[from Isle of Mann and Diocese of Sodor and Mann, 1837]
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14th, 1837.
I Rise pursuant to the notice which I have given, to present several petitions relative to the annexation of the see of Sodor and Mann to that of Carlisle. Your Lordships are aware that in 1836 an Act was passed for remodelling the territorial jurisdiction of the several episcopal sees of England and Wales; and one of the recommendations of the Commissioners, in conformity with whose Report that Bill was introduced, is to the effect, that whenever a vacancy may occur in the See of Sodor and Mann, that bishoprick shall be united to the bishoprick of Carlisle; and the prayer of the petitions, which I am now about to present, is, that your Lordships will reconsider that part of the Act, and leave to the bishoprick of Sodor and Mann its ancient and separate jurisdiction. The petitions, to which I will call your Lordships' notice, are of two descriptions: the first class is from certain individuals and corporate bodies in this country, who, although they may be said to have no direct interest in this matter, and no personal knowledge of the facts which belong to the case, are nevertheless well deserving the attention of the House. They proceed from the Dean and Chapter of Wells; the Dean and Chapter of Ripon; from clergy in the diocese of Winchester residing in the Isle of Wight; from clergy and laity residing in the diocese of Norwich; and from several individual inhabitants of the town of Birmingham. I have also other petitions of the same description ; but as they refer to a Bill which they suppose to be now in the House, but which is not yet upon the Table, I refrain from presenting them at present. I have, however, three other petitions to which I must call your Lordships' particular attention. They cannot be said to proceed from persons either ignorant of the subject, or having only an indirect or remote interest in it, or as being influenced by views merely speculative and abstract. On the contrary, they come from individuals who, from personal experience, and from the situations in which they are placed, are the best and most competent judges of a practical question of this nature. The first of this class of petitions is from the Archdeacon and upwards of three fourths of the clergy, engaged in the discharge of religious duties in the Isle of Mann,-a body of persons peculiarly well qualified, I apprehend, to judge of the necessity of having a resident Bishop, whether as regards themselves, in their intercourse with their diocesan, or the higher interests of religion itself, and the special maintenance of the faith and discipline of the Established Church. They state, in the strongest manner, that this law is not, in their opinion, demanded by any necessity, and that so far from being beneficial, it will, inevitably, be attended with great practical inconvenience. The next petition is from the gentlemen who practise at the bar of the island. The station which they hold in the insular society, and the profession to which they belong, give them innumerable opportunities of knowing, not only the general feeling of the people upon the subject, but, specially, the bearing of the projected alteration upon many points connected with the administration of ecclesiastical law, in respect both to individuals and to property : and they refer with great earnestness to a view of the subject to which I shall presently advert, and which involves considerations of the highest political and constitutional importance. The last petition from the island, which I have to present, is one eminently calculated to attract your Lordships' attention. It is from a considerable number of the inhabitants of the island, generally, signed by 1600 persons, high and low, rich and poor, landed proprietors, merchants, shopkeepers, farmers,-in short, by individuals of every class and description.
Now, my Lords, it is impossible to conceive a petition that can more reasonably claim serious attention than this, coming, as it does, from persons who are capable from their own experience, as well as from what they have derived from the experience of their ancestors, of accurately estimating the positive practical advantages of having amongst them a resident Bishop, whose personal superintendence of the spiritual concerns of the island they deem to be of essential consequence to the furtherance of such important objects. Such being the character of these petitions, and such the nature of the prayer which they bring before you, surely, my Lords, it is neither unreasonable nor inopportune, if I urge the House seriously to consider the nature of this case, and of the objection which the parties concerned so strongly feel against the proposed change. An(l, although I am aware that this is not a convenient occasion for discussing the question, yet, as I have at present no other mode of bringing it under your notice, I cannot forbear availing myself of this opportunity for expressing a confident hope that I can show that there exists in these petitions, and in the general circumstances of the case, grounds quite sufficient to induce the Commissioners on the one hand, and her Majesty's Ministers on the other, to think that a case has been made out, calling for reconsideration of this matter. My Lords, I am not going, in what I am about to say, to impugn the conduct of the Commissioners in recommending the incorporation of the see of Mann with that of Carlisle. I beg them to understand that I impute no blame whatever to them. I am fully sensible of the difficulty of the situation in which they were placed; and, having always approved of the appointment of the commission itself, of the selection of the individuals who composed it, and (with the exception of this single point of the see of Mann) of all their recommendations respecting the English bishopricks, I am no party to the severe censures which have been cast upon them, or to the unjust attacks to which they have been exposed ; but I am sure that they will not think it inconsistent with this declaration, if I state the grounds upon which I differ from that particular recommendation. I would observe, then, in the first place, that it appears that, in the commission under which they acted, the see of Mann was not mentioned as an object for their inquiries and recommendations; and doubts may, therefore, not unnaturally, be entertained, whether the Commissioners were competent to include any new arrangement with respect to the see of Mann in the recommendation which, in the execution of the specific duty en. trusted to them, they submitted to the Crown. I am aware, indeed, that the subsequent Act of Parliament must be held to have cured any error which may be supposed to have been fallen into upon this point,but it involves, I think, a matter of some constitutional. importance, and I very much question whether, if this circumstance had been adverted to whilst the Bill was in progress, the House would have sanctioned a recommendation which the Commissioners were, strictly speaking, not competent to make. Not wishing, however, to press this point further, I proceed to notice some peculiarities connected with this bishoprick, which ought not to be overlooked in deciding upon the matter of these petitions.
The bishoprick of Mann is one of the oldest in the British dominions; it has existed as a separate see for 1400 years; it claims, therefore, all the reverence due to great antiquity, and an uninterrupted course of separate and independent jurisdiction. It has maintained this jurisdiction through a great variety of changing circumstances in the government and possession of the island. The bishop, moreover, is chosen by a different process from that which prevails in respect to Carlisle, the see to which it is proposed to annex it; for whilst the Bishop of Carlisle is that appointed by virtue of a congè d'élire issued to the chapter, there is no such chapter in the Isle of Mann, and the bishop is nominated directly, by the Crown. Your Lordships will further find, from the petition which I have presented from the practitioners at the Manx bar, that, whilst the authority of the bishop over his clergy is more direct and stringent than that exercised by bishops in England, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction exercised by him, or in his name, is, in various respects, very different from the law and practice in an English bishoprick. If it be contended that these are points of minor consideration in legislating upon such a question, I still may venture to ask upon what specific ground is it that the incorporation of these two sees have been adopted. The Report of the Commissioners states no grounds whatever, and I am left to conjecture them. Can it be necessity ? No such necessity has ever been urged ; and as I cannot conceive the existence of it, I may fairly consider myself as not being called upon to argue against it- But it may be said to be a convenient change. Now, how stands this view of the subject ? How does it coincide with the principle of convenience which applies to the alteration, of whatever description, adopted with respect to the English sees? In England, where it is proposed to reduce the extent of a large see, and to increase the extent of a smaller one,-where the episcopal duties were not so great, the principle on which the change proceeded was, to take from the larger bishoprick that which, in point of distance and readiness of communication, was most inconvenient, and to add the portion so separated to the smaller bishopricks, taking care, however, that the portion so added should, as far as possible, have the advantage of immediate contiguity. This is obviously a beneficial principle ; because, though certain sees are increased, and the duties connected with them enlarged, yet the additional distance to which the bishop or his clergy have to go, in the mutual communications with each other, is such, considering the constant facilities for communication, as to render their intercourse, the maintenance of which is so desirable, a matter of perfect convenience to both parties : as, for instance, the whole contiguous county of Westmoreland is very properly added to the diocese of Carlisle. But the addition of the see of Mann proceeds upon the very reverse of this principle, because the two bishopricks are separated by a wide and frequently stormy sea, the passage of which is frequently uncertain, not rarely dangerous, and always more or less inconvenient. The very considerations, therefore, which recommend one part of the arrangement, as far as convenience is concerned, are decisive against the other. The result, therefore, is, that as the Bishop of Carlisle could not abstain from personally performing his duties in England, whether parliamentary or episcopal, he must necessarily abstain from so performing them in the Isle of Mann; and this brings me to a part of the subject to which I am confident that the attention of the commissioners was not applied.
In the course of the last century a law was passed in the island respecting the residence of the bishop, which is still in force, and which I apprehend the Parliament of the United Kingdom has no right, either moral or constitutional, to repeal, except under the pressure of an overruling necessity. This law provides that if the bishop, or any other ecclesiastical or civil functionary, be absent from the island and the performance of his duties for more than four months (sickness, alone, being an admitted ground of excuse) in any one year, he shall be liable to a very heavy pecuniary mulet, increasing in proportion to the length of the absence. This law was passed by the Manx legislature, not for the purpose of squeezing a penalty out of the bishop, or any other functionary concerned, but for the purpose of insuring his habitual residence within the island, under the very natural impression that the interests of religion and of the Church would be thereby promoted. Now, it is obvious that, if the Bishop of Carlisle be at the same time Bishop of Sodor and Mann, he cannot possibly comply with the provisions of that Act; his visits must be "few and far between" and the island law of residence must be practically and substantially repealed. In what a strange situation would this state of things place the Bishop of Carlisle! I confess, my Lords, that, if I were bishop of that see, I do not know any thing that would be more embarrassing. The law of the island would say to me, " You must reside amongst us." The law of England would say, " Your residence in the Isle of Mann is incompatible with your other episcopal duties, and therefore you cannot reside there." Such, then, being the inconvenient predicament in which the Act of 1836 would place the Bishop of Carlisle, your Lordships cannot, I think, be surprised that the legal practitioners at the Manx bar should urge, in their petition, a strong constitutional objection to this arrangement, which they justly deem a violation of the Legislative independence of the island.
Your Lordships should also recollect that the Bishop of Sodor and Mann would, notwithstanding the annexation of his see to that of Carlisle, still remain an integral part of the Isle of Mann government,-an ex-officio head of most of the charitable institutions of the island,-and an ex-officio member of that very Manx legislature, whose laws he would be compelled to violate, without having the power to repeal them. Surely, my Lords, it would be difficult, under these circumstances, to maintain the propriety of the proposed scheme upon any intelligible principle of convenience or expediency; and if it cannot be maintained upon that principle, as little can it be maintained upon any assumed ground of want of zeal, diligence, or ability on the part of the successive bishops of Sodor and Mann, in the discharge of their episcopal duties. That, during the 1400 years of the existence of this bishoprick, some bishops might be found who had failed in this respect, might, doubtless, be true, as it might be in any English case; but there are many names amongst these by whom that see has been filled, of whom the island and the Church may well be proud. To those who know any thing of the history of the Church of Mann, the names, the talents, and the virtues of Bishop Barrow and Bishop Hildersley are familiar ; and, when I mention the name of Bishop Wilson, I offer testimony most just, although inadequate, to the memory of one of the brightest ornaments of our Church, who combined in his character, and displayed in his conduct, a sample of those noble qualities by which the station of a bishop is best illustrated and dignified.
But, my Lords, I beg you not to suppose, alluding to those individuals, I mean to imply that, in more recent times, the episcopal duties of Mann have been in adequately performed. The Right Reverend Prelate, who preceded the present Bishop of Mann, exerted himself, under many untoward circumstances, to maintain and to extend the efficiency of the Church of that island; and I should not do justice to him if I did not take this passing notice of his labours. But, my Lords, I cannot better manifest my own conviction of the importance of this bishoprick, than by stating to you what happened to myself in respect to it. It so happened, my Lords, that when the first opportunity occurred (after the purchase, by the Crown, of all the remaining rights of the Duke of Athol, as Lord of Mann) of appointing a bishop, I was the individual to whose lot it fell to advise his Majesty George IV. respecting it. I am bound in candour to admit that, upon the occurrence of that vacancy, I was strongly urged, upon high authority, to abstain from appointing a separate bishop; but, my Lords, upon fully considering the subject, adverting to the history of the see,-to the character of many of those who had filled it,-to the zeal, the ability, the disinterested benevolence, and the distinguished utility by which the services of many of them were made remarkable,- I could not bring myself to concur in that suggestion, and I declined to accede to it. I felt it, however, to be my duty to place there some one who I was confident would imitate his distinguished predecessors, and benefit the island by his example and his services: and I applied, in the first instance, to an individual, distinguished in our church, for his character, his talents, his acknowledged piety, and his admirable publications. I allude to one who is now an ornament to the Right Reverend bench in this House; and, when I name the Bishop of Chester (if, without irregularity, I may do so), I think I show that I fully appreciated the nature of the situation, and the manner in which it ought to be filled. He, however, declined it; and I then recommended to his Majesty to appoint the present bishop. I did so, because I knew him well;
I knew his zeal, his devotion to his sacred profession, his upright and pious mind; and I was confident that he would undertake the duties of the see with an unalterable determination to perform them. But, my Lords, I should not do justice to the bishop, if I did not state to you some of the results of his ministration.
At the time that Right Reverend prelate accepted the see, one of the great evils felt in the island was the want of churches. The people themselves being poor, and their means of contribution consequently limited, the present bishop made an appeal to the benevolence, piety, and charity of his friends in England, and was enabled, by his own personal exertion, to raise between £8000 and £9000. A further sum of £3000 was raised under the laws of the island, from the different parishes; and, by the judicious application of their combined resources, several additional churches have been built, some enlarged, and others, in a state of dilapidation, substantially repaired. But this, my Lords, is not the only improvement to which the bishop has applied his labours. An extended system of education has been an object which he has had most at heart, and which his exertions have materially forwarded. Aid having been given by the Government out of the sum voted for education, schools have been erected in many remote districts, where, formerly, no sort of education -was to be had; and some of these school buildings are connected with small chapels, so that religious and general instruction are thus happily combined. But there is another point connected with this subject of education to which I must particularly advert. Bishop Barrow, in the middle of the seventeenth century, left a sum of money to be invested in the purchase of land for the purpose of providing gratuitous instruction to a limited number of persons desirous of being brought up for the service of the Manx Church. The management of this property was vested in trustees, the bishop being at the head, and the value of the property having considerably increased, the bishop and his colleagues thought it advisable to endeavour so to augment it by contributions amongst themselves, as to enable them to extend its object and utility; and accordingly, £2500. having been collected in the island, in aid of the funds of the trustees, a college has been established, where no less than 200 persons are now receiving an excellent education, open to all classes, and enjoyable by all; for although, as regards the inmates of the college itself, they are necessarily restricted to collegiate discipline, and required to attend the service of the Church of England, the education given in the college is not confined to its inmates, but is open to all, without any test as to religious opinions. Such has been the result of the bishop's exertions in these important particulars. But your Lordships are not to suppose that the bishop has confined himself to the exertion of his influence and station. On the contrary, he has liberally contributed to the charges incurred in these operations; and when I state that, including his subscriptions to these objects, when they were first undertaken, his personal expenses in carrying them through have not been less than £1200. out of his limited income, no doubt can be entertained of the spirit with which he undertook, and in which he has conducted, these great works of practical utility: and I can confidently affirm, from my own knowledge of these transactions, and the manner in which they have been conducted, that nothing but the personal exertions of a resident bishop could have brought them to so successful an issue. But, my Lords, I must now advert to what I understand to be the principal ground taken for merging the bishoprick of Sodor and Mann in the see of Carlisle; namely, that, while the episcopal duties may be sufficiently well performed by a partial and occasional residence in the island, the revenues of the see may, most appropriately and usefully, be applied to the establishment of an adequate provision for an archdeacon, and to the augmenting the income of the poorer clergy. I fully admit that the poorer clergy are most inadequately paid, and that some measure should be adopted in order to increase their personal comforts, and their maintenance in a state of respectable independence. But that object can, I maintain, be effected by other means, to which I will shortly allude, altogether unobjectionable, not violating any principles, in perfect conformity with the wishes, feelings, and asserted interests of the people of the island, and without rendering it necessary to extinguish the bishoprick for the purpose of so distributing its revenues. But I must first call your Lordships' attention to the language of the poor clergy themselves upon this part of the subject. By the proposed scheme, they would, undoubtedly, be greatly benefited in their temporal condition; and if they were influenced by mere considerations of worldly good they would not have been found to express themselves as they do. For what do they say ?-
"As to enriching the parochial clergy by the spoils of their bishopric, your petitioners dislike the principle and dread the example. They affect not, indeed, to conceal that the vicars of diocese are in straitened, in very straitened, in lamentably straitened circumstances, from which they humbly solicit, and would gratefully accept honourable relief; but they disclaim a wish to procure temporal advantage at the expense of spiritual loss."
Such are the sentiments of the clergy themselves with respect to the proposed mode of granting them an augmentation of income; and I am sure that your Lordships -will sympathise with the honest and disinterested feelings of these men, who, speaking the real sentiments of their hearts, and pronouncing upon the policy of the proposed measure with a perfect knowledge of all its bearings, petition your Lordships to spare the bishoprick, and to continue to the island the blessings which they know, by experience, to flow from its present form and character. But, are there no other means of improving the condition of the poorer clergy in that island ? I think that I can show your Lordships that there are. The island contains seventeen parishes, some of them very large and populous, of which thirteen are in the gift of the Crown, and four in the gift of the Bishop. Of the thirteen there are no less than ten in which the Crown is not only patron but lay-impropriator of almost the whole of the great tithes, the clergymen in those cases deriving their scanty support from the small tithes and a fund a long time since created by the bounty of Bishop Barrow. I do not see why my Noble Friend at the head of the Government should not advise her Majesty to apply to the maintenance of those poor vicars the amount of these tithes. He need not be afraid that I am about to suggest to him any great drain upon the financial resources of the country, for the total amount of the tithes in question does not exceed £800 a year, which moderate sum, if granted to the vicars of the ten parishes to which I have referred, would place them in a state of decent comfort. But if any objection should be felt, upon grounds either of economy or principle, to a grant of the whole sum, a limited portion of it would go a certain way toward the object, and a grant of £518 would raise each of these livings to £150.-no great sum, methinks, wherewith to remunerate a laborious clergyman, but still sufficient to raise him somewhat above the state of lamentable destitution to which the narrowness of his actual means exposes him. I cannot, therefore, but be persuaded that my Noble Friend will be disposed to think that it would be a gracious act of benevolence and charity on the part of her Majesty, who is at once patron and tithe-holder of these poor vicarages, if she should be pleased to consent that these tithes, small in actual amount, but abundant as regards the proposed application, should be employed in improving the condition of those who perform the sacred duties of that Church of which her Majesty is the head. Your Lordships, are not, however, to suppose that the bishop would be backward in doing his part as regards the four poor vicarages which are in his own gift. I am authorised to state, on his behalf, that he will be prepared to act immediately upon the principle of an admirable law recently passed in this country, by which the archbishops and bishops are enabled, out of the incomes of their respective sees, to augment the incomes of poor livings of which they are the patrons. Acting upon this principle, the bishop would raise those in his gift to £150 a year, an amount equal to that to which I have ventured to invite her Majesty's Government to raise the Crown livings.
There are, however, other resources at the bishop's command, which he would be ready to apply to similar objects for the benefit of the Church, if the bishoprick be spared. A considerable sum, amounting to several thousand pounds, has been placed by a benevolent individual at the bishop's disposal for purposes of this kind. The bishop is not bound to apply any part of this money to Mann; it is entirely in his discretion to apply it either there or elsewhere. But his wish would be to give to the Isle of Mann, in whose welfare he feels so deep an interest, the benefit of this munificent donation, together with any additions which his friends in England may be disposed to make to it. Your Lordships will thus see that, if her Majesty's Government will but consent to aid this good work, the separate bishoprick may be preserved, the condition of the inferior clergy may be improved, the interest and just influence of the Church promoted, and the wishes, the feelings, and the wants of the people consulted and complied with. I do not call upon the commissioners or the Government to express, at this moment, any decided opinion upon the subject: I only beg them to leave the question open for reconsideration, and, at least, to give the petitioners the satisfaction of believing that their, humble representation will be listened to with kindness and with candour.
TAYLOR~ Printers ESSEX STANDARD Office. Colchester.
Since. the preceding remarks upon "the silent persevering" in the recommendation there alluded to, a discussion has taken place in the House of Lords. From the report of that discussion it will be seen, that the Earl of RIPON, upon the presentation of some petitions from the Isle of Mann, and elsewhere, entered into a full statement of his views and plans with regard to the Bishopric of Sodor and Mann: his Lordship gave his reasons for opposing the annexation of that See to Carlisle, and he also shewed how the only alleged advantage to the Parochial Clergy of the Island might be obtained without subjecting both Clergy and people to the loss of their resident Bishop. To this statement of the Noble Earl's, the only two Episcopal Commissioners in the House replied, by giving their reasons for having originally made the proposition ; and also for still continuing to think that proposition a good one: but having given these reasons, they expressed their wish to leave the question for the free decision of Parliament. The courtesy and kindly feeling evinced by all, who joined in the discussion, will be best known by a perusal of the report.
Thus, then, have the Bishops on the Commission declared, that if the Legislature should be inclined to repeal its Act of last Session, so far as regards the Isle of Mann, they will not oppose the progress of a Bill brought in for that purpose. "The responsibility," therefore, as the Archbishop Of CANTERBURY observed, "now rests entirely with Parliament." Should, then, this note meet the eye of any individual Member of either House, it may not, perhaps, be unbecoming in one so closely connected with the interests of the Diocese of Sodor and Mann to beg him to remember, when called upon to legislate upon this subject, that while the "responsibility" of leaving that Diocese in its antient state is nothing, the " responsibility" of hazarding a change is as great, as the change itself is sweeping, and the interests at stake important. The change proposed for that Diocese is so sweeping as to require an entire re-modelling of the administration of all its spiritual and of many of its temporal affairs : the interests at stake are those of a people too feeble to resist the decisions of a Legislature in which, nevertheless, they have no voice: to a just man, therefore, such interests are most important. Surely, then, when it is remembered, that this Act of the British Legislature involves a direct breach of the Insular Statute Laws ; when it is remembered, that the proposed arrangement has been strenuously opposed, and that on the highest grounds, by every one competent to form a practical judgment upon the question, viz. by the two Bishops, now alive, who have for years presided over that Diocese; by the Archdeacon and Clergy of the Island ; by the members of the Manks Bar; by the great body of the respectable inhabitants of all classes : when it is remembered further that, as the Bishop of SALISBURY most truly observed in the House of Lords, this proposed arrangement is contemplated with feelings of alarm and sorrow by the Clergy of the Church of England at large: surely, when all this is remembered, it will he strange indeed if Members of the British Legislature do not hesitate, before they incur the "responsibility " of refusing to reconsider and amend their Act of last Session, so far as regards the Bishopric of Sodor and Mann.