This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966
William Grant Broughton (1788-1853), Church of England bishop, was born on 22 May 1788 at Westminster, London, the eldest son of Grant Broughton, formerly of Hertfordshire, and Phoebe Ann, daughter of John and Susannah Rumball of Barnet. He was educated at Barnet Grammar School in 1794-96 and The King's School, Canterbury, in 1797-1803, where he was a King's scholar from 1798. He was to have taken up an exhibition at Cambridge but, after his father's death, financial circumstances would not permit him to do so. Through the influence of his paternal uncles and the Cecil family he gained a clerkship in the Treasury department of the East India Co.; then in 1814 a legacy enabled him to go to Cambridge where he was a scholar of Pembroke Hall (B.A., 1818; M.A., 1823). In 1818 he entered his chosen profession, the church, and was ordained deacon by Bishop Burgess of Salisbury for Bishop Tomline of Winchester, and later, priest by Winchester. On 13 July of the same year he married Sarah, daughter of Rev. John Francis, rector of St Mildred's, Canterbury, who had been his housemaster at The King's School. There were two daughters of the marriage, Emily and Phoebe, and a son who died in infancy. His ordination title was to a curacy at Hartley Wespall, Hampshire, where he remained until 1827, when Bishop Sumner of Winchester appointed him to Farnham in Surrey. A year later he became chaplain of the Tower of London.
In his ten years as a country curate Broughton spent much time in research. He published studies on the Elzevir Greek Testament and on Bishop Gauden's authorship of the Eikon Basilike. These were works of solid scholarship, but remarkable chiefly for being produced at a time when the quality and volume of Anglican scholarship were not impressive. Broughton's publications won the favour of the bishop of Winchester and brought him the preferment that he had previously sought in vain. More important was the patronage of the duke and, more especially, the Duchess of Wellington, whose seat of Stratfieldsaye was near Hartley Wespall. The duke secured the Tower chaplaincy for Broughton, and in 1828 nomination as archdeacon of New South Wales in succession to Thomas Hobbes Scott.
Broughton had had an unusual early career. The need to help his widowed mother had delayed his university career and his entry into the church. Marriage barred him from a fellowship. He became an efficient parish clergyman but owed his reputation to literary research and his promotion to noble influence. Broughton had shown commonsense, political conservatism and sound churchmanship. These qualities rather than his actual achievements recommended him to Wellington as suitable for the difficult position of head of the church in Australia. Broughton was not without ambition but he accepted the appointment with some reluctance—'there is no ground for congratulation on my appointment'—and with the expectation that his colonial term would be short. In fact he spent the rest of his life in Australia.
Broughton and his family left Sheerness in the convict ship John and reached Sydney on 13 September 1829. Scott handed over his authority on 16 September and Broughton preached his first sermon, at St Philip's, on the 27th. At his primary visitation in St James's Church on 3 December he announced the main points of his policy. The church would have a paternal concern for convicts, Aboriginals and settlers in the new areas, and a special responsibility for the organization and control of education with the financial and official backing of the state, for it was above all the national church, established in law, charged with the care of all subjects of the Crown, apostolic in its doctrine and government. The opinion of Samuel Marsden, the senior chaplain, that the 'Archdeacon is a very high Churchman, but not inimical to the Gospel. He will not countenance the smallest deviation from the rules of the Established Church', was as accurate for 1829 as when it was expressed in 1834. It remained substantially true for the whole of his Australian career.
Broughton soon proved to be more popular and better tempered than Scott. He lacked the gift of ready friendship, but he won the good opinion of Governor (Sir) Ralph Darling, the respect of the officials with whom he sat in the Executive and Legislative Councils, and the co-operation of his clergy. He was a prodigious worker and an ardent writer of letters and pamphlets. Since his undergraduate days he had been lame and often walked with a stick; this disability reduced his pleasure but not his performance in travelling through his extensive archdeaconry. His absences from Sydney and his retiring disposition held him aloof from colonial quarrels where the interests of his Church were not involved. Even the press, while often critical of his churchmanship and his ecclesiastical policy, could find little personal fault with him.
There is little doubt that Broughton would have been content to follow the general lines of Scott's administration. This soon proved impossible. The Church and School Corporation was suspended the day before Broughton left England, although he had not been told of this change in policy, and its charter was finally revoked in 1833. The corporation had not been a success and the decision to suspend and then to abolish it had been made in the light of general imperial policy rather than of a direct attack on the position of the church in New South Wales. Its passing made no formal difference to the Church of England and Broughton served on the board which supervised the disposal and care of its assets. But the result was considerable administrative inconvenience and the prospect that the church would have to rely on direct government aid. Moreover, it weakened the church's influence at a time when the Catholics and Presbyterians had gained a measure of recognition and support and when public criticism of its privileges was gathering strength.
The governorship of Sir Richard Bourke (1831-37), a liberal Irish Anglican, saw the undermining of the kind of church that Broughton wished to uphold. The ecclesiastical structure would have been changed, as in other colonies, irrespective of the personalities involved, but the bad relations between Broughton and Bourke gave bitterness to the process. Broughton entered upon a long period of public controversy wherein the governor was his adversary and his allies were those who might serve his purpose. His conservative political principles remained unchanged, but he sometimes found strange supporters. He had to expend more thought and energy in defending the privileges of his church, however agreeable this might have been to his scholarly and legal interests, than in extending its ministrations in Australia.
In 1830 Broughton produced a plan for higher education; King's Schools at Parramatta and Sydney, the former for boarders, would provide 'a good classical, scientific and religious education to the sons of parents in the middle and higher ranks of life'; there would be no religious tests but the masters and the instruction would be Anglican. The plan was not acceptable to many Sydney residents or to the Presbyterian, Dr John Dunmore Lang. The Colonial Office gave a belated approval but Bourke did his best to limit official support; he disliked religious exclusiveness and objected to subsidizing 'the sons of wealthy Colonists and Civil Servants of the Government while the Children of the poor are educated in mere Hovels under Convict School Masters'. In September 1833 Bourke followed this protest with a scheme for the introduction of Stanley's Irish National system of popular education. At the same time he proposed that the 'three grand divisions of Christians', the churches of England, Scotland and Rome, should receive payment for their clergy and buildings on a sliding scale, the former in proportion to local population, the latter to private contributions. Although some new arrangement had been made necessary by the Order in Council, 4 February 1833, dissolving the corporation, this policy was resisted by Broughton. The concession that the Anglicans might retain existing school buildings did not mollify him. He could allow that only his church, as the representative of the national establishment, should receive full official recognition and support. He was fully prepared to admit toleration but not religious equality.
Broughton returned to England in 1834 to promote the interests of his church. He wished to enlist the support of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the British government in providing clergy and money for the Church of England. Whitehall would act only through the local authorities but the society promised aid and began its long and powerful championship of Broughton's cause. The organization of the colonial church was the second object of his English visit. In 1833 Bourke, concerned for the government of the Anglican church in his colony, had proposed possibly at Broughton's suggestion and possibly to placate him, that a bishopric be erected. Lord Glenelg agreed after long discussion in November 1835. Brougton was nominated to the new see. At first he had been reluctant to accept as he had been when sounded out for the diocese of Calcutta. He had come to England, as much as anything else, to protest against Bourke's religious and educational policy; he feared that in an episcopal capacity he would be required to countenance the Irish system and to act 'in concert with Sir Richard Bourke in carrying into effect the proposed system of giving public support to three separate forms of religion, and possibly also to every congregation of dissenters and Jews upon the same principle'. The Colonial Office impatiently disclaimed an 'intention to impose any condition upon your acceptance of the bishopric, or to fetter the free exercise of your judgment … either in your episcopal or legislative capacity'. Broughton's doubts were resolved and he was consecrated bishop of Australia (the original suggestion, 'New South Wales', having given way to the broader title) on 14 February 1836 in Lambeth Palace chapel by Archbishop Howley of Canterbury, assisted by the bishops of London, Winchester and Gloucester. Broughton arrived back in Sydney in the Camden on 2 June and was enthroned in St James's Church three days later by Samuel Marsden.
On his return Broughton found himself excluded from the Legislative and Executive Councils by a ruling of the governor's legal advisers. In England he had agreed to his omission from a reconstituted council but he had secured Glenelg's assent to his membership of the existing body. Bourke regretted Broughton's insistence but finally had to give way. Meanwhile the governor introduced his Irish educational system into the council. Broughton had reached Sydney 'in a much shorter time than we could have ventured to expect' and was able to take a leading part in the General Committee of Protestants which fought Bourke's measure. The qualified approval given to the system by the Roman Catholics had aroused formidable Protestant opposition. The Legislative Council, with Broughton still excluded, voted money for Bourke's plan but the public reaction, skilfully exploited by the bishop, had been too strong for much to be expended. In 1839 Governor Sir George Gipps proposed that the British and Foreign School system be introduced. On 27 August Broughton, now restored to the legislature, resisted it in what was probably the finest speech of his career. He no longer enjoyed general Protestant support, though the Roman Catholic clergy opposed Gipps's policy; so, 'faced with a scheme which was clearly Protestant, but still inimical to his aims, he had to abandon his former allies and take his stand upon the distinctive nature of Anglican doctrine'. Gipps did not press his point but Broughton's victory was not to endure.
In 1844 the new part-elective Legislative Council, of which Broughton was not a member, appointed a committee to inquire into the state of education. The committee supported the introduction of a version of the Irish system and the council gave its approval. Broughton upheld his educational position in his triennial visitation charge—'the most lengthy and learned of these episcopal pronouncements'—and before the committee itself, but the council's decision was frustrated by Gipps's refusal to implement it. The governor's attitude was explained officially by the clergy's unwillingness to co-operate in a general system; it is probable that his defeat in 1839 had convinced Gipps on this point. Robert Lowe, in the Atlas, immediately ascribed Gipps's intransigence to Broughton's persuasion and followed this in May 1845 with a charge that the governor and the bishop had a pact whereby the religious monopoly of education was to be maintained in return for Broughton's support for Gipps's land policy. Although long accepted as true, this accusation was almost certainly false. By 1847 the case for direct state action towards the colony's schools was more emphatic and Broughton's capacity to sustain his own system was weaker. In May he was obliged to inform the colonial government that it might supervise the secular teaching in state-aided schools. This was a partial surrender and, together with Governor Sir Charles FitzRoy's determination, made the dual system of 1848 possible. It was not a deliberate compromise, for such would have been alien to Broughton's principles and character; rather it was the manifestation of a growing awareness on his part that the role of his church in a changing colony was itself undergoing change.
Broughton's main concern was to provide the colonies under his jurisdiction with the spiritual institutions of England. While he agreed that the colonial church had a missionary duty and the necessity to promote its physical expansion, he considered that its chief task was to sanctify and uphold the social structure. This required not undisciplined evangelists but men of 'temperate and professional ardour', ordained clergy rather than lay preachers. A regular church involved a regular and ordered colonial society. His conviction on this point made Broughton reluctant to condone 'liberal' policies which he considered might endanger the fragile Australian framework. He had been sceptical about trial by jury in 1830, unwilling to encourage political reform in the late 1830s and suspicious of the programme of the squatters in Gipps's time. In 1842 he proposed land regulations not dissimilar to those of the governor and designed to prevent the occupation of new territory without the amenities of civilization and religion.
Broughton was not a simple conservative in politics or a traditionalist in churchmanship. His public opinions were cautiously constructive and his ecclesiastical policy was directed to the advancement of his church from its early chaplaincy status. Bourke's Church Act (1836) granted state recognition and support to the major denominations and the English Church Temporalities Act (1837) placed parochial Anglicanism on a firm foundation. Broughton welcomed the legal freedom and the popular basis provided for the Church of England, while he deplored the continued absence of effective ecclesiastical administration and the admission of other faiths to a position of equality with his own.
In 1835 Broughton first met the work of the Oxford scholars soon to be known as the Tractarians. Until the publication of Tract 90 he was their consistent supporter and after 1840 he remained an admirer of Pusey and Keble. Broughton came of an older school of High Churchmen and was never a Tractarian, but the movement helped him to solve, to his own satisfaction, some of the problems that he met after the passing of the Church Act. Its emphasis upon the historical continuity of the national church and the apostolic succession of its bishops strengthened his resistance to the growth of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1843 Broughton protested formally against the creation of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Sydney, in 1847 against precedence being accorded to Archbishop John Bede Polding over himself and in 1850 against the elevation of Dr Wiseman to the new archbishopric of Westminster. In his controversy with Wiseman, Broughton tried to define royal supremacy and to deny that it involved the subordination of the church to the secular state. But he had always expressed reservations about the degree of practical control exercised by the government over the chaplains and the clash of jurisdictions that this might, and in Van Diemen's Land did, involve. The Tractarians' insistence on the spiritual autonomy of the church helped to give a sense of the basic independence of colonial Anglicanism; it was not simply the ecclesiastical department of the state. The sacramental teachings of the Tractarians and their emphasis on the church as the means of grace were welcomed by Broughton; he was always concerned lest the church should fail to assert its corporate nature and divine mission in the raw colonial society where secular influences predominated. Broughton regarded himself as a patron rather than a follower of the Tractarian clergy. He was anxious to introduce 'young men brought up in their principles' into his diocese, and to give them preferment where this might be done without estranging the existing clergy or making a show of his virtually unlimited authority in making appointments. He was unsuccessful in avoiding criticism, especially from the laity. There were accusations of 'Puseyite' tendencies, of episcopal tyranny and clerical authoritarianism. Some of the charges were unfounded: those by Robert Lowe in the Atlas were mischievous in intent and others simply reflected current discontent with the constitutional position of the colonial Church of England. The offertory issue was raised in 1847, as elsewhere in the empire. The conversion of Revs. Robert Sconce and Thomas Makinson to Roman Catholicism in 1848 provoked a bitter controversy, in which Broughton was not supported wholeheartedly by all his clergy. The senior minister, William Cowper, who had just been made archdeacon, was notably lukewarm. Broughton's conception of the role of the church, perhaps on account of its Tractarian connexions, was sometimes misinterpreted and not always popular. But these considerations were generally subordinated in the 1840s to the question of church expansion.
In the year after his enthronement Broughton began to build his cathedral. Macquarie had laid the foundation stone of a great metropolitan church of St Andrew in 1819 but Commissioner John Thomas Bigge had very soon stopped the work on it. Broughton enlisted strong support for his project, and Governor Bourke laid the stone anew near the same place at the old George Street burial ground. In the prosperous times good progress was made, but it faltered with the depression and revived only in 1850. Broughton did not see his cathedral completed, but used St James's until a temporary wooden church, the second on the site, was built in 1842 as the pro-cathedral. Broughton had some success with parish churches and schools, of which he was an indefatigable promoter. Although the Acts of 1836-37 gave material impetus to church expansion, Broughton's organizing ability and lengthy travels proved invaluable in a situation where the population was newly arrived and thinly spread. During his episcopate Broughton consecrated or dedicated almost a hundred church buildings on the Australian mainland.
Of more immediate importance was the supply of clergy. Broughton considered that his church was losing ground after 1833 in recruiting men for the colonial ministry. His visit to England next year was prompted in part by his need to speed the supply. He had little personal success, but he made important contacts with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The help of the society and the provisions of the Church Acts led to a steady flow of prospective ministers, some already in priests orders, others to be ordained by Broughton. Although the colonial Treasury grants soon slackened and fresh subsidies from the society were not made after 1847, the bishop's position was relieved. Few of the new men had had long English experience and they settled into their Australian parishes without undue difficulty. Some resented the lack of security in their livings and their dependence on the bishop; but with several notable exceptions they maintained good, if not close, relations with Broughton.
Broughton soon realized that his diocese needed to train its own ordinands. His own attempts as archdeacon to promote clerical education had been as unsuccessful as Archdeacon Scott's, but the support that he received from English supporters after 1835 made a renewed effort possible. A large grant from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in 1840 was used to support a grammar school and in 1845 a theological college at St James's, Sydney. The college moved to Lyndhurst, The Glebe, in 1847 and eight of its students were ordained before it closed in 1849. Broughton had entertained high hopes for St James's College. He himself retained his early interest in scholarship and he saw in the college his best chance to communicate it. The teaching at St James's was intended to cover recent developments in theology as well as the standard banalities of a divinity course. This led to complaints from the Atlas that Broughton was trying to turn the college into a Tractarian stronghold, and a charge by Rev. Francis Russell in 1849 that Rev. R. K. Sconce had taught the Tridentine doctrine of justification. The failure of the college was a heavy blow to Broughton. He wrote to Edward Coleridge, his firmest English supporter, 'as to the … want of men, I am well nigh reduced to despair; for in the country itself I see none prepared, none promising well for the work of the Ministry'. In 1850 he planned a new theological and general institution at the cathedral site and tried to have trust funds released to pay for it. But the foundation of the University of Sydney in the same year put an end to his hopes. Broughton petitioned against its aggressively secular character, declaiming that his policy was an examining university with affiliated religious teaching colleges. When this was not granted promptly, he declined to accept the belated offer of a seat on the senate and indicated that his clergy should follow his example. A compromise was reached in 1854 with the incorporation of St Paul's College in a form which Broughton would not have approved. Broughton's work for ministerial education had been unsuccessful. Like the heads of other churches he failed to enlist sufficient support among his laity to promote his plans.
The provision of churches and clergy involved the wider consideration of the erection of new sees and the division of the diocese of Australia. Broughton had done his best to superintend his vast jurisdiction. He had visited Van Diemen's Land in 1830 and 1833—his relations with Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur were better than with Governor Bourke—and again in 1838 after the island had been made an archdeaconry. He went to Port Phillip in 1838 and 1843 and in the former year to New Zealand, which did not fall within his diocese and where the Church Missionary Society recruits were not quite happy to accept his ministrations. By 1840 Broughton was convinced that local development and regional differences made essential the creation of additional bishoprics. He co-operated with his English friends in promoting the Colonial Bishoprics Fund. He assisted in the foundation of the sees of New Zealand (1841) and Tasmania (1842) and advocated a bishopric at Port Phillip. After long negotiation and some changes of plan, Broughton secured the appointment of bishops at Melbourne and Newcastle in 1847; a new diocese was also created at Adelaide. Broughton had offered to surrender a portion of his own stipend from the Treasury to help support the Melbourne and later the Newcastle bishopric. He could not secure men of his personal choice as his colleagues—he bungled the nomination of Robert Allwood to Morpeth-Newcastle—but he welcomed the selection of Perry and Tyrrell. He even hinted that, were his friend Edward Coleridge to succeed him, he would resign his new office of bishop of Sydney and retire to England to be head of a college for training clergy for colonial service. But Broughton, now metropolitan, had the largest task of his episcopate yet to perform.
The foundation of additional dioceses stimulated the need for a settlement of the government of the Church of England in Australia. Broughton had already found the local problems of clerical discipline, the application of English canon and statute law, the participation of the laity in ecclesiastical matters and the relations of church and state to be more and more difficult to solve. Bishop Selwyn of New Zealand had instituted a synod and Perry and Tyrrell were taking steps to regulate the affairs of their dioceses. By 1850 Broughton had become convinced that the changing position of the colonial church and the anomalous arrangements under which it was trying to work required general consideration. He summoned the five bishops to Sydney to deliberate on the future of their church.
The conference of the Australasian bishops in October 1850 was 'the crowning event of Broughton's career'. It was not a synod with the power of formal decree; the royal supremacy appeared to inhibit such a proceeding. But Broughton, who presided over and dominated its sessions, intended its statements on ecclesiastical government and clerical discipline, education and missionary action to be persuasive in the historical development of the church. The bishops were generally agreed on all points except the definition of baptismal regeneration, yet their recommendations were coolly received in the several colonies. In South Australia, Tasmania and even at Port Phillip, there were hostile meetings and complaints that the laity were not to be accorded full equality with the clergy; there was talk of 'episcopal tyranny' and a fear of the diminution of the Crown's supremacy. Broughton was immersed in coping with the impact of the gold rush on his diocese and hoped that this critical spirit would not extend to the church at Sydney. He was growing old and the troubles of the past few years had taken their toll. The death of his wife and his own serious illness in 1848 had impaired his energy, though not his resolution. It was a cruel disappointment to find that his form of petition to the imperial parliament—he had rejected local or voluntary action as unconstitutional—was sharply censured by parish meetings and opposed by a strong minority at a clerical conference in April 1852. Several weeks later a lay association was formed to promote a counter-petition which 'deprecated the assumption of clerical supremacy which now threatens [the laity's] religious freedom'. The lay criticism was ill informed about the constitutional difficulties and was prompted as much by the agitation for secular responsible government as by a general mistrust of the bishop's ecclesiastical policies. The association enlisted considerable support and sent its petition to England with Sir Thomas Mitchell for presentation to the House of Commons by Robert Lowe. Broughton's attitude to what he regarded as a captious movement was one of dignified aloofness. His own petition had been modified at the instance of his advisers and he remained confident of its success. He had already determined to go to England to discuss the whole question of the future of colonial church government and he thought that his arguments might allay the doubts of the imperial parliament and stifle the criticisms of his opponents in New South Wales.
Broughton sailed for England in the Salacia on 16 August 1852. He was obliged to travel by way of South America and it proved an arduous voyage. He landed at Lima, where he held services, travelled to Panama and crossed the Atlantic in a ship on which yellow fever raged. He reached England in November in ill health, but he worked hard to promote a meeting of colonial bishops and to convince Whitehall of the constitutional difficulties of his church. Broughton had little time to achieve his object; he died on 20 February 1853 at the London home of Lady Gipps, widow of the former governor. He was buried in Canterbury Cathedral, the scene of his schooldays, the first post-Reformation bishop to be so honoured.
In his panegyric Chief Justice (Sir) Alfred Stephen said 'if the late Bishop was not a man universally loved in the colony, he was a man universally respected and esteemed'. There is no doubt that, despite the strong criticism levelled at him, Broughton was honoured for his devotion and probity. His opinions and policy could never be generally acceptable and he did nothing to court an easy popularity. He was a reserved man who made few close friends in New South Wales and his scholarly and precise sermons were scarcely to the colony's taste or understanding. Although hampered by lameness he was indefatigable in travelling and preaching. Broughton's conception of the nature of the church and his view of its future constitution were far-sighted. It was his misfortune that his Tractarian sympathies aroused resentment and hindered his work, often for quite irrelevant reasons. Broughton was not successful in allaying this opposition, for his High Churchman's reluctance in the 1830s to acknowledge the changing status of the Church of England was not readily forgotten, but although he shared some of his faults and errors with other colonial bishops of his time, his virtues remained his own.
K. J. Cable, 'Broughton, William Grant (1788–1853)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/broughton-william-grant-1832/text2107, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 30 March 2017.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966