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ment was negatived by 281 to 266, and the bill was read a second time.
But another great struggle took place on the third reading. Mr. Cross, Mr. Newdegate, and others supported substitutionary plans instead of this bill for simple abolition; but Mr. Bright said, all the plans which had been proposed did not hit the grievance. The object was to get rid of every shred of what the Dissenters regarded as the supremacy of the Church of England in relation to this particular question; to place the Church and other sects in that respect upon an equality. The resistance to Church-rates was not grounded upon the amount; there must be something deeper in the matter than money. He was going, he said, to vote for the third reading of the bill, but he was ready to assent to a compromise by which the compulsory power of levying the rate should be withdrawn, and the term of total abolition delayed.
When the division was taken, it was found that the numbers were exactly even–274 for the bill, and 274 against. Under these singular circumstances, the Speaker was called upon to give a casting votea right very rarely exercised in our Parliamentary history. He said that as far as he could collect the opinion of the House from the course of the debate, it was in favour of some settlement of the question different from that contained in the present bill; consequently he must give his vote against it, not being willing to take upon himself the responsibility
of the proposed change. The measure was therefore lost—à result hailed with frantic cheers by the Opposition.
The question was yet again raised in the session of 1862, when Sir J. Trelawny re-introduced his measure for abolition. In the debate on the second reading on the 14th of May, Mr. Sotheron Estcourt, abandoning a plan he had formerly proposed, moved a resolution to the effect that it was unjust to abolish Church-rates until some substitute for them had been provided. Mr. Bright sarcastically observed that Mr. Estcourt, having repudiated and rejected every scheme, including his own, did not give the House good and encouraging advice in asking it to agree to his resolution. He had argued that it was founded upon a constitutional principle; but things had totally changed in the last seven or eight hundred years, and these rates were now incompatible with the rights and interests of the people. All he asked was, to a certain extent, a complement of the Toleration Act. Would Churchmen refuse to do what the humblest sect of Dissenters did ? Would a body that held the great bulk of the land, boasted of its wealth, and had the seats of learning at its disposal, be the only sect not liberal enough to support its own churches ? He believed that these rates could not be maintained, and Mr. Estcourt himself did not believe that any scheme which had been submitted to the House could do anything material to settle this question, except Sir J. Trelawny's. If this
question was to be finally settled, he agreed that it ought to be taken up by the Government, who should submit to the House a measure based upon a principle satisfactory to the country, and stake their existence upon it. If they would not do this, then they should abdicate their functions as statesmen, and take their places upon the Treasury bench as superior clerks. Twenty-eight years had not driven off the assailants from this question, and twenty-eight years more would not do it. He implored the House to make this session-in which nothing had yet been done except the spending of money gathered hardly from the people-famous for one thing, namely, the doing to all our neighbours as we would wish them to do to us.
When the division came to be taken, the bill was lost by one vote—286 members voting for the second reading, and 287 against. Mr. Estcourt made an attempt to settle the question by his resolutions, but these were subsequently withdrawn, as was also a scheme for commutation proposed by Mr. Newdegate. But an ever-growing public opinion had condemned Church-rates, and, after many abortive attempts at a settlement, the question was finally set at rest by Mr. Gladstone. His Compulsory Church-rate Abolition Bill was passed on the 31st of July, 1868; but the chief credit for the removal of this long-standing grievance must be awarded to Sir. J. Trelawny, Mr. Bright, and the other indefatigable pioneers in the movement for securing religious equality.
When the session of 1861 opened, the Royal Speech, contrary to expectation, made no mention of Parliamentary Reform. Mr. White accordingly moved an amendment to add a paragraph to the Address on the subject. Mr. Bright, who was amongst those steadfast reformers bitterly disappointed at the course of the Government, said he could not express his grief at what had fallen from Lord John Russell on this important subject, and at the tone in which he had treated it. When the present Government came into power, pledges, public and private, had been given on the subject of Reform, of the most explicit character; and he asked the House whether it was right that the representation should be amended or not; and, if right, whether it was not better that it should be done now. Mr. Bright recapitulated very briefly the recent history of the Reform question, reminding the House that in 1831 they were within twenty-four hours of a revolution. And the course which they were now called upon to take was not a safe course. If it was good for those entitled to a vote to be represented, it was not good for that House that they should be permanently excluded. The question could not remain as it was ; it must be settled ; and he believed that, in this session above all others, a moderate and useful measure of Reform, if the Government were in earnest, might pass both Houses of Parliament. He was giving the House wise counsel, and warning them of dangers which, though regarded as remote, had overtaken
statesmen of every country who had neglected them, and had overwhelmed many. Ministers and members ran the risk of losing, first, their own self-respect, and, secondly, the respect of the country, and when that had happened, a more unpleasant and a more unhappy time would have come than could possibly come as the result of such a judicious and moderate measure as might have been passed this session.
Such was the temporary apathy, however, that had overtaken a large majority of the House on this question, that Mr. White's amendment was negatived by 124 to 46.
Mr. Gladstone's Budget for 1861 was brought forward on the 15th of April. The expenditure was estimated at £70,000,000, and the income at £71,823,000, this being the largest estimate of revenue hitherto made. The Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to apply the surplus in the reduction of the income tax by one penny per pound, and to abolish the duty on paper. The firstmentioned reduction would absorb £850,000, and the latter £665,000. The proposal to abolish the paper duty led to a protracted discussion on the order for going into committee. Mr. Gladstone's propositions were attacked by Mr. Baring, Sir S. Northcote, Mr. S. Fitzgerald, and Mr. Horsman, the last-named member expressing his great regret that the question of the paper duties and the difference with the House of Lords should have been brought on again.