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tolic poverty, and deprived of their temporal rank and influence, the bishops would be tempted to make up for this diminution of their importance by lofty claims of sacerdotal power. We see this result in Scotland, where nearly all the bishops are Tractarians. And even in America, notwithstanding the power of the laity in the Episcopal Church, and the anti-sacerdotal tendencies of the democratic spirit, many of the bishops have embraced the same opinions, and one of them has ended by joining the Church of Rome.
A different but not less serious evil would result from the suppression of cathedral dignities, which is a still more favourite project with many of our Church reformers than even the abasement of Prelacy. In this, as in most other cases, the thing needed is not demolition but reconstruction. The cathedrals, it must be admitted, have not hitherto been so useful as they might have been ; but considered in their design and their capabilities, they are essential parts of a well-organised Establishment. It is a sufficient refutation of their wholesale denouncers to quote the judgment of Dr. Chalmers, given during the last year of his life before a Committee of the House of Commons, in the following words:-"To such a degree am I in favour of ecclesiastical
sinecures, that I should be glad to have them in our own [the • Free] Church.' * * * * There should be a certain number • of persons of learning, maintained at leisure and endowed, for • the purpose of contributing to theological literature.' In the same passage he calls the alienation of cathedral property to parochial purposes 'a vulgarising process.'* Such was the opinion of a man who was above all men most exempt from the temptation of exaggerating the usefulness of cathedral as compared with parochial endowments, since his whole life was spent in developing the powers of the parochial system, and since he held the parochial ministry to be the one essential function of a Church.
But the worst mischief to be feared from erasing the inequalities of the Establishment by a levelling process, would be the effect of such a measure in repelling from the Church a large proportion of those classes from which she now derives her most serviceable recruits. We have seen how many of the clergy bring into their profession a larger income than they derive from it; and we have endeavoured to show that Sydney Smith was mistaken in his assertion that they were allured by the attraction which the prizes of the Church ’ held out to the gambling propensities of their nature. Nevertheless we believe him to be
* Life of Chalmers, vol. iv. p. 600.
right in supposing that if these prizes were removed, the great majority of such men would be repelled. For if the outward prestige and splendour of the Establishment were thus destroyed, it would soon lose the reputation of being a “gentlemanly' profession, which it now enjoys; it would sink to the condition of the Presbyterian Kirk in Scotland, a body which is recruited almost exclusively from the lower ranks of society, and which consequently does not exercise that influence over the higher and more educated classes which ought to belong to a national establishment. The increase of the social rank and influence of the English clergy in the last hundred years is a very curious phenomenon, and its causes have not hitherto been satisfactorily explained. Mr. Macaulay, it is true, has shown that at the time of the Revolution the extreme poverty of the benefices accounts for the low standing of the parochial clergy; that poverty preventing them, under the circumstances of the time, from obtaining a decent education. And we lately endeavoured to illustrate his view, by showing that the actual condition of the Mountain clergy, whose circumstances approach most nearly to those which then existed, still presents the same features which he describes. * But it would be a great mistake to infer from this that the increased value of ecclesiastical property accounts for the immense change in the position of the clergy. The cause is quite disproportionate to the effect. It is true that the value of the tithe has increased in a more rapid proportion than that of the rent, so that where the income of the parson would have been a twentieth of the income of the squire in Charles the Second's time, it is now a twelfth of it. But it is still not such, in nine cases out of ten, as to secure the services of a gentleman. This is evident when we recollect that (not to mention the 5000 curates) the income of 8000 incumbents is below 3001. a year, that is, below the ordinary salary of a banker's clerk. Nor again is it any explanation of the phenomenon in question to say that it results from the improvement of the clergy in refinement and intelligence; for this very improvement depends in great measure on the wealth of those classes from which the Church is recruited; inasmuch as the preliminary training at public school and university is a very expensive luxury, as many fathers can testify. The real cause which has poured so many recruits of higher standing into the ranks of the clergy, is to be found in the great increase (if it should not be rather called the creation) of a class which scarcely existed two hundred years ago, the upper-middle class of English society. If we travel from
* See article on “ Church in the Mountains,” No. 198.
o explairad these the majoritbetter edut
London, or any other great town, into the country, we pass hundreds upon hundreds of houses whose look tells us that they must be occupied by families with incomes ranging from 500l. to 15001. a year.* As the wealth of England has grown, these households have become more numerous, year by year; and with the growth of civilisation and intelligence, their wealth has enabled them to procure a better and better education. The sons of such families now form the majority of the English clergy. The motives which lead these men into orders we have already endeavoured to explain. And it is easy to see the causes which would neutralise these motives if the revolutionary proposals which we are discussing were carried into effect. Those among them who are urged to the work of evangelists by apostolic zeal, would still embrace the sacred calling; but the greater part would probably shrink from a profession which would then be stigmatised as plebeian by the vulgar rich; and, at all events, their parents and guardians would discourage them from entering it. Every one whose acquaintance extends beyond the Tweed is aware how reluctantly a Scotch country gentleman would see his son become a Presbyterian minister. It would be difficult to exaggerate the injury inflicted on the State, by the repulsion of the most educated and influential clergy from the Church.
In exchange for this public loss, the gain sought by the advocates of ecclesiastical equality is the improvement of small livings and the relief of indigent curates. We have already shown that, by confiscating the episcopal and capitular revenues, they might raise the income of those clergy who have less than 3001. a year by 271. apiece. We suppose that every one would admit the uselessness of such a paltry augmentation. But perhaps there may be some who would prefer to leave the poor incumbents in their poverty, and bestow the fruits of confiscation upon the still poorer curates. They may urge that 360,0001. divided among the 4885 curates would give above 701. to each. And they might justly consider it worth an effort to raise the remuneration of these labourers from 1001. to 1701. per annum, on the assumption that they are doomed to continue for life in their present post. So strange is the ignorance prevalent on ecclesiastical subjects, that there are doubtless many who believe this to be the case. In popular works of amusement (Mr. Dickens's Household Words is an example) we find it often assumed that curates are a race of clerical helots,
The returns to the Income Tax furnish a more exact mode of ascertaining the great and increasing numbers of this class.
VOL. XCIX. NO. CCI.
who never rise, except by 'some wonderful stroke of fortune, to the condition of their masters. A recent article in The Times' confirms this impression as follows: "It is by the merest chance in the world that a curate is ever anything else • than a curate, or that he ever receives more than the highest • prize of his class, a house and 1201. a year.'* It would be exactly as true to say it is by the merest chance in the world • that a midshipman is ever anything else than a midshipman.' The cases are precisely parallel. Every vicar and rector, canon, dean, and bishop in the Church, was originally a curate, unless he happened to be fellow of a college when he was ordained. Either a curacy or a fellowship is a necessary prerequisite to ordination, for no one can be ordained at once to a benefice. It is true that there are men to be found who never rise beyond a curacy; as there are grey-headed midshipmen occasionally to be seen in the navy. But the former case is quite as rare as the latter; promotion is the rule, nonpromotion the exception, in both professions. Out of the 4885 curates now in England, we much doubt whether there are 400 to be found above the age of fifty; and of these, some are men of fortune who remain curates from choice; and nine in ten of the remainder are kept down by their own demerit. The aged and exemplary clergyman, starving on a miserable stipend with a sickly wife and ten hungry children, though common in fiction is a rarity in fact. No doubt there are starving curates to be found, but they are the victims of their own imprudence. If a man with an income of 1001. a year, whether he be curate, ensign, or midshipman, chooses to marry at twenty-five, and to have ten children by thirty-five, he cannot expect to live in affluence, or to bring up his family in comfort. And the same imprudence and want of principle which has brought him into this condition will probably render him inefficient in his profession, and unlikely to deserve preferment. So far from curates forming a separate class' (as · The
Times' calls them), they share in all the interests and opinions, sympathies and prejudices, of their beneficed brethren. We have no doubt that Sydney Smith is perfectly correct when he says that if you were to gather a parliament of curates, on 'the hottest Sunday in the year, after all the services, sermons, burials, and baptisms of the day were over, and to offer them such increase of salary as would be produced by the confiscation of the cathedral property, they would reject the measure.'t
* Times,' June 22. 1853. + We read this sentence of Sydney Smith's the other day to a gentleman who has remained a curate for the unusually long period of ten years. "Reject it!' he exclaimed, to be sure we should, by
But does not the existence of these rich prizes in the Church encourage an avaricious spirit in the clergy? The best answer to this question is another: Are the clergy, taken as a body, distinguished for avarice? We suppose the universal answer would be, that they are generally remarkable for qualities the reverse of this — for ignorance of the world, unbusiness-like habits, and liability to imposition. Faults and follies they have in abundance ; bigotry, prejudice, and narrowness of mind, have been clerical failings from time immemorial; but no one can justly accuse them of grasping rapacity. On this point we might call in the evidence of the London beggars, who are attracted to every man in a black coat and white neckcloth, by an instinctive knowledge that he belongs to a class which they have the right to victimise. Or, again; we might quote the testimony of her Majesty's School Inspectors to the fact that if the poor in the country districts are educated at all, it is mainly at the expense of the clergyman. But a more general and striking proof has lately been given of the pecuniary disinterestedness of this profession. In the year 1836, the income of the parochial clergy was commuted into a rent-charge, which was fixed for ever at the same number of bushels of corn. Within ten years occurred the repeal of the corn laws. By the combined effect of both measures, the income of the clergy was inevitably reduced, without the possibility of any compensation, such as they might have had under the old law, from the effects of improved cultivation. Mr. Cobden, in a letter to a clergyman, published (if we remember rightly) in 1848, stated that he had always said that the clergy would be the only ultimate losers by the repeal of the corn laws; but advised them nevertheless not to oppose a measure so beneficial to their fellow countrymen for the sake of increasing their own luxuries. This advice was substantially wise and right. Before he gave it, however, the clergy had already adopted the disinterested course which he recommended; for neither before nor since the repeal of the corn laws was there any clerical agitation, nor a single clerical petition, against the measure. We do not believe that any other class would have borne so quietly a change which so largely mulcted their professional income.
But it may be said that, although the general body of the clergy is free from the imputation of avarice, yet the holders of the great dignities and lordly sees are led astray by the deceit
ninety-nine voices out of a hundred.'