowing that when the pinch comes they can obtain a sequestration of the living, and he thinks that if the power of sequestration be taken away the clergy will not be thus tempted. I am afraid your Lordships' experience of human nature will not bear out this view of the case. I believe the consequence would be this—The money-lenders would be quite as willing to lend money as they are now; but there would be this difference—that as the risk would be greater, the terms would be harder. The money-lender would have a perfectly efficient screw on the clergyman, for he would hold this Bill in terrorem over his clerical debtor—he would say—"If you do not pay my debt I will put you into the Court of Bankruptcy, and if you do not obtain your discharge your living will be forfeited." He would continue to lend, therefore; but the process being a little more circuitous than at present, he would make a harder bargain. I admit that there is great objection to the present state of the law. The real defect of the existing law is, that the Bishop, in the event of sequestration and failure of the clergyman to perform his duties, is not allowed to reserve a sufficient portion of the income to meet the wants of the parish. The right rev. Prelate mentioned the case of a living of £2,000 a year under sequestration for 30 years, only £200 being dedicated to the spiritual wants of the place. There certainly ought to be power to the Bishop to make an ample and liberal provision for the supply of the wants of the parish, which ought to be the first charge on the income, if the duties are not performed by the incumbent. Any Bill in that direction would, I believe, be accepted by Parliament, and would remedy the evil so far as it admits of remedy—for it cannot be remedied entirely. You cannot make things as pleasant as if a clergyman were never in difficulties; but that is the best remedy. I was glad to hear the right rev. Prelate express his willingness to have the Bill referred to a Select Committee; but though I see a great many objections to the second Bill also, I think it should likewise be dealt with in the same way. It is true the two Bills proceed on different principles; but when a subject of this kind is referred to a Select Committee, every suggestion on the subject should go with it, leaving the Committee to adopt the principle of one Bill or the other, or to recommend some other course.


I am in no way responsible for the Bill; but some of the objections to it by the noble and learned Lord appear to me considerably over-stated. The real question is this—The law at present regards a benefice in the light of a freehold possession, held in connection with the performance of certain duties; and the House is asked to treat it in future as a trust, and to take care, first of all, that its duties are duly discharged. The principle of the Bill is to make the privileges of the freehold subordinate to the duties of the trust. That principle will, I hope, be affirmed by the second reading. The noble and learned Lord says, that whatever may be the case in future, it ought not to be applied to existing incumbents. Now, if the measure be good at all, I do not see why it should not be applied at once. I grant that it would be unfair to apply it to existing debts; but I do not see why it should not be applied to existing incumbents, in respect of all debts contracted hereafter. The noble and learned Lord contends that provided the duties of a freehold office are discharged that is sufficient; but there is a great difference between the position of a clergyman in difficulties and that of the holders of other offices. It is true that there are some cases of unavoidable misfortune overtaking a clergyman, which the parishioners, the Bishop, and all concerned, agree to regard as free from blame; but there are others of a totally different kind, where the debts are rashly, carelessly, even fraudulently contracted, and where it would be an additional calamity to the parish if the clergyman were continued in his services, even without remuneration. Bishops, indeed, are often obliged to take advantage of the power of refusing to assign a stipend, in order that the clergyman may go, and thus enable them to provide for the duties as best they can. I believe the principle is not unknown in other Departments of the State. An officer in the Army cannot place himself in the position at present held by some clergymen. He would lose his commission by committing acts such as those by which too frequently a clergyman loses the confidence of his parishioners. Consuls and persons in other public offices are also unable to charge their incomes with the payment of their debts.


Those are not freehold offices.


I admit that there is that distinction; but in point of principle, if such persons sometimes lose their offices for these acts, why should a clergyman, who can no Longer be of the slightest use to his parishioners, be treated differently? I am at a loss to know why, of all offices to which the discharge of duties is attached, the clergyman is to be the only exception of forfeiture for non-performance. With regard to what is to follow, in case the Archbishop should refuse to declare the living forfeited, I think that may very well be dealt with by the Select Committee. As to the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord, that ample provision should be made out of a sequestrated living for the spiritual wants of the parish, it would be an excellent remedy, if the benefice would provide both for the wants of the parish and the payment of the debt, so as to allow the former incumbent to go into retirement with a portion of the income. But, unfortunately, nine-tenths of the benefices are too small for that. What provision could be made in a living which was under £250 or £300 a year? What claim, moreover, has a man who has forfeited his position by some gross imprudence, depriving him of the confidence of the parishioners, to be a perpetual pensioner on a poorly endowed parish? I hope your Lordships will affirm the principle of the Bill, and I understand that there will be no objection to referring it to a Select Committee.


wished to make a few observations. After the eloquent speech of the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Winchester) there was no necessity for him to make out a case against the present system—it was admitted on all hands. He hailed with satisfaction the tone which prevailed in their Lordships' House on this subject compared with that of a few years back, when any Bill proposing to deal with the subject would have met with very little favour. A benefice was then regarded as an absolute freehold, and the trust with which it was connected was thought of very lightly indeed. The question was not now as to the grievance, but as to the remedy. He agreed with much that had been said by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) as to the Bill of the right rev. Prelate. The right rev. Prelate's Bill proposed to treat the clergy as minors, incapable of pledging their property, their debts being merely debts of honour—and no doubt something might be said in favour of it; but the view of the noble and learned Lord must also be taken into consideration, according to which the result, as in the case of minors, would be heavier encumbrances and an aggravation of the evil. He admitted that with regard to existing sequestrations the provisions of his own Bill were not entirely satisfactory. It was placed in his hands at the end of last Session, at the instance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he was requested to place it before the House in order that it might be circulated and considered during the Recess. He did not mean to represent that his Grace was pledged to every part of it; but it certainly received his sanction. If their Lordships were not prepared—as he himself was not, at least for the present—to go the length of abolishing the security for clergymen's debts, and making them merely debts of honour, they ought to be willing to adopt the only provision of his Bill to which he attached any importance—namely, to give the larger powers to deal with such cases. That was the only principle of the Bill to which he attached importance. He desired that the Bishops should have larger powers in dealing with the revenues of sequestrated livings, and that instead of £200 a year as much as £500 or £600 should be at their disposal if the revenues allowed of it. The power of vacating a living in ease of bankruptcy created a very awkward dilemma. If made absolute in all cases, it would no doubt in many cases not only be a very needless hardship on the clergyman, but lose to the parish the services of a worthy man, whose bankruptcy might arise from no fault, or a very trifling fault, of his own; while, on the other hand, if a discretion was left, as in the right rev. Bishop's Bill, to the Bishop, he might often be placed in a very unpleasant position, being exposed to pressure from the friends and relatives of the bankrupt, as well as from persons anxious for a new appointment, and would thus be placed in a difficult and delicate position. His difficulty would be still further increased if the living was in his own patronage. He did not pretend that his Bill was entirely satisfactory; but he hoped their Lordships would refer it likewise to a Select Committee, and he trusted that the consideration of the whole question by some 15 of their Lordships would result in the framing of a satisfactory measure.


, being personally cognizant of one or two cases of sequestration, held that an amendment of the law was urgently called for, and he thanked the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Winchester) for introducing this Bill. He hoped its principle—namely, that the freehold should be less considered than the duties to be rendered by the freeholder on behalf of the parishioners—would be affirmed by the House, though he agreed with the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns), and with the noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby), that some of its details were open to objection, and that the discretion proposed to be conferred on Bishops would be an invidious and arduous task. The position of the creditors must be taken into consideration, as also cases in which bankruptcy might be due to unavoidable misfortune, entitling the clergyman to sympathy rather than to forfeiture of his preferment. Looking at all the circumstances of the case, he thought it desirable that both the Bills should be referred to the Select Committee, because he agreed in some of the observations that had been made by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Cairns). The evils occasioned by the present state of the law were so patent and so serious that it was highly desirable that some remedy for them should be applied by Parliament in the present Session. He quite coincided in the opinion that, where it was possible, a larger sum should be given to the clergyman who discharged the duties of a living under sequestration.


deemed it the bounden duty of those Members of their Lordships' House who, by courtesy, were called "learned," to call attention to any proposal which infringed the settled rights of property. Now, while admitting the laudable motives which had inspired this Bill, he was obliged to say that since the Irish Church Bill he had seen none which more violated those rights than this. He agreed with the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Win- chester) as to the cumbrousness of the second Bill; but the simplicity of this was equally open, to objection, for with one fell swoop it would take away their property, not only from the clergy, but from their creditors, and would place it at the disposal of the Bishop or Archbishop. Such a scheme it was hardly possible for any reasonable being to entertain. The principles enunciated in the speech of the right rev. Prelate were worthy, indeed, of all commendation, for they were founded on reason and justice, and if the Bill went to a Select Committee—on which he, for one, should be happy to serve—its efforts would be directed, to bringing the Bill into harmony with those principles. The word "trust" was sometimes used here and elsewhere with a great amount of inaccuracy and in a very uncertain manner. Trust there was none, in the proper sense of the term, with regard to a benefice; but the law had provided the clergyman with that income to the intent that he might fully discharge his clerical and parochial duties, and if he was unable to do so, reason and justice demanded that his superior, the Bishop, should be able to take so much of the income as was required for those duties by some one else. No doubt, in many cases, the whole income might be inadequate to that purpose; but to the extent of this principle he should be most willing to go, and the present law undoubtedly fell far short of its duty in the administration of that principle. If the right rev. Prelate would permit him to substitute his speech for his Preamble and clauses, he should be happy to accept the Bill in that sense; and courtesy, he thought, demanded that the noble Earl's Bill should likewise be referred to the Committee. It was very important, however, having regard to the other duties they owed to the public, that the Committee should be able to bring their labours within such a compass as to complete the consideration of the subject within two or three days. In that case, he for one should be enabled to attend the Committee without derogating from his other duties.


My Lords, I very much doubt whether the announcement that this Bill is an invasion of the rights of property such as that on which the opposition to the Irish Church Bill was founded be a reflection that is likely to conduce to the support of this Bill. On the other hand, I support this Bill on the very ground on which I opposed the Irish Church Bill—and that ground is, that the income enjoyed by the clergyman really belongs in the first instance to the parishioners, and that they are in the first instance to be considered; and that, therefore, it is a great injustice to congregations to allow the clergy to mortgage their livings, and ignore the claims of the parishioners. As, on the contrary sense, I believe the Irish Church Bill to be unjust, because it deprives the Anglican congregations in Ireland of their right to spiritual ministrations, so I now hold that it is a great injustice that clergymen should draw the revenue of a living while they had rendered themselves incapable of discharging its duties. I only rise to express my concurrence in the view of my noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns) that, on the whole, you will have a more manageable task if the Select Committee had only one matter referred to it; and for this reason—the right rev. Prelate appears fully satisfied with his Bill from the beginning to the end, while my noble Friend is not very well satisfied with any part of the Bill which has been placed in his hands; and it is obviously not reasonable that the Select Committee should be asked to take into consideration a measure respecting which its very author is so doubtful in his language. But I feel we have not really any very wide difference to combat between those who apparently take different views on this question—the difference is rather apparent than real. I was at first much alarmed by the announcement of the opinion of the noble and learned Lord opposite; but the difference, after all, seems to resolve itself into this—that the first charge on the clergyman is the full, complete, entire performance of all the parishioners can claim from him, and not a farthing should be taken away till that claim is fully satisfied. The only thing that remains to be decided is, who are to enjoy the surplus, if surplus there should be? Is it to go to a new clergyman, to be appointed for the benefit of the parish, or to the clergyman who has prodigally mortgaged the income of the benefice? It appears we must take into consideration in deciding that point the nature of the expenditure, and the ex- tent of the moral responsibility of the clergyman. Two noble Lords who have spoken on this subject left out of their consideration that, in our modern practice, bankruptcy has come very often to be regarded as a positive offence. There is no greater disgrace than to be excluded from the House of Commons; but if, after election, a Member becomes bankrupt, that penalty falls upon him. If a barrister becomes bankrupt, he loses the power of continuing to practise his profession. In our public offices, also, it has recently become the practice that if a man becomes bankrupt he ceases to retain an office which, though not freehold, is yet in practice perpetual. That may fairly be applied to a State clergyman. No doubt a clergyman's benefice is his freehold; but Parliament has always reserved to itself the discretion of deciding what offence shall incur deprivation. Parliament has never hesitated to inflict that penalty for offences judged worthy of it; and the point to which the consideration of the Committee ought to be directed to define is the line which should be drawn between those clergymen who are culpably extravagant and those who, through unforeseen emergency, fall into pecuniary embarrassment. Where the difficulty has been unforeseen it would be a hard measure to deprive him of all future prospects in his profession; but I think I do not see any justice to the parishioners in requiring them to retain the services of a clergyman who has fallen, through his own fault, into embarrassment. I can only add that this is no theoretical—it is a practical grievance. I know more than one instance similar to those which have been stated, and which have been productive of very great evils; and I hope no ordinary scruple will be allowed to prevent the application of a speedy remedy to such a state of things.


earnestly desired to express the hope that the Bill presented by his right rev. Friend who presided over the diocese of "Winchester would form the text on which the Committee would have to enlarge. He recognized several defects in the Bill; but it was with the greatest satisfaction that he saw the principle enunciated that livings wore held in trust, and that several of their Lordships recognized that as a fundamental principle. As far as he was ac- quainted with the subject, this was the first time when it had been even shadowed forth that there should be a power by which, on a clerk incurring debts illegitimately, and placing himself, therefore, at a great disadvantage as a spiritual minister to his parish, he should be considered in danger of losing his benefice. He hoped his right rev. Friend's Bill would be selected to go before the Committee, because it would be accepted by the country as a very important evidence of a prevalent opinion in that House that livings are held on trusts.


My Lords, I cannot be altogether silent when a subject is discussed so extremely interesting as that of making a due provision for the services of the Church in those parishes which have the misfortune to be presided over by clergymen who have so encumbered themselves with debt as to render it impossible for them to conduct the duties which they owe to their parishioners in a manner satisfactory to their parishioners or even to themselves. During the short time I have had the honour of holding my present Office it has come to my knowledge eight or nine times, in presenting to benefices, that the parish has been in a state of the greatest possible disorder, owing to the incumbent for many years having been absent from his duties in consequence of his debts—which have frequently obliged him to live out of England altogether. One case has been mentioned in which the income was very large. A case occurred in which I had to present—not in the immediate right of the Crown, but the presentation fell to me in consequence of the vacancy of a see. The income was nearly £4,000 a year, and the incumbent having been for years residing abroad the services were very badly provided for; practically, the only teaching of the people in Christian truth was furnished in one of the largest Dissenting chapels in the town where the case occurred. On the occurrence of the vacancy, it was arranged by the Bishop of the diocese—and the ready concurrence of Her Majesty was given to the arrangement—to divide the large parish, and have four clergymen with curates instead of one incumbent. Most active men have been placed there, and already a most remarkable amount of good has been accomplished in the parish. Another instance of a different character occurred in the principal parish of an important county town. The income was only £350 a year. There the same thing happened. I was asked—and I could not refuse—to present a gentleman who for 25 years had admirably performed the duties of the parish in lieu of the incumbent, with a stipend of £200, the rest of the income being appropriated to the incumbent's creditors. I have had six or seven other parishes in the same condition, and where the most disastrous effects have resulted to the parishes. One of these was the case of a large rural parish. The emolument was small, and the incumbent had become hopelessly in debt. I found great difficulty in finding a proper presentee. Under these circumstances I was most thankful in being able to obtain the assistance of a clergyman who, in consequence of having served in India, was in the receipt of a pension, and who, on that account, stood in a better position to perform the duties of the incumbency than many others. This gentleman accepted the living, and has restored the parish to a proper condition. Such cases are too frequent and are known to all right rev. Prelates, and therefore there is no doubt that some remedy is required for this most disastrous state of things. Beyond all doubt, no person would venture to say that an incumbent is placed in his parish merely to perform his duty twice on every Sunday, to spend his income as he pleases, to incur debts, and to place himself in circumstances under which his character becomes such that his parishioners can no longer respect him, and yet that he should continue to enjoy the income which he draws from the parish. I feel thankful that the present Bill has been introduced, and that no one has opposed the second reading; but, at the same time, I am bound to say that I agree with my noble and learned Friend that there is much requiring consideration in the Bill, which is somewhat meagre in its details, and which, though proceeding in a right direction, goes further, perhaps, in its operation than any Select Committee of your Lordships would, after a full and general consideration, sanction. The true principle is, to consider the parishioners in the first place; and is it to be supposed that a clergyman can teach to his parishioners the cardinal principle of doing as they would be done by if he exhibits in his own person an example of spending carelessly the money of other people by taking goods from his parishioners which he has no means of paying for, and if he thus neglects the obvious duties which all owe one to another? It is plain that such a person cannot have the slightest hope of impressing on the minds of his congregation the doctrines he preaches, while his own example is opposed to the principles he inculcates. I therefore trust that the proposal to refer the right rev. Prelate's Bill to a Select Committee will be agreed to; and I hope that the noble Earl will not require that his Bill should be referred to the same Committee, because, if only on account of the complication of its details, it would occupy time which had better be devoted to perfecting the Bill of the right rev. Prelate. There is a clause in the noble Earl's Bill directing the value of a sequestrated living to be ascertained, and, after deducting what is necessary for the maintenance of the clerk and his family, to hand over all that is provided for the creditors to another authority, the whole transaction being completed by borrowing from Queen Anne's Bounty. The whole principle is wrong that there should be a power set above the creditors to take out of their fund that which the clerk has forfeited, and I do not see any object in referring the noble Earl's Bill to the same Committee as that to which the Bill of the right rev. Prelate is to be sent, because, without taking that step, the noble Earl will have the opportunity of making such suggestions in the Select Committee as he may think desirable. As regards myself, I am afraid that my necessary attendance at appeals in your Lordships' House will render it impossible for me to be present at the deliberations of the Select Committee.


said, he did not wish to press his Bill upon the Select Committee, if it were not the general wish of their Lordships that it should be referred to that Committee.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly; and referred to a Select Committee.

And, on May 19, the Lords following were named of the Committee:—

L. Abp. York. E. Beauchamp.
Ld. Privy Seal. L. Bp. London.
D. Marlborough. L. Bp. Winchester.
D. Cleveland. L. Bp. Gloucester and Bristol.
M. Salisbury.
E. Shaftesbury. L. Stanley of Alderley.
E. Grey. L. Chelmsford.
E. Harrowby. L. Westbury.

And, on May 20, the Lord Bishop of ELY added in the place of Lord WESTBURY.