« PreviousContinue »
We still hope, therefore, that it will be reconsidered during the vacation, and be withdrawn for this session.
THE PROPOSED UNION OF THE SEES OF BANGOR AND ST. ASAPII.
This is another measure which has proceeded from the archives of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and is one which lias excited, in a very great degree, the opposition of the clergy. Petitions have poured in from every part of the country against this measure, then ature and operation of which were admirably explained by Earl Powis, on moving the second reading of a bill for the repeal of the Act, by which the two sees were to be united on the demise of the present bishops. His lordship observed, that it was an undoubted fact that the sees of Bangor and St. Asaph were for many ages, from the earliest times, distinct and separate sees, and that the people of the principality were well satisfied with that arrangement. In order to meet the wishes of those who were averse to the project of depriving the principality of Wales of her fair share of spiritual care, it was proposed by this bill that a course should be taken to which no reasonable opposition could, in his opinion, be made. It was well known that whenever a clergy man is appointed to a seat upon the episcopal bench he becomes chaplain to the House of Lords, a duty sometimes not a little onerous, as it has been proved from the circumstance of a right reverend lord having been for three years compelled to perform that duty. It was proposed, therefore, in order to aid the principality, and uphold the number of the bishops to their present extent, that whenever a presentation took place to either of these bishoprics proposed by the Ecclesiastical Commission to be abolished, such Welsh bishop should be nominated to the chaplaincy of the House of Peers, and do that duty. In that suggestion he concurred. The next point to which he should draw their lordships' attention was to the manner in which it was proposed that an income should be provided for the future bishopric of Manchester. He knew this bishopric had been created upon the representations of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; perhaps, however, it had been suggested by the commission upon the ground of expediency, which was often, he regretted to say, the fountain of error and of wrong. From what he had learned, and he believed it would prove to be good authority, there could be little doubt that the surplus of ecclesiastical income that would come soon into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would be found sufficient to supply an adequate income to be attached to that see, without any necessity being thereby created for violating the church property of the principality of Wales. He had stated in an early part of his address that he had reason to fear that due consideration had not been given to the spiritual interests of the principality. As to temporal benefit, the principality owed nothing to, received nothing from, the ecclesiastical revenues of England, whilst it contributed considerably to ecclesiastical foundations not within the principality, and particularly to Jesus College and Christ Church; and the bishopric of Lichfield and Coventry had for many years received a portion of its income from the principality; whilst, as respected the bishoprics of Bangor and St. Asaph, they were maintained solely by property within their respective dioceses. It had been recommended by the report of the commission to distribute the surplus income of these two bishoprics, when incorporated, towards the augmentation of poor and populous benefices. And as this surplus was to be appropriated in numerical proportion to the population of poor benefices, and Wales was far from populous, there would be little chance of her receiving in this way any benefit from the improvement. There was another subject to which he wished to call the attention of their lordships. It was the difficulty which a bishop in North Wales must encounter in the discharge of the duties which he was called upon to fulfil. The united dioceses comprised a population of 300,256, while the average population of English dioceses was only 200,196. The union of the two sees would therefore give the bishop double duties to discharge, while it would take away one half of the income. During the incumbency of the present right reverend prelates the principality enjoyed the benefit of their constant superintendence, and their earnest exertions in promoting religious objects; and in a district where there were so few resident clergy, the value of the constant residence and superintendence of those right reverend prelates, could hardly be over-estimated. To remove them would be to do the principality an injury, of the extent of which their lordships were not aware. His great objection to the proposed union was, that it would make every communica-. tion between the bishop and his diocese more inconvenient than at present, and would thus render the inhabitants less able to obtain that spiritual superintendence and assistance, which were so necessary to their welfare. There was another evil which would be entailed upon the principality if their lordships persisted in requiring that the former Act should be carried into effect, and it was this that the whole, or nearly the whole, patronage of the two bishoprics of St. Asaph and Bangor would be vested in the bishop exclusively. There were 250 livings, of which less than 90 would be in the hands of other bodies, leaving more than four-fifths to the bishop. He would beg leave to recal to the recollection of their lordships that he was not proposing to repeal an Act which had been carried into execution-he was only proposing to them to repeal a clause in that Act which was eventually to be carried into effect, but which could not be carried into effect until the removal by death of one of the present bishops. He considered the Act of Parliament under which the proposed union was to take effect one of the most unconstitutional Acts that could be passed, for it gave a power very unusually given by Parliament to any other body-it gave to commissioners in council, under the authority of her Majesty, power to do that which he conceived ought only to be done by an Act of Parliament, having the sanction clearly and distinctly of their lordships and of the other branch of the Legislature ; and it authorized them to pronounce decisions affecting the interest of parties who knew nothing until they found themselves seriously involved. Under the circumstances in which that Act passed, considering the little attention it had received either in their lordships' or the lower house of Parliament, he thought their lordships would be induced to receive with indulgence any proposition which would lead to the reconsideration of a measure so seriously affecting the interests and true welfare of a large portion of the members of the Church of England. He trusted, therefore, that they would receive with favour this proposition, which he made in pursuance of the numerous petitions that had been presented. He hoped to be allowed, before he concluded, to appeal to the venerable bench of prelates. Individually, he had no right to ask any favour at their hands-he had no right to ask them to reconsider any determination they might have formed; but, having been entrusted with numerous petitions, and knowing that other noble lords had been severally called upon by the country to undertake and to support their cause before their lordships, he would entreat those right rev. personages, in the high apostolical situations which they occupied as the head and governing body of the Church, to consider the matter of these petitions, and to feel assured that they would secure the thanks and the gratitude of the Welsh people by continuing to them the blessing of which they had been in possession for centuries. They did not ask the concession of anything that they had not before enjoyedthey merely asked their lordships not to take away that, of which hitherto revolution, civil war, change of dynasty, and the conquest and submission of the country to the greater power of England, had never deprived them.
In reply to this admirable argument in favour of the maintenance of the two venerable sees of St. Asaph and Bangor, his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury observed, that as he had taken a very active part in the institution of the commission, which was the real author of the bill, and had likewise concurred in the decisions of that commission, it was evidently his duty now to defend them. The commission, said his Grace, was required to institute an enquiry into the state of the dioceses in England and Wales, with reference to the amount of the revenues, the more equal distribution of episcopal duties, and the prevention of attaching, in commendam, cures of souls to bishoprics. The commissioners had found the arch-diocese of York endowed with 831 benefices, and a population of 1,500,000 souls; whilst the diocese of Chester, with an endowment of only 544 benefices, possessed a population of 1,900,000; and therefore, looking to the equalization and better distribution of episcopal duties, they could not leave them in this disproportionate condition. For this reason it had been proposed to create two new dioceses, namely, the bishopric of Ripon and that of Manchester. He concurred with those of their lordships who had already spoken, in the testimonies that had been offered with respect to the great advantages that had been derived from the formation of the see of Ripon, and on the manner in which the duties of the diocese had been performed by the right rev. prelate who had been chosen to fill that see. With respect to the diocese it had been proposed to form at Manchester, he thought, when recent events were taken into consideration, and also the great amount of the population of that town and its adjacent districts, it would be admitted that the com
inission would have failed in the performance of those duties which it was appointed to fulfil, if it had not recommended the institution of the proposed new bishopric. In the diocese of Ripon there was a population of 739,000 ; whereas in that proposed for Manchester there would be 1,300,000 and upwards; whilst the population of the whole see of St. Asaph’s did not exceed 197,000, nor that of Bangor 158,300. Now, supposing the dioceses of St. Asaph and Bangor to be united, they would contain 253 benefices, apportioned to a population of between 300,000 and 400,000 souls; and even then the proportion of benefices would be much smaller than that which might be found in many other dioceses. In fact, the number was less than it was in sixteen other bishoprics, equal to those in five bishoprics, and greater only in four of the remaining dioceses. The country also was very mountainous, and the diocese extended through a very wide tract of land; and although it was true that, in point of extent, the proposed united diocese would far exceed the limits of most of the other bishoprics, yet even then the actual amount of square miles contained within it would be less than in three of the dioceses in England. Considering, then, the contiguity of the two dioceses, and that it was impossible to have effected with equal facility the union of any two other of the English sees, he did think that, in so far as this question was concerned, the commissioners could not have acted otherwise than they had done. to the complaint that had been made as to the appropriation of the surplus fund, he could only say that the commissioners had taken, as it were, with one hand and distributed with the other. In the first place, they had been directed, in the instructions drawn up for their guidance, to put an end to the tenure of livings in commendam together with the episcopal office. They had a duty to perform in this respect, and they had not only strictly performed it, but they had somewhat gone beyond the strict line to which they might have confined themselves; for finding that in several cases there were livings held in commendam with bishoprics, to the aggregate amount of 39,0001. per annum, they not only disposed of that amount, but they went further; and, considering what the episcopal incomes were in amount, the commissioners were determined to exclude also from those incomes much of the cathedral preferments, as well as the benefices to which cures of souls were attached, which theretofore had been held in commendam by right rev. prelates. These benefices, and other Church preferments, to the amount, as he had before said, of 39,0001. a year, had been thrown in, to swell the general incomes of the poorer clergy, and the bishops who had formerly held them were thus enabled to devote the whole of their time and attention to their episcopal duties, instead of being obliged, as formerly, to reside for a considerable portion of the year at their livings; and surely such a measure could not be called a bad or disadvantageous one. After some further remarks respecting the important and imperative duty which devolved upon the commissioners, of providing for the improvement of the benefices in North Wales, the most rev. prelate said, he thought on the whole, after what had been done, that there was no cause for complaint on the part of the poorer clergy themselves, or on that of the persons who had felt the great inconvenience to the country arising from an inadequate provision for the clergy. What change of circumstances with respect to the principality, or to its inhabitants, had occurred since the passing of the bill of last session, or what injury was likely to arise to the people of Wales from that bill being suffered to remain on the statutebook ? He believed the alteration would inflict no injury whatever upon the people of the two dioceses proposed at a future period to be united. He could enumerate at least three bishoprics in England, each of which, in extent of ecclesiastical territory, and in number of benefices, exceeded the extent of these two bishoprics when they should be united ; and as for the difficulties to be overcome by any bishops of such united diocese at visitations, he had no doubt the difficulties he himself had experienced when travelling through the county of Cumberland, were fully as formidable as any
to be apprehended from a visitation in Bangor, or St. Asaph's. If the inconvenience or injury apprehended by the noble earl could be proved, he would most promptly retract this opinion and support the bill before the house. But, looking at the vast population collected around Manchester, and contrasting it with the scanty population of these Welsh bishoprics, he felt it impossible to resist the deliberate recomiendation of the Ecclesiastical Commission, and retrace the course which had been last year adopted with a view to the general interest of the people of this country. He conceived that it ought to be a matter of grave deliberation with their lordships before they could even come to a formal determination and decision upon the alteration of the law proposed by the noble earl (Earl Powis), much less before it sanctioned the introduction unnecessarily into that house of a prelate with a seat there, whilst so many bishops of the Established Church were deprived of that honourable privilege and distinction.
The Duke of Wellington opposed the bill of Earl Powis, and moved that it should be read that day sixmonths. The Bishop of Bangor eloquently and energetically pleaded in its favour. The Bishop of Salisbury entertained and expressed similar opinions. The Bishop of London, on the contrary, was opposed to a repeal of the bill which had been passed. The Bishop of Exeter was decidedly opposed to the union of the two bishoprics. The Bishop of St. David's followed on the same side. The Bishop of Lincoln, on the contrary, concurred in the views of the Bishop of London; and the Bishop of Norwich wished that some arrangement could be made so as to retain the old sees in Wales, and yet create a new bishopric in Manchester.
Under these circumstances, the bill for preventing the union of the two Welsh sees at the death of one of the present diocesans was withdrawn ; though Earl Powis stated his intention to renew the subject next session. Should, however, it so happen—which we pray on all accounts may not be the case--that either of the Bishops of Bangor or St. Asaph should be removed by death in the interim, the sees would be merged in one, and the hopes and wishes of the clergy would thus be frustrated. We fear that the Government and the Houses of Parliament have resolved on the act of