§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2ª."—(The Lord Chancellor.)
THE BISHOP OF LINCOLN
My Lords, I rise to move, as an Amendment, that this Bill be read a second time this day three months. I do so with great anxiety, and crave your Lordships' indulgence. My Lords, this Bill was in your Lordships' hands for the first time only on Thursday last; and now, after a brief interval of a week, you are called upon to accept it. My Lords, this Bill concerns the destinies, and may imperil the existence of the Church of England, not, indeed, as a spiritual society, but as a national institution; and, therefore, it affects the welfare of the Realm of England as intimately connected with the Church. My Lords, I humbly appeal to this great Assembly, one of the most august in Christendom, to which the minds of loyal men in this land are now turning with hope in these restless days; and unless noble Lords are fully satisfied that this a good measure I earnestly entreat them not to vote for it. If it is a good measure, a little longer consideration will certainly do it no harm; but if, as 1014 I believe and shall endeavour to show, it is disastrous to our best interests in Church and State, the acceptance of this Bill to-night will involve calamitous consequences to both, of which no man can foresee the end, and from it it may be impossible to recover. My Lords, I am fully persuaded that the noble and learned Lord who has presented this Bill to your Lordships, and who has honoured me with his friendship for many years, is animated by kindly feelings to the Church of Englynd, of which he is so bright an ornament; and that he has endeavoured to mitigate, by soothing sedatives in some of its clauses, the severity of the pains and penalties which it inflicts upon her. Indeed—may I be allowed to use the comparison—this Bill seems to me to be an Act for the martyrdom of the National Church under the narcotic influences of chloroform. There is a slight infusion of chloroform in Clause 5, which reserves the fees at burial to the officers of the Church. There is a larger dose in Clauses 6 and 7, which contains the specious words, "Christian and orderly services, to be conducted in a decent manner," and which make any infraction of such provisions to be a misdemeanour; but the largest injection of chloroform is in Clause 11 and Schedule B, which pay a tribute of respect to the Convocations of the Bishops and Clergy of the Provinces of Canterbury and York, and embody in this Bill the results of their deliberation. My Lords, I have but one objection to these chloroform clauses—pardon, my Lords, the expression—and that is, that they are simply, I apprehend, worth nothing. If this Bill is accepted by your Lordships I should much fear—indeed, some of its most ardent supporters have frankly told us—that when it is returned to you from "another place" in the month of August next the pains and penalties of the martyrdom of the Church will still remain in it, and perhaps be intensified, and the soothing sedatives—may I call them the amiable anodynes and anaesthetics of these chloroform clauses—will have disappeared from it. My Lords, one plea urged for this Bill is that it is an act of justice. But justice is a consistent thing. Not long ago the distinguished personage who is now at the head of Her Majesty's Government carried a Bill for the abolition of compulsory church rates, 1015 on a plea of justice. He alleged that, inasmuch as our churchyards belong to the Church of England, under conditions known to the law, it was not equitable that those persons who dissent from her should be required to contribute to the maintenance of those churchyards with which they have no connection. And now, my Lords, the argument is inverted, and it is urged, on a plea of justice, that these same parties should be admitted to share in these same churchyards, with which it was before alleged they had no connection, and to which they contribute nothing. How these two pleas of justice can be reconciled I cannot quite understand. Next, my Lords, on behalf of this Bill, it is pleaded that it is our duty to relieve aggrieved consciences from the burden that presses upon them. Everyone, it is alleged, must die and be buried, and it is a grievance that a man should not be buried by those persons and with such service as he prefers. And this Bill is intended to remove that grievance. Let us examine this a little. This alleged grievance, my Lords, has no existence in our great towns, for they are provided with cemeteries where a person may be buried as he likes best; and the Bill does not extend to Ireland or Scotland so that the grievance, whatever it may be, is limited to our rural parishes in England. My Lords, I hope that I may be allowed, without presumption, to claim some little right to apeak with experience on this point. About 12 years ago, by the unexpected kindness of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Beaconsfield), I was recommended to Her Majesty, who was graciously pleased to name me for election by the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln. The diocese of Lincoln is the most extensive diocese in England, and is mainly agricultural. I can assure your Lordships that for those 12 years I have never known a single instance of the grievance complained of. The religious Dissenters thankfully accept the Burial Service of the National Church of England. Let me illustrate this by an example. In a parish of North Lincolnshire the Dissenting minister died; the leading members of his congregation came as a deputation to the clergyman of the parish, who was rather a stiff man, and earnestly entreated him to bury their deceased 1016 minister. They wore afraid he might decline to do so. But what was his answer? "Gentlemen," lie said, "I will gladly bury your minister," and he added, somewhat archly, "I shall be happy to bury you all." The fact is, there is no grievance at all in such cases. But, my Lords, I candidly allow that there are such persons as political Dissenters; and, if this Bill becomes law, they will agitate and coerce the religious Dissenter to forego the Services of the Church, and to resort to other services performed by others in our churchyards. Let me illustrate this by another case. In a North Lincolnshire parish—Laceby—some time ago, I consecrated a portion of a cemetery for the use of the funeral rites of the Church of England. Some years afterwards I asked how many persons had been buried in the consecrated portion, and how many in the unconsecrated? The answer was, about 40 in the consecrated, and only one in the unconsecrated; and he, my Lords, was a person who, before his death, had actually selected a spot in the consecrated portion where he wished to be buried, but his Dissenting relatives were over-persuaded to bury him in the other. I doubt not, my Lords, that the political Dissenter would be very thankful to your Lordships for removing his alleged grievance by this Bill, and he would then have a good hope that you would next proceed to remove another grievance, which is the real grievance in the background—namely, the Established Church of England. But, my Lords, if you propose to remove grievances and to relievo consciences, let me entreat you to take a large and statesmanlike view of this subject. In order to relieve the conscience and to remove a grievance of some who are not proprietors of our churchyards and contribute nothing to them, you are called upon in this Bill to impose a heavy burden on the consciences of a very large and loyal body of men, the parochial clergy of the Church of England, some 20,000 in number—15,500 of whom have already protested against the principle of this Bill—who are the freeholders of these churchyards, and who freely give Christian burial to all who can legally claim it, and who are ready to assist in providing parochial cemeteries. You are asked in this Bill to wound their con- 1017 sciences and to deprive them of their rightful possession. My Lords, I hold in my hand a copy of a resolution which has been adopted to-day by the Lower House of Convocation, which represents the clergy of this Province, and, with your Lordships' permission, I will read it—That the Lower House of Convocation of Canterbury are bound by their duty to the Church humbly to record the expression of their deep regret that it should be judged necessary, on the part of Her Majesty's Advisers, to propose to Parliament a measure which, if it shall become law, will lor the first time in the history of this country—save only and except the time of the 'Commonwealth'—take away from the Church of England the exclusive control, according to her own doctrine and discipline, of the use of her own churchyards.—Carried on a show of hands by 59 to 7.That this House especially desires by this solemn protest to deliver itself of all responsibility as to any dishonour which may be done to Almighty God by the character of the worship which in the event of the passing of this Bill may hereafter be offered in churchyards.—Carried nemine dissentients.ALWYNE COMPTON, Prolocutor.Such are the words of the representatives of the clergy of this Province. Now, my Lords, let me ask, are the consciences of all other persons to be regarded, and the consciences of the clergy and faithful laity of the Church of England to be treated with scorn? Would not this be to disparage loyalty and to encourage spoliation by law? It is alleged, indeed, that our churchyards are protected against any disorderly or irreligious abuses by the clause in this Bill which makes such abuses to be punishable as misdemeanours. But, my Lords, who is to know beforehand what will take place? Any man or even woman is allowed by this Bill to conduct those services. And they will be extempore, and who is to incur the cost and obloquy of prosecuting in such eases? Are the clergy to do it? And if they do not, who will? Are the police to be judges of orthodoxy? This clause will be a dead letter, and this Bill will be a great distress also to the laity. It will expose to desecration the churchyards which are dear to their tenderest affections; and it will also prevent consecration for the future of churchyards and portions of cemeteries. As to cemeteries, this Bill at once repeals the former Burials Acts which prescribe that 1018 certain portions of cemeteries should he consecrated by the Bishop for the burial of persons according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England. This provision is abrogated in this Bill, and this abrogation will cause great distress and consternation. My Lords, at this time I am requested to consecrate several churchyards or cemeteries in my diocese. The great majority of the people of England love consecration of their churchyards and portions of the cemeteries. But if this Bill becomes law, how can a Bishop accept these invitations? Consecration is a religious act, by which the thing consecrated is separated from common uses and is given to Almighty God and to His honour and service. If this Bill is passed consecration will be a solemn mockery—a farce; how could a Bishop perform it? A third plea urged in favour of this measure is that it is grounded on the principle of religiouse quality. "Religiousequality." These are specious words; but let us consider, my Lords, what they involve. If no civil distinctions are henceforth to attach to any body of men by reason of their religious profession, then we must be prepared for other more sweeping changos in Church and State. If this principle of "religious equality" is to be accepted, if all ministers and all members of all denominations are to be on a par, it requires little foresight to perceive that one of the next questions that will be asked will be, Why are the Bishops of the Church of England to be allowed to retain their seats in your Lordships' House? Or, Why are not Roman Catholic Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops, and the ministers of other denominations to be admitted to it on equal terms with the English Episcopate Why is the most rev. Prelate to have the exclusive privilege of crowning the English Sovereign? And why is the English Crown itself to be limited to a Protestant succession? My Lords, this Bill is a Burials Bill; and I venture to predict that if it becomes law it will be an Act for the burial of the Church of England herself—not, indeed, as a Church, but as a national establishment of religion. The Church of England, as a Church, will survive, if she is true to herself, for she has the Divine presence with her, and a Divine promise of continuance; but, my Lords, I tremble to think of the civil and social consequences of her disestablish- 1019 ment. I believe, my Lords that there are such sins as sacrilege which robs God, and a profaneness which desecrates holy things, and they are often punished even in this world. Whatever may be the intentions of the framers of this Bill, for whom I entertain great respect, it will, I fear, lead to sacrilege and profaneness. It altogether nullifies consecration. It takes away "God's acre," and will expose it to the inroads of profaneness, and even of blasphemy. Let me appeal to the experience of England in the middle of the 17th century. The testimony of one of the greatest of the Predecessors of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack (Lord Clarendon) in the 10th book of his History of the Great Rebellion, is clear on this point. When the principle of religious equality was proclaimed in this country in 1646, and the churchyards and churches of England were thrown open to all religionists calling themselves Christian, as is proposed by the present Bill, there was scarcely any form, he says, of heresy or blasphemy that was not heard in their sacred precincts. And what, my Lords, if this Bill becomes law, is to prevent the precincts of the Abbey Church of Westminster in your immediate neighbourhood, and every churchyard in England, from becoming the scene of the pompous pageantry of the Romish ceremonial at the burial of the dead? One word more, my Lords, and I have done. A similar measure to the present was passed in the year 1868 for the Church of Ireland. I have been assured by the Primate of Ireland and Bishop of Derry that it has been of no use at all in that country; and, my Lords, let us remember that it was followed in the next year by the Disestablishment of that Church, which was the most loyal body in that Kingdom. It was hoped that those measures would produce peace; but what, my Lords, have been their results? They have discouraged loyalty, and have encouraged agitation. We are now asked in this Bill to embark on a similar course in England, and I greatly fear that this course will be attended with similar results. I may not live to see them; but others, I fear, will. Some among us have sown the wind in Ireland by Disestablishment, and are now reaping the whirlwind in Home Rule, Tenant Eight, and agrarian agitation. My Lords, I apologize to your Lordships 1020 for trespassing on your time. I thank you for your indulgence. I have liberated my own conscience, and I earnestly pray you not to assent to this Bill.
§ Amendment moved to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion (this day three months.")—(The Bishop of Lincoln.)
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I should not have risen now were it not that I fear the voice of my right rev. Brother—a man so deeply respected not only in England, but throughout the Christian Church—might be supposed adequately to represent the whole feeling of the Bench on which he and I sit. No one can have a greater respect for the right rev. Prelate than I have; his simple earnestness and his determination to adhere to his principles are worthy of all praise; but I may be allowed to doubt whether on some occasions it has not been found that another mode of pressing the principles of the Church of England may have been more beneficial to the Church than that which he has adopted. We have heard from my right rev. Brother that he considers that the Church of England, if this Bill passes, will be exposed to martyrdom. He did not say what was to be the exact form in which we were to suffer martyrdom; but I think that in those ages of the Church with which he is so familiar, and with which his name is so greatly associated, martyrdom was understood in some other sense than that which he has brought before your Lordships' notice to-day. He stated that if the Bill passed it would dig the grave of the Established Church of England, and he pointed to an astonishing connection between the Acts of 1868 and 1869 as affecting the Irish Established Church. No doubt, one Act followed the other; but I think your Lordships will require more proof than he gave that the one was the cause of the other. The Burial Act of 1868 was only one of a series of Acts which had long before introduced into Ireland the very principle which it is now sought to introduce into England. Therefore, I cannot believe that the slight alteration which was made in the then existing Acts as to burial in Ireland in 1868 had anything to do with the lamentable events, as I still consider them, which followed in 1869. I was sorry to hear my right rev. Brother say that this Bill 1021 proposed what would be a dishonour to Almighty God. No doubt, the -words were not his own; but he quoted a resolution which appeal's to have been passed in the Lower House of Convocation of the Province of Canterbury since I left the chair about half or three-quarters of an hour before your Lordships met hero this evening. He quoted these words, I understand, as representing the feelings of the parochial clergy; and it might have been inferred that they represented the views of some legally constituted body in the Church of England. But the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury consists of two Houses, one of which is at present in your Lordships' House, and had begun to assemble here before the resolution he quoted was passed. No expression of opinion of a particular body belonging to that Convocation can be supposed to represent Convocation itself; it consists of two Houses, and it can perform no act except with the consent of both Houses, and no binding act without having been called to enter on its proceedings by Letters of Business from the Crown. But it is rather of the words used than of the persons using them that I wish to speak. What is that which is to be dishonouring to Almighty God '? At the present moment these churchyards are used for the burial of all Her Majesty's subjects. All persons, even those wafted on our shores from shipwrecked vessels, are buried in these churchyards. In many cases we require that persons shall be buried in silence, because the laws of the Church of England prohibit the use of our Service over their remains; but yet they are interred in the consecrated ground, and is it to be supposed to be a dishonour to Almighty God that, over the grave of one who is at present buried in silence, someone may offer a Christian prayer or read a portion of the Word of God? Does that constitute a dishonour to Almighty God any more than burying the dead in consecrated ground without any words of Christian hope or consolation? I cannot believe that my right rev. Brother really thinks that this uttering of a few words of Christian prayer by any relative or friend, or by any individual appointed by the relatives, or the reading of portions of Scripture, will be dishonouring to God. I believe his mind was so occupied with what he supposes to be the inevitable consequences 1022 of the passing of the Bill that he forgot to consider what the measure itself is. It might be objected that many of his arguments were directed, not against this measure, but against the measure in the form in which he supposes it will return to your Lordships about the 12th of August. I have nothing to do with what the Bill may become at some future stage; what I have to do with is the form in which it is before your Lordships now7. I venture to say it is, in substance, what your Lordships sanctioned by your vote three years ago; and I cannot believe that at the time it was so sanctioned it was supposed to involve all those dangerous consequences of which my right rev. Brother has now spoken. Is it a desecration of the churchyard that the Word of God should be read in it, and that Christian prayer should be offered in it, unless that Christian prayer and that reading of the Word of God proceed from the mouth of an ordained clergyman? I cannot believe that this is the opinion of your Lordships, and I cannot believe that such is the general opinion of the clergy and laity of the Church of England. I have examined the consecration deeds in the diocese of London, and I do not find in any one the statement that such a reading and such an offering up of prayer would be a departure from the purpose for which the ground was set apart. The deeds vary according to the nature of the place to be consecrated; but every one sets forth that it shall be set apart for the burial of the dead—that is, set apart from all profane and common uses. Your Lordships know what is the case in other countries. I have recently returned from the South of France, where Ultramontane Romanism is perhaps as powerful as it is in any part of that country; and I observed that in the yards of the parish churches I visited Protestants and Catholics were buried side by side. I cannot believe the Ultramontane Romanists of that region considered there was any desecration of those God's acres by Protestants being placed there; neither can I see there is any such desecration in the measure now proposed. It is said in some quarters that there is brought into this Bill a subject which has nothing to do with it—namely, the relief of the clergy from certain difficulties under which they at 1023 present labour. I should wish to state what is the principle of the Bill so far as I understand it. It is to allow the burial with religious rites of persons who at present suffer under the grievance of being prevented from being buried with those religious rites. The diocese of Lincoln is a happy diocese in many respects besides that of being presided over by its present Bishop. It is a diocese, it appears, in which there is no such thing as Dissent, excepting in the most religious form. Yet I have heard rumours of some sort of dissensions between some of the religious bodies and my right rev. Brother. Though I grant that they all revere and respect his deeply religious character, I am not sure that they are not drawn to him a good deal by this—that his form of the Church of England is more or less of the same type as their own form of religion, somewhat narrow—and that he has never perfectly mastered what I conceive to be the glory of the Church of England, that it is a National Church, wide as the nation, ready to embrace all in the nation who are anxious to join it, and not making narrow sectarian distinctions between those who adhere very rigidly to one or another set of opinions. There are other dioceses in which, unless I am greatly mistaken, the Baptist denomination very largely exists, and I believe it is a fact that in numerous cases in those dioceses persons are desirous to be buried by the clergyman of the parish, which is prevented by the present state of the law; and an integral part of this Bill will afford them the opportunity which they desire. One would suppose that there was no object in this Bill but to satisfy the Liberation Society. I am not here to say what were the motives for introducing the Bill; but I may state some of the reasons why I supported a similar proposal three years ago. One reason which weighed greatly with me was that I thought a large number of Dissenters were anxious to have some religious service read over their dead, and this Bill relieves them from that difficulty. It is urged as an objection incidentally that it relieves the clergy from difficulties they labour under in other matters as to the burial of certain persons whose case was brought before your Lordships' House in a Petition signed by 4,000 clergy, now many years ago, and pro- 1024 voted a very memorable and important debate. Another objection comes from another quarter; that it recognizes the Houses of Convocation of Canterbury and York. My Lords, these bodies are constitutional; they are known to the Constitution when they act in their regular way. Her Majesty's late Advisers, following the example of their Predecessors, issued "Letters of Business" to the two Houses of Convocation of Canterbury and York, commanding them to take into consideration this among other subjects, and the result of their deliberations was to recommend certain modes of dealing with the Burial Service which are embodied in this Bill. I have yet to learn that there is anything irregular in thus, by the authority of Her Majesty, in the most constitutional way, commanding these Assemblies to consider the subject. I have yet to learn that there is anything irregular in listening to the answer which, at your request and the command of Her Majesty, they made. You may criticize the answer, and if you do not like parts of it you are quite free to introduce modifications; but to object generally to the mention of these bodies when, according to the principles of the Constitution, both the late and the previous Governments advised Her Majesty to take their opinion on this subject, seems an objection to the Bill which is altogether untenable. I am quite aware, as the right rev. Prelate pointed out, that there are many persons clamouring for this measure who will not be satisfied by it. But I think it is a dangerous principle not to give men what is right because there are some unreasonable persons who demand more. It is my belief that in conceding what is felt to be right by men who are steadfast members of the Church of England you strengthen the position of the Church. I believe fully that there are many persons now clamouring for this measure who desire nothing less than the destruction of the Church of England. But I am not prepared, because they so clamour, to refuse to carry a measure which I believe will really strengthen the position you occupy when these attacks are made. What we wish is to recall the Dissenting bodies to that better mind which they showed in former times. Many of them may be embittered against us by narrow sectarian ani- 1025 mosities; we desire to show them a more excellent way. We act with their members in works of charity. We rejoice to know that the Roman Catholic Bishop in Dublin acts in cordial harmony with my respected friend the Archbishop of Dublin in the distribution of charitable funds. We act with them in the dissemination of the Scriptures. We are acting with them at this moment in preparing a new translation of the Scriptures, and that under the auspices of both Houses of Convocation. We act with them in this way—that while they avail themselves of our learning, we avail ourselves of theirs. We have not forgotten that the Church of England owes a good deal to the learning of Lardner, though he was a Dissenter of an advanced type. We use their hymns, and they use our prayers. These are modes in which men may be made to feel that with all their differences they are Christian brethren; and, if they are Christian brethren, is it for a moment to be endured that we shall regard the offering up of prayer and the reading of Scripture in their presence as a desecration? My Lords, we live in dangerous times. Systems are abroad, both here and on the Continent, which threaten both social and family life. Christians who revere one common Lord and who are united in one common love to Him cannot afford to be aggravating their differences, and that in the most unpleasant of all ways, by keeping them alive in the hour of death and in the graveyard. If this Bill does nothing else, it will convince our Nonconformist brethren—however violent may be the attempts to displace us from that which is our rightful inheritance—believing as we do that great blessings are secured to this nation by the system of faith and worship we maintain—that we do regard them as brethren, and desire to unite with them in the name of the religion we in common profess, and join hand in hand with them in resisting those who are opposed to our social system and family life. For these reasons, my Lords, I feel it my duty to support the second reading of this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
My Lords, I agree with much that has been said by the right rev. Prelate and the most rev. Primate who have just spoken, and will not depart from the tone which has been adopted by them in discussing a painful 1026 question. Prom the speech by which the Bill was introduced one would imagine that the question is very simple and easy, and that hardly any opposition could be expected to it at any stage. Yet it has now been before the public for nearly 20 years, and during that time it has never, among the different Governments that have existed, been made a Government measure till now. I cannot but remember when a Bill of this kind was first introduced by Sir Morton Peto, weighted with the affecting incident of his daughter's death and the circumstance that the religious service of the Church of England could not legally be read over the body in a churchyard which he had himself given. Sir George Lewis, then Home Secretary, opposed it on behalf of the Liberal Government, and assisted in the rejection of the Bill. That Bill I take as the type of the different Bills subsequently brought forward, and it was viewed with distrust not only by Conservatives but by Liberals also. It was not for a considerable period—I do not remember the exact time—that the present Prime Minister began to be influenced. But it must be remembered that when he was so, he added to his adhesion such strong recommendations in the Committee of which he was a Member that the Committee were not prepared to go with him in all the safeguards he would introduce. In the history which my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack gave of the matter, he left out the circumstance that a Bill of this kind has not originally been opposed as a Party question or made a Party question of. It has been opposed, as, indeed, the abolition of Church rates was, by men of all Parties. A very distinguished Member of the Liberal Party told me that though he had always opposed the latter measure, yet, when the time came that it became a Party question, he felt bound to go with his Party and support it. I quite agree with my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack that we ought to terminate controversies when we can. If you can come to an issue which will terminate the controversy altogether, if you can come to a settlement without sacrificing principle, I think that you ought to do so. But does any one of your Lordships imagine that by this Bill you are about to terminate a controversy, that a definite issue 1027 is contained in the Bill, and that we have before us what is a settlement of the controversy? Strongly as I feel, I should not hesitate to surrender much if I thought that a settlement would be the result of this Bill. It is because I believe this would be no end of the controversy, that the compromise offered by such a Bill is one that would not be accepted on either side, that, looking at the principles contained in the measure, I have come to the conclusion to give my support to the right rev. Prelate who has moved the rejection of the Bill, and to thank him for taking the part he has. The civil right of burial in the churchyards no one is called upon to contest. But those who hold the churchyards hold them for ecclesiastical purposes. The old churchyards and the new churchyards have received a distinct consecration to ecclesiastical uses and religious purposes with which the National Church is associated. I want to know in what respect religious liberty is infringed by the present condition of things? The liberty is absolute except in one defined locality. With respect to the unbap-tized, Churchmen are on precisely the same footing as Nonconformists. If from any circumstance their children should die unbaptized, then Churchmen are liable to the same restriction as to the service in the churchyard as the Dissenters. And what is the grievance put forward with regard to others? The most rev. Prelate told your Lordships that in Prance he saw Protestants and Roman Catholics lying buried side by side in Roman Catholic churchyards. But he did not tell us whether the Protestants so buried were buried with their own service or with any. He told us, indeed, that Protestants lay side by side with Roman Catholics. So do Nonconformists lie side by side with Churchmen in our churchyards, without any allegation on the part of Churchmen that the churchyards are desecrated. I saw a statement by a Member of the other House that we treat Dissenters as if they were "common and unclean," and that we keep them out of the churchyards. That has never been the case. The clergy bury those who are brought to them with the rites and services of the Church of England. And now what do you propose to do? Baptists were the aggrieved in the early discussion. They, no doubt, are in great numbers in many 1028 parts of England; but I think that in most cases they have provided themselves with burial places. It is so in parts of the country which I know, and I have never heard there has been any complaint or that any person has been excluded from the churclryard. I have never heard any instance where, with the exception of some unbaptized persons, whom by the laws of the Church the clergymen were unable to bury—I say I have never heard of any instance in which an impediment was thrown in the way of burial according to the rites of the Church of England. But when you speak of Dissenters, you must remember that all Dissenters are by no means Nonconformists. In former days there was what was called "occasional conformity," and many members of the Church of England—unwisely, I think—desired to put an end to that conformity. Putting aside the Baptists, I think among the rest of the Dissenters there is a great attachment, or at least no repugnance, to the services of the Church of England. Many of them are married in church. Some 75 per cent of the marriages which take place in this country are celebrated according to the rites of the Church of England; and you would not, if you believe what is said of the proportions of the different religious bodies, have so large a number if many marriages of Dissenters were not included. The Church of England, be it remembered, has been intrusted with the custody, not of graveyards, but of churchyards. They lie around the church; the residence of the clergyman is close by, not unfrequently his windows looking over the sacred spot; and these are circumstances which show that they are places where the rites of the Church of England are to be celebrated. This is the first instance of "concurrent endowment of every kind of creed." It is an instance of handing over the property of one religious body to the use of another for religious purposes. I was always somewhat surprised when those who make a great parade of taking no assistance from the State accepted the rates for chapels for the religious rites of their burial service. But now you propose to take from the exclusive use of the Church not only the old churchyards, but the new churchyards given within recent times and dedicated to ecclesiastical uses. I myself have given 1029 land which I never 'would, have given in conjunction with the churchyard if I had known that it was to be devoted to different purposes from what I intended. For a cemetery I would have given it with the greatest pleasure possible. But, having added it to the churchyard, I feel it would be a wrong to have it taken away and dedicated to different purposes from what was intended. I think I have a right to complain that this Bill touches not only the old churchyards, which I think is wrong, but the new churchyards, which those who gave had a right to expect would not be diverted to other uses. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said those who gave land for public use in that way must take the consequences. I want to know whether Churchmen in this country are to be the only body of religionists who are to be unable to dedicate anything in safety for the purposes of their religion? [Cheers.] I must protest against such an assumption. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said they had had notice by that Bill having been introduced years ago. Was it to be supposed that a Bill which has been rejected by the House of Commons on many occasions, and which in its earlier stages was constantly rejected with the assent of the Liberal Government and the Liberal Party, was a notice that the gifts which donors made to the Church of England would be diverted from the uses for which they were given? There are, besides, many living donors who gave before the question was stirred. A great deal has been said with respect to an admitted grievance of the Nonconformists. What Mr. Ridley said on that point has been referred to. Now, the grievance which Mr. Ridley admitted was that of being compelled to have the Burial Service performed; and that grievance was provided for by the Bill brought in by the late Government in 1877, because that Bill enabled Nonconformists to have a silent burial. Silent burial was probably the kind of burial which those Protestants in France to whom the most rev. Prelate had alluded had received. Silent burial was a practice in harmony with the usages of the Presbyterians, and certainly with those of the Puritans, who had a certain repugnance to the saying of prayers over the dead, as tending in their view towards superstition, For myself, I should think 1030 it a most unreasonable thing to demand, if I were in a Roman Catholic country, where there was a Roman Catholic graveyard and a Roman Catholic chaplain, that I should be allowed to introduce there the prayers and services of my religion, which would probably excite a great deal of feeling; and I should wish to be laid there with the prayers and the tears and the kindly feelings of my friends outside, so long as I found a serene resting place, without thinking that any wrong had been done to me. The noble and learned Lord said that many of the Nonconformists wished to come to the churchyards in order that they might lie there with their deceased relatives. That, my Lords, is a sentiment which I respect and which I should desire to encourage. But, I ask, how many people are now enabled to lie with their relatives? How many persons can secure that privilege? When that very natural sentiment was invoked in the closing of Metropolitan and other burial grounds it was, on sanitary grounds, swept aside, and graveyards and the vaults within them were, closed; and I know, when I was at the Home Office, how pathetic were the entreaties on that subject, which on many occasions could not be assented to on account of the law. Then, is it unreasonable for us to ask that, if persons wish to lie with their deceased relatives, they should come into the churchyard by the same gate and with the same key as those relatives did by accepting the services of the Church of England? Curiously enough, the noble and learned Lord quoted a passage, I think from Mr. Plunket, in which he compared the advantages of mixed education with those of mixed religious services in graveyards. He said that the education of persons of mixed creeds together was valuable as tending to get rid of the acrimony which exists between those who belong to different sects. But how is it that they obtain that joint and mixed education? By ignoring religion, by putting it out of the way. Every man sinks his own distinctive religion, and so you come to have a shadowy kind of religion in which everybody is supposed to agree. It is to be just the reverse under this Bill. How are you to have harmony and peace in the churchyards if every one of the 150 sects in this country are to introduce their own services there?—a thing which 1031 would be most unjust to the clergy, and which, would also be greatly felt by the laity. With regard to the relief which should be given to the clergy, I am most desirous that they should be fairly relieved; but I cannot satisfy myself that the terms proposed in this Bill would attain that object. The clergy would still be left at the mercy of the relatives and friends of the deceased. I rejoice that Convocation should be recognized; but in this measure the Convocation of the Province of York is, to some extent, overlooked. The most rev. Prelate seemed to complain of the right rev. Prelate, because he had alluded to a resolution of the Lower House of Convocation. No doubt, a Resolution of the House of Commons could not be called the voice of the whole Parliament, so a resolution of the Lower House of Convocation could not be called the voice of Convocation. But the right rev. Prelate had fairly spoken, of the resolution in question, not as one of all Convocation, but of those who represented the feeling of the parochial clergy. My Lords, I hope that while you leave the National Church in her position you will not consent to sap and mine that position. I do not see why those who have freely gone out from her, who have not been expelled from her pale but have gone to seek what they deem a higher and better form of worship, as they have found their own chapels, should not also find their own graveyards. If they object to the Church of England services, I am quite ready to concede to them silent burial in her graveyards; but I trust, my Lords, that you will not, by this mode of mixing up different forms of religion, throw discredit upon all religion whatsoever.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
observed, that the right rev. Prelate who moved the Amendment said that it was for the clergy to bear the brunt of the battle; but he (the Earl of Kimberley) denied altogether that there was any great battle to be fought upon this occasion. No one denied that Nonconformists had a right to be buried in the churchyards; and the question raised by this Bill was not whether they should be given an additional right, but whether they should continue to attach to their existing right a condition of which they justly complained. The noble Viscount who had just sat down urged that this measure 1032 would not terminate the controversy and the antagonism which had prevailed for centuries between Dissenters and Churchmen. Hardly any of their Lordships could be sanguine enough to expect that the Bill would do that. All that was proposed by the measure was to terminate one particular controversy between Dissenters and Churchmen. Had the noble Viscount entirely forgotten that the churchyards were not always the property of the Church? Were they not once in the hands of the Roman Catholics, and had they not been turned from their original purposes? Could it really be argued that Christians were not to be at liberty to be buried in our churchyards and to have performed over them such religious service as this Bill would require? He did not think so low of the clergy as to believe they imagined that the fate of a great Church depended on a question of this kind. This was not a matter brought forward for the first time. The House came to a conclusion by a not inconsiderable majority that precisely that which was recommended by this Bill should be adopted; and with some confidence he now expressed the hope that their Lordships would not recede from that position. The Bill which he held in his hand was, he thought, one which did not go in the least beyond what the necessity of the case required. It imposed upon clergymen what he should have thought a small obligation—namely, that of allowing a religious service of some kind to be performed. Nonconformists ought to be allowed to use the churchyards as resting-places without the humiliating conditions imposed by the present law. It had been said that this was a preliminary to the disestablishment of the Church of England. Well, of course, every measure of this kind was so described. The only answer that could be given was the old answer, that if the Church of England stood in need of such a provision as that Noncomformists should not be allowed to use their religious service upon the interment of their relatives in churchyards the Church of England must be very weak indeed. He did not take that view of the case, for he believed that a very large number of the laity and clergy of the Church of England and many in their Lordships' House were of opinion that this was a wise and well-considered measure for 1033 the purpose of putting an end to a controversy which, although it was not on great matters, embittered very much indeed those differences between the various denominations in this country which all must deplore, and which he believed this Bill was calculated to diminish. Therefore, he hoped the House would give it serious consideration and allow it to be read a second time.
THE BISHOP OF BATH AND WELLS
said, he rose to say that he should vote against the second reading of the Bill; but he would do so with some reluctance, as he would act against the opinion of the most rev. Prelate, and he was unwilling to appear to act against the wishes of some of his fellow-Christians in not granting them what they seemed to desire. But he had given the Bill a good deal of consideration, and he had formed a very decided and distinct opinion that it was unjust to the Church of England, and that the consequences to her might be very serious. They were as yet undeveloped, and one could not tell what they might be. Therefore, he thought it his duty to state his reasons for objecting to the Bill. He should like, in the first instance, to say a word as to the argument, if it were founded on truth, which had just been brought forward, that all Englishmen had a common law right to the use of our churchyards, and that you could not prevent them enjoying it by a religious condition incompatible with those great principles of civil and religious liberty which had happily prevailed in this country for many years. If it were true that at any former period Englishmen had a civil right to the use of our churchyards, apart from the use of the Church Service, then the argument would be incontrovertible. But, as far as he understood, that was not the case. There never was a time when the right to interment pure and simple existed at all. He believed it was looked upon as a religious right—the right to be buried with the rites of the Church in the parish churchyard. In the eye of the law all Englishmen were members of the Church of England, and he therefore believed the right was a religious right. There would be nothing contrary to civil and religious liberty in voting against the Bill. Suppose it was allowed to clergymen to enter the chapels of the country and to preach 1034 doctrines which Dissenters disapproved of, that would be a violation of the principles of civil and religious liberty; but for many centuries the churchyards had been used by the Church ministers only, and it would be a distinct grievance to them to allow these churchyards to be used by Dissenters. He desired to respect the religious opinions of every class of fellow-Christians, and he thought it was not too much to ask that the feelings and rights of members of the Church of England should be respected likewise. If the right of performing any service other than that of the Church of England were conceded as far as the churchyard was concerned, it would be difficult, logically, to resist the exercise of the same right in the church itself? If a person had a right to object to his right of burial in the churchyard being clogged by the condition of the performance of the Burial Service of the Church of England, would he not have an equal right to object to his right to a seat in the church itself being clogged by the condition of hearing services which he disapproved? Turning to some of the objections to the Bill, he would refer, in the first place, to that which related to monumental inscriptions in the churches. Under the existing state of the law, these inscriptions were subject to the approval of the clergyman and of the Bishop of the diocese; but if the necessity for that approval were abolished, it was difficult to see how such inscriptions could be subject to efficient and proper regulation. They had heard lately of halfpenny postcards being made the instruments by which libellous matter was disseminated, and it was not impossible that, if the present restrictions were removed, tombstones might be made use of for the same purpose. In order to show that this objection was not an imaginary one, he begged leave to refer to a case in which a married man having died, his widow, supposing that the doctor who attended him during his illness had not treated him properly, that the nurse who had nursed him had neglected him, and that his brother had taken advantage of his death to deprive her of her property, and having obtained permission of the clergyman of the parish to erect a stone in memory of her husband in the parish churchyard, put up one bearing the following inscription:— 1035Neglected by his doctor,Cruel-treated by his nurse,His brother robbed his widow,Which made it all the worse.The unfortunate clergyman who had unsuspectingly authorized the erection of the stone was threatened with an action for libel, and the matter was brought into the Bishop's Court, and a faculty obtained for removing the stone. This case showed the necessity that existed for an adequate revision of inscriptions before they were allowed to be placed in the church. And then, too, with regard to doctrines. What difficulties would arise if the clergyman had to revise the doctrine on the tomb-stones, when he had no authority over the services at the grave. Another very formidable objection to the measure was that, in principle, it was altogether without precedent. During the last 200 years every law imposing religious disability upon any of Her Majesty's subjects had been swept away from the Statute Book, and perfect religious liberty was now enjoyed by all, and therefore Parliament should proceed cautiously when it was proposed to break into the legitimate boundaries of the Church. The last objection he had to urge against the measure was the extremely small number of persons to whom it would be of any benefit or to whom it would give any relief. The large towns had their cemeteries in which all could be buried with any form they chose, and therefore the operation of the Bill would be confined to agricultural parishes in which the greater proportion of the inhabitants were members of the Church of England. Of the small proportion who were Dissenters most had no objection to the Burial Service of the Church, and their Lordships would be astonished at the very small proportion of the Dissenters of Bath who preferred to be buried with the Dissenting form of service. The number was so small as to justify the application of the maxim—"De minimis non curat lex." He thought that a simple remedy might be found for the grievance—if any—which existed, by having national cemeteries throughout the country. The churchyard would then cease to be the area over which rival statesmen contended, and the place where the dead reposed to be the scene of polemical and political discussion.
§ LORD BRABOURNE
said, he hoped he might not be deemed presumptuous if, having so recently taken his seat in their Lordships' House, he sought to express, as briefly and concisely as might be, opinions upon this important question which had been matured during a somewhat long apprenticeship in the other House of Parliament. He used the word "matured" advisedly, for he was free to confess that when this question first became the subject of Parliamentary discussion, it appeared to him under a somewhat different aspect from that which it bore to-day. In this respect, however, he imagined that he was in the same position as a great many other Churchmen. At first, they scarcely understood and appreciated the nature and extent of the grievance of which complaint was made—it had not appeared to them in a practical form in their own neighbourhood, and they were rather inclined to believe those who told them that this was only an attack by the enemies of the Church upon one of her outposts, and that the grievance was exaggerated by those who wished to advance under its shelter their covert designs to overthrow the Establishment. A fuller and closer consideration had convinced him, as he thought it had convinced many other Churchmen, that they were mistaken in their first conclusions—the grievance did exist, and it demanded a remedy. And he would venture to point out two things to their Lordships which he thought the friends of the Church of England ought clearly to recognize and understand. The first was this—that if, indeed, there were those who desired to injure the Established Church, and who were ready to take up such questions as the present with that intent, there were also a vast number of Nonconformists who had no such desire, but who were content to live side by side with Churchmen, discharging their social and religious duties without any such feeling of hostility towards the Church; there were, moreover, certainly in the agricultural districts of the South of England, and probably elsewhere, large numbers of people who attended at different times both Church and Chapel, who thought that one was nearly as good as the other, and who, if they did not come up to the standard of orthodoxy which might be desired, could hardly be called enemies or even oppo- 1037 Dents of the Establishment. He ventured to think that nothing could be more unwise or undesirable on the part of Churchmen than to drive these people into the arms of the enemies of the Established Church, thus giving to the latter the great vantage ground of a tangible grievance, and placing the Church and her ministers in an invidious light before the eyes of the people. Their aim, he thought, should be the very reverse, and where a grievance had been found to exist it should be their wisdom to remove it. The other point which he wished to urge upon their Lordships was with respect to the character of the alleged grievance. The right rev. Prelate who had moved the rejection of the Bill had spoken of it as a grievance of no substantial character, and many persons appeared to think that they had satisfactorily disposed of the whole matter when they called it a "sentimental grievance." He (Lord Bra-bourne) wished to point out the grave mistake and the fallacy contained in such an argument. What was a sentimental grievance? It was something which appealed to the heart rather than to the understanding. In other words, it was something which men felt without waiting to reason it out, and when we had to deal with such a grievance, we might argue with cold and calm logic as long as we pleased to prove that it did not exist, or was at best unreal and intangible; but, practically, it was more real and tangible and more difficult to encounter than any other grievance whatever. There was one expression which had fallen from the noble Viscount (Viscount Cranbrook) to which he desired to take exception at once. He said that this Bill was "the first attempt to take the property of one denomination and give it to another." He (Lord Brabourne) protested against the idea of calling the Church of England a denomination. This it was that underlaid the whole question. The Church of England was the National Church, and it was from that point of view that he supported the Bill. With regard to the legal part of the question, he did not desire to trespass upon their Lordships, inasmuch as it had been exhaustively dealt with in the speech of the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack who introduced the Bill. But, inasmuch as there were many clergy- 1038 men who expressed a desire for disestablishment rather than give way to this Bill, he would venture to remark that if disestablishment took place tomorrow, these clergymen would, receive no relief whatever, for the legal status of the Nonconformist would be unaffected, and, in all probability, his right to burial in the parish churchyard, without interference of the clergy, would be more firmly established than ever. But, speaking of legal questions, he (Lord Brabourne) was anxious to call attention to a document published in 1879, and again reproduced within the last few days, bearing the signatures of many noblemen and gentlemen, who said that they had within the last 35 years been donors of lands for the formation of new or addition to old churchyards, and protesting against the perversion of their objects which would be effected by this Bill. It would ill-become him to say a word that could be construed as disrespectful of those most estimable persons, all of whom, both in their original gift and their subsequent protest, had doubtless been actuated by the best and highest motives. But he must venture to say of that protest, that it was a most ill-omened document for the Church of England, if, indeed, any weight whatever was to be attached to it. For what did we mean when we spoke of the Church as a National Church? We meant that she was the Church of the nation, allied and united to the State, and she must accept all the consequences of such a position. It might be an advantage or a disadvantage; but so long as the union of Church and State continued the Church must be subject to the laws passed by Parliament in the name of the nation, and ratified by the consent of the Sovereign. And for persons who had given property to the Church as a National Institution, afterwards to claim in any way to control the management or direction of that property which had become national property, and was subject, like all other national property, to the laws which regulated that property, was a claim utterly preposterous in itself, and which struck a direct blow at the nationality of the Church. In addressing their Lordships upon this question, he (Lord Brabourne) was not so much in a difficulty to find arguments as to avoid repeating those which their Lordships had heard 1039 again and again. The right rev. Prelate had told them that if they passed this Bill it would satisfy nobody, but would be used as a stepping stone for further attacks upon the Church. Something else would follow—something worse would be entailed upon them. But this was the argument which had been used against every change, every reform, every improvement since the creation of the world. It was the old argument of the fortress which had to be defended; and with regard to every outwork there would always be some who would say that its abandonment would give the enemy vantage ground for further attacks, whilst others would believe it better to concentrate the forces of the garrison within more defensible entrenchments. The argument was one useless for general application, and each particular case must be dealt with upon its own merits. It was for their Lordships to consider, not what might follow, or what some feared might follow, if they yielded to this demand; but whether the demand was in itself just and right, and, if so, they would not be wrong in granting it, and ought to be deterred by no vague apprehensions of the future. He (Lord Brabourne) had no right to speak—nor did he pretend to speak—as the champion of Nonconformists. He spoke as an English Churchman; and he said, emphatically, that it was for the best interests of the Church of England that the principle of this Bill should be accepted by their Lordships. If he thought the contrary—if he believed for one moment that the position of the Church would be weakened by this measure—he should hesitate long before he gave it his support. For, however great the grievance to Nonconformists, if the removal of that grievance entailed the infliction of an equal or a greater grievance upon others, it would be right to hesitate. But, for his part, he could not bring himself to believe that this would be the case, or that any evil would arise from this measure. He would ask who and what were the Dissenters for whom this Bill was to be passed? He would not answer in his own words, but in those of an eminent divine, who had lately received the recognition of his services by elevation to the Episcopal Bench. He (Lord Brabourne) held in his hand a pamphlet bearing the title Shall We 1040 Surrender? and written four years ago by one who was then known all over England as Canon Ryle. It was the case against the Bill, and it breathed throughout that bellicose spirit which they naturally expected to find in the sayings and writings of eminent theologians. The writer recommended Churchmen not to give up an inch of their line of defence, to fight out the Church's battle at once, and to offer an uncompromising resistance to Mr. Osborne Morgan's Bill, or any similar measure. But before the lion had lashed himself into the temper which dictated these words, he was somewhat milder; and in the commencement of his pamphlet, after describing himself as an Evangelical Churchman, he gave a description also of Dissenters. He said—I do not regard English Dissenters as Schismatics and Samaritans. I believe that the vast majority of English Dissenting chapels owe their existence to the disgraceful neglect and apathy of the Church of England.If those words were true—and no one who knew the history of his country could doubt their truth—if it was owing to our neglect and apathy, or rather, as he (Lord Brabourne) would put it, to the want of proper Church organization in time past, that so much Dissent prevailed among us, were we not doubly and trebly bound to treat every claim, every demand, every complaint of grievance on the part of Dissenters, not only with forbearance and consideration, but with the utmost tenderness? They heard much of the rights of the clergy and of the rights of Churchmen; but, for his part, he valued no right that was founded upon the wrongs of others. The days were past when in this free country an Established Church could exist upon the principle of privilege as regarded itself, and exclusion and prohibition towards others. If the Church was to endure and prosper as an Establishment, she must appeal more and more largely to national feelings; she must more and more conciliate to herself popular sympathies; she must open wider her portals, and endeavour to attract rather than repel those who were still outside. We were living in times when we had great occasion to seek for points of agreement rather than of difference among Christians, for never had we more need of the words of one of our beautiful prayers—"Grace seriously to lay to heart the 1041 great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions;" and all this time the enemies of our common Christianity were at work. No one who knew the University life of the present day, and the general life of English youth, could deny that scepticism and infidelity were actively at work. And these enemies of Christianity boldly lifted up their heads amongst us at the present time. They claimed places in our Senate—they challenged orthodoxy to combat—they openly derided the fundamental truths of Christianity. Surely this was no time to magnify the divisions among various bodies of Christians, or to weaken ourselves by internal dissensions in the very presence of the enemy; but rather to aim, by every means in our power, at Christian unity, There was one other argument which he wished to urge before he resumed his seat. They were at the beginning of a new Parliament. The country had recently passed through the ordeal of a General Election, and some of them had been surprised at the extreme opinions, political and religious, which had been avowed, and had found favour with some of the constituencies. If those opinions were to be successfully encountered and counteracted, it must not be by a policy of obstinate and dogged resistance to change, but by wise conciliation and prudence. It would be of ill omen for the future of this Parliament—of ill augury for the success of the work before them—if their Lordships, by their first division, rejected a Bill which was offered by Her Majesty's Government as a settlement of a question so important as the present. These were the only lines upon which the question could ultimately be settled, and they could not prevent that settlement. Every year, every month, every week they delayed it, they would increase the heartburnings and dissensions which attended such a question, and greatly magnify the difficulty of its settlement. For his part, he did not pretend to endorse all the details of the Bill; but, believing its principle to be right and just and its tendency to be towards that Christian unity which was so much to be desired, he cordially thanked the Government for having introduced it at so early a period, and to its second reading he gave his humble but hearty support.
who asked for indulgence in addressing their Lordships for the first time, was understood to insist 1042 on the parallel between this legislation and that which took place in the case of the Irish Church. He contended, from his own experience as a clergyman who had ministered in rural parishes, that there was nothing in the present system of burial which could fairly be said to outrage the feelings of Dissenters. The great majority of towns had public cemeteries, where the Dissenters were altogether spared the grievance of having the Burial Service of the Church of England read over the remains of their relatives. Even in the country parishes the Bill was neither needed nor required. In 30 years' ministry in Yorkshire and Lancashire he had not been called upon to officiate at the funeral of a Presbyterian, Socinian, Independent, or Unitarian, and only in one case at that of a Roman Catholic; and in the latter case he was told that if he omitted any portion of the service he should give great offence. The Wesleyan Methodists were, more or less, well-affected towards the Church and welcomed the clergy. The Wesleyan Methodist Prayer Book, indeed, was almost the counterpart of their own. The reading of the Church of England Service, therefore, could not be so great a grievance to the Dissenters. Knowing, as they did, that money was always forthcoming for the building of Dissenting chapels, could they think that they were so mean as to begrudge the few pounds which would be required in the few parishes where the present system was unsatisfactory. If this Bill were conceded, it would immediately be followed by further demands. Having given up the churchyards, they would next be required to give up the fabric of the Church. The Church and the churchyard were held on the same tenure, and, having relinquished one, they would soon be despoiled of the other. Then would come the total surrender of the property of the Church; and every parish would become a hot-bed of agitation, a prey to Dissent and religious animosity. The parochial sys-tern would be entirely destroyed, and the Church, torn limb from limb, would be handed over, a defenceless trunk, to the Liberation Society. Speaking, not on behalf of any extreme party, but of the great moderate party in the Church, of which the great bulk of the clergy were composed, he would say if their feelings were outraged by the passing of this Bill, the burden laid on their 1043 shoulders would become greater than they were able to bear, and the clergy, who had been so long opposed to disestablishment, would be its warmest advocates.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, although this Burials Question has been for several years before your Lordships' House, I have never spoken upon it; and as it seems now, happily, to be nearing a final settlement, I hope your Lordships will not think me obtrusive if, on this occasion, I occupy a few moments of your time. My Lords, I am bound to admit, in all candour and fairness, that I cannot go the full length of what I understand to be the argument on which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack rests his support of this measure. I have listened carefully to the controversy, and I cannot see that there has been made out any absolute and indefeasible right, such as is claimed on the part of every parishioner, to be buried in the parish churchyard with such services and ceremonies as his friends may prefer. That, I take it, is the contention on the Nonconformists' side. I know it is said to be a common-law right; but I fail to see how any such right can be established, remembering that, if it existed, it must have dated from a time when Nonconformity was regarded by the common law as an offence. But I do not care to argue a question like that, which seems to be one of speculation and theory. I am the less careful to argue it because, whatever may be put forward as the argument of those who support the Bill, yet, as I read the Bill itself, the claim which is advanced in theory is not put forward in practice. I can understand a claim that every man, be his opinions what they may, shall be buried with the service that his family or friends prefer. I can understand, on the other hand, the contention that no service except that of the Establishment shall be allowed. Both these opposite contentions rest on a basis of possible argument. But, if this is to be treated as a matter of common citizenship, and as a matter of right founded upon such citizenship, I confess that I cannot understand how freedom to use their own ceremonies can be conceded to Nonconformists, and, at the same time, refused to a Positivist, or a Freethinker, or a Jew. That looks to me like doing away with the religious test which you have got, and substituting a new one. 1044 It may not be a matter of much practical importance, because Jews and Positivists do not abound in the rural districts, and in the towns they have cemeteries open to them. But it throws a certain air of; unreality over the claim of right which is urged, when we find that that right is to be made subject in practice to a purely arbitrary limitation. But, my Lords, there is a good deal in this controversy beyond the question of right to which I have alluded, and which is really a very small part of the whole subject. There is the question of policy and national expediency, and it is from that point of view that I prefer to look at it. Nobody disputes that it is for the Legislature to make such regulations as it pleases on the subject of burials. There is no question of private property involved, nor of individual or private rights invaded. A churchyard is not the private possession of the clergyman; he cannot treat it as his own garden. What rights he has over it are vested in him only as a trustee for public purposes; and the whole question, therefore, what these public purposes shall be, is one for the Legislature to determine. My Lords, I lay stress on this distinction, perhaps from a rather personal reason. If it had seemed to me that a violation of individual rights was concerned, I could not justify the having held aloof from earlier attemps to deal with the question. But I do not see it so; and, while I thought a compromise possible, I was willing to wait. It is abundently clear, now, that no compromise is possible—every attempt at one has failed. We have to choose between this Bill and keeping things as they are; and the question is, which shall we choose? My Lords, I think we are bound to ask ourselves which solution is most to the general advantage of the public? We cannot satisfy all parties; but which party of the two will have the most cause for dissatisfaction if the verdict of Parliament goes against them? There is no doubt, I apprehend, that, in the present state of things, there is, to call it by no harsher term, considerable inconvenience and annoyance involved to the Nonconformist. He may or may not be wronged—that is open to dispute; but he undoubtedly suffers hardship. He cannot choose the place of burial for his parents or his children; he cannot, being mostly a poor man, bury them at a distance; he must have recourse to 1045 the parish, graveyard, at least, in a rural district; and he is, therefore, precluded from the use of his own services and the attendance of his own minister. You have there a real, tangible, substantial grievance. The noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cranbrook) asks why Dissenters cannot set up graveyards of their own? In populous places they can do so; but a large proportion of the Nonconformists are scattered over rural districts, one or two families, perhaps, in a parish. They mostiy belong to the poorer class, and to tell them to set up graveyards for themseves is really to mock them. Now, what is there on the other side? My Lords, what removes any possible scruple on my part about making this change is that, looking at the matter in every light, I fail utterly to see how the clergy or their supporters are injured by it. What are the ways in which a class can be injuriously affected? Mainly three: you may destroy or lessen their influence; you may alter their social position, so far as it depends on the offices they fill; or you may take away their official incomes. Now, in this case, the money question is not raised at all, inasmuch as ample security is given that the clergy shall not lose in that respect. Can it be argued that, if this Bill passes, their influence over their congregations or their social status will be in any way diminished? My Lords, there is something ludicrous in the very idea that they gain in importance or in influence by having imposed upon them the duty of burying persons whose families would rather employ somebody else for the purpose. It cannot be an agreeable office under the circumstances. It is not an office which confers any social dignity; and, in fact, it is not a monopoly of the right of burial which they lose—they have not got it now; for if a Nonconformist family can find or make a burial ground of their own across the way, they may have their own minister and their own service there. My Lords, when you look at the matter from the point of view of what the clergy lose by this Bill, it is really not easy to understand how so small a matter should have created so strong a feeling. My Lords, I have heard it argued that the clergy will feel, if this Bill passes, and if Nonconformists are allowed to officiate in consecrated ground, that there is a kind of recognition of the Nonconformist minister by the Church, which they cannot 1046 conscientiously acquiesce in. My answer is, that they are not asked to acquiesce in it. The matter is taken out of their hands. In whatever sense this Bill may be said to recognize Nonconformity it is the State that does so, and not the Church. The incumbent is not asked to take any step in common with the Nonconformist. He is simply directed in certain cases to step aside and let the Nonconformist act in his place. I do not see how a man's conscience can be offended where no action is required of him but a simple absence of interference with the action of another person. But, then, the laity belonging to the Established Church, are they in any way injured? That is even more difficult to show. If a rule existed at present that no person not a Churchman should be be buried in the parish churchyard, I could understand some people disliking its relaxation. I need not say that I should have no sympathy with any such feeling; but its existence would be intelligible. But there is no such exclusion now. Any Nonconformist, any Freethinker, however public his opinions may be, can be deposited in the parish churchyard now, side by side with the orthodox, and nobody objects. Only it must be the parson of the parish who presides over the ceremony of putting him there. The remains of the historian Gibbon, to take one celebrated instance, rest in a Sussex churchyard, and nobody finds fault. If non - Churchmen are buried side by side with Churchman, how can it be a shock to anyone's feelings that they should be put where they lie by persons of their own opinions? I could understand the hard, harsh, intolerant rule, which says—"This is consecrated ground; let none but the faithful be interred here." But I do not follow the reasoning, which says—"This is consecrated ground; it is not profaned by the interment of a non-believer, whoever he may be, or of an immoral and disreputable person; but it is profaned if any except the authorized minister utters a prayer or delivers an address." That does not seem consistent. Yet it is only on that plea that you can at once approve the present practice and reject the change which this Bill makes. My Lords, there is one objection to this measure which long weighed with me, which, I think, has more reality in it and deserves to be treated more seriously than those I have referred to. It is the 1047 fear that the precedent set as to churchyards will be extended to churches also. My Lords, I say sincerely that I should think such opening of parish churches to all sects an act of injustice in itself, and a most impolitic proceeding. Even in the extreme case of a severance between Church and State, I hold that places of worship should remain in the hands of those to whom they now belong. They are reserved in Ireland by the Act which disestablished the Church there, and they ought to be so here if ever we are in the same position. But I think that a distinction between the church and the churchyard is easy to draw. In the first place, most parish churches have been re-built or restored in late years by those who worship in them, and the number being restored and re-built is increasing every year. There are no funds for these purposes except the voluntary contributions of those who belong to them, and that circumstance alone would be sufficient to create a strong claim to exclusive possession; but it cannot be contended that anything like the same cost has been incurred in keeping up the churchyards. In the next place, Nonconformist funerals in churchyards will not constitute any practical interference with the use of the place by the habitual worshippers. They will occur seldom, and generally, I suppose, on week days. But Nonconformist services in churches would be a serious interference with the habitual congregation. And, lastly, there is a sort of feeling which, perhaps, it is not easy to reason upon, which connects itself with a building habitually used for solemn purposes, and which does not equally exist in connection with a mere open space. But, my Lords, I will put the matter in this way. Suppose, which I believe is not the case, that Nonconformists in general desire the use of the churches, they will employ their Parliamentary power to get it. But, will they employ it less if this Bill does not pass? I do not think you ought to be withheld from granting what you think reasonable in itself merely because you suppose that some of those who ask it will ask for what is not reasonable at a later stage. Is it not a gain from, your point of view, that nine-tenths of those who now complain will be silenced by what it is now proposed to give them? The remaining tenth will not be very formidable, and you may fairly leave them alone. So with that larger ques- 1048 tion of disestablishment and disendow-ment. I do not say that this Bill will do very much to avert any risk that there may be of a measure of that kind being proposed; but, whatever it does, it will be in the direction of diminishing that risk. The right rev. Prelate who spoke first this evening (the Bishop of Lincoln) told us that the passing of this Bill would be only the forerunner of disendowment and disestablishment. I should have attached greater weight to that warning if I had not heard and read something like it very often before. Precisely the same thing was said when Catholic Emancipation was granted, when the disabilities of the Dissenters were removed, when the Jews were admitted to Parliament; and very much the same thing was said, not more than 20 years ago, when Church rates were done away with. Now, you cannot open a pamphlet or read a newspaper article on the state of the Church at the present time, written by anyone zealous in the interests of the Church, but it is sure to contain the highest panegyrics and congratulations on the zeal, the energy, the reviving influence, and the increased activity of the clerical body. I do not say that all these consequences have followed from the legislation to which I have referred; but I say that none of those measures have prevented that revival taking place which has undoubtedly occurred. Then, my Lords, comes the plea which certainly is a plausible one. We are asked—"Is it fair that the Established Church, alone of all denominations, should be unable to set apart burial-places exclusively for the use of its own members?" To that I answer, first, that the parish churchyard stands on a different footing from, any private burial-place established by a Nonconformist sect, inasmuch as it cannot be denied that the fact of connection with the State places the Established Church in a very different position from that of any other religious body. The peculiar privilege which the Establishment holds confers great advantages, and those who enjoy it ought not to complain if there are some corresponding drawbacks. But, secondly, I should answer that if private persons, be they few or many, choose to establish a burial-ground of their own in connection with the Established Church, I see nothing in this Bill, nor in the law as it stands, that prevents their doing so; and in regard 1049 to any such, ground, I suppose they would be free to frame any rules they pleased. That is a right which ought not to be taken from them, and I do not believe that this Bill in any way disturbs it. My Lords, for these reasons—because this Bill settles a long pending dispute in the only way in which it can be settled; because it violates no private right and injures nobody; because I believe the feeling of pain and resentment which it undoubtedly produces in some quarters will pass off with time, and in no great length of time, I shall support the second reading. But there are some points in which I think it admits of being amended. One is the limitation of Christian services. I am not going to argue that question on any broad, speculative ground; but is it wise to put into an Act of Parliament a term which you cannot define, and a restriction which you cannot enforce? You cannot deny to the Unitarian Body the title of Christians; their services are undoubtedly Christian services; but the line of demarcation between at least a part of the Unitarian Body and those who profess simple Theism is a very vague one. I hope that before this clause passes your Lordships will ask yourselves whether the words "Christian service" are capable of accurate definition for legal purposes. For instance, is a service non-Christian in which the name of the Founder of the Christian religion is not simply mentioned? Does it become non-Christian by mere omission? Questions of that kind would be disagreeable as well as difficult to have to argue in a Court of Law. What we should all agree in is to prohibit controversial and irritating language of any kind on the occasion of a funeral; and if words can be framed that will answer that purpose, I think any other restriction might be withdrawn. I say this the more, as the restriction is not likely to be operative. The offence is in its nature very difficult to face; and, practically, it is not likely that prosecutions for it will ever take place. The other point in which this Bill seems to me objectionable is that which, if I understand the proposal rightly, gives to every curate the right of varying the Burial Service at his discretion, according to his personal judgment of the merits and character of the person whom he is burying. ["No!"] I am glad to find that in that respect I 1050 am wrong. At any rate, the matter is one which may be dealt with in Committee; and I have no hesitation in saying that I shall support the second reading of the Bill.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
said, that the merits of the Bill were so apparent that very little argument was required to show them. It had been contended by the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Bath and Wells) that no Englishman had a right at common law to be buried in the parish churchyard, or, at any rate, that that right arose from the fact that he was supposed to be a member of the Church of England. Well, he (the Earl of Dunraven) was not conversant with the common law of England; but he understood, and he believed it to be the fact, that every Englishman had a right to interment in his parish churchyard, not because he was supposed to be a member of the Church of England, but because it was necessary for him to be buried somewhere, and the parish churchyard was the appropriate place for him to be buried in. The noble Eai-1 who had just sat down (the Earl of Derby) truly observed there could be no doubt about the grievance of Nonconformists, and that it was a great one; but the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cranbrook) appeared to have very great doubt on that subject. In fact, the right rev. Prelate who spoke first (the Bishop of Lincoln), and the noble Viscount opposite, said the grievance, if it existed at all, was very small and limited. Well, considering the number of times that this question had been mooted in Parliament, considering the fact that there were several societies whose special and only object was to remove this state of things, it appeared more likely that Nonconformists in Lincolnshire had a grievance than that they had no grievance at all. The noble Viscount laid some stress upon the hardship that the Bill would inflict upon the donors of land for the purpose of a churchyard, and said that such land would be used for purposes other than those for which it was given. But it appeared to him (the Earl of Dunraven) that by this Bill they would be able to apply that land to the object for which it was given. The churchyards were given to the nation, and intended to be for the nation's use; and the substantial object of the Bill was to give effect to that principle, and to en,- 1051 able the nation to have the practical enjoyment of its right. The right rev. Prelate who moved the Amendment mentioned the case of Ireland, and said that no good accrued to Ireland from the 1868 Bill, hut. a great deal of harm. He could scarcely agree with the right rev. Prelate. It might just as well be said that because Parliament had long withstood the just claims of Nonconformists, we had had bad trade and agricultural depression, and were obliged to resort to a Hares and Rabbits Bill to do something for the farmer. Ireland was a very distracted country. Religious intolerance ran very high, and, perhaps, the one gleam in the darkness was that they did not carry their sectarian bitterness beyond the fences of the churchyard. The only objection he had to the Bill was that difficulties might arise from the insertion of the word "Christian" before the description of services. It was a term very difficult to define, and would lead to a great deal of litigation and heart-burning. He thought clauses guarding against indecent or scandalous proceedings would be quite sufficient, leaving the rest to the good taste and good feeling of the people. It had been objected to the measure that it was but a beginning, and that it must inevitably lead up to the disestablishment of the Church. He could not accept that assertion, because he did not believe that those of their Lordships who intended to vote in favour of this Bill were necessarily opposed to the, Established Church. For his own part he desired, in favour of the Church, that this measure should become law. He also thought Churchmen ought to support the Bill, because there was nothing more foolish in the Church militant, as in military tactics, than to make a strong fight on a weak point. It might be very well to skirmish round the churchyard fence; but to make too strong an opposition to the principle of the Bill would be to incur the risk of allowing the line of the churchyard fence to be eventually forced with such a rush that there would be scarcely time to close the church doors before the enemy captured that position also. He supported the measure for three reasons—first, because it would relieve Nonconformists from a great grievance; secondly, because it would take from England the odium of being the only country in the world where 1052 such a state of law existed; and, thirdly, because it would strengthen the position of the Church, in order that when the attack upon her did come she might be strong enough to withstand it.
THE BISHOP OF LONDON
desired to state the reasons which led him, after mature consideration, to vote in favour of the second reading of this Bill. He did not, however, intend to give that vote on the ground put forward by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, that it was the common-law right of every person in this country to be buried in the parish graveyard, but because he thought the concession demanded could safely be granted. The noble and learned Lord appeared to have overlooked the fact that for the last 30 years the graveyards had been closed in many parishes, as, for example, St. James's, Westminster, which had refused to provide parochial cemeteries, and that there were, therefore, many thousands of individuals who had no common-law right to be buried in any place unless they or their relations purchased such a right from one of the different cemetery companies. At all events, none had a common-law right to be buried in the churchyard with any ceremonies they chose, the right of burial, such as it was, being coupled with the condition that they should have the Service of the Church of England performed over them. It was said that the grievance felt by Dissenters in this matter was only a sentimental one; but their Lordships were aware that sentimental grievances were more severely felt than those which were physical or pecuniary, in the family, the State, and the Church. In his opinion, the only fair way of estimating a sentimental grievance was to place oneself in the position of those who felt themselves aggrieved by it, and he must honestly say that he should regard it as a great grievance if, having been brought up as a member of the Church of England, he were compelled to be buried in a strange burial-ground with a form of service to which he had entertained an objection during his life. But it was said there would be a grievance inflicted on the Churchman if the Bill were passed, as he would be subjected to the intrusion into the churchyard of one with whom he had differed on religious matters. So far as he was concerned it would be not the slightest 1053 grievance to Mm that the friends of a deceased Nonconformist requested that he should be buried, and that instead of the Burial Service being read, prayers of which they approved should be reverently offered up. He should be more glad than otherwise at such a request. Then it was feared by some that offensive and profane proceedings would occur in the graveyards. They had already had some experience of the way in which the concession would be used, for in almost every large town there were cemeteries, partly consecrated and partly unconsecrated, and he had obtained returns from the chaplains of the various cemeteries around the Metropolis on that point, and the result showed that at the great majority of the burials in unconsecrated ground the Burial Service of the Church of England, or portion of it, was read, and that all the other services were conducted in a peaceable, orderly, and unobjectionable manner. Considering the strong public opinion that prevailed against objectionable demonstrations in churchyards, he thought it most improbable that any such scene would occur. He considered the Bill very valuable also as conceding to Churchmen what they had so long asked for—namely, liberty in certain cases to make alterations in the service, and he recognised in it an earnest attempt to heal a sore, to close an irritating question, and he hoped it would be so accepted by those for whoso relief it was intended. In conclusion, he would say he did not apprehend any danger to the Church from the passing of this Bill.
§ EARL SPENCER
said, it was satisfactory to find that the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London), who had hitherto considered it his duty to oppose a Bill on the same lines as the one under consideration, had now thought fit to support the Bill of Her Majesty's Government. Indeed, the whole spirit of the debate had been one of uniform toleration, and no bitterness had been exhibited on the one side or the other. The right rev. Prelate who opened the debate referred to a measure introduced for Ireland in 1868, and stated that in the opinion of two distinguished Prelates the effect of granting similar concessions in Ireland was failure in itself, and damage to the Church then there established. He could assure his right rev. Friend that nothing of the kind hap- 1054 pened. The object of the Bill was to remove a long-standing injustice under which a large body of our fellow-countrymen had long laboured, and it had removed that injustice most effectually; but anybody would indeed be sanguine who thought that a simple measure of justice would entirely remove and remedy a grievance which had lasted many centuries. The danger to the Church of England which the right rev. Prelate had predicted had already been disposed of by noble Lords who followed him, and he asked, Could anyone say that there was danger of disestablishment if this Bill passed? In point of fact, there was no connection whatever between the Act of 1868 and the Irish Church Act, and the latter Act expressly preserved the rights of the Protestant Church in Ireland to the exclusive use of the churches in that country. The right rev. Prelate who spoke later (the Bishop of Bath and Wells) had referred to the alteration which was made in the registration of marriages and baptisms, and asked why this question also could not be settled without taking away any of the rights of the Church? Well, it was easy to find other places of registry; but it would be difficult to find other places of burial than the churchyard. The grievance was this—if one member of a Nonconformist family was buried in the churchyard, the others could not be buried with him unless with a service to which they objected. It had been said that the grievance was a small one, and did not affect the large towns; but even there the grievance did exist, and the Bill proposed to remedy it. But, putting all the large towns aside, they would find an enormous part of the country where the grievance existed. If they took the number of consecrated places of worship and compared them with the quantity of consecrated ground, and then compared that with the number of unconsecrated places of worship and the quantity of unconsecrated ground, they would see that a very large number of the populalation had a grievance such as he had described. In England and Wales, speaking roughly, there were about 15,468 consecrated places of worship and about 14,012 consecrated burial-grounds. There were 20,490 unconsecrated churches and 5,005 unconsecrated grounds, Whereas there was about one 1055 consecrated churchyard to every consecrated building in the country, there was only one churchyard unconsecrated to about four unconsecrated buildings. Therefore, although the Dissenters could have their services in 5,000 churchyards in the country, they were precluded from having services to which they attached importance in more than 14,000. When you were redressing a grievance and an injustice, it did not matter whether the numbers suffering from it were large or small. The right thing to do was to redress the grievance. They were told that the Church of England would suffer by the passing of the Bill; but really, as a Churchman, he could not understand this argument at all. He could not understand how a Church so learned in its Prelates and clerical members, so rich in endowments, and with such a large following in the country, could be placed in jeopardy by the passing of a Bill of this kind. On the contrary, he believed it would strengthen the Church, by showing that it did not rely on such small matters, and it would remove a blot on Christian charity and Christian faith. It was said that justice ought to be consistent; but was it consistent with what Parliament had already done to reject this Bill? Would it be consistent with the relief from Jewish disabilities, with Catholic Emancipation, or with the abolition of Church rates? Consistency required that they should pass the Bill in order to keep pace with the progress of the principles which were advocated when these measures were passed and which did not bring any danger to the Church, but, on the contrary, strengthened its position in the country. In many parts of France, as already stated, Dissenters might be buried side by side with Roman Catholics. In Paris, he believed, the Roman Catholics consecrated the ground with each interment, and the next grave might be that of a Dissenter without any distinction between them. In Austria and Hungary, for many years past, Dissenters had been permitted not only to bury their dead in the churchyards but also to preach in them. Why should we be afraid of doing what other countries had done in liberally opening the churchyards to all? He sincerely trusted their Lordships would pass the measure, and remove what was an injustice to a large body of our fellow countrymen.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
said, he could hardly reconcile himself to the position of a silent voter upon the question. A great deal was said as to whether the present state of the law was a grievance, and it was called a sentimental grievance. As to that, a man was the sole judge of his own grievance; and if he said he had one and continued to say it, we should be right in inferring that for him at least a grievance did exist. In Scotland, the graveyards were under the control of the Presbyterians; they were not consecrated, and interments were made with any service the relatives liked. He was told that no difficulty had been met with, and that the Scotch system worked well. When such appalling descriptions were given of what might happen with Mormonites, Socinians, Jews, they ought to take a more charitable view based upon actual experience. There had been no disturbance in Scotland, and he did not believe there would be any in England. There was a limit to the manifestation of human perversity; people generally behaved well at the grave-side, and he believed they would endeavour to behave still more reverently and decently under the operation of a measure of this kind. An argument he had not recovered from yet was that used by his right rev. Brother (the Bishop of Lincoln), that the two Irish measures of l868 and l869 had any connection with each other. The only flaw in it was that the Act opening the Irish churchyards was passed in 1824, and all that was done in 1868 was to render unnecessary the consent of the clergyman, because it had been refused in one or two cases. He could only say that if the disestablishment of the Irish Church followed as a consequence from the taking away of the power of a few clergymen to prohibit burials, then the fabric of the Irish Church was of the frailest possible description. He had not heard much about the clergy in this debate, and yet there was something to be said on their account. In 1843, at the funeral in a London cemetery of an infidel writer and publisher named Richard Carlile, the clergyman, against the wishes of the friends, read the service. No wonder that that proceeding led to a commotion. The clergyman was not compellable to read it, unless the demand to have it read had been made by the friends, This was an extreme 1057 case; but there were cases not so extreme. The other day a clergyman wrote to him about a case, the difficulty of which had to be met before there was time for a reply, and the clergyman met it by omitting a portion of the service. It was a painful and difficult position in which to be placed, and the clergyman technically committed a breach of the law, for the Church of England Service had to be read over a Dissenter when the demand was made. He thought the time would come when the clergy would look back upon the controversy and say, What a strange position we had placed ourselves in ! We made a demand that we should of right go to the grave of a man whom ministerially we never saw, and that we should read over his remains a service which conveyed words of hope to the minds of the survivors, and therefore implied some degree of knowledge of their spiritual condition, and when some other arrangement was proposed we took our stand upon our right to read the Church Service over every one who was brought, whether we knew them or not. That was the point of view from which he regarded this question. He was perfectly well aware that the clergy held strong views upon the matter, and that they did not like the invasion of the churchyards; and yet he could not help thinking, when they looked back upon this painful controversy, that they would be thankful that the time had come when they were relieved from the duty of administering the rite of burial to the bodies of persons who would not accept their ministrations in life. There was, however, one part of the Bill to which he took exception. It had been shown most clearly by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that there was right of sepulture only in churchyards, and the right did not apply to cemeteries, or rather the contrary applied; and Parliament provided that there should be unconsecrated ground for those who did not accept the Church Service. The Common Law right had been dealt with there and disposed of, and the only reason given for including cemeteries in the Bill was that it might facilitate members of families being interred in the same ground. But these arrangements were comparatively recent. and since they were made Dissenters had been buried in the unconsecrated ground. There was, there- 1058 fore, no necessity to commit a wrong to Churchmen by including cemeteries in the Bill in order to remedy a grievance which, under the circumstances, could not very well exist. What was the amount of the injustice? It was that cemeteries were made by the rates, and Nonconformists had paid their share; but a Nonconformist might say he did not go by consecration, but wished to show every mark of respect to his dead relative, and would therefore bury his father or his wife in that ground. He thought, to make the Bill complete, cemeteries should be excepted. With reference to the clauses for the protection of the clergy, he thought them essential to the Bill. While, therefore, he voted for the second reading, he voted for the Bill as a whole; and if he found that those clauses had been dropped, he should reserve to himself the power to vote against the mutilated Bill. At the present moment the clergyman was bound to bury all his own people; but this Bill proposed that Nonconformists should have power to instruct their own ministers to read the service over their dead. But what if the Dissenter should not be able to find a minister of his own persuasion to read the service? The clergy should have some protection from the statutory obligation to read the service over the grave of any person over whom his relations could not obtain a Nonconformist minister to do so. The clergy felt very strongly about this question. He had received many letters on the subject, some of them indicating an intention to leave their position in the Church rather than submit to such a measure. He did not think any man should leave his position for such a cause; but the feeling was deep and strong. If the 10th and 11th clauses were passed, they would reconcile the clergy to the measure in a great degree. It was clear to him that the time had come when the question must be settled. In his opinion, it would have been better for the Church that it should have been settled 10 years ago. In that case, they would have obtained much better terms. They would even have obtained better terms had the Party opposite seen its way to accept the decision come to two years ago. However that might be, it must eventually be settled, and there was no chance of its being settled on any other terms than the recognition of the right 1059 of Dissenters to be buried with such religious services as their surviving rela-tives might desire. If so, could it be good for the Church, for Nonconformists, for the state of England, or for that feeling of brotherly love which ought to prevail among them, that this subject should be kept up as a perpetual source of dissension and strife? His belief was that it would be much better for all, if they could find a satisfactory settlement, that it should be settled now. He would, therefore, support the Bill.
said, he regretted very much that he did not in 1877 give the casting vote against the Earl of Harrowbv's clause on its first appearance. Tie (Lord Denman) ventured to think that if the 74th clause undisturbed by Amendments from the right rev. Bench had been allowed to go to "another place," that it might have been so modified as to be carried on the return of the Bill with its Amendments. If the Bill were to be brought back in the way surmised by the most rev. Prelate, he believed that, from the announcement that this Session must be short, any alterations made in "another place" would be forced on their Lordships. He (Lord Denman) wished 13 years ago to present an acre of ground to a Diocesan Committee, and it had been rejected; but if it had been accepted he would have been much surprised by the claim of this Bill. The 8th clause professed to confer no right which did not exist before; as it was, half-an-acre of wet ground had been given by a Churchman, and without this Bill might soon be over-crowded. A relative of his own (Sir Charles Anderson, in John Hull) had exposed the enthusiasm of Dissenters who had a "Vision of Judgment" contrary to sober religion. He (Sir Charles Anderson) had also written rather disrespectfully of the most rev. Primates; but he (Lord Denman) believed it was true, as Sir Charles wrote, that their Graces had had very little practical experience of small rural parishes as incumbents. He (Lord Denman) had the greatest respect for the English Church, and could prove the same, as to Dissenters, but regretted that he could not vote for this Bill. The Primate of England had spoken of the quiet in Scotch churchyards; but the graveyards were the property of the heritors, and the Established Church of Scotland did not require the presence 1060 of her ministers in the graveyard, but enjoined them, if present, to admonish the living. If a burial had been allowed, there would have been no necessity for arbitrary services, and no danger to the clergy from not reading the office of burial as settled by the Act of Uniformity, 1662.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I shall say nothing to disturb the calm tone with which the debate has been conducted on the one side and the other. Though I might, perhaps, wish to have heard a greater number of speeches in opposition to the view of those with whom I agree, I do not disparage the speeches which I have heard. The right, rev. Prelate who moved the Amendment (the Bishop of Lincoln) is a man for whom I entertain the most profound respect. Nothing fell from him which did not become his character and position, and his feelings must command the sympathy of those who differ from the conclusion at which he has arrived. I hope he will give the same full credit, not only to those of his light rev. Brethren, but to the rest of your Lordships who take a different view of the interests of the Church from himself, for the same sincere desire to do right as well to the Church as the Nonconformists, which, for my part, I am ready to attribute to him. It is a painful part of this painful question that men who heartily agree in the objects at which they aim, and to whom the interests of the Church of England are precious, should differ on a subject on which so much feeling is excited, as to the true mode of dealing with it. As for myself, I came to the conclusions at which I have arrived several years before I gave expression to them in Parliament. I did so not for the sake of pleasing or conciliating any body of men whatever, certainly not for the sake of encouraging any attacks on the Church of which I am a member, and for the sake of whose true interests I should always be prepared to make any sacrifice, but because I was not able to escape from the conclusion that, at the bottom of this question, besides much feeling and much danger from the continuance of the irritation produced by that feeling, there was a positive) claim on the ground of justice which Parliament ought to meet. Before I address myself to the argument on the 1061 main question, perhaps your Lordships will excuse me if I make some observations on some of the more important details of the Bill to which reference has been made. The noble and rev. Lord who spoke against the Bill (Lord Hawke) appeared to think it was a great wrong to the clergy to expect them to register burials under this Bill. I was surprised at what was said by the noble and rev. Lord on this point, because I do not imagine he intended to suggest that it was desirable to take the management of the churchyard out of the hands of the parochial clergy. But I would ask the noble and rev. Lord, How is it possible that the registration of such burials can be made except in the general register of burials in the churchyard, of which the parochial clergyman has the custody? The fact of the burial will be certified to him, not by anyone claiming an official title, for he is not to be brought into contact for the purpose of his duty with anyone claiming such a character, but by the relative or other person responsible for the burial, who originally sent him notice that advantage would be taken of the provisions of the Act. What injury, even to the most sensitive, can possibly be done by recording on the registry the fact that such a burial has been in this manner certified? There is, no doubt, a small point of detail which, in Committee, it maybe desirable to meet by a slight verbal Amendment. As such registries areusually kept, there is a column entitled "By whom the ceremony is performed." Instead of making an entry of the person who performed the ceremony, it may be proper to provide that the burial shall be entered in that column merely as certified by A. B. under the Act. The most rev. Prelate who presides over the Province of York thought that while it was right to deal with churchyards as we proposed it was wrong to include cemeteries. Now, if cemeteries were taken out of the Bill, there would be matter remaining for the growth of a new grievance, and to prevent this, the Government have thought it wise to include cemeteries. It is unquestionably the right of Parliament, if it seems important to effect a satisfactory and final settlement, to deal with that part of the question as is proposed in the Bill; and the reason why the Government have been induced so to deal with it is, that representations 1062 have reached us from a variety of quarters, showing that the matter is from year to year assuming a practical character on account of that feeling which we all recognize as natural, the wish of persons not to be separated in death from those they love, and also through the acquisition of rights of property in graves. These cemeteries are public, created under Acts of Parliament by rates to which all classes of the community have contributed; and though it has been provided by those statutes that certain parts shall be consecrated and set apart for burials according to the rites of the Church, there has been no separation of the rates paid by Churchmen from those paid by Nonconformists. The Bill gives reciprocal rights to those who prefer the Church Service in the unconsecrated part of these cemeteries. I come now to a clause—the 11th—which has been very much misunderstood. The noble Earl who sits below the Gangway (the Earl of Derby), and who spoke with the usual clearness of his very clear intellect, himself seemed to have formed some misconception of that clause. We were very anxious, looking at both sides of the question, while, on the one hand, we met the just claims of Nonconformists, to consider, on the other, whether the clergy had or had not any reasonable claim with which it would be in our power to deal. The difficulty pressing upon the clergy has been of two kinds. In the first place, they have no power under the law as it stands to gratify in any way the religious and natural feelings of those who, being members of the Church, have lost their children before baptism, and who desire to have some religious service at the funeral. The sympathies of the clergy with the laity have led both to desire that they should be enabled in some way to meet the natural feelings which such an occasion would call forth. Accordingly, the 11th clause of the Bill exempts the clergy from penalties if this is done, in all or any of the cases in which by the ecclesiastical law the Burial Service cannot be used. It enables the clergy, if it be desired by the relatives, to use prayers and read passages of Scripture, subject to a restriction, that the prayers are not to be those which are proper to the Communion Office or the Burial Office of the Church. I might myself have preferred that there should be no such 1063 restriction; but I do not think your Lordships would be disposed, on a mere point of ritual which is of no real importance, to object to what the Convocation of Canterbury has recommended. In the rest of the Prayer Book and in the Scriptures there is an abundance of excellent materials which may well be used in committing to the grave the children of those who may desire it. I trust your Lordships will not be unwilling to give that measure of relief. The thing cannot be done at the mere option of the clergyman, but only when it is desired by the relatives of the deceased. The other difficulty is in the present inflexible obligation of the clergy to read the whole Burial Service, except in three specified cases. The only enlargement of these cases now proposed is the addition of persons who may die in the act of committing any grievous crime, meaning, as I understand it, a "crime" known to the law. It is a very limited provision, and it will have a very limited effect. If any man dies in the commission of murder, or of any other grievous crime, it is, I think, right that that case should be added to the category; and it is the only addition made to the category of exclusions from those rites of the Church. As to the large class of cases of persons who may have been reputed to be evil livers, no discretion is given to the clergy to institute any inquisition whatever post mortem. The clergyman is to have no power of his own to dispense with or abridge the Church Service in the case of any person at present by law entitled to have it performed; but an abridgment of that service may be used, at the request or with the consent of the relatives of the deceased, and not otherwise. I cannot but think the relatives would, in many instances, be willing to accept an abbreviation of the Service, while the parts omitted would be those which wound the consciences of sensitive men, and, at the same time, too often lead to misunderstanding and scandal, and are made matter of reproach by Nonconformists against the Church. I hope, therefore, that when this proposal is understood, it will be seen that the Convocations have really exercised their judgment in this matter with great care and caution, and with a desire not to enter on that dangerous and fatal ground which would 1064 involve an inquisition at a man's death into the history of his life. With regard to the recital of the proceedings of Convocation, I believe that has been done in the recent Acts for relaxing the Act of Uniformity, as it was in the original Act of Uniformity itself. There is another point of yet more difficulty and delicacy, which I should like to explain. The noble Earl who spoke from below the Gangway (the Earl of Derby) touched upon it. He expressed some doubt, first of all, as to the consistency with the principle of the Bill of the limitation, by the word "Christian," of "orderly religious services;" and, secondly, whether the word is not too vague to be of any legal effect, or might not give rise to undesirable questions. Now, I think I can show that the introduction of that word is in no way inconsistent. The present legal right is a right to burial in the churchyards, and I admit that it has always been subject to certain ecclesiastical conditions. I say now, as I have before, that to impose the Church Service on unwilling persons is a profanation of that Service from a Church point of view, and it is also inconsistent with religious liberty when it is made the condition of a civil right. In that respect, I maintain that the present state of the law is such, that you must, in consistency with the principles of civil and religious liberty, either take away the civil right or change the ecclesiastical condition. But I never have gone, and I never should go so far, with respect to the other class of cases—namely, those in which the Church Service cannot be performed; because, as to that, I do not think you can take up such high ground as to say that there is a civil right to have a religious service. That is certainly not a right given or contemplated by the Common Law; and if the Common Law had given, certainly could not have contemplated any other than a Christian service, because it is an old and true saying, that Christianity is part and parcel of the law of the land—of the Common Law. The right to a religious service in the churchyard cannot, therefore, be represented as a Common Law right, nor even necessarily as a natural right. The State would not be infringing any principle necessary to be observed, if, for reasons of public order, it imposed limi- 1065 tations upon the right to use religious ceremonies or services in any public place, whether consecrated or not. What I have maintained and still maintain is, that, although that part of the liberty proposed to be given by the Bill cannot be claimed on the same footing of civil right as the exemption from the necessity of the Church Service may be claimed, yet it is wise, desirable, and necessary for the proper settlement of such a question, in these cases of strong religious feeling prompting men to acts of devotion, to allow the largest measure of religious liberty that you safely can, and to sympathize with and not discourage the religious sentiment. And for that reason I say that any settlement of this matter would be utterly unsatisfactory, and would, in truth, be no settlement at all, which did not allow all persons professing to be Christians to use their own religious services. Then, it is asked, why stop there? I stop there for two or three reasons. In the first place, these are the words which were moved by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in 1876, and which were again proposed in 1877 by Lord Harrowby, and then adopted by your Lordships' House. At all events, they have undergone some consideration, and have met with some approval from your Lordships. But, in the second place, it appears to me to be in itself right and expedient, and consistent with every principle on which we ought to legislate, to exclude from our churchyards, which have been consecrated and set apart for Christian burial as their leading and primary use, observances and demonstrations which are pagan or anti-Christian. I want to know what other cases are really and practically excluded? Not, certainly, the case of those who deny all religion. They cannot want religious services; and there can be no principle on which to violate the sanctity of the churchyards by admitting anything that is anti-Christian and irreligious. Surely, in the interest of the order of the State, and to avoid raising questions of feeling and of difficulty which nothing has made it practically necessary to raise, you may wisely draw the line where the Common Law draws it, saying that this is a Christian country, and that Christianity is part and parcel of the law of the land. And although Jews 1066 are persons with whose feelings I can sympathize as well as with those of Christians, I cannot perceive that there is any reason for refusing to draw the line, in the only way that it can be drawn, on their account; especially when the question is not, as I am informed, a practical one for them, as they have cemeteries of their own to which they are attached, and they have no desire to be buried in Christian graveyards. The provision would, of course, be acted upon in the Courts which administer law in the largest and most liberal spirit. The Unitarians have been, by Act of Parliament, admitted to the full benefit of those Acts of Toleration that were enacted in favour of Protestant Dissenters. Nor could there be any greater difficulty now than there was in Woolston's case, which came before Lord Raymond in the Queen's Bench early in the last century, in distinguishing in a Court of Law—should that become necessary—between opposition to Christianity in general, and the rejection of particular tenets which have been the subjects of controversy among persons calling themselves Christians. Passing from these particular points, which must, of course, be considered in Committee, to the general argument, I am happy to think, from what has been said even by those right rev. Prelates who have opposed the Bill, that there cannot be any great reasons for apprehending cases of difficulty or distress arising out of the Bill. In the first place, we have been told, and I believe quite truly, that in cemeteries, where the ground is divided into consecrated and unconsecrated, and where every man is free to choose the mode of burial which he prefers, a great majority of Nonconformists prefer to be buried with the Church Service in consecrated ground. That, my Lords, is strong evidence that this Bill will do no great harm; for if they prefer, for that reason, the consecrated part of the cemetery, it is likely that they will prefer still more to be buried with the Church Service in the churchyard. I do not think it is necessary to answer the questions which were asked—"What sort of Service will it be? Who is to watch? Who is to prosecute?" My answer is, I hope that nobody will watch and that nobody will prosecute, because I think it quite unnecessary to anticipate that there will be any real cause for pro- 1067 secutions; and I am not anxious to inquire, and do not care to know, what sort the Service is as long as it is Christian, orderly, and religious. I should be sorry, my Lords, if it is not Christian, if it is not orderly, or not religious. There might be disorder and misconduct at any funeral now; but nobody thinks such disorder or misconduct so probable, as to make it necessary for the law to take extraordinary precautions against it. It is enough that it should be prohibited and punishable. The best safeguard against the choice of a funeral as an occasion for disorder is in the natural feelings of humanity, which, in the absence of any special provocation or cause of excitement, abhor and oppose themselves to disorder, and even to irreverence, on such an occasion. If, from any cause whatever, such disorder should here and there occur, there will be power in anyone that is scandalized to put the law in motion. As for the argument from the churchyard to the church, I doubt the wisdom of those who press it, either as a logical or as a practical consequence. To me it does not appear to be so, because the reasons on which I proceed—the necessity of death, the necessity of burial, and the civil right of interment in the churchyard—have no application to the church. There may, no doubt, be arguments used by some which might be carried to that length; but I have myself never used, and I disavow, such arguments. No doubt, there are some who want Disestablishment, and whose views of Disestablishment extend to the alienation of all sacred edifices from the Church. But, apart from this, I have not yet heard any demand made for the use of the church by Nonconformists, nordoes it appear to me that the nature or the circumstances of the case are likely to lead to such a demand. With regard to danger to the Church, I have never said there was no danger to the Church; but it has always appeared to me that danger is not increased by diminishing friction or removing grievances. Those things are dangerous which cause friction and irritation between large and powerful classes on points which touch both natural feeling and religious sentiment; especially on a point as to which the continuance of the existing state of things cannot be defended on any safe or satisfactory principle. The Church, my Lords, as was very truly said by a 1068 speaker who preceded me, has manifested a great increase of strength, power, and influence in this country since the passing of those measures which were introduced to enlarge the liberties of Nonconformists, and to take away the more invidious privileges of the Church. If the clergy—I hope it will not be the case—should not obey the law in the spirit of loyal citizens and with the charity of Christians; if they should permit excitement or feelings of annoyance on their part to manifest themselves in a manner occasioning acrimony, irritation, and controversy, then possibly some danger to the Church may arise. We must, however, remember that there must be two parties alway's to discord, and that it is one of the highest privileges of the clergy of the Church of England to act as the moderators of strife. They are the messengers and the teachers of peace; and if they are true to that high calling, I entertain no doubt that this measure, instead of proving a danger to the Church, may, in the end, prove, to the cause of which they are the ministers and the defenders, a boon and a blessing.
§ On Question, that ("now") stand part of the Motion? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 126; Non-Contents 101: Majority 25.1070
|Canterbury, L. Archp.||Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.)|
|Selborne, L. (L. Chancellar.)||Jersey, E.|
|York, L. Archp.||Kimberley, E. Leicester, E.|
|Bedford, D.||Morley, E.|
|Cleveland, D.||Morton, E.|
|Devonshire, D.||Northbrook, E.|
|Grafton, D.||Portarlington, E.|
|Saint Albans, D.||Portsmouth, E.|
|Somerset, D.||Rosse, E.|
|Westminster, D.||Shaftesbury, E.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Suffolk and Berkshire, E.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Sydney, E.|
|Northampton, M.||Zetland, E.|
|Airlie, E.||Canterbury, V.|
|Camperdown, E.||Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen)|
|Clarendon, E.||Halifax, V.|
|Dartrey, E.||Hereford, V.|
|Derby, E.||Leinster, Y. (D. Leinster.)|
|Ducie, E.||Powerseourt, Y.|
|Fitawilliam, E.||Sherbrooke, V.|
|Granville, E.||Carlisle, L. Bp.|
|Grey, E.||Exeter, L. Bp.|
|Llandnff, L. Bp.||Keane, L.|
|London, L. Bp.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)|
|Manchester, L. Bp.|
|Oxford, L. Bp.||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)|
|St. Asaph, L. Bp.|
|St. David's, L. Bp.||Lawrence, L.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Lovat, L.|
|Belper, L.||Lvttelton, L.|
|Blachford, L.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) [Teller.]||Methuen, L.|
|Brabourne, L.||Monson, L. [Teller.]|
|Braye, L.||Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Breadalbane, L. (E. Breadalbane.)||Mostyn, L.|
|Calthorpe, L.||Mount Temple, L.|
|Carvsfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Castletown, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bess borough.)|
|Churchill, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Cloncurry, L.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Coleridge, L.||Robartes, L.|
|Congleton, L.||Romilly, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)|
|Dacre, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Delamere, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|De Tabley, L.||Skene, L. (E. Fife.)|
|Ebury, L.||Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)|
|Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Stafford, L|
|Emly, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Ettrick. L. (L. Napier.)|
|Fitzhardinge, L.||Strafford, L. (V. Enfield)|
|Granard, L. (E. Granard.)||Sudeley, L.|
|Greville, L.||Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)|
|Hammond, L.||Tollemaehe, L.|
|Hanmer, L.||Vernon, L.|
|Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Waveney, L.|
|Hatherley, L.||Wentworth, L.|
|Heytesbury, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Houghton, L.||Wrottesley, L.|
|Leeds, D.||Eldon, E.|
|Norfolk, D.||Ellesmere, E.|
|Northumberland, D.||Feversham, E.|
|Richmond, D.||Hardwicke, E.|
|Rutland, D.||Harewood, E.|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Macclesfield, E.|
|Exeter, M.||Mar and Kellie, E.|
|Salisbury, M.||Nelson, E.|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E.|
|Annesley, E.||Powis, E.|
|Beaconsfield, E.||Ravensworth, E.|
|Bcauehamp, E.||Redesdale, E.|
|Cairns, E.||Romney, E.|
|Clonmell, E.||Saint Germans, E.|
|Coventry, E.||Sondes, E.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Stanhope, E.|
|De La Warr, E.||Strathmore and Kinghorn, E.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buceleuch and Queensberry.)|
|Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.)||Forbes, L.|
|Combermere, V.||Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)|
|Hawarden, V. [Teller.]||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Melville, V.||Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston.)|
|Strathallan, V.||Grey de Radcliffe, L. (V. Grey de Wilton.)|
|Bath and Wells, L. Bp.||Harlech, L.|
|Chichester, L. Bp.||Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.) [Teller.]|
|Ely, L. Bp.|
|Gloucester and Bristol, L. Bp.||Hawke, L.|
|Lincoln, L. Bp.||Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.)|
|St. Albans, L. Bp.||Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)|
|Abinger, L.||Lamington, L.|
|Airey, L.||Leconfield, L.|
|Ashford, L. (V. Bary.)||Lilford, L.|
|Aveland, L.||Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)|
|Borthwick, L.||Lyveden, L.|
|Botreaux, L. (E. Loudoun.)||Manners, L.|
|Moore, L. (M. Drogheda.)|
|Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)||Norton, L.|
|Braybrooke, L.||O'Neill, L.|
|Chelmsford, L.||Poltimore, L.|
|Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Raglan, L.|
|Clifton, L. (E Darnley.)||Ross, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Clinton, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Colville of Culross, L.|
|Denman, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|De Saumarez, L.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Digby, L.||Strathnairn, L.|
|Dinevor, L.||Walsingham, L.|
|Donington, L.||Windsor, L.|
§ Resolved in the Affirmative.
§ Bill read 2ª accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday the 15th instant.
§ House adjourned at Eleven o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.