HL Deb 19 February 1872 vol 209 cc618-38

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


on rising to move the second reading of the first of the two Bills he had introduced—the Ecclesiastical Courts and Registries Bill and the Ecclesiastical Procedure Bill—said, the question involved in the measures on the Paper had occupied public attention for a great many years. In 1856 the subject was taken up by the Government of that day, and Lord Cranworth introduced a measure which was approved by all the English Prelates, and supported by all the occupants of the Irish Episcopal Bench, but which was thrown out by Parliament. In 1869, seeing that no one else would take up this very laborious but uninteresting work, he himself introduced a Bill, which was read a second time and referred to a Select Committee; and a counter Bill having been introduced in the same Session by the Archbishop of Canterbury, was referred to the same Committee. The Select Committee reported the Bill with Amendments; but owing to the lateness of the Session there was no time to pass the Bill into an Act, and he (the Earl of Shaftesbury) withdrew it. In 1870, he (the Earl of Shaftesbury) introduced another Bill, which was to all intents and purposes the measure that came down from the Select Committee in the previous year; but it was found impossible to proceed with it, because large objections were taken to his financial statement as to the sources of income whence the various establishments were to be maintained. It was necessary, therefore, to move for Returns on the subject; but the Session had almost terminated before those Returns were ready, and therefore the question again dropped for the time. Again, in 1871, a like Bill was introduced; but owing to several reasons, and among others the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, through ill-health, the measure was so long delayed in their Lordships' House that if it had been sent to the House of Commons the accumulation of business was so great that, it could not have been dealt with, and he again withdrew it. It must be remembered that on each occasion the Bills were read a second time, and he now asked the House to assent to a measure which was with very trifling exceptions identical with the proposal that had so often received the approval of their Lordships. Last year he received several communications both public and private, suggesting various Amendments in the Bill, which suggestions he had adopted, with very few exceptions. As a few instances, he might mention that he received and adopted some valuable suggestions from the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Bishop of London suggested that the clause should be restored to the Bill, whereby it was proposed to submit issues on simple matters of fact to juries, and that suggestion also he at once adopted. The Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol made some suggestions with respect to the reservation of the rights and privileges of Chancellors; which also, together with an Amendment of Lord Romilly, had been embodied in the Bill which he now asked the House to read a second time. One difference, however, there was between the Bill of 1871 and that which was now before the House. To meet the wishes of the noble Marquess near him (the Marquess of Salisbury), and the right rev. Prelate opposite (the Bishop of Peterborough), he had divided the Bill into two parts. In the first Bill he proposed to deal with the registries and all that related to the structure of the Courts; and in the second Bill he proposed to fix and limit the mode of procedure in the Courts. The second Bill was, in point of fact, nothing more nor less than the 32nd clause of the Bill which was referred to a Select Committee in the form in which it came back from the Committee. The following was the text of the measure:— Suits against clerks for offences against the laws ecclesiastical shall be commenced either by the Bishop of his own motion, or by three members of the Church being inhabitant householders of the diocese; provided always that in the case of a charge of teaching or maintaining unsound doctrine a written statement of the particulars on which such charge is founded shall, in the first place, be laid before the Bishop, who may, if he shall think that such statement does not contain sufficient primâ facie ground for proceeding, refuse his assent to the institution of the suit, subject, however, to an appeal against such refusal to the Archbishop; and the appellant may appear before the Archbishop either in person or by counsel on his behalf in support of the appeal. The insertion of the clause which he had just read, and which, as he had said, formed the text of the second Bill upon the Paper, was moved by Lord Cairns in the Select Committee which inquired as to the Bill of 1869, and he was sorry not to see the noble and learned Lord in his place to support his own proposal on the present occasion. The Lord Chancellor was in favour of the laity having access to the Courts without the intervention of the Bishops in cases of excessive ritual; but by the second of his two Bills he now proposed to provide that before proceedings were taken, the Bishop should have it in his power to pronounce whether, in his opinion there was sufficient primâ facie ground for proceeding—such decision, if adverse to the views of those desiring to take proceedings, to be subject to appeal to the Archbishop. He had been charged in a variety of ways with Bills, the purport of which was to restrict the power of the Prelates; but he maintained that the object of these Bills was to restrict the undoubted rights of the laity; and that the Bill, which said that three members of a diocese should be enabled, in Ritualistic and ceremonial matters, to appear without the authority of the Bishop, and in minor matters with the consent of the Bishop, was a great restriction indeed upon existing rights and privileges. It was the general belief that by the Church Discipline Act, the rights of the laity to promote the Judge's office were entirely taken away; he never believed it was so, and he did not believe it now; the issue had not been tried—indeed, it had never been raised, and he thought their Lordships would hear it was still a moot point; but admitting, for the sake of argument, that the general belief was correct, and that those rights were affected, they were affected only to the extent of the power of the layman to go into the Bishop's Court without the consent of the Bishop. But let it be recollected, apart from the Bishop's Court, there were the Criminal and Common Law Courts of the realm, and these were now open, without let or hindrance, to every layman in the country. A member of the Church of England or a Nonconformist might go before these Courts and indict any clergyman, any Bishop, or even an Archbishop, for breaches of the rubrics, because the rubrics were part of the law of the realm. He was always convinced that the laity had never lost their right of enforcing the law of the realm, and of promoting the Judge's office in the Criminal and the Common Law Courts, and that conviction was sustained by counsel upon a case which was stated, on his behalf, for the joint opinion of Mr. James Stephens, Q. C., Mr. H. P. Pullen, Mr. T. D. Archibald, and Dr. Tristram. The case was as follows:— In the administration of the sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the Church, many clergymen are wilfully acting in direct opposition to the provisions contained in the Book of Common Prayer. Ceremonies are used in the performance of Divine service which have been declared by the Queen in Council, in 'Martin v. Mackonochie' and 'Hebbert v. Purchas,' to be illegal under the Acts of Uniformity of Elizabeth (1 Eliz., c. 2), and Charles II. (13 & 14 Car. II., c. 4). The Prelates refuse to interfere ex mero motu, notwithstanding the vow they made at their consecration 'to correct and punish' such as were 'unquiet, disobedient, and criminous' within their respective dioceses. Some Prelates even refuse to allow any proceedings to be instituted in their Courts at the instance of a promoter. The delays and expense incident to a suit in the Ecclesiastical Courts amount to a denial of justice. Your attention is requested to the Acts of Uniformity of Elizabeth and Charles II., and likewise to the Church Discipline Act, 3 & 4 Victoria, c. 86. The joint opinion of Mr. H. B. Poland and Mr. T. D. Archibald was taken in 1869, upon the question whether criminal proceedings could be instituted against a clergyman for a violation of the Acts of Uniformity. Their reply was in the affirmative. A copy of that opinion accompanies this case. Tour opinion is requested upon the following questions:—1. Whether, having regard to the Church Discipline Act, proceedings can be instituted in the Criminal Courts against any clergyman who, in the performance of Divine service, wilfully disobeys the Acts of Uniformity? 2. Whether proceedings can be instituted against any clergyman for using ceremonies which the Queen in Council, in 'Martin v. Mackonochie' and 'Hebbert v. Purchas,' has pronounced to be illegal, as contravening the Acts of Uniformity? 3. Assuming that either or both of the foregoing questions shall be answered in the affirmative, who is a qualified person to prosecute, and is the consent of any Prelate required to institute a prosecution? The opinion given upon the case was as follows:— We are of opinion that—1. Under the Acts of Uniformity of Elizabeth and Charles II., if any minister 'use any other rite, ceremony, order, form, or manner of celebrating the Lord's Supper…other than is mentioned and set forth in the Book of Common Prayer,' an indictment can be maintained against such minister. The Church Discipline Act applies only to proceedings in the Ecclesiastical Courts, and does not affect the provisions of the Acts of Uniformity. 2. An indict- ment can be maintained against any clergyman for using ceremonies which the Queen in Council, in the cases of 'Martin v. Mackonochie' and 'Hebbert v. Purchas,' has pronounced to be illegal, as contravening such Acts of Uniformity. 3. There is no restriction to prevent any person from preferring such indictments, and the consent of a Prelate is not required as a condition Precedent. That was the state of the law now. He read the opinion simply and solely for the sake of promoting peace, harmony, and goodwill. He was anxious, as a layman, to concede that it should no longer be in the power of any one man of any religious persuasion to institute a suit in any Criminal Court against criminous clerks or Bishops; but, if that concession were rejected by the Episcopal Bench, its members must bear in mind to what an issue they were driving laymen, and what was the condition of the law open to them. Could their Lordships believe that, in the present excited state of the public mind, laymen would not be found by scores and hundreds who would only be too happy, at the moderate expense at which they were able to do it in the Criminal as compared with the Ecclesiastical Courts, to institute suits of every sort with the view of bringing the Church into contempt, and the Establishment into real and perhaps insuperable difficulty? He introduced these Bills to promote harmony and peace, and he trusted they would be received in the spirit in which he offered them. If they were thrown out, he for one should feel that the laity were perfectly justified in taking the course he had indicated, and assuredly he for one should never use any influence to restrain them from taking that course, which was the only one open to them for asserting their undoubted rights and privileges.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Earl of Shaftesbury.)


, who had given Notice of his intention to move the rejection of the Ecclesiastical Procedure Bill, said: My Lords, it will be convenient, perhaps, as the noble Earl has referred in his speech to both of the Bills that stand in his name, that I should at once state the ground on which I ask your Lordships not to consent to read the second of them a second time. I gladly acknowledge that the noble Earl has not been wanting in consideration for the wishes and feelings of the occupants of the Episcopal Bench, and I tender him my own personal thanks for having enabled me, with a perfectly clear conscience, at once to move the rejection of the second Bill, and to vote for the second reading of the first. To the first, I think some objections are to be taken on details which can be conveniently considered in Committee; but to the second, my objections are founded on its principle. I am quite aware that, in opposing the Bill, I occupy a difficult and somewhat invidious position, because I am asking your Lordships to refuse a second reading to a Bill, the principle of which was affirmed, though not unanimously, last year by a Select Committee of this House; and I believe that it received some time ago, and under somewhat different circumstances, the assent of the two most rev. Primates of the Church. Nevertheless, I feel deeply that very serious issues to the Church at large are involved in that Bill. I shall not, therefore, apologize for detaining your Lordships with a full statement of my objections to it. I object, in the first place, to the title of the Bill, as invidious and misleading. It professes to be "a Bill to set at rest doubts as to the prosecutions of clerks in Ecclesiastical Courts by laymen." This naturally would give rise to the supposition that there was some objection to laymen, as such, prosecuting clergymen in the Ecclesiastical Courts, whereas there is no such objection that I am aware of. The real fact is, that this Bill proposes to enable three members of the Church—whether laymen or not—to institute prosecutions in the Ecclesiastical Courts; and, for my own part, I confess that I would infinitely rather, of the two, that the clergy should be debarred from the right of prosecuting their brethren, than that the laity should be debarred from the right of prosecuting the clergy—because I think it is quite possible that the clerical prosecutions of the clergy would be, at least, quite as bitter and vexatious as the lay prosecutions. But the issue between myself and the noble Earl is still further narrowed, because, notwithstanding all that he has said of the rights of the laity under this head, he has himself admitted that they ought to be subject to certain restrictions; and he says that this Bill will further restrain their rights. The question really is, not whether laymen are to be free to prosecute clergymen, but whether clergy or laity shall be free to prosecute without the restriction of the veto of the Bishop; for the Bill proposes to substitute for that veto a money fine only, in the shape of the costs to be levied on the authors of the vexatious suits. Now, the first objection that I make to this proposal is that it would be equivalent to the passing by your Lordships of a direct vote of want of confidence in the Bishops of the Church. They are no longer to be intrusted with one of the most important functions of government—namely, the right to decide when and where the law shall be enforced. The functions of a Bishop of a diocese are not merely judicial—they are also administrative; and I ask whether it is not one of the most difficult and delicate functions of a ruler to decide whether or no prosecutions such as these should be instituted? But to whom is this important power, which can only be used safely with very wise discretion, given by the Bill? To any three persons in the entire diocese—who may be the three greatest fools in it—to them is to be given the power of deciding whether the parish or the diocese, or the Church at large, is to be set in a blaze because they chose to club together their little moneys and large spite for the prosecution of any clergyman they may happen to dislike. I cannot thank the noble Earl for the compliment that he pays the Bench of Bishops, when he thus proposes to handover their discretion to these self-selected triumvirates of fools. Consider the effect. Three persons—let us say three old women—in the Channel Islands would have the right to prosecute, for any minute violation of the rubric, any clergyman within a stone's throw of your Lordships' House. That would be one of the practical possibilities of this clause. If it be said that hitherto the Bishops have not exercised the power the noble Earl now proposes to take away from them, I answer that no doubt that is true; but then it must be remembered that an English Bishop is the only judge in the world who is heavily fined for executing the duties of the office. It is utterly unreasonable to complain of the Bishops because they have been unwilling to ruin themselves in prosecutions to uphold or declare the laws of the Church. But would it not have been more fair if the noble Earl had waited to see if the Bishops would do their duty, now that it is proposed to enable them to do it, before he came down to the House to tell us, in the same breath, first of all that the Bishops could not hitherto discharge their duty; then to proceed to enable them to do it; and, lastly, to take away all discretion in doing it from them? I most respectfully submit to your Lordships that the Bishops do not deserve this vote of want of confidence—this "vote of degradation from their functions." But, I ask, in the next place, as regards the clergy, what would be the effect of this Bill? The noble Earl says that it would restrict the rights of the laity, because now, it is a most uncertain point whether the laity can or cannot prosecute without the leave of the Bishop; and, in order to remove any uncertainty, the Bill ordains that any three of them shall be able to do so; and that is the noble Earl's way of restricting their rights. I rather think that the clergy will, on the contrary, consider this to be an enormous increase of the power of their prosecutors. It puts the clergy in a worse position than any other members of the community. The noble Earl talks of the lay right of prosecution, as if prosecution were the first right and most sacred duty of man, and that it is a dreadful cruelty to deprive anyone of his right to prosecute his neighbour. Is that so? Do we find that a layman is free to prosecute without hindrance, any other layman in the temporal courts? Has the noble Earl never heard of a magistrate refusing to commit, of a grand jury rejecting a bill, of certain prosecutions that cannot be commenced without the leave of the Attorney General. Yet he proposes to place the clergyman in the position of a layman who has been committed for trial, and to refuse him the chance every layman enjoys, that the magistrate may refuse so to commit him. Of course, the noble Earl has reminded us that, if a clergyman does not like to be prosecuted in this way, he may elect to be prosecuted in the lay Courts, and imprisoned for six months, under the Act of Uniformity; but I do not think that the clergy will feel greatly obliged to him for the alternative. Is there no danger that the power of prosecution, and especially of prosecution by societies and knots of individuals, may be abused? Was not, last year, all London much disturbed by vexatious prosecutions under the Sunday Observance Act of Charles II.—an Act bearing curiously enough the same date as our rubrics? The prosecutions instituted under that Act by the society were found to be so mischievous, that it became necessary to restrain them, and an Act was passed last Session, that no such prosecution should be instituted without leave in writing being first obtained from the chief police officer of the district, from two justices of the peace, or from the stipendiary magistrate. This course was found necessary to restrain the ardour of the society in its war against coster-mongers and apple women; and I trust that your Lordships will not deem the clergy of the Church of England deserving of less protection than the sellers of sweet stuff in the streets of London. The noble Earl when he last year received from the citizens of Glasgow those well-deserved honours—which it was as great an honour for them to confer as it was for him to receive—deprecated those prosecutions, and said that certain fussy, foolish, and misguided men were endangering the existence of the Act by these unwise proceedings. So it seems that in the opinion of the noble Earl a body of fussy, foolish, misguided men may not interfere with costermongers and apple-women, but that any three or 30, or 300 foolish and misguided men may prosecute a clergyman of the Church of England without a word of remonstrance from the noble Earl—nay with his assistance, for the noble Earl this evening comes down, to point out to fussy, foolish, misguided men how they should set to work to do this. In the next place, I would observe, that this Bill places the clergy in a worse position than the members of any other profession. In every profession its members are bound by certain inner rules, which are very often enforced with great strictness and severity, but which do not affect the rest of the community. The violation of these rules by members of the profession frequently entails upon them very heavy penalties. For instance, an assault which, if committed by a civilian, would only be punished by the imposition of a fine, might, if committed by a soldier on his superior officer, be punished by death. Where such strict and intricate rules exist the enforcement of them is reserved to the heads of the profession; and while I admit it to be quite right that the members of professions should in return for exceptional privileges be subjected to severe exceptional legislation, I maintain that it ought not to be in the power of every one to put in action the exceptional professional laws which do not bind the rest of the world. For instance, if the noble Earl were to be the spectator of a review, and it struck his mind that an officer had violated one of the Articles of War, would he claim a right, as a citizen, to compel the trial of that officer by a court martial? Of course not; but yet the noble Earl assumes that everyone has a right to enforce the exceptional laws of the clerical profession. The Bishop is the commanding officer of the clergy, and it is only reasonable that with him should rest the enforcement of the stricter laws of the profession. Persons who are bound by strict professional rules are entitled to some protection, and of all professional men the clergy, from the very nature of their profession, stand most in need of protection. A clergymen is a person whose profession brings him into collision—and often into violent collision—with the prejudices, passions, and party spirit of his people—yet this Bill proposes to leave the clergy liable to vexatious attacks from any three persons in or out of the diocese. And the persecutions will certainly be numerous. The squire of the parish, whose wife may not have received a return visit from the clergyman's wife, with his gardener and bailiff, may form the prosecuting trio. Or the trio may consist of the publican, who was offended against the vicar's last sermon against drunkenness, and two of his customers. Nay, even the keeper of a house of ill-fame, and two of the frequenters of his house, may constitute the trio. In short, any person whose feelings have been in any way hurt by the clergyman will only have to get two other persons to join him in order to get up a vexatious and harassing prosecution. And clergymen are specially exposed to such prosecutions for another reason—no profession is bound by so many complicated and obsolete laws as those which bind the clergy. There is not a clergyman in the Church of England who either does or can literally comply with every one of the rubrics. Her laws fit the Church like an ill-made coat—tight where they should be loose, and loose where they should be tight. Yet these complicated and obsolete rubrics, which no one can possibly obey in their entirety, are to be enforced by any three persons who club together their money and their spite in order to prosecute any parson who may have offended them. I ask your Lordships further to remark that the Bill does not require the prosecutors to be parishioners, who have a quasi-right to see the rubrics carried out in their parish church; but the law may be set in motion by persons who reside miles away, in a remote corner of the diocese. Now, it deeply interests the laity that the peace and harmony of the Church, which I believe the noble Earl is desirous of promoting, shall be preserved, and I may remark that that much-abused Order, the Bishops exert themselves to the utmost to preserve the peace of the Church. When any dispute arises as to the observance of rubrics, the persons interested ought to resort to the Bishop, who is directed to take order for the appeasing of such dispute; and, in point of fact, there is not a Bishop on the Bench who has not repeatedly appeased quarrels which otherwise might have festered into law suits. But what clergyman would ever go to his Bishop to settle a matter in his study, if he knew that, however satisfactory the settlement might be to himself and his parishioners, it was in the power of any three members of the Church, living perhaps 50 miles off, to upset it, simply because they did not happen to like it? I will relate a brief anecdote in proof of this. About two years ago one of these disputes came before me for settlement, the clergyman and the parishioners having agreed to refer to my decision a question as to the services of their Church. I believe that I succeeded in settling the dispute to the satisfaction of everybody in the parish with the exception of a Wes-leyan preacher, who called himself a Churchman, and who objected altogether in limine to the reference, because he doubted whether the Bishop's principles were sufficiently evangelical—that is, he was not quite sure that the Bishop would decide in his favour. Well, if that member of the Church of England could only have found in the large diocese of Peterborough two other persons who were as silly as himself, he might—supposing this Bill had been passed—have burdened the Church with a wretched law suit about a matter which the Bishop had settled without his permission. I will now ask your Lordships to consider the value of the checks and restrictions against frivolous and vexatious prosecutions proposed by the noble Earl. The first is, that prosecutions shall be instituted only by three members of the Church of England; but the Bill gives no definition of a member of the Church of England, and for a very good reason—namely, that there is no such definition known to our law—at all events, I know of no definition which would prevent a Nonconformist from prosecuting under this Bill. I contend that, according to the law of England, every baptized person is a member of the national Church, and has his legal rights accordingly in that Church; and, although I grant that the noble Earl intends to prevent the members of communions which are bitterly hostile to the Church from instituting prosecutions, yet I maintain that the clause inserted in the Bill will not really prevent that scandal and disgrace. In fact, the secretary of the Liberation Society might devote the £7,000 a-year received by that association to the prosecution of clergymen in the Ecclesiastical Courts, with a view of making them and the country thoroughly sick of a Church established by law. Much has been said of late respecting the conciliation of Dissenters, and I have heard of strange devices for effecting this object. They are to be allowed to have the free use of the churchyards for burials, but are not to contribute to the cost of maintaining them; they are also to be consulted as to the colour of the dress worn by the clergy in the pulpit; and now, it appears, the noble Earl would further conciliate them by giving them a share in the privilege of cheap prosecutions—just as he might conciliate some poor relation or a squire who had a vote in his county, by giving him a day or two's shooting in his preserves. As to the next check—the clause providing that the prosecutors shall be resident householders—I think the noble Earl himself does not lay much stress on it. As a third check the noble Earl proposes—not in this Bill, but in the first one—that in the case of vexatious and frivolous suits, it shall be in the power of the Court to compel the prosecuting parties to pay the costs. Does the noble Earl, who appears to think that a fine will be a sufficient check to a prosecution, really suppose that avarice is the only passion in the human breast. Does he not know how readily men pay for their pleasures or their passion? There are sportsmen who will pay largely for the hire of grouse moors and salmon streams. Does he not think that occasionally there may be found two or three sportsmen of another kind, to whom the struggles of a poor curate with 10 children under the prosecution of some great squire would be as exciting as the first rush of the salmon would be to the angler? I believe that the possible fine of £50 or £500 will not restrain men from prosecutions when their blood is fairly warmed to the work. Besides, the fact must not be forgotten, in dealing with this subject, that there exists in this country a great association, one of whose objects is the promotion of these prosecutions. Prosecution in these days is reduced to a science, and is carried on, like many other enterprizes, by joint-stock companies with limited liability. Of this character is the society known by the name of the Church Association in this country. The vice chairman of that association, referring to the real powers of that association in the matter of prosecution, said— The guarantee fund"—possibly amounting to £30,000—"while it strengthened the hands of the Council and made the position of the association one of security, made it an object of fear to their opponents. That fund had been subscribed solely for Parliamentary and law proceedings. Here is a powerful association which describes itself as "an object of fear to its opponents;" and with this great guarantee fund, enabling them to prosecute any poor curate whom they may please to number among their opponents, the noble Earl appeared to think that the danger of having to pay costs in a frivolous prosecution would deter them from engaging in it. What will your Lordships say to a case of this kind? The secretary of the association may write to some poor curate in such terms as these—"Sir,—Information has reached the Committee of this Association that your proceedings are not altogether satisfactory to them, and, upon due consideration, they are obliged to number you among their opponents. I must therefore request you forthwith to discontinue the practices to which they object. P.S.—You may not be aware that the guarantee fund of the society amounts now to £30,000." I ask your Lordships to consider what effect such a communication would have on the independence of that curate, or on the "peace and harmony of his family." But this is not all. This association has a number of affiliated branches throughout the country. Here, also, I may quote from the statement made in the presence of the vice chairman of the society by a clerical speaker, who, with a touching naïveté, which I hope your Lordships will admire, said "They are anxious to do something, but they do not know the technical steps." The local associations feel that they contribute a great deal to the parent society, and how large a portion of the guarantee fund is available for prosecutions, and they complain that with all this fund at their disposal "they had no work to do." They should raise the cry for "Lord Shaftesbury's Bill." They are eager for this Bill, and the noble Earl, forgetful of the lesson Dr. Watts may have taught him in his youth, came down in pity for these poor frozen-out prosecutors to your Lordships to pass this Bill in order to find something for these "idle hands to do." The clergy are entitled to protection against this miserable system of theological persecution. I admit that some years ago there was unhappily a necessity for this Church Association; but these "vigilance committees" are rapidly becoming a dangerously ruling power in the Church instead of the Bishops. The Church Association is not the only association of this kind—there is also the Church Union. I have as little sympathy with the one of these societies as with the other—still it is in human nature when attacked to retaliate. After a time, when persecution has gone on incessantly upon one side, there is that in human nature, and in clerical human nature, which will induce men to turn round upon the other side; and what will then be the peace and harmony of the Church, which the noble Earl professes to aim at increasing by this Bill, when divided between these rival persecutors, each diocese is turned into a theological hunting-ground, and each Church Association proceeds to mark out its respective hostages for ecclesiastical execution. Is it likely that in this state of things—when clergymen are attacked from above by the Church Association, from below by the Union, and midway, perhaps, by the Bishop—that men of independence, of high spirit, of character, and energy will long put up with it? Your Lordships may suppose that these are the grotesque aspects of the Bill, but some things may be at the same time grotesque and dangerous. I admit that the noble Earl has to cope with a very serious evil—with a lack of discipline and a growing state of lawlessness among those who are called Ritualists. If the noble Earl thinks that I oppose this Bill as a defender of the Ritualists, he is entirely mistaken. I have no such feeling. I admit their great piety, their zeal, their self-devotion; but I deprecate their extravagance as much as does the noble Earl himself. I have this further complaint against them—that they have by that extravagance rendered such a Bill as that now before your Lordships possible. But such is always the result of license. It always leads to loss of liberty. Had they at first been content to submit themselves to the proper rule of their Bishops, they would never have been threatened with such tyrannical treatment. Though I recognize, as everyone must, the earnestness, zeal, and self-denying devotion in labour among the poor of those who promote this Bill, I distinctly declare that I have not any sympathy with their extravagances. But if I were the most extreme Ritualist in England, I would eagerly support this Bill. For nothing would better help their aims than passing it. Nothing so much exasperates men against all law as the vexatious enforcement of all law; and if I wished to break down the law, I would just set going all over the Church this system of unrestrained prosecution, which would sicken and weary all Churchmen with Church law. It is for that reason alone, if not for all the others I have mentioned, that I earnestly deprecate such a measure as this, which, in the endeavour to find a violent and sudden cure for a serious disease, introduces what would prove a still more serious disease than the one it seeks to remedy. For these reasons I am compelled to oppose the Bill of the noble Earl. I know that I argue this question in an Assembly mainly composed of laymen—as the noble Earl, perhaps not very generously, reminds us—but yet I am not in the least afraid of pleading before your Lordships the cause of the clergy. I, too, remind you that you are laymen because, if your recollection of your lay character is strong, it will make you only the more jealously anxious that the clergy shall not suffer any wrong at your hands. But I remind your Lordships of this fact for another reason—for I believe that your Lordships, as laity, have, above all others, the deepest possible interest in maintaining the independence, the self-respect, and the freedom of the clergy. Make the clergy the slaves of a faction, or the victims of a party; destroy their self-respect and independence; and it will not be so much the clergy in the end as the laity who will suffer. Whatever degrades the clergy injures the laity of the Church, and therefore it is not mainly in the interests of the clergy, but quite as much—nay, far more—in the interests of the laity, that I do most earnestly entreat your Lordships not to vote for the second reading of this Bill.


said, that in the Select Committee he and his most rev. Brother who presided over the Northern Province gave their assent to the clause which proposed to give this power of prosecution to the laity. He had greatly enjoyed the speech of his right rev. Brother who had just set down (the Bishop of Peterborough), but that speech had not convinced him; and in justice to his most rev. Brother (the Archbishop of York), to the noble and learned Lords who sat upon the Committee, and to himself, he felt bound to explain why that proposal had received their assent. In the first place, they believed that at the present moment it was very doubtful whether the laity did not possess the very power which his right rev. Brother had shown they could not possess without such dangerous and alarming consequences. He recollected that a few months before he had ceased to preside over the diocese of London, he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) was called upon to institute proceedings against a clergyman living in the diocese of Bath and Wells. He thought it very hard that he should be called upon to act for his right rev. Brother the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and he said he should take no proceedings in the matter, as it never could have been intended that the Bishop of London should be public prosecutor for other dioceses; but in the course of a fortnight he received a mandamus, informing him that he must take the matter into consideration, the clergyman being charged with publishing a heretical book within the limits of the diocese of London. His case was not singular in this matter, for a somewhat similar case happened to the late Bishop of Chichester, when the question arose as to whether a clergyman residing in the diocese of Oxford might not insist on the Bishop of Chichester instituting proceedings against a clergyman in the diocese of Chichester, and the language of the Judges in giving their decision upon the case was doubtful. The state of the law, therefore, was not certain, and it was by no means clear whether both laity and clergy might not proceed against a clergyman for any ecclesiastical offence whatever. In fact, nearly all the objections urged by his right rev. Brother against the proposals of this Bill might be, and probably were, objections against the law as it at present existed. In considering in the Select Committee the question, it was thought very desirable that some rule should be laid down as to who should have in all matters the right to prosecute; and it was considered that in all matters of doctrine and discipline the Bishop should have the right of veto; but that in matters of misconduct and immorality the case was different, and that as to such matters, and also respecting the services in the Church, the laity should have a right to institute proceedings. The Bill at the same time contained clauses providing against vexatious prosecutions, and he did not think that the restriction against the institution of improper prosecutions, by making the prosecutor give security for costs, would be altogether illusory. No doubt there was an ambiguity as to who was or was not a member of the Church; but upon that point the noble Earl had taken the best care he could, for he had introduced into the Bill a clause taken from a previous Act, containing a solemn declaration which the members of the Ecclesiastical Commission made on accepting office, and requiring from every prosecutor in such cases a solemn declaration similar to that made by an Ecclesiastical Commissioner. There were two other proposals before the public at the present moment besides that of the noble Earl, and he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) must confess that one, which had the sanction of the Ritual Commission, composed of persons of every variety of opinion in the Church, appeared to him to be liable to every one of the objections which his right rev. Brother (the Bishop of Peterborough) had urged against the measure under discussion. There was a proposal made by a noble Lord in the other House of Parliament (Viscount Sandon) for the establishment of parochial councils—he did not know whether the right rev. Prelate meant to advocate that proposal; in his own opinion, there was a good deal to be said both for and against it. He would, however, remind the House that the profession of those who were ministers of the Church was not only a clerical profession, but a Christian profession, and the laity were as much an integral part of our common Church as the clergy. He thought that either according to the proposal of the noble Earl, or that of the Ritual Commission, or that of the noble Viscount in the other House, or in some other way, the laity must be allowed their just rights; and he held that the proposal now before the House was just as harmless as any other which said that the laity should have power to interfere in ecclesiastical as well as in other matters. There really was no difference between the right rev. Prelate and himself as concerning matters of doctrine—or even of immorality—the point in which they differed was with regard to prosecutions for violations of discipline. But it would be unreasonable to throw out this Bill on account of a single clause. For himself, he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) was of opinion that although some things might be objected to in the second Bill, there was not more to be said against it than could be said against any other proposal on the subject; and he thought it was as advisable that the laity should have the power of securing that the law was enforced in matters ecclesiastical as in any other matter. For his own part, he must express his thanks to the noble Earl for the way in which he had introduced into his Bill every Amendment which had last Session been suggested from both sides of the House. He regretted that his right rev. Brother the Bishop of Winchester was not in the House on the present occasion. It was 16 years since he himself had first taken part in the discussion of such matters, and he did not, therefore, think it fair to the noble Earl, the clergy, or the whole body of the Church to lose any more time. The noble Earl ought, he thought, to be afforded an opportunity of carrying his measure through the House of Lords before Easter, and sending it to the House of Commons. As regarded the second Bill, it would be for the noble Earl to exercise his own discretion.


said, that the opinions of the most rev. Primate on such a subject were entitled to the most serious attention, were it only for the high position he occupied in the Church; but he confessed that he could not concur in the arguments which he had addressed to the House. He had not, he thought, met any points whatever that had been urged in the very cogent and convincing speech of the right rev. Prelate who sat immediately behind him (the Bishop of Peterborough). He should, therefore, give his vote against the second reading of the Bill. The most rev. Primate remarked that a good deal might be said not only against the Bill, but against all the other proposals on the subject. Surely if that were so., it formed a very strong argument against meddling with the matter at all. To enable persons to move in the present state of the Church, as was proposed under the Bill, when they could not do so otherwise, was a course which was, in his opinion, very much to be deprecated. He understood the most rev. Primate to refer to the proposals of the Ritual Commission as a reason for sanctioning the Bill; but if he (the Duke of Richmond) was not mistaken those proposals were confined to the question of incense, vestments, and altar lights—a very much smaller matter than was dealt with in the second of these Bills. Some of the clauses of the Bill required great consideration, and as to their being only a word to alter in the second Bill, it appeared to him that the whole of the gist of it was contained in the 4th clause, which gave power to any member of the Church to act. It was, in his opinion, unwise in the present condition of the Church to invite that description of legislation, and he should vote against the second reading.


said, that the principle was sound that every parishioner had a right to the services in his parish church, and was entitled to ask that they should be conducted in accordance with the laws of the Church to which he belonged. He not only had that right, but he ought to have the opportunity of vindicating that right when it was violated, and he should therefore have thought that the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Peterborough) might have attained his object without moving the rejection of the Bill by proposing its alteration in Committee. He looked, however, upon the proposal to confer the power upon any three inhabitants of a diocese as altogether indefensible, and he believed it should be limited to three parishioners living in the parish where the cause of complaint arose.


said, there seemed to be perfect unanimity of opinion with regard to the first Bill, but there was considerable difference with respect to the second. For himself, with regard to that Bill he believed that the view taken by the Ritual Commission as to the necessity for the protection of parishioners was perfectly sound. The Church of England was wisely most large in its liberality as to doctrine; and the same circumstance which made it desirable that the Church should not be narrowed into small sects, made it absolutely essential that there should be strict uniformity in the worship—because it was often in the power of a clergyman by the introduction into the worship of some Shibboleth of doctrine to render attendance unpleasant and even impossible. At the most solemn moment of the service, when everyone was anxious to have his thoughts and mind wholly concentrated upon the act he was performing, nothing could be more distressing than to have some particular Shibboleth imposed upon him against which he had no remedy and from which he could not escape. Believing that in that direction facilities were required, and that they might be obtained from the Bill if it were modified, he was not prepared to support the Motion for its rejection.


was unable to support the Bill as it stood.


in reply, observed that in the kind remarks which the right rev. Prelate opposite had made against this Bill, his right rev. Friend had somewhat misrepresented him. On the occasion referred to he had exhorted laymen not to part with any power they possessed; to retain it rigorously, but not to exercise it in a fussy, foolish, or misguided manner; and he said the same thing now to laymen with reference to the Bill under discussion. So far from this measure inviting litigation, he believed that its tendency would be one of repression, and that if it were thrown out laymen would, in sheer despair, endeavour to obtain redress in the Criminal Courts. He held that every man in the Church of England had the deepest interest in the uniformity of the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, and the clause providing that the prosecution might be commenced at the instance of any three persons in the diocese had been inserted with a view to divest as far as possible such prosecutions from the element of local jealousy or spite. He really and conscientiously believed that the proposal he had made would tend to promote the best interests of the Church, and that if this Bill were thrown out they would find the Church brought into a state of litigation and confusion of which they could form no idea, and which they would all deeply regret.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday the 29th instant.