Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Lord John Russell and the Church Rate Conflict: The Struggle for a Broad Church, 1834–1868

  • J. P. Ellens
Extract

In the election campaign of 1859, after twenty-five years of tirelessly defending the church rate principle that ratepayers of all religious denominations were liable to the rate levied for the maintenance of Anglican parish churches, Lord John Russell declared that he had come to favor abolishing church rates. The Tory Standard railed that the aging statesman had caved in to “senile ambition,” while another conservative critic charged that Russell had agreed to sacrifice church rates at the Willis's Rooms meeting in 1859 as part of a deal made to win the political support of Protestant Nonconformists. Spencer Walpole, the High Church chancellor of the Exchequer, was more charitable and more accurate, however, when after the election he responded to Russell's decision by acknowledging that the establishment was indebted to Russell for stalwartly having defended the church rate for decades as a bulwark of the church establishment.

Although Russell was too clever a politician to disregard political advantage or public opinion during his quarter-century fight to retain church rates, it was not his Whig politics but his Broad Church ecclesiology that best accounts for his long and dogged defense of the church rate. From 1834 through 1837, during the first four years of the church rate conflict, Russell's stance appeared to be that of the Whig statesman. First in Earl Grey's administration and then in Lord Melbourne's, he attempted to reform the church rate system sufficiently to satisfy Dissenters that they could count on the Whig party as the party of reform.

Copyright
References
Hide All

1 Nonconformist (May 4, 1859), p. 341; J. B. Sumner to Lord John Russell, April 5, 1859, Public Record Office (PRO), Russell Papers, 30/22/13G/177–78; Liberator (May 1, 1859), p. 77; see also Russell's election speech on April 29, referred to in the Daily News (April 30, 1859); the full account of the mid-nineteenth-century church rate question is found in Ellens, Jacob P., “The Church Rate Conflict in England and Wales, 1832–1868” (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1983).

2 Standard (July 15, 1859); Masheder, Richard, Dissent and Democracy: Their Mutual Relations and Common Object (London, 1864).

3 Parliamentary Debates (PD), 3d ser., 152:658, February 21, 1859.

4 Church, R. W., The Oxford Movement: Twelve Years, 1833–1845, ed. and with an introduction by Best, Geoffrey (Chicago, 1970), p. 68. The main practical grievances complained of by Dissenters in 1834 were (1) the lack of a legal registration of births, marriages, and deaths unencumbered by the need to conform to Anglican rites; (2) compulsory conformity to Anglican rites in the marriage ceremony; (3) the denial to Dissenters of the right of burial in parochial cemeteries by Dissenting ministers using their own forms; (4) the exclusion of Dissenters from the full privileges of Oxford and Cambridge without conforming to the established church; and (5) the liability of Dissenters to the payment of church rates and other ecclesiastical demands. Patriot (January 8, 1834), p. 13; The Case of the Dissenters, in a Letter Addressed to the Lord Chancellor, 5 eds. (London, 1833).

5 Minutes of the Dissenting Deputies, March 5, 1833, Guildhall, London, Guildhall MS 3083, vol. 8, fols. 152, 153; and March 15, 1833, fol. 156. Manning, B. L., The Protestant Dissenting Deputies (Cambridge, 1952), pp. 2, 36; minutes of the United Committee, January 22, 1834, Guildhall, London, Guildhall MS 3086.1, fols. 142, 144.

6 Minutes of the United Committee, January 22, 1834, Guildhall, London, Guildhall MS 3086.1, fols. 142, 144.

7 PD, 22:385–86, 389, March 18, 1834; minutes of the United Committee, Guildhall, London, Guildhall MS 3086.1, fol. 163.

8 PD, 22:1013, 1012–63, March 21, 1834.

9 PD, 22:1030–34, 1019–22, March 18, 1834; Cowherd, Raymond G., The Politics of English Dissent (New York, 1956), p. 89; minutes of the Protestant Society, April 28, 1834, Dr. Williams's Library, London, MS 38.194; minutes of the United Committee, April 25, 1834, Guildhall, London, Guildhall MS 3086.1, fols. 202–3; minutes of the Dissenting Deputies, April 29, 1834, Guildhall, London, Guildhall MS 3083, vol. 8, fols. 213–18.

10 Record (April 24, 1834); PD, 22:1024–29, 1059, April 21, 1834; Standard (April 21, 1834).

11 Russell to Lord Holland, August 17, 1834, British Library (BL), Holland House Papers, Additional (Add.) MS 51677, fol. 150; Machin, G. I. T., Politics and the Churches in Great Britain, 1832–1868 (Oxford, 1977), p. 47.

12 Russell to Holland, August 24, 1834, BL, Holland House Papers, Add. MS 51677, fol. 154.

13 Russell to Holland, October 13, 1834, BL, Holland House Papers, Add. MS 51677, fol. 164.

14 Minutes of the United Committee, January 18, 1836, Guildhall, London, Guildhall MS 3086.2, fol. 3; minutes of the Dissenting Deputies, December 23, 1835, Guildhall, London, Guildhall MS 3083, vol. 8, fol. 287.

15 Patriot (February 29, 1836), p. 69.

16 Cabinet discussion on Lord John Russell's paper on church rates, March 1836, PRO, Russell Papers, 30/22/2A/323–35. Russell's own paper is not included in this collection, but his views may be inferred from the reactions of his colleagues and particularly from an extensive summary compiled by Poulett Thomson (PRO, Russell Papers, 30/22/2A/334–35).

17 Poulett Thomson, PRO, Russell Papers, 30/22/2A/334.

18 Ibid.

19 Sir John Cam Hobhouse, PRO, Russell Papers, 30/22/2A/334–35.

20 Poulett Thomson, ibid.

21 PD, 33:499–501, May 2, 1836, and 611, June 20, 1836.

22 PD, 33:612.

23 Patriot (May 11, 1836), p. 165.

24 Lord Holland's Journal, 1836, BL, Holland House Papers, Add. MS 51871, pp. 949–50.

25 Minutes of the Dissenting Deputies, August 31, 1836, Guildhall, London, Guildhall MS 3083, vol. 8, fol. 383.

26 Patriot (August 17, 1836).

27 Notes of minutes of the Church Rate Abolition Society, 1836–39, September 6 and 13, 1836, Greater London Record Office (RO), Accession (AC) 72.62 (pt.). The minutes of the Church Rate Abolition Society are no longer extant. The only manuscript records that remain are brief notes of the original minutes made by Boykett, T. H.; Patriot (October 20, 1836), pp. 417–19, 422–23.

28 True Sun (September 20, 1836).

29 Patriot (January 2, 1837), p. 1, and (January 23, 1837), p. 47; Leicestershire Mercury (December 17, 1836; January 28, 1837); Patterson, A. T., Radical Leicester, 1780–1850 (Leicester, 1954), pp. 247–59; Machin (n. 11 above), pp. 54–55.

30 Leicestershire Mercury (January 28, 1837).

31 Minutes of the United Committee, January 27, 1837, Guildhall, London, Guildhall MS 3086.2, fol. 52.

32 Cabinet church rate proposal, August 1836, PRO, Russell Papers, 30/22/2B/341.

33 PD, 36:1225–29, March 3, 1837.

34 PD, 36:1267.

35 PD, 36:1255.

36 PD, 36:1218.

37 Nikol, John, “The Oxford Movement in Decline: Lord John Russell and the Tractarians, 1846–1852,” Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church 43, no. 4 (1974): 343.

38 Quoted from Letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury (1833) in Best, G. F. A., The Whigs and the Church Establishment in the Age of Grey and Holland,” History 45, no. 154 (1960): 111–12.

39 Ibid., p. 112.

40 Second Report of Commissioners on the state of the Established Church, with reference to Duties and Revenues,“ Parliamentary Papers (PP), 1836 (86), 36:i.

41 PD, 37:315, March 13, 1837; William Howley to Peel, March 4, 1837, “Private,“ BL, Peel Papers, Add. MS 40423, fols. 83–84.

42 The Ecclesiastical Commissioners to William Lamb, second Viscount Melbourne, March 10, 1837, PRO, Russell Papers, 30/22/2E/124–27 (copy); Howley to Melbourne, January 9, 1838, PRO, Russell Papers, 30/22/3A/47–49 (copy); Melbourne to Howley, January 15, 1838, PRO, Russell Papers, 30/22/3A/57 (copy).

43 Standard (March 13, 1837); Twenty-first Report … 24–30 June 1837,” House of Lords RO, Reports of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Public Petitions with Appendix (Reports), Session 1837, p. 442.

44 Twenty-third Report … 7–17 July 1837,” House of Lords RO, Reports, Session 1837, p. 470.

45 PD, 38:1073, May 23, 1837.

46 Morning Chronicle (May 25, 1837); Gash, Norman, Reaction and Reconstruction in English Politics, 1832–1852 (Oxford, 1965), p. 73; Machin (n. 11 above), p. 61.

47 PD, 38:1383–86, 1405–8, June 12, 1837; minutes of the United Committee, May 31, 1837, Guildhall, London, Guildhall MS 3086.2, fols. 88, 89; Machin, pp. 61–62; Martin, H. R., “The Politics of the Congregationalists, 1830–1856” (Ph.D. diss., University of Durham, 1971), p. 160.

48 Machin, pp. 61–62; Melbourne to Holland, September 22, 1837, BL, Holland House Papers, Add. MS 51558, fol. 149.

49 Russell to Melbourne, August 11 and 21, 1837, Historical Manuscripts Commission, Broadlands Papers, MEL/RU/38/2.

50 Russell to Melbourne, August 28, 1837, ibid.

51 Kenyon, J. P. B., “High Churchmen and Politics, 1845–1865” (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1967), pp. 159–67.

52 C. J. Blomfield, bishop of London, to Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley, fourteenth earl of Derby, “Church Rates” (n.d.), Queen's College, Oxford University, Derby Papers, 127/6 (printed).

53 Spencer Walpole to Derby, September 20, 1852, Queen's College, Oxford University, Derby Papers, 153/1. Gladstone to Samuel Wilberforce, August 15, 1852, Bodleian Library, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce Papers, d. 35, fols. 120–21; and September 12, 1852, fol. 122.

54 Gladstone to Dr. W. F. Hook, March 30, 1843, “Private,” BL, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44213.

55 Samuel Wilberforce to Phillpotts, October 21, 1852 (“Confidential letter”), quoted in Davies, G. C. B., Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter, 1778–1869 (London, 1954), p. 353; Phillpotts to Derby, August 26, 1852, Queen's College, Oxford University, Derby Papers, 142/3.

56 PD, 52:87–90, 116–17, February 11, 1840.

57 PD, 52:97.

58 Best (n. 38 above), p. 105.

59 SirMackintosh, James, PD, n. s., 19:556–57, May 9, 1828, quoted in Best.

60 Parliamentary History, 28:1267, February 21, 1791, quoted in Best.

61 Nikol (n. 37 above); Best, p. 107.

62 LordRussell, John, Essays on the Rise and Progress of the Christian Religion in the West of Europe (London, 1873), pp. x, 344.

63 PD, 127:567–604, May 26, 1853.

64 PD, 127:636, 527–637; Patriot (June 2, 1853), p. 386.

65 PD, 127:643–47, May 26, 1853.

66 Guardian (June 1, 1853), p. 349.

67 Nonconformist (June 1, 1853), p. 430; PD, 127:643–46, May 26, 1853; Conacher, J. B., The Aberdeen Coalition, 1852–1855 (Cambridge, 1968), app. A; Kenyon (n. 51 above), app. 3, p. 468; PD, 127:643–46, May 26, 1853.

68 Guardian (June 1, 1853), p. 349.

69 Nonconformist (June 1, 1853), p. 438.

70 Stanley, Lord, The Church Rate Question Considered (London, 1853), p. 40.

71 Ibid.

72 Record (May 30, 1853).

73 PD, 134:441, June 21, 1854.

74 Patriot (May 25, 1854), p. 438. The editor branded Russell as a “plagiarist” who had borrowed his arguments from the most bigoted Conservatives, to whom he had been ostensibly opposed all his life. Guardian (May 31, 1854), p. 435; PD, 134:474, June 21, 1854.

75 Russell (n. 62 above), p. 256.

76 Ibid., p. 257.

77 PD, 134:475–78, June 21, 1854; Daily News (June 22, 1854); Patriot (June 22, 1854), p. 412. The Times claimed that “the treasury screw was put upon all the dependents of Government” and that twenty-two members of the government had been convinced not to vote (June 23, 1854); Leeds Mercury (June 24, 1854).

78 Russell memorandum, January 19, 1855, BL, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44291, fol. 228; “Proposal for a new Act of Parliament to be called the Church-dues Act” (n.d.), follows November 16, 1854, BL, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44291, fols. 216, 217; George Grey to Gladstone, November 11, 1854, BL, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44291, fol. 151.

79 PD, 138:684–90, May 16, 1855; Morning Chronicle (May 18, 1855).

80 Patriot (May 21, 1855), p. 340; PD, 138:692–94, May 16, 1855.

81 The Times (February 19, 1856).

82 PD, 140:1876–92, March 5, 1856.

83 PD, 140:1896–1903.

84 PD, 134:449–55, June 21, 1854.

85 PD, 140:1903–4, March 5, 1856; memorandum, 1856, BL, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44746, fols. 53–60; Sir William Heathcote to Gladstone, March 28, 1856, BL, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44208, fol. 130.

86 PD, 140:1919–27, March 5, 1856.

87 Liberator (August 1, 1856), p. 160.

88 PD, 140:1924–27, March 5, 1856; Nonconformist (March 12, 1856), pp. 161–62; Conacher (n. 67 above), apps. A, B.

89 PD, 148:1575–85, February 17, 1858.

90 PD, 149:1424–76, April 21, and 1860–63, 1867–69, April 27, 1858.

91 PD, 149:1862–63, April 27, 1858; Record (April 28, 1858).

92 PD, 150:1727–32, June 8, 1858.

93 PD, 152:610–29, esp. 621, 614, 625, February 21, 1859.

94 PD, 152:648.

95 Ibid.

96 Russell to Gilbert Elliot, dean of Bristol, October 4, 1858, PRO, Russell Papers, 30/22/13f/129 (copy).

97 PD, 152:1598–1601, March 9, 1859.

98 Minutes of the Liberation Society, February 25, 1859, Greater London RO, A/LIB/2, minute 910; minutes of the Dissenting Deputies, March 4, 1859, Guildhall, London, Guildhall MS 3083, vol. 8, p. 188; Nonconformist (March 2, 1859), p. 163.

99 PD, 153:1653–62, March 10, 1859.

100 PD, 153:95–197, March 16, 1859.

101 Liberator (April 1, 1859), p. 58; Daily News (March 16, 1859).

102 Nonconformist (May 4, 1859), p. 341; Liberator (May 1, 1859), p. 77; Daily News (April 30, 1859).

103 Trelawny's bill passed by a vote of 263 to 193. Two ministers dissented: Sidney Herbert was absent, and his fellow Peelite and now chancellor of the Exchequer, W. E. Gladstone, voted against the abolition bill.

104 Return from each Parish within the several Archdeaconries in England and Wales, of amount expended during the last seven years for Church Purposes,” PP, 1859, session 1, 20:1.

105 PD, 154:1161–64, July 3, 1859.

106 PD, 154:1175–86.

107 PD, 190:1426–27, March 11, 1868. The resolution of the church rate conflict between 1867 and 1868 has been concisely given by Anderson, Olive, “Gladstone's Abolition of Compulsory Church Rates: A Minor Political Myth and Its Historiographical Career,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 25, no. 2 (April 1974): 185–98.

108 PD, 191:1116–23, 1130–33, April 23, 1868.

109 PD, 191:1120.

110 PD, 191:1570–71, April 30, 1968.

111 PD, 191:1574; Blake, Robert, Disraeli (New York, 1967), pp. 487–88.

112 PD, 191:1574, April 30, 1868; Anderson, p. 190; House of Lords Sessional Papers, “Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Compulsory Church Rates Abolition Bill, with the Proceedings of the Committee,” PP, 1867–68, 30:143.

113 House of Commons Bills, “A Bill Instituting an Act for the Abolition of Compulsory Church Rates as amended by the Lords,” PP, 1867–68, 1:232, 329–30.

114 Ibid., pp. 329, 331; PD, 193:598, July 3, 1868.

115 Gladstone to Russell, March 28, 1868, PRO, Russell Papers, 30/22/ 16E/165.

116 Russell to Gladstone, ca. June 14, 1868, BL, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44608, fol. 177.

117 Gladstone, memorandum, ca. June–July 1868, BL, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44608, fols. 188, 187.

118 Earl of Carnarvon to Gladstone, June 12, 1868, “Private,” Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44608, fol. 173.

119 On July 31, 1868, royal assent was given to “an Act for the Abolition of Compulsory Church Rates” (31 & 32 Vict., c. 109).

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of British Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-9371
  • EISSN: 1545-6986
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-british-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed