§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [21st March] "That the Bill be now read a second time"; and 610 which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words, "upon this day six. months."—(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ *SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
said, that when the Debate was interrupted on Tuesday night he had finished what he had to say on the subject of Disestablishment. He had shown that injustice would be inflicted on Welshmen who were members of the Church by the destruction of the organisation of their religious community, and he had pointed out that modern establishment did not affect anybody who was not a member of the Church. He had also called attention to the fact that none of the speakers oil the opposite side, with the single exception of the Home Secretary, had pointed to any incident of Establishment which interfered with persons outside the Church. The Home Secretary stated that the legal enforcement of tithe was an incident of Establishment. He thought what the right hon. Gentleman meant to say was, that the Establishment of the Church by law had accounted historically for the transmutation of the voluntary payment of tithe into a legal obligation. But inasmuch as tithe was enforced in the same way when it belonged to a private individual, and would be enforced by law after the Bill passed just as it was now, he did not think the payment of tithe could be said to be an incident of modern Church Establishment. Proceeding to deal with Disendowment, he said he regarded that question as by far the less important part of the Bill. He agreed with hon. Members opposite that you could not permanently injure a religious communion by taking away its property. But Disendowment was none the less an injustice to Welshmen, and especially to poor Welshmen, who were members of the Church. He believed the principle upon which Parliament should proceed in regard to Church property was that embodied in the Act of 1844, which gave Nonconformist bodies the right to their chapels—namely, that prescript- 611 tion, and not a very long presciption, should, in the absence of any other evidence, give any religious body the title to its property. But whether the property of the Church in Wales was originally a voluntary gift, as the Home Secretary argued, which had grown gradually by prescription into a legal right, or whether it was a grant from the owners of land, as it certainly was in the case quoted by the right hon. Member for Bristol, it was, at any rate, undisputed that by a prescription of more than two centuries the property which the Bill proposed to take away from the Church in Wales had been held and used, and, according to the confession of the Government, was now being properly and effectively used, for the purposes for which it was originally either given or granted. The Ecclesiastical Corporations in Wales were the trustees of that property; the people beneficially interested in it were the members of the Church at large, which comprised, in theory at least, the whole population of the parish; and there could be no doubt that the purposes to which the property was to be applied were spiritual purposes. What moral right had Parliament to divert funds left for such purposes to the secular purposes described in the Bill? There were, no doubt, precedents for the diversion of ecclesiastical funds to secular purposes, but in modern days Parliament had certainly never gone so far as to divert funds, which admittedly were being used for excellent and good purposes, to purposes, excellent perhaps in themselves, but differing in toto from the objects for which the property was originally given. The only answer given to that by the supporters of the Bill was that the majority of the Welsh people wished this diversion of the property of the Chùrch. But surely it was not held that a majority in any part of the kingdom could dictate to the minority there. If it could have been pointed out, as might have been done a century ago, that the trustees of the property were unfaithful to their trust, then a good case might have been made out—not for the confiscation of the property, but for changing the trustees. The hon. Member for Edinburgh gave an extraordinary reason for the diversion of this property. He said there were in the Church many 612 wealthy men who could easily replace by their gifts the property which was to be taken away. He did not know whether a Bill of this kind would be very likely to encourage benevolent persons to make grants or donations for spiritual purposes. But even if it did, what right had Parliament to take away that which the poor enjoyed, not as a privilege but as a right, merely because there was a prospect of its being replaced through the liberality of others? Concluding, he said he regretted that the time of Parliament should be taken up by a measure of mere destruction like this. The President of the Board of Trade, who was to follow him, was the head of a Department which claimed to be specially charged with social questions. He wished the right hon. Gentleman was going to recommend some measure which would confer further benefits upon the people, or protect them against some of the evils to which they were subject. In these days the Government should build up and not pull down, and he regretted that the principal measure of the Session should be one directed against an institution which the Home Secretary admitted to be even now rendering great services to the people, and which was full of immense possibility of future improvement.
*THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. BKYCE, Aberdeen, S.)
said, that before addressing himself to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, he desired to deal with one or two controversial questions of fact that had arisen in the course of the Debate. The first of these related to some criticisms that were made on the figures given by the Home Secretary in his speech in moving the Second Reading of the Bill. His right hon. Friend had stated that in Wales there were, in the Sunday schools of the Church of England, 145,000 children, while in the Nonconformist Sunday schools there were 515,000 children. The Bishop of St. Asaph in The Times newspaper disputed the correctness of these statements and alleged that the number of children in Nonconformist schools had been overstated by 80,000, and suggested that the Home Secretary had been led into an error by having included the children who were in the Nonconformist Welsh schools in England. His right hon. Friend informed him that 613 he had had the figures carefully re-examined and verified, and that they were perfectly correct; they included no children in Welsh Nonconformist Sunday schools in England, and included the schools of six Welsh denominations of Nonconformists—Calvinistic Methodists, Independents, Baptists, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, and Bible Christians. He would now come to the other charge of inaccuracy brought against his right hon. Friend, viz.: as regarded the number of parishes which did not possess a resident clergyman. The Bishop of St. Asaph had said that at the present time the Established Church provided in every parish in Wales a resident minister; that in nearly half of the parishes Nonconformity had not made any provision for a resident minister; and that in over 1,000 parishes the Nonconformists had only 520 resident ministers. His right hon. Friend, with the view of showing the inaccuracy of that statement, took the case of the county of Anglesey, and stated that out of 76 parishes there there were 27 in which there was no resident clergyman of the Established Church. The Bishop of St. Asaph contradicted that statement in The Times newspaper, and the Bishop of Bangor, within whose diocese the county of Anglesey lay, and who, possessing a closer knowledge, had also a greater caution, though he reduced the number, disputed to some slight extent his right hon. Friend's figures. The Bishop of Bangor admitted that there were 19 parishes, although he denied that there were 27 in Anglesey in which there were no resident clergymen of the Church of England, stating that these 19 had been grouped with 19 other parishes for ecclesiastical purposes. Having made further inquiries his right hon. Friend found that his number, 27, was entirely correct, and that if anything it was rather an understatement than an overstatement of the number of parishes in Anglesey without a resident clergyman of the Church of England. His right hon. Friend believed he had overestimated the amount of tithe which accrued in these 27 parishes, but, apart from that, he maintained that his statement was entirely correct. The Bishop of Bangor had said that probably many of these parishes were thinly peopled, and had, therefore, been grouped, as was both economical and proper. He might have 614 added as a further reason that the majority of the population was in most cases Nonconformist. But, if the Church of England was to be permitted to group parishes, why were not the Nonconformists to do so too, and what became of the contrast which the right rev. Prelate had in the first instance endeavoured to draw between the Church of England, with resident ministers in every parish, and the Nonconformists, who, he said, made no similar provision? It ought to be remembered, too, that most of the Nonconformist denominations discharged a good deal of their pastoral work by elders and deacons. He now came to a statement made by the right hon. Member for the University of Dublin, who complained of some observations that fell from him in a previous Debate as to what was done in regard to the compensation of curates under the Irish Church Act. The right hon. Gentleman with warmth, and he might even say harshness—which was the more surprising, in that his speeches generally gave no less pleasure to the House by the geniality of their tonethan by their refined and graceful eloquence—had accused him of trumping up a case, and asked what foundation he had for his statement in regard to the curates. The statement was perfectly correct. He had referred to the Debate of 1875, to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded, and found that the Debate arose out of the charges made against the Irish Church Commissioners, and only to the smallest possible extent did the question at issue then turn upon the curates. The question of the curates was in no sense judged or settled by that Debate, and the right hon. Gentleman's recollection had misled him as to the effect and meaning of the decision taken.
§ MR. DAVID PLUNKET (Dublin University)
said, he had a recollection of the Debate in question, and the report in "Hansard" was a very brief one. The question turned upon the clergymen as well as on the Commissioners.
§ *MR. BRYCE
said, if the report was defective, the right hon. Gentleman must not complain of his not reading into that report of the Debate something which was not there. It was the right hon. Gentleman who had himself referred to the Debate, and he (Mr. Bryce) could do no more than study it in 615 "Hansard." But the House had got better materials to turn to than that Debate. If hon. Members would read with care the Report of the Irish Church Commissioners, published in 1876, after the Debate which had been referred to, they would there find enough to enable them to understand the whole matter. He would give the House one or two facts which would enable them to see what took place. The Irish Church Bill of 1869, as brought in, provided a certain scheme of compensation, under which the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Midlothian, estimated that the compensation payable to permanent curates would not exceed £800,000. The Bill was transformed in the House of Lords by a clause under which that compensation swelled to about £1,600,000. Deduction was not to be made from the income of an incumbent in respect of the salary of any curate who was not a permanent curate, and yet the Bill contained a loophole under which incumbents, after the passing of the Act, received curates who claimed and obtained compensation as permanent curates; thus the number of curates ordained rose rapidly, and thus, in point of fact, in not a few cases the compensation was paid twice over in respect to the same curate under that Bill. He had the pleasure of knowing the two Irish Church Commissioners, and whoever knew them knew them to be most able and upright men. The complaint he brought was in no sense against them, but was entirely against the provisions of the Act, because it was under those lax provisions of the Act that this system of exaggerated compensation became possible. And, whereas, the number of permanent curates who were in the Established Church of Ireland in the summer of 1869, at the time when the Act was passed, was only 563, it had swollen by the 1st of January, 1871, to 764—i.e., it had increased by about 35 per cent.—and that difference, together with the laxity with which compensation was given under the machinery provided by the Act, represented what the Irish Church revenues had to lose as regards curates alone in respect of the unfortunate changes which were made in the Bill, 616 and, he would say, the unfortunate attempt to provide compensation for curates at all. He therefore repeated that the compensation scheme under the Irish Church Act of 1869 was a very grave and serious warning to them not te enter again upon any such slippery path, and not to attempt to provide a plan of compensation to curates. From this minor point he would now pass to the general question. The right hon. Gentlemen (Mr. Plunket) had not denied that the Disestablished Irish Church had suffered infinitely less from Disestablishment and Disenidowment than was expected in 1869. He had not even differed from the views expressed by his distinguished brother the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin as to the positive strength which that Church had in some respects gained by her freedom from State connection. In this point those who feared for the Established Church in Wales might take courage. But he must say something more as to the parallel between the two cases. What had been the grounds put forward for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1869? They were four—she was the Church of a minority; she was the cause of social bitterness and political strife; she was regarded with aversion—and with all the more aversion because she was a proselytising Church—by a large number of the people of Ireland; and a majority of the Irish people, through their representatives, demanded her Disestablishment and Disendowment. Let them compare that case with the case of Wales. In Wales they had a Church which was the Church of a minority; which was, undoubtedly, the cause of social bitterness and political strife; which was regarded with aversion—and he feared all the more so because she had latterly begun to proselytize—not for one moment because she was a Christian body, but merely because she was a source of political and social dissension; and, lastly, Disestablishment and Disendowment were demanded by a large majority of the Welsh people. It was demanded by a much larger majority of the representatives of Wales than was the case in Ireland. He had referred to the Irish figures, and he found that on the Second Reading of the Irish Church 617 Disestablishment Bill 99 Irish Members voted. Of these, 63 voted for the Bill and 36 voted against it—that was to say, less than two-thirds of the Irish Members voted for the Bill. In the Division which would take place that night, if the Welsh Members were able to be present, they would have 31 out of 34 in favour of the Bill, or nine-tenths of the Welsh representation in that House. They had, therefore, a far larger and a more unanimous demand on the part of the people of Wales, speaking through their representatives, than they had in the case of Ireland. These were the grounds for their action. He supposed no one seriously disputed that the Welsh Members represented the opinion of the Welsh people. A Bill had been introduced into that House by a Scotch Member proposing that a sort of plebiscite should be taken in Scotland on the question of whether the Scotch Church should be Disestablished, but no one proposed that for Wales, because everyone knew perfectly well that a proposal of that sort would only elicit an overwhelming majority in favour of this Bill. It was said they had entered upon this as a piece of political opportunism. He would say for himself that there had never been a time when he had not thought their first duty towards Wales was to Disestablish the Established Church. And he would like to ask the House to consider what was the position in which a popular demand like this placed the Legislature of the country. Where the persons affected, the persons who knew the state of the case, the persons who suffered for what they considered an evil, were asking them by growing majorities, and by majorities which had now reached nine-tenths of the Parliamentary representation, to do away with the evils, how was it possible for them as a constitutional Government to refuse to listen to them? What would become of, he would not say Liberal principles, but of the very elementary principles of representative Government, if a demand preferred in that way by a distinct section of the country was not listened to? He thought this furnished an unanswerable prima facie case, and if the matter ended there no one could doubt for a moment that the House of Commons was bound at once to take up the 618 question and was bound to gratify the demand of Wales. He would be told that there were serious objections. This was a very grave question, which opened up many principles that were not commonly discussed in that House, and it was necessary that they should try if they could to get at the very bottom of the question. He would, therefore, try to state fairly what he believed to be the arguments on which hon. Gentlemen opposite relied in answer to the prima facie case he had sought to put forward. The first, he thought, was that Disestabment would prejudicially affect the Church of England; the second was that Disestablishment and Disendowment were robbery, if not sacrilege: and the third was, that the establishment of religion was a good thing in itself, and it strengthened religion as a moral force, and it was a rampart against infidelity and immorality, and that it might be said, in some sense, to consecrate and dignify the State. He would try to examine each of these propositions. As regarded injury to the Church of England, he had asked in the previous Debate, and had received no answer then or in this Debate, in what respect any individual layman or individual clergyman of the Church of England would suffer by the passing of this Bill. No one had been able to tell him what harm in mind, body, or estate, secular or ecclesiastical, would be suffered by any clergyman or layman of the Church of England. It could not be said that either her doctrine or discipline was touched by the Bill. Her spiritual communion would remain as it was now. Church Congresses, into which far more than in Convocation, the real living life and sentiments of the Church now flowed, would continue to meet for the whole of the Church of England and Wales; the clergy would be reciprocally eligible for the benefits of the bishoprics, and the same communion, in fact, would exist between England and Wales that existed now between the Church of England and the Church of Ireland, and the Protestant Episcopal Church in any of our colonies. He would like to read to the House a very striking passage from Cardinal Newman. It was in the Appendix to the once famous Tract No. 90, in which 619 he dealt with the question of the relation of dioceses to one another. He said:—Each diocese is a perfect, independent church, sufficient for itself; and the communion of Christians one with another, and the unity of them altogether, lie not in a mutual understanding, intercourse, and combination, not in what they do in common, but in what they are and have in common, in the possession of the succession, their episcopal form, their apostolical faith, and the use of the Sacraments.Upon that authority he put to the House what, indeed, he thought everyone who looked into the nature of the Church in its true constitution must feel, that nothing was done that affected in any way the spiritual constitution of the Church of England or her communion with the Church of Wales, because it was in her spiritual life, in her doctrine and discipline, in her administration of the Sacraments, and the existence in her of a sacerdotal body, and not in State control or State connection, that the essence of spiritual communion lay. It was said the Church of England would be more threatened if this Bill passed. Why should she be in any more danger than she was to-day? The same thing was said in the case of Ireland, but as soon as the two or three years after the Disestablishment of the Irish Church had passed no more threats were heard against the Church of England, and her position was not any more assailed than before Irish Disestablishment. The Disestablishment of the Irish Church had not in any way led to the proposal to disestablish the Church in Wales This movement in Wales had become important within the last 10 years. The Disestablishment of the Irish Church lay 26 years behind. That which had brought about the movement in Wales was not the precedent of Ireland, but the fact that the circumstances were similar in the cases of Wales and Ireland. And if the Disestablishment of the Church of England were, as was alleged, the object of the promoters of this Bill, he greatly doubted whether they were going the best way to attain it. They were removing that which had long been the chief grievance against the Church of England. They were removing that which had been the least defensible outwork of the Church of England, and they were also carrying away from the ranks of those who were called, though he did not admit the name, assailants of 620 the Church of England the most active body, because they were carrying away those persons who at present suffered the most for the existence of an Estabtablished Church, which was the Church of the minority. It was said, further, that the arguments they had advanced were all arguments in favour of Disestablishment in general. He did not deny, and he could not deny, that arguments which turned upon the nature and constitution of a Church must be arguments which applied to Disestablishment everywhere. It was impossible it could be otherwise. But when they came to consider not the Church, but the State; if they came to look not to the spiritual nature of the Church, but to the country and the people among whom a particular Church existed—they were obliged to apply those general considerations which related to the nature of the Church with a due regard to the circumstances of the particular country, and the minds and temperament of the people. So regarding it, there was no evidence that the people of England had even thought much about this question, much less that they had made up their minds upon it. If the state of facts changed, if the minds of the English people did awaken to this question, and they came to the conclusion, as the Welsh people had concluded, that they would be better without an Established Church, and if, like the Welsh people, thay demanded that with the voice of the majority of their Representatives they would then have the question put before them in a practical form. When that time came the question would be dealt with on its own merits, and not on the precedent of Wales. The arguments which would be cited, and which would have weight then, would be arguments to which the case of Wales would not make any substantial difference. He came for a moment to speak of the question of Endowments. The chief point which had been canvassed in their discussions had been the right of the State to deal with Endowments which the Established Church enjoyed. He would remind the House that this property, which was spoken of as if it were the property of the Church, was not the property of that corporation called the Church as a whole. If it were property, it appeared 621 to him to be in the nature of an Endowment, of which the various corporations in the aggregate were trustees for the people of the parishes or for the people of the dioceses. But be that as it might it was not property in any sense of any large corporation, but of a number of small corporations scattered over the country. How did that property originate? Was there any one who could doubt that that property was given by the State? If there was any one he would refer him to the book of the greatest living authority on constitutional history in England, Bishop Stubbs, who said:—The recognition of legal obligation of tithes dates from the eighth century both on the Continent and in England. In A.D. 779 Charles the Great ordained that every one should pay tithes, and that the proceeds should be disposed of by the Bishop, and in 789 it was made imperative by the Legatine Councils held in England, which, being attended by the Kings and Ealdormen, had the authority of Witenagemots. From that time it was enforced by not infrequent legislation. Almost all the laws issued after the death of Afred contain some mention of it. The legislation of Edgar is somewhat minute on the subject.Although Lord Selborne differed slightly from Bishop Stubbs as to some of the documents relied on, several of which Lord Selborne seemed to consider unauthoritative—he did not think Lord Selborne's views with regard to tithe substantially differed from those contained in the passage he had just read. Lord Selborne frankly admitted that the laws of Edgar and Canute distinctly recognised the legal obligation of tithe. To pay tithe had become before the Norman Conquest a distinct legal obligation on the donor, and there was nothing better settled in the 11th and 12th Centuries than that it was so. The fact that it originated from the teaching of the clergy and a false analogy drawn from the Mosaic law, the fact that it was recognised by custom before law enforced it, did not affect the indisputable fact that tithe in the 11th and 12th Centuries was a legal obligation imposed by the State. What conclusion could they draw from that except that tithe was bestowed by the nation? It was said that particular parishes received it in many cases from an individual donor. As Dr. Stubbs said, during a certain period it was left to the tithe payer's option to what Church he should make his payment. But the 622 parish churches did not receive it as the freewill offering of an individual donor, for the individual donor was already bound to pay tithe, and the most that he could be held to have done was to have attached payment of his tithe to one particular Church rather than to another; in other words, he had a certain option in appropriation, but no option in making the payment. That being so, it was impossible to regard tithes as the private gifts of ancient donors whose wishes should not be disturbed. They were gifts made by the State which had devoted a certain tax to a particular purpose and we were as free now as the State had been in the 10th Century and again in the 16th Century to deal with the property which the State had given. Even supposing, however, that tithes were deemed the gift of private donors, and that Parliament was now to endeavour to determine their proper destination by an examination of what the intentions of the donors were, whether those donors were private persons or the nation of that day, could they attribute to such donors the prescience which would look forward for many centuries? What could they take to be their intent? Was it to give the property to the Church either in respect of its doctrine or of its being a visible body. If given in respect of its doctrine, what had become of the doctrines of the Catholic Church of the 12th Century? Many of these gifts were given to churches dedicated to particular saints who had the devotion of the donors. But what had become of the Invocation of Saints? These gifts were given to a Church which was in communion with the see of Rome, which was the only visible body to which gifts could then be given, and the only religious organisation which then existed for the promotion of learning, science, philanthropy, for the care of the poor and all those public objects for which no other philanthropic association could then exist, a body to which every one must then belong, outside of which no religious or charitable work would have been then allowed to be done, and outside of which any one who attempted to work would have been promptly stopped and compelled to conform or desist. What right had we to assume that the donors of the 11th or 12th Centuries would have given their 623 property to a Church which was not now co-extensive with the Nation, which was the Church of the minority, which so far from being the only channel through which the spiritual and philanthropic life of the people flowed, now saw beside it other religious bodies and other philanthropic agencies which would not then have been tolerated, but which had to-day as much, if not more, claim to represent the spiritual life of the people? Since the Toleration Act of 1689, and the other legislation which marked the epoch of the Revolotion, the Established Church had passed from being co-extensive with the nation into being virtually only a denomination, and something entirely different from the Church of the Middle Ages and the Tudor Epoch. This was what made it right and necessary to draw a line between the ancient and the comparatively recent endowments. It was now the same only in name. The Established Church was no longer the National Church in the old sense, for it was not now, and had not for a long time been the only body to which any endowments that were given must be given. When endowments could be bestowed on any denomination of Christians, a gift to the Church of England became, by hypothesis, a gift to it in respect of its special claims and by the preference of the donor, just as gifts to a particular Nonconformist body would be. Thus the arguments which proved the right of Parliament to dispose freely of ancient endowments were not equally applicable to modern endowments, and Parliament would be transgressing its own principles if it did not draw a distinction, and say that the very reasons which induced it to attach respect to and carry out the intention of donors as to modern endowments so far as it deemed their purposes useful, and suited to our times, had no application to ancient endowments. He might say, in passing, that it was a mistake to suppose that Nonconformist endowments were, in the main, endowments given for the benefit of particular congregations. They were not so, at least in the case of some of the leading denominations. They had been mainly given for the benefit of such institutions as colleges and seminaries; and a comparatively small part of them were, at least in such bodies as the Independents, gifts for the support 624 of a particular Church in a particular parish. He did not think, however, that anyone who would look at the Ecclesiastical Legislation of the 16th Century would feel the least doubt in saying that the principles on which Parliament proceeded then—and which had never been repudiated by subsequent Parliaments—went a great deal further than it was proposed by this Bill that Parliament should go now. Take the chantries. They were foundations given for the saying of masses for the souls of the founders or their nearest relatives. But these had been done away with. Masses were shortly afterwards altogether forbidden, and the object dearest to the heart of the founder had been swept away. Surely far greater violence was done to the wish of the founder when endowments of that kind were taken; surely the powers exercised in the suppression both of the chantries and the monasteries did much greater violence to the religious feelings of those times than any it was proposed to do now. He passed to the last of the three arguments on which the Bill was opposed—the idea that an Established Church lent a certain sanctity to the State and was a more powerful religious influence to grapple with infidelity, immorality, and what was called the spirit of secularism, than a free and voluntary Church could be. On this point there were profound differences of opinion between Members of the House. It was a topic hard to discuss within those walls, but the assumption that the connection of Church and State strengthened the one and sanctified the other had evidently so much influence on the minds of many persons, and had been so distinctly put forward by many speakers, and particularly by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, that he must face it, and endeavour to show how groundless it was. He would try to find one common ground, at any rate, between them, in asking hon. Members to remember what was the teaching of the New Testament. There was certainly no thought of Establishment or Endowment there. The ministers of Primitive Christianity were supported by the free gifts of those whom they taught, and the Apostle Paul, although he maintained that he had a right to be supported by his converts, was careful to remind them in one 625 Epistle that he had supported himself. The New Testament, however, implicitly, and yet distinctly, laid down the relations which the Church ought to bear to the State. In the New Testament the Church was a divine society which lived by the law of love and devotion to her Divine Founder. There was in the teaching of the Gospel an absolute disclaimer of any relations at all between the Church, as an organised society, and the State:—Render unto Cæsar the things that be Cæsar's, and unto God the things that be God's.There was an absolute disclaimer of any pretension to secular authority, or of any use of law or force to require obedience or secure a secular advantage. "My Kingdom is not of this world." That primitive Church was Unendowed and Unestablished, but in the teeth of the Roman State and against its repeated persecutions she overspread the world and overcame the world by her own inherent power. There was an established worship in those days. There was the worship of the Emperor or his genius, a worship common to the whole Roman world, a worship to which all heathens, whatever their special deities, to which the worshippers of Jupiter or Astarte or Serapis or Alilat, were willing to conform. Only the Christians refused to conform; and for this the martyrs died. Then there came an hour of trial, the hour of triumph and prosperity. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, on the first night of the Debate, had appealed to history, and asked whether we were to disregard the whole practice of the Christian world from the days of Constantine down to very recent times. The right hon. Gentleman did well to appeal to history. In a grave matter like this, which raised fundamental principles, they were quite right in seeking to gather all the light they could from the teachings of history. But what were the teachings of history? The House would, perhaps, permit him to refer to a legend that was long current in the Middle Ages. On the day when Constantine—according to a fable which was believed for many centuries, and had vast political influence—endowed Pope Sylvester, as Chief Pastor of the Church, with worldly 626 power and great possessions, it was reported that an angel was seen to appear in the sky, who cried with a loud voice—This day poison is poured out on the Church.That legend was evidence of what many thoughtful people in the Middle Ages felt to have been the result of endowing the Church with wealth and power. The poison of secular power and riches was soon felt, and, within a century, from the time of Constantine a Church enthroned by the Civil Government had begun to persecute, and religious dissension had lit up the flames of war. What had been the subsequent experience of the alliance or the union between Church and State? It had secularised the Church; it had turned bishops into worldly potentates and corrupted them by the pursuit of riches; it had made them too often the ministers of tyranny and the agents of cruel persecutions; it had checked the free development of thought, it had given rise to many an insurrection and many a long and sanguinary war. Surveying the whole history of that union, the general result was that, the richer and the more powerful the Church became, and the more closely she was held in the fatal embraces of the State, the more did she forget her Master and his teaching. But had the State been benefited? The right hon. Member for West Bristol had admitted that the Church might have lost something by its connection with the State; but he said the State had been the gainer. The identification of the State with the Church had brought into politics dissensions and strifes which might otherwise have been avoided. It had led to wars and rebellions, it had forced the State to persecute and to repress the expression of opinion in. religious matters; it had helped to set class against class; it had left us a legacy of social bitterness which remained to this day. So far from ex-exhibiting the influence of Christianity in their conduct, those States with which the Church was most closely allied were just those which had shown the least respect for truth, and peace, and freedom. Look at Spain, under Philip the Second, and France in the time of Louis XIV., and judge how much the enthronement of religion had done for those countries. The 627 Church, in close alliance with the State, lost the power of being, as she ought to be, the conscience and the moral guide of the State. He might be asked how, if this long continued union of the civil and spiritual powers were really a mistake, it could have happened that all Christendom entered upon, and persisted in a line of policy condemned by its result. It happened because it was universally assumed, when Christianity became the general and dominant religion, that all men would agree to it and accept it that it was the duty of the civil power to compel all men to embrace the truth, and that the civil power itself possessed the truth, that truth being sometimes definite and certain, which nothing but moral obliquity could prevent men from embracing. These assumptions were natural, and, perhaps, inevitable in the then state of the world. They prevailed for 13 centuries from the time of Constantine down to the days of our own civil war; and if they had now been abandoned it was because men had come to regard agreement upon religious truth obtained by force as not only humiliating to the man who submitted to it, but also not pleasing to God. They now knew that men will not agree on religious questions, and few of them, excepting those who belonged to a Church which claimed to be infallible, would venture to claim that they were in possession of a truth so certain as to justify its enforcement or promotion by the secular arm. Upon the assumed possession of truth by the State was based the ancient union of Church and State and the claim of the civil magistrate to persecute. The absolute identity of the civil and the religious societies, the idea that all citizens were therewith also members of the Church was, no doubt, a grand and noble conception; never more nobly stated than by Richard Hooker, in his "Ecclesiastical Polity," at the very time that the rise of English Puritanism was rendering the realisation of the idea impossible here in England. But if historical experience taught us anything, it was that agreement in religious opinions would never be realised in such a world as the present. The experience to which the Member for West Bristol appealed, was the experience of the failure of efforts to apply principles now 628 long ago renounced in Western Europe, and remaining only in Russia. The foundation being gone, what was the use of trying to prop up the superstructure; Established Churches, as they survived among us now, were but a pale and feeble shadow of what they had been four centuries ago, free, no doubt, from the worst faults that had then deformed them, but without that solid basis on which they then stood firm. From this remote and unhappy part he would appeal to a living present. While 34 millions lived in these islands under a system of Church Establishment, nearly 80 millions of English-speaking people lived in other countries without Establishment. In those countries the churches were as numerous as here; they were as well appointed; the pastors were generally better paid; the sums raised for other purposes than the support of the ministers were relatively as large as here; there was little or no jealousy between religious sects; religious differences were not intruded into politics; and the clergy were as influential and as much respected as here. In Canada and the United States, he knew that the clergy were fully as potent and trusted in their proper sphere as they were in this country, and they were as prominent in every good work, such, for instance, as attacking municipal misrule and corruption. There had been many prelates in the Church of England during this century eminent by their talents and virtues, but none so admired and followed in his life, none so widely and deeply mourned at his death, as a bishop of an unestablished church—Dr. Phillips Brooks, the late bishop of Massachussets. The experience of these English speaking communities showed, as the history of the Primitive Church showed, that religon can thrive and the State can be strengthened by religion in an atmosphere of perfect freedom. The religious character of the State, and true recognition of Christianity by the State did not consist in paying the Church the homage of establishing her by law, but it consisted in making justice and humanity the base and rule of our conduct at home and abroad. The Establishment was no more the Church than the husk was the grain. Did 629 the right hon. Member for Dublin University think that the ancient walls and solemn associations of our cathedrals appealed less to Christians because they did not belong to an Established Church. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for West Bristol, spoke as if all who did not belong to the Established Church were necessarily its enemies. No man could live in England and be a good citizen and a Christian without feeling the deepest interest in the welfare and prosperity of the English Church. He had himself been brought up in another country and another branch of the Catholic Church, but seeing in the Church of England the oldest and largest of all the Christian communities in this country, recognising that she included the largest part of its learning, and of those who, by their intellectual gifts, and their social influence, as well as by zeal and earnestness, were able to advance the cause of religion and make it a blessing to the nation, he claimed to be as deeply and truly concerned in her welfare as any one of her own members. The right hon. Member for West Bristol had spoken of a wave of secularism passing over the world. He doubted that if Secularism were more openly avowed than formerly, he did not believe it was more widespread, and if individual selfishness was strong, there was also never a time when Christians had thrown more zeal and ardour into every effort and enterprise which looked to the good of others. But of one thing he was sure. If this were a time when the influence of the Christian spirit was specially needed to resist the forces of evil, the true way to strengthen that influence and to re-invigorate the Church in Wales was to set her free from worldly entanglement, and to bid her, remembering her glorious youth to rely no longer upon the privileges and gifts of the State, but upon the faith which she teaches and the Divine commission she has received.
§ MR. G. J. GOSCHEN (St. George's Hanover Square)
The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, spoke of the veneration which we feel for the Established Church in this country, of its dignity, its power, and its influence. It is because we do entertain these feelings we do not desire to see the Church broken up into factions. The speech of 630 the right hon. Gentleman has impressed me, as other Ministerial speeches have done, with the total inadequacy of motive for disestablishing the Church in Wales, and the manner in which the arguments relating to the case before us are applied to the Established Church in England. Yet we are told we are not to regard this Bill as a precedent. But we do regard this as the issue involved. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman is as much an attack upon the Church of England as upon the Church in Wales. To a certain extent he has brought in the Home Rule argument: 33 Members for Wales demand it, and therefore it must be. That plea I shall be prepared to examine; but let it be clearly seen that the case of the Church in Wales is put as differing entirely from that of the Church in Ireland, and that this is avowedly an attack upon the Church of England.
§ *MR. BRYCE
I expressly disclaimed anything of the kind, and said that, although it was impossible to avoid dealing with the general ecclesiastical arguments that had been advanced, the case of Wales was distinct altogether from that of the Church of England.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Nine-tenths of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman had nothing to do with the details of this question, but bore upon Church Establishment in general. What did the right hon. Gentleman say—a Minister—who spoke on this Bill? He said:—I have welcomed the fact that everyone who has taken part in this Debate has agreed to treat the Welsh Church as a subject that cannot be profitably treated without reference to its relation to the Church of England.All the arguments which have been adduced have been the arguments of Voluntaryism as against Establishment; but the arguments here are totally different from those employed in the case of the Irish Church. ["No, no?"] I am going to prove it. The right hon. Gentleman said that the precedent of the Irish Church must not be used with regard to the Welsh, and therefore the precedent of the Welsh Church could not be used in regard to the Church of England; but the hon. Member for Bedford said that it would be, and that has been stated by a greater man than anyone who sits upon these Benches now—the right hon. Member for Midlothian 631 himself. He said that the ties which bound the Church in Wales to the Church of England were so close that it was almost impossible to separate the two. Does the mediæval history which the right hon. Gentleman gave us just now illustrate at all the work of the Church of England to-day? Let me, as one of those who were present in the Irish Church Debates, and who took part in those Debates—a part which I do not shrink now from avowing, and which I do not regret to have taken—let me recall to the House the difference of the circumstances between the two cases, the difference of the strength of the motives which prompted the one and which seem now to be prompting the other. We did not undertake the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland at the dictation of the Irish Members. The Irish Members were not so strong in the House then as they are now. Here is a resolution passed in Dublin before the Church was disestablished:—We demand the Disendowment of the Established Church in Ireland as a condition without which social peace and stability generally, respect for the laws, and unity of sentiment and action for national objects can never prevail in Ireland.Do hon. Gentlemen opposite maintain that social peace in Wales depends upon the passing of this Bill? Then Home Rule has reached a pretty point. Is Wales to be another Ireland? Hon. Members cannot be aware what a crisis there was in Ireland at that time. They cannot be aware of the political dangers which threatened the country. We felt that we had at that time a tremendous issue before us. We knew perfectly well the reproaches we should incur; but it appeared to us that we must be prepared to be judged by events; it appeared to us right to attempt to heal a breach, which had been widened into hatred almost in the course of centuries, by what we well knew was a national sacrifice, but which we regarded as a peace-offering by this country to Ireland at that time. That was the view we took, and it was taken by members of the Church of England and by the majority of the constituencies; but we knew perfectly well the gravity of the situation. I must say to my hon. Friends behind me that we knew that a greater sacrifice could never be asked of 632 a Protestant people than that, for the sake of conciliation, they should sacrifice the Established Church of Ireland as an Establishment in order to reconcile a Roman Catholic population. Protestant feeling was strong in this country, but still it was thought proper, as an act of justice, to make that sacrifice. The race hatred which existed in Ireland then, I am happy to say, does not exist in Wales. There have not been those bloody revolutions in the case of Wales which alienated members of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. It was a question in Ireland of creed and race, and to say that the same circumstances exist in Wales now is to say what no statesman of that day would have been prepared to admit, and least of all the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian himself. We made the sacrifice in the case of the Irish Church. I admit that the sacrifice has been made in vain. I wish I could say that that which was intended as an act of conciliation had conciliated the irreconcilables.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
It was not for the sake of the Church itself. We had not the hypocrisy that some of the advocates of Disestablishment now have. We did not say it was for the good of the Church that we wished to disestablish it. That was not the argument put forward. The argument was, that Disestablishment was to be an act of conciliation to Ireland. As such it was regarded, and as such, I fear, it has unfortunately failed. But it has not entirely failed. At all events there are some of us—I am one, and I frankly admit it—who can go forward with a lighter heart and with more assured step, and with deeper convictions, as Unionists, for the act in which we took part. I say that, when the chequered annals of this country are weighed in the scale by a passionless posterity, or even before a higher tribunal, I believe the act to which we were parties will not be reckoned to us as a national sin, but as a national sacrifice. The course we took with regard to the Irish Church was not prompted by Voluntaryism or the good of the Church itself; but, if I may use the phrase, to buy peace; and, in these circumstances, how was it 633 treated by the Nation? It was not treated by the Nation as a small question, it was not discussed in an empty House, nor as a question which should be taken up in order to assist in "filling up the cup." It was not sandwiched between other measures. It was not mixed with a Local Veto Bill. There was no confusion of issues. What we did at all events we were prepared to submit to the Nation. There was a General Election at which this was the only great issue; and when the Government say those who voted for Disestablishment in Ireland ought to support them now according to the Irish precedent, I reply, let them follow the Irish precedent, have a Dissolution, and give the people a chance of voting on the question of Welsh Disestablishment. Now, I wish to point out, because this is a very important matter, to what extent those who were engaged in the Irish Church struggle admit that there was any reference whatever to the Church with any analogy which could be drawn with regard to the Church of England. Here I would wish to put my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian in the witness-box. He drew a sharp distinction between the two cases. What did the right hon. Gentleman say?—It is quite impossible to compare the severance between the Established Church and the Nonconformists in Wales with the severance between the members of the Irish Establishment and the Roman Catholics in that country. Not only upon theological grounds, but also on the ground of actual sympathy or hostility of sentiment, the whole history of the case is entirely different. There was a strong and sharp antagonism between the Established Church and Roman Catholic Church running through Ireland, and that ecclesiastical antagonism was embittered and complicated by intermixture of political questions even graver than the ecclesiastical controversies of the country, so that the effect of the whole was that the several portions of the population were placed almost in an attitude of standing social hostility to each other.Then that distinguished Nonconformist statesman and politician, John Bright, spoke in that Debate. Did he make use of the occasion to deliver a speech such as we have just heard from the President of the Board of Trade? Did he dilate upon the principle of Voluntaryism? Not at all. He discussed the question from the purely Irish point of view, and said—It is not because Establishments have been universally condemned throughout the country. 634 That is not alleged at all, for though I myself have no faith in political religious Establishlishments, and believe in the voluntary principle, yet I am willing to admit—and it would be foolish not to admit—that at present a belief in the usefulness of Established Churches appears in this country to have the sanction of the majority of our people. The question is not at all whether Establishments are good in themselves or good anywhere, but whether, with regard to Ireland, the Church Establishment shall be removed.I call the attention of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite to the following words of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, with reference to the connection between the Welsh Church and the English Church:—There is really no Church of Wales. The Welsh Sees are simply four Sees held by the suffragans of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and form a portion of the province as much as any four English Sees in that province. … As regards the identity of these Churches, the whole system of known law, usage, and history has made them completely 'one.' … There is a complete ecclesiastical, constitutional, legal, and, I may add, for every practical purpose, historical, identity between the Church in Wales and the rest of the Church of England. … I would not say what it would be right to do provided Wales were separated from England in the same way that Ireland is, and provided that the case of Wales stood in full and complete analogy to that of Ireland in regard to religious differences. But the direct contrary of this is the truth. I think, therefore, it is practically impossible to separate the case of Wales from that of England.Yet this is just the impossible task which right hon. Members opposite are undertaking. I admit that years afterwards the right hon. Member for Midlothian said he was profoundly impressed by the fact that 31 out of 34 Welsh Members had taken the view that the Church ought to be Disestablished; but he still dwelt upon the immense difficulties of the case, saying—I suspect it will be found that the Church in Wales is tied and knotted and tangled in such a multitude of legal bonds or meshes with the general body of the Church of England, that it would be a very formidable matter, indeed, to accomplish this untying purpose.On the subject of tithes we have had a a very learned discourse from the President of the Board of Trade, who quoted "Tract 90" in support of his views. That was rather strange.
§ *MR. BRYCE
I did not quote "Tract 90" on the subject of tithes, but with reference to the relations between one diocese and another, and the true nature 635 of spiritual communion. It had nothing to do with tithes.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Well, it struck us as strange that the right hon. Gentleman should quote "Tract 90" at all. He spoke with much historical knowledge on the subject of tithes, and I will, therefore refer him to an authority which I trust he will not repudiate. I again cite the right hon. Member for Midlothian, who used these remarkable words at the time of the Election in 1869—Those funds are local funds. The tithe of a parish was never given except for the purpose of maintaining religion in that parish, and to take the tithe out of a parish of Galway or Clare for the purpose of meeting wants of Protestant congregations in Dublin or Belfast, whatever the intention may be, is, in my opinion, very like indeed, and dangerously like, an act of public plunder.That is where the phrase "public plunder" came from, respecting the use of which I was twitted not long ago by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The supporters of this measure argue that, because the Irish Church has been disendowed, we are estopped from denouncing the present proposals of the Government with regard to Endowments. But the greatest care was taken in connection with the Irish Bill to excite no local cupidities. No inducement was held out that a profit would be derived by any particular locality. There was to be no relief of the poor rates, and no promise was held out of art museums, and cottages for labourers, and allotments. But in the present Bill there is a certain tendency to set the ratepayers against the revenues of the Church. Some relief has already been given to the rates by legislation. A portion of the spirit duties, irreverently called "gin money," is applied to the purposes of technical education, and now the revenues of the Church in Wales are to be handed over to the local authorities for kindred objects. Praiseworthy though those objects may be in themselves, it is not praiseworthy to promote them by wresting the funds of the Church from the purposes for which they were intended. It has been said by one hon. Member that the money would be better spent upon the objects which the Government have selected than upon "the choirs or the decoration of altars." Does the hon. Member not know that, except in cathedral towns, the choirs are nearly 636 always kept up by voluntary effort, and that the decoration of churches also depends upon the voluntary gifts of loving Churchmen, and is not provided for out of the revenues of the Church? The liberality of Churchmen in this respect is sometimes brought up against them in invidiam by persons who do not know that the Dissenting communities are now vying with the Church in the decoration of their places of worship. But I do not think that Disendowment is the main objection to this Bill, for, though there might be a terrible interval after Disendowment, the money wanted by the Church would ultimately be collected. I would ask a question. The money in question is only £150,000 a year. Supposing that sum were given to the local bodies named in the Bill, would they be content? Would they accept Disendowment without Disestablishment, and if not, why not? What harm does the Establishment do? That is a question which has never been clearly answered. Hon. Members opposite always argue that Establishment fetters the Church itself; but they do not attempt to show how the existence of an Established Church affects injuriously the well-being of the Welsh people. Owing to the contagious effect of the Home Rule spirit hon. Members think it perfectly natural that they should ask for the destruction of the part of the Church of England in Wales, and that, having asked for it, that it should be conceded. I put it in this way to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Suppose that, instead of asking for the disorganisation of the Church they asked for the disorganisation of our system of finance. Suppose they said:—We Welshmen want the system of finance altered. We consider that spirits are taxed much more heavily than beer. We, as a spirit-drinking nation, declare by 31 members out of 34 that we want a different system of finance, and are we to be denied what we want by the Imperial Parliament?Why, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not listen to them. He would say:—You may disorganise the Church, but you must not disorganise our financial systemThat shows the hollowness to a great extent of the Home Rule Argument. One of the main arguments of the 637 supporters of this Bill is that they wish to remove a yoke. They wish, they say, to take off the fetters from the Church. They do not deny the excellence of the Church in Wales. I do not think it can be denied that the Church has made great progress. I should regret if one word fell from my lips depreciating the efforts of the Nonconformist bodies in Wales, but depreciatory remarks have been made with regard to the Church in Wales. But as regards that Church, what has been said lately by the late Prime Minister? He says that it is an active Church, a living Church, a Church rising from elevation to elevation. No one can deny that, and hon. Members must see that they are endeavouring to disestablish the Church in Wales just at a time when that Church is making progress. The Church in Wales does not require to be relieved of the fetters that are said to be placed upon it. There is great confusion in the argument of hon. Members. It is said: "We require freedom in order to succeed." Who requires it? Who are the "we"? Is it the Church in Wales, or is it those who are opposed to the Church in Wales? No Churchman in Wales, whether layman or clergyman, has asked for it. No layman or clergyman has asked for greater freedom; they have not asked to be relieved from Establishment. [An hon. MEMBER: "Yes, they have.''] Then let it be tested by Petition. We were told by the hon. Member opposite that the Establishment tends to make the Church hard, proud, worldly, and non-spiritual, and yet hon. Members say they do not depreciate the clergy in Wales. Are the clergy, members of the "active" Church, hard, proud, worldly, and non-spiritual? Is this the condition of the clergy in the Church in Wales? Are they in any degree less unworldly, less spiritual than the ministers of the Nonconformist Churches? I do not think that any hon. Member will dare to bring that accusation. Then we were told that the Establishment engenders greed. We were told that it engenders an unhealthy appetite for loaves and fishes. [An hon. MEMBER: "Healthy appetite!"] Is there a greater appetite for loaves and fishes among the clergy than among the Nonconformist ministers? This charge has often been brought before, as if the clergy of the Church were more anxious 638 for the loaves and fishes than the ministers of other communions. It is an entire mistake, and, I venture to say, with a good deal of experience, that the voluntary gifts of the poor clergy out of their poor stipends—their contributions to the churches and the poor—show them to be as unselfish and as looking as little to pecuniary considerations as any other class in the community. But let me say, in conclusion, one or two words on the question of fetters, and with regard to the question whether the yoke of the State tends to minimise the good which the Church can do. And I lay this down as a broad, general proposition—that the creed of the Church is more liberal, wider, broader in every respect than the creed of almost any other rival religious denomination. The Member for East Edinburgh said that Science was making such progress, that there is so much unbelief and Agnosticism, that it was idle to bind men down to a rigid creed. Is there not a binding down even within narrower limits? I believe that the hon. Member said that he disagreed from conscientious motives, and found it impossible to remain in a certain religious belief. No community in Scotland or elsewhere is so inclusive—there is no community which stretches its arms so wide—as the Church of England. That seems to be of enormous importance when Agnosticism is making great progress. It is important that in such circumstances you should not break up an association, which is so catholic and so inclusive in its character as the Church of England. If you carried this Bill into law there might be plenty of enthusiasm, plenty of life in the Church, but it would not have that universal character which we rejoice to see in the Church of England. The Church is a body that can organise a campaign against infidelity in a manner which it would be extremely difficult to bring about if the Church were Disestablished. It is a great thing to have one great, powerful organisation ready to grapple with this difficulty, and that is an advantage that would be lost if we give the Church what is called "freedom"—a freedom that we should not get. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Church of England as a superstructure which has lost its foundation.
§ *MR. BRYCE
denied that he so expressed himself. He referred, not to the Church of England, but to the theory of Establishment, and the arguments of the right hon. Member for West Bristol on the value of religious Establishments in general, and he said that to-day the ancient theory of Church Establishment had become a mere superstructure.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I do not think the right hon Gentleman has improved his position. We are not fighting for theories. We are fighting for an institution, which is not a mere superstructure, but which has as strong foundations as any in the country. I do not think that there has been any time in the history of the Church of England as an Establishment when it was stronger than it is at this moment. The Liberation Society was founded 50 years ago; and what changes in every possible respect have there not been since then? New powers have come into existence; new forces are controlling Parliament; new opinions are abroad in the country. But the Church of England stands where it did 50 years ago. It is as strong now. Its foundations are untouched, and it will require more than the arguments which hon. Members can bring forward to persuade the country to attack the Church of England itself. I say, long may it endure as a living embodiment of practical Christianity. It has really been hallowed by the traditions of many centuries; and I believe that it is as secure as ever it was of the support and the loving and living loyalty of the majority of this great people.
§ *MR. A. BIRRELL (Fife, W.)
said, that none of the reasons which made him an enthusiastic supporter of the Bill had as yet found expression on the lips of the preceding speakers, and that was his only reason for exhibiting an undeniable, but he hoped not an indecent, anxiety to take part in the Debate. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down would excuse him if he did not inflict upon the House those perfunctory criticisms of and probably inaccurate quotations from his speech which it was the custom of each speaker to bestow on the speech of his predecessor. Each speaker did this under the impression—which was always a mistaken impression—that he thereby 640 induced people to believe the whole of his discourse to be of the same spontaneous character as necessarily belonged to his preliminary remarks. Whether the House liked it or not, there lay at the root of all Church Establishments two questions, which nowadays were perhaps not much discussed, and from which the House of Commons certainly very naturally and properly shrank. The first was the character of the distinctive doctrines and devotional formularies of the Church under consideration; and the second, arising out of the first, was how far such doctrines and devotional formularies could be said honestly, fairly, and beneficially to represent and embody the deep-rooted religious convictions and opinions of the people amongst whom that Church was established, and for whose benefit it was presumably maintained. All thinkers would agree that it was impossible nowadays to maintain an Establishment or to allow of its continued existence unless on one or two grounds. It might be argued, if the advocate had courage enough, and if he could find an audience prepared to give him a hearing, that the Establishment was maintained because it was the true Church—the witness of truth—and because it was the true and divinely-appointed guardian of the most sacred possession which any nation could have—its religious faith. That was a noble and intelligible belief, and a belief very generally held at one time. But circumstances had now made it impossible for such a belief to find expression in the House of Commons. Therefore, advocates of Establishments were driven to the next ground. They might say of the Established Church in question that—although everybody did not belong to it; that although it in no way represented the exact opinions of all—still that it did fairly, honestly, and beneficently represent the most deep-rooted convictions and religious opinions of the people. In this case, therefore, the question arose: Did the doctrines of the Church of England in its present mood and temper, and did the devotional formularies of that Church, fairly and beneficently represent the deep-rooted religious convictions of the Nonconformist Protestants of Wales, who were by universal consent more than half the population of 641 the Principality? [Cries of "No!" and cheers.] Previous speakers had interrupted the torrent of their rhetoric by admitting that they were on delicate ground. He would admit that he also was on delicate ground in raising such a question, because there did not breathe a man who entertained more strongly than he the conviction that there was not an Assembly in the world so unfitted find incapacitated to lend its mind for five minutes to the discussion of a purely religious question as the Assembly which he was addressing. How was the House of Commons composed? There were here—and he was glad to see them—pious adherents of what he should still call, notwithstanding the history of the Under Secretary for the Home Department, the old religion of these islands. These gentlemen, being intellectually satisfied that they at all events belonged to a Church which had in its priesthood an unbroken Apostolic succession, and had therefore the power of administering all the Seven Sacraments to the body of the faithful, regarded with a smile either of the good humour which bespread the countenance of the right hon. Member for East Birmingham when he addressed the House, or of a less sweet-tempered character, the claims of the Anglican Church to be similarly endowed. The House also contained large numbers of members of the Anglican Church, who honestly believed, although they recognised the claims of the Roman Communion to Orders and Sacraments, that they had those blessings too. Interspersed amongst these pious folk were Nonconformists of every sort, kind, and hue, who, differ though they might amongst themselves in many important respects, all agreed in refusing to recognise any real distinction at all between priest and layman. There was also in the House a good galaxy of Jews, together with one Fire-worshipper from the East; while another was promised at the next General Election, who was to sit on the opposite side of the House. There were also some who, in the event of that religious census which hon. Gentlemen opposite desiderated so much, would have to describe themselves as Agnostics, unless they adopted the alternative title which 642 the ingenuity of the Leader of the Opposition had suggested, and called themselves "Naturalists;" thus escaping all religious censure by being confounded with those most innocent examples of mankind, the stuffers of birds and the collectors of insects. Thus composed, and subject to no kind of religious test whatever, the House met to transact, or obstruct, the business of the country in, perhaps, the most intensely secularised atmosphere ever artificially created—an atmosphere so secularised that it would be considered, if not a profanity, at all events an affront to religious sensibility, so much as to utter within the walls of the House any of the more sacred or emotional articles of the Christian's creed. The country had a State Church, from whom blessings flowed, according to Opposition orators, of a very vague kind; and yet things had come to such a pass that in the Supreme Council of the nation it was thought indecent to discuss a really religious question. Whether the House liked it or not, before they could get to the bottom of this question or treat it with the fulness which it deserved, they must ask themselves how far the doctrines and devotional formularies of the Church of England did really represent the most deep-rooted convictions of the Protestant Nonconformists of Wales. It was all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite—devout members of the Church of England—to make the speeches which they had made. He did not differ from one word of them. They had drawn a great picture of the change which had come over their Church within the last 50 years. The House had heard of abandoned lethargy; of new fervour and vigour, and devotion; and everyone knew that this was no false boast. It was perfectly true that both in England and in Wales the Church of England now occupied a different position from that which it occupied half a century ago. But, although enthusiasm was contagious, it would not do to be carried away by other people's enthusiam. The Nonconformist who knew the reason of his Nonconformity, who knew why he had taken the step of severing himself from a Church with a noble and splendid history, must ask, before he could be expected to share the enthusiasm of Churchmen, whence that fervour came 643 and from what source it sprang—from a fountain where Nonconformists could slake their thirst, or from a source which was tainted? It was not for him to dogmatise on such a question, but he could not help thinking that man must have been a sluggish student of the most fascinating of all subjects, his own time, if he did not clearly see that this new fervour and spirit in the Church of England was attributable to the growing conviction which had come over it, that she was not called into existence at the bidding of a licentious monarch, desiring to secure male issue, but was a branch of the Catholic Church, with authority to declare the truth and to denounce error, to offer up visible sacrifice, and to perform all the Sacraments of the Church. That was a noble conviction, and were he a Churchman his heart would beat high at this juncture, for he should believe that before very long the notes of catholicity in the Church would sound so loud and clear that they would at last win recognition even from the See of Peter, and that the whole cycle of the beautiful and comforting doctrine of the Catholic Church would be preached by Catholic clergy to Catholic laity. But what had all this to do with the Protestant Nonconformists of Wales—people whose religion, in the hackneyed quotation from Burke, if a quotation from Burke could be hackneyed, was "the dissidence of Dissent and the Protestantism of Protestant religions"? The Welsh Nonconformists must be asked how far they sympathised with the growing sacerdotalism of the Church, how far they agreed with all that they saw going on. Admirable as it was from a Churchman's point of view, it was not so admirable from the Dissenter's. Protestant Nonconformists denied the authority of the Church in its threshold, and they would if they could, strangle all priestly pretensions in their cradle. The fact was, that the gulf between Church and Dissent in Wales was increasing every hour, and it was not unnatural that that should be so when the sources of inspiration were becoming so divided. It was all very well for hon. Members to say—Why dwell on these religious differences? Why accentuate these unhappy distinctions which exist between Christians? Surely the points on which Christians agree are more 644 numerous and more important than those on which they differ?That might be true enough; but experience had taught them that it was impossible for Christian men to co-operate in a joint Christian enterprise against an indifferent and careless world, if they were separated by any wide or deep or strong vital distinction. Take the cases of the late Cardinal Manning and the late Mr. Spurgeon, each of whom exercised great influence over the religious feelings of a large number of the population of this city. Each was a fervent—he had almost said fierce—dogmatist. They each held, with passionate conviction, all the central doctrines of the Christian faith, but for the purpose of joint Christian action they were as much separate and apart as if one had been a Buddhist and the other a Mahomedan. And why?—because they differed on the questions of Church authority and the priestly office. And so it was in Wales at the present time. It was because the gulf between Church and Dissent was not an unreal gulf, that it would not be got over by pretending to ignore it. He did not dwell upon these things as one who delighted in them; he wished all men thought alike on religious questions, for he could imagine no greater blessing which could befall a nation than unity of religious faith. But he was certain it was not by Establishing and Endowing one party to a great controversy they would accelerate that by one hour. He would gladly sit down now, but it would be cowardly not to say a single word on the allied subject of Disendowment. He said cowardly because he freely admitted that Disendowment was to him a disagreeable subject. He had no fondness for digging new channels for old endowments; he would make but a poor Charity Commissioner. But when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol read out ancient curses from old testamentary dispositions he paid but a slender tribute, he would not say to their intelligence, because that was a debatable proposition, but to their stock of information. If heed had been paid to the curses of pious founders they would all have been dead men long ago; the air was simply thick with such imprecations. What happened immediately after the Reformation, that act of slight structural alteration of which 645 they had heard? The Parliament of Queen Elizabeth struck a distinction, unreal and imaginary in his mind, between superstitious and charitable uses. If a pious founder before the Reformation left lands and money for the erection and maintenance of a row of alms-houses, a Protestant Parliament had no difficulty in declaring that a charitable use, because he could imagine them saying:—If these poor folk were not supported by the testator's bounty they might possibly go on the rates.But if a man left his lands and his money to a college of priests to say masses for the repose of his soul, and not only of his own soul, but of his father, mother, and his nearest and dearest relatives, "Oh," said a Protestant Parliament, "souls must shift for themselves, they can never come on the rates!" [Laughter.] These moneys were without hesitation appropriated for other purposes. The House laughed, but he did not desire them to do so: it was a serious question. The efficacy of prayers for the dead and the reality of the purgatorial state were ancient Christian doctrines, and if curses were to count for anything in this matter he should most dread the curses of those who might, for all he knew, even now be enduring sufferings from which long ago they would have been released had not this House chosen to interfere with their testamentary dispositions. The true view, and the view taken nowadays by all sensible men, is, that if a testator created by his will or by any deed what was called a perpetuity—that was, if he chose to appropriate his property or any part of his property to a purpose which he said was to go on for ever—he ran the risk, if they liked to call it a risk—he called it an advantage—that future times might differ from him very materially as to the best and wisest mode of expending his money, and, therefore, he said, happy was the testator who lived, as they all did now, in times when he might safely dedicate his property to public purposes, satisfied of this, that if 500 years hence those funds were taken away they would at all events, be appropriated, as it was proposed to appropriate funds under this Bill, to the best and most useful public purposes; and would no longer find their way, as once such funds 646 did, into the pockets of private persons. Therefore, although he hoped that this Bill, when it came to be discussed in Committee, would be found to have been drafted in a generous spirit——["Oh, oh!"] He hoped it would be found so; if it was not he would gladly co-operate with hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they satisfied him that that was not so. He thought the Bill ought to be generous and even lavish in dealing with these matters. As far as tithe was concerned, how was it possible, having regard to its history—he was not now speaking so much of its legal as of its social history—to doubt that the grievance complained of would be removed if tithe were appropriated to purposes in which the whole country shared? He had only to say, in conclusion, that his deliberate opinion was, that the Protestant Nonconformists of Wales were not only well within their moral right, but were only discharging a solemn duty, which they owed both to themselves and to their children, when they did all that in them lay as free citizens of a free State to sever the connection of that State with a Church whose principles they could not admit, whose authority they were compelled to repudiate, and at whose altar they could never bow.
§ *SIR J. MOWBRAY (Oxford University)
said, he felt at a disadvantage in having to follow the hon. Gentleman, whose eloquent speech had so much interested the House. That speech, however, like many of the speeches delivered in the course of the Debate, was one which dealt not so much with the Church in Wales as with the question of general Disestablishment. Hon. Members from the Principality had complained of English Members taking part in the discussion, but it must be remembered that there were many interests connected with the Church in Wales which were not represented in the House of Commons. There was, for instance, the great college dear to all Welshmen, Jesus College, founded not in pre-Reformation days, but founded by Queen Elizabeth, which for nearly 300 years had been engaged in training young men for the Church of Wales. He did not say it was proposed to take away the property of that college, except so far as they were owners of six advowsons, but it might be 647 said that if they diminished the prestige of the Church of Wales they diminished the prestige of that college. He could not help viewing this matter as an English Churchman, and as an English Churchman he had been taught to believe in the value of an Established Church. The fact was, that the longer the Debate was prolonged the more clearly it was shown that this Bill was not so much a small measure dealing with the Church in the Principality, as it was a Bill for general Disestablishment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian had told them that they could not separate the Church of England from the Church of Wales, and all that had passed had confirmed that view. They had already passed beyond the confines of Wales and Monmouthshire. The hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Grant Lawson) told them the other night he would be quite content when this measure was disposed of to have a Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church in the Northern Province. No doubt, if the Debate went on much further, hon. Members would be found advocating Disestablishment in East Anglia and Cornwall. Three Members of the Government representing different phases of thought, advocated the Disestablishment of the Church of England. The Home Secretary, speaking as a Liberal politician of the modern school, introduced this measure in a speech which was distinctly a Disestablishment speech. But the Under Secretary for the Home Office went a great deal further than that, for he, being a very High Churchman, and a very sincere and devoted Churchman, complained of the way in which Parliament interfered in the doctrines and ritual of the Church of England, and therefore he wished to terminate the connection between the Church and the State. The speech of the President of the Board of Trade, who was not a Member of the Church, was also undoubtedly in support of the Disestablishment of the Church of England.
§ *MR. BRYCE
said, that in dealing with the general question of Disestablishment he was endeavouring to answer the arguments that Disestablishment was a wicked thing in itself, and that it ought not, therefore, to be applied to Wales.
§ *SIR J. MOWBRAY
said, that whatever the object and motive of his right hon. Friend might have been, the tone of his speech was certainly in support of Disestablishment everywhere and under all circumstances. But he objected to the Bill not only as a Churchman but as a politician, for this doctrine of overthrowing the Church was closely connected with the doctrine of the disintegration of the Empire. On Friday night they had a Motion to set up several separate Legislatures in the United Kingdom. The champions of the Heptarchy mustered in full force. The hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd-George) seconded the Motion. That hon. Member, and the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Dalziel) actually ventured to propound in the House of Commons, and succeeded in inducing a majority to sanction it, a Resolution which embodied what Mr. Canning denounced as the most wild and inconceivable nostrum which could be propounded. Those hon. Gentlemen wanted to break up every institution of the land. But they would find that they could not separate the Church of England from the Church of Wales. It was impossible to disestablish the one without disestablishing the other. That was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian in 1870; and in 1891, on a Motion for the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church, the right hon. Gentleman referred to his speech in 1870, and said—Since then I have had time to be born again and to come of ago.The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say—I say now what I believed then, and what I believe now, that the operation of Disestablishing the Church of Wales from the Church of England will not be found very easy. I suspect it will be found that it is tied and knotted and tangled, I might almost say in such a multitude of legal bonds and meshes, with the general body of the Church of England, that it would be a very formidable matter indeed to accomplish this purpose.He thought it was very advantageous that the Debate had taken the turn it had in regard to the Church of England. It was well, in the interest of the Church of England as a whole, that the people of England should fairly realise the true meaning of this insidious 649 Bill. His right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said the mind of England had not been directed to the subject of Disestablishment. That remark was not very complimentary to the Liberation Society, which had been agitating for Disestablishment for half a century. Thirty-five years ago he heard the late Mr. Miall raise the question of Disestablishment in the House more than once, and the hon. Member for Nottinghamshire (Mr. Carvell Williams), the Chairman of the Liberation Society, had gathered his friends around him at breakfast for the last twenty years. In any case he could tell the President of the Board of Trade that if the mind of England had not been directed to the question hitherto it would be directed to it by the present Debate. The people of England would realise from that Debate that the leaders of the Liberal Party were prepared, as soon as they could, to Disestablish the Church everywhere and throughout; and when the question was referred to the electors it would be found that the sober thought and judgment of "the predominant partner" was against separating the Established Church of the Kingdom, and then Disestablishing and Disendowing its parts. He, therefore, did not fear that they might see the historic Church of the Kingdom cut up into fragments; but was confident it would remain whole and entire and intact as it had been for so many centuries.
§ *MR. D. BRYNMOR JONES (Gloucester, Stroud)
said, the arguments used in favour of the Bill fell into two classes. First, that a State maintenance of any particular form of religion was wrong and unjust; and, second, that whether it was right or wrong to maintain an Established Church in England, the special circumstances of Wales justified exceptional treatment. He did not intend to deal at any length with the more general arguments belonging to the first class. It was said that every person who adopted the main arguments of a general kind urged in favour of the Bill must also vote in favour of the Disestablishment of the Church of England. The two main arguments, or instance, of the hon. Member for South Leeds (Mr. Walton) were that it was not fair for the State to give the members of any 650 particular religious communion a special status and special privileges; and secondly, that it was unjust for the State to allow public property, which in its inception was designed, and was for centuries administered in the interest of the whole community, to be administered in the interest of a section of the people. It was perfectly true that if a man started from those abstract first principles, he could be forced to say that the Church of England ought to be Disestablished. But the view of most of the supporters of the Bill was that the question ought not to be decided simply by reference to abstract first principles, but that it ought to be decided by reference to the special circumstances of each portion of the United Kingdom. Hon. Members opposite had denounced the Disendowment clauses of the Bill as a measure of robbery and spoliation. He could quite understand that in the view of those hon. Gentlemen the intended application of the funds was unjust and inexpedient, but he submitted to them that the use of strong terms like "robbery and spoliation" was not justifiable. He did not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite could deny that the funds proposed to be dealt with by the Bill were public property. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade as to the origin of tithes, but it appeared to him that it did not matter what the origin of tithes was. The question the House had got to consider was, whether or not the property proposed to be dealt with by the Bill was public property. Take the case of the rector of a parish. He had simply a life interest which he held under statutory conditions. He had the rectory house and the glebe land; he was seized of the freehold of the parish Church and the parish churchyard, and had possession of the tithe, but he could not alienate any part of this property for his own benefit. His interest was simply a life interest subject to the performance of a public duty, therefore it was not a fair use of language to refer to the proposed diversion of such a fund—even admitting that it was unjust and inexpedient—as robbery or spoliation. He would read from an essay what John Stuart Mill said on this very topic of distinction between private and corporate property. 651 He was referring to a proposed measure disestablishing and disendowing the Church, and he wrote:—Would you rob the Church, it is asked? And at the sound of these words rise up images of rapine, violence, and plunder; and every sentiment of repugnance which would be excited by a proposal to take away from an individual the earnings of his toil or the inheritance of his fathers comes heightened by the added idea of sacrilege. But the Church! Who is the Church? Who are the persons whose rights we are proposing to take away? Not the clergy; from them we do not propose to take anything. To every man who benefits by the Endowment we have said we would leave his entire income. But if not the clergy we are not proposing to rob the laity; on the contrary they are robbed already if the fact be that the application of the money to its present purpose is no longer advisable. We are exhorting the laity to claim their property out of the hands of the clergy, who are not the Church but only its managing members.He, therefore, said that the moment this matter came to be examined on the principle that there was a distinction between public and private property it must be recognised that this Bill in dealing with the property of the Corporations which together formed the Endowment of the Welsh Church was proceeding on exactly the same principle as the Charity Commissioners, when sanctioning a new scheme, or the Court of Chancery when dealing with charity trusts. It had been said that Lord Rosebery, in his speech at Cardiff, lent colour to the proposition that by what took place at the Reformation the property of the Church of Rome was transferred to the Church of England. But if the words were fairly construed, they were not susceptible of that crude interpretation. What the Prime Minister said was this:—If I am correct in my reading of these Endowments, and if my statement as to the Reformation is correct, it is not wise for the defenders of the Church to rest too much on the right of property, because if the indefensible right to ancient property rested in any way in these Endowments, it rested, not with the Reformed, but with the Roman Catholic, Church.He did not suppose anybody would really imagine that the Prime Minister understood that the funds belonging to the National Church before the Reformation were vested in the Pope of Rome or in any Romish Corporation. What Lord Rosebery said amounted to this: that, as a result of the series of 652 legislative measures and great transactions and that movement of thought to which they gave the collective name of the Reformation, property which, before the Reformation, had been enjoyed by one Church was transferred to what was practically another Church—at any rate in the Seventeenth Century. He fully concurred that there was historical continuity between the National Church before and after the Reformation; but what he denied was, that historical continuity necessarily meant substantial identity. He contended that between the National Establishment before the Reformation and after the Reformation there was not substantial identity between the two bodies. For instance, in regard to the supreme headship of the Church, which was vested in the King of England; in regard to the 39 Articles, which had become the test of orthodoxy; and in regard to theritual—there had been a difference in the Church which existed before, as compared with the Church which existed after, the Reformation. The only point of identity between the two Churches was, that the form of Church Government was episcopal both before and after the Reformation. But it could not be justly asserted that a Church which had in three fundamental particulars made alterations such as these was the same Church that existed before. The second part of his argument was whether a special case had been made out for the separate treatment of Wales in this matter. That, he submitted, should be decided upon two principles, namely, first of all the principle of Nationality; and secondly, the special or religious development and economic history of the Principality. No one could study the history of Wales without coming to the conclusion that, to all intents and purposes, Wales was a separate nation in the sense in which publicists used the term. In reference to the special development in regard to religion on the part of the people of the Principality, he was immensely touched and interested by the able and eloquent speech delivered by the Member for Cambridge University in the Debate last Session. He referred to the feeling of affection which many people entertained for the Welsh Church, and he pointed out how much that Church had done for the people of Wales. While 653 not contesting the hon. Member's facts, he objected that the inference which the hon. Member sought to draw from those facts was not correct, inasmuch as the hon. Member had ignored one circumstance, and that was that there had always existed in Wales two very distinct classes and orders of men. From the dawn of the Conquest downwards, the great peers and landowners, the gentry of the smaller kind, the judges and county officials, together with their dependents, formed one of those classes; while on the other hand was another class, forming the backbone and by far the greater bulk of the Welsh people, who cultivated the soil. The first class speedily became English in speech, in habits, and in modes of life, and who attracted most attention from the historian, and it was chiefly of this class that the words of the hon. Member for Cambridge University were true. The people of the second class, cultivators of the soil, were unduly depressed by the Conquest of Wales, so far as their intellectual and, at first, their material progress was concerned; and, for centuries after, from the period of Lancastrian legislation, the Welsh people of the soil were practically asleep and the great bulk of them were silent. Not a voice came from them for centuries to tell what their views were. But a revival came at length. That revival, in the extent of its influence, was of a kind that made it difficult to find its historical parallel. It changed the character of the Welsh people; it produced, even in the minds of peasants, a brooding gentle type of Christian character that compared with any saintly character in the history of the Church. It was something more than a religious revival; it was the new birth of a people; it was, in fact, the Welsh Renaissance. And from this movement, so far as the great bulk of the Welsh-speaking people was concerned, might be traced the progress of Wales in various ways, and especially in the matter of education, which culminated in the foundation of the new Welsh University. He wanted the House to understand the great difference between the upper classes and the great bulk of the Welsh people. There was nothing like it in England. A great gulf existed between the two classes in Wales, and continued down to recent times, though, 654 of course, modern changes had introduced a middle class in Wales, which made it not very dissimilar from English society at the present day. He would remind hon. Members of the Commission appointed in 1847 to inquire into the subject of Welsh education. From the Report of that Commission he found that the view which he took of the isolation of the great bulk of the Welsh people was supported by the Commissioners and the evidence given before them, though it might be said that they generalised too rapidly. Mr. Lingen, at the commencement of his report, speaking of the Welshmen in South Wales, said:—Thus his social sphere becomes one of complete isolation from all influences save such as arise within his own order. He jealously shrinks from holding any communion with classes either superior to or different from himself. His superiors are content for the most part simply to ignore his existence in all its moral relations. He is left to live in an under-world of his own, and the mark of society goes so completely over his head that he is never heard of excepting when the strange and abnormal lectures of a new revival, or a Rebecca riot, or a Chartist outbreak, call attention to a phase of society which could produce anything so contrary to all that we elsewhere experience.This showed that the point which he had been urging was apparent even in 1847 to an impartial observer. Another Commissioner said:—The main instruments of civilisation have been exclusively religious, and the forms of religion which alone have succeeded in reaching the great mass of the inhabitants have been the spontaneous production of the poorer classes.It was not only in the past that this state of things existed. Matters had recently come under his notice which pointed in the same direction, and the evidence before the Welsh Land Commission showed the same state of things to exist. He would merely pick out two typical instances. Mr. J. M. Davies, of Froodvale, a land agent in the County of Carmarthen, who was the agent for seven considerable estates, said in the course of his evidence:—Q.—On the estates you are connected with, have the families of the present tenants been in the same places for many generations?—They have.Q.—I suppose they nearly all habitually use the Welsh language, do they not?—Yes.Q.—And they are Nonconformists?—Yes; to a man, pretty nearly.The agent of Lord Dynevor said he 655 thought every one of Lord Dynevor's tenants were Welsh-speaking, and mostly Nonconformists. He said only about half-a-dozen or so were Churchmen; and there are no more Churchmen than formerly. He respectfully suggested that no case could be found of a large estate of a nobleman in any English county, in which practically all the tenants belonged to a different form of religion, and spoke a language different from their landlord, and who, from the historical circumstances to which he had alluded, had become distinctly isolated. He had heard it said by hon. Members opposite that this Bill was a mere political device, and was not intended to pass into law. He could not, of course, help hon. Members from indulging in vain imagining, but, for himself, he desired to say that it did not truly represent the attitude and intention of the Government on this question. The Tory Party might, possibly, obtain a momentary triumph from the Bill being thrown out in another place, but he believed that in that case their triumph would be short-lived, and he would say in reference to the doom of the Establishment in Wales—" if it be not yet it will come." It would come, because never had a Liberal Government taken up a great measure of reform and secured the approbation of the House of Commons without also ultimately securing success for it. Disestablishment would come, because this measure of tardy justice and historical retribution was founded on principles which he was persuaded must, in a generous and democratic community, surely in the long run prevail.
§ *MR. CHARLES BILL (Staffordshire, Leek)
thought that although the Government had been tinkering with this question for the last three years, the delay had not been disadvantageous for the interests of the Church in Wales, as there was evidence of a change of feeling in the country respecting it. In his own constituency, for instance, a public meeting was held a few weeks ago in opposition to the Bill of the Government. That meeting was presided over by a Wesleyan Methodist, and the resolution was proposed by a Roman Catholic and was seconded by a New Connexion Methodist. The chairman said that, though he dissented from the Church of England in religious 656 matters, he was not a political Dissenter, and he thought that the sentiment expressed by that gentleman was in accord with the views of Nonconformists of old days. He only wished that latter-day Nonconformists were more animated by those feelings. He believed, however, that, not only in England but also in Wales, a change of feeling in that direction was setting in. On the occasion of a recent election of Guardians at Bangor the following circular was sent out in Welsh and English:—"To the Electors of Bangor.—We, whose names appear below, seriously urge Nonconformist electors to vote for and support the Nonconformist Candidates at the election on Saturday. If we, as Nonconformists, are united, our Candidates will be elected, without shadow of doubt. Let no one of us waste votes by giving them to individual persons, but let one vote be given to each of nine Nonconformist Candidates. If members of one denomination support only their own men, the nine Church Candidates are sure to be elected. Every part of Wales will surely prove itself true to its principles next Saturday, and we earnestly hope that Bangor will not be behind in the contest. Nonconformists of Bangor, be again true to your principles!Notwithstanding that somewhat hysterical appeal, the House would be surprised to learn that out of nine candidates to be elected seven were Churchmen and only two were Nonconformists. Of course, local influences might materially have affected the result, but, unless some explanation was given, one of two deductions must be drawn—either that there had been a considerable decline of Nonconformity in Bangor, or else that the Nonconformists in that town hated each other more than they hated the Church. It was a great pity that hon. Members who represented Wales should be at such pains to minimise the strong Church feeling which prevailed, at any rate in some portions of the Principality. The hon. Member for Pembrokeshire declared that many petitions against the Bill had been signed by Nonconformists under altogether false pretences. He was surprised that the hon. Member had gone out of his way to belittle the strong Church feeling which existed in some portions of the constituency which he represented; having visited that part of Wales rather frequently, he could say a stronger Church feeling existed there than in most parts of England. There was, for example, the rural deanery of Castile Martin, 657 which had a population of 20,000 in 21 parishes, with 20 clergymen to superintend them. The number of communicants in that rural deanery was returned at 1,631. If they took out the population of Pembroke Dock, over 11,000 people, and deducted it from the 20,000, there was left 9,000, chiefly in rural parishes, amongst whom there were no less than 1,306 communicants, or 15 per cent. of the population, a higher percentage than any other English diocese. Or, if they took the whole population of 20,000, the percentage in that case, including Pembroke Dock, was 8 per cent. Now, the highest percentage of communicants in any English diocese was that of Hereford, which was 11 per cent., and in London the percentage was only 4 per cent. Although he regarded this measure as one of unmerited spoliation, it would to some extent disarm his hostility if he found that the funds which had been devoted from time immemorial to religious uses were not altogether diverted from those uses, but were still to be utilised for the purposes of religion, though in a different form. In this position he found himself fortified by a speech of the late Archbishop of York, Dr. Magee, who said that if the question were put to him—Shall the endowments be secularised or handed over to any one of the orthodox or rival sects, he would answer: 'Take them all, and do with them what good you can.'The Home Secretary alleged that full, ample, and generous provision had been given for all Church purposes. Take the curates, who were 550 in number. They would be thrown on the world as the incumbents died off or left their parishes. Even Mr. Gee's famous Disestablishment scheme proposed to compensate the curates at a cost of over £6,000 a year. Was the Home Secretary less tenderhearted than Mr. Gee? In out-of-the-way districts, he believed they would see the spectacle of the Church dying by inches. They would see vicars going on in failing health, knowing that when their time was over it would be most difficult to carry on the work of the parish, and they would also see sections of parishioners animated by the spirit of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire, longing for the time when the funds set free would be scrambled for by competing interests. 658 Did hon. Members really think that in the best interests of religion it was desirable in these latter days to abolish that national recognition of religion which was involved in the union of Church and State? Was the condition of those countries where there was nothing but voluntary churches so supremely satisfactory as to induce us in England to cut away our sheet anchor, and to say that any religion you like or no religion at all was to be the rule in England? The hon. Member for Battersea had lately been in America. Did he regard the social and moral and political state of America as satisfactory? Australia, no doubt, presented a remark able reproduction of our national life, but religion had not that hold of the community, especially in the outlying districts, which it ought to have. He should vote against the Bill because it was, in his opinion, an unreal attack on the Church. It might be a reconnaissance in force, but any attack on the Church in Wales ought to be directed against the Church in England also. They must sink or swim together, and his belief was that both in England and Wales the Church would keep its head above water, and that as time went on it would be more appreciated by all classes of the people whom it was its mission to serve.
§ *MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)
said, the chief characteristic of the Debate had been the steady widening of the point of view; the issue at first had been that of Welsh national opinion, but its scope had been enlarged until the whole question of the principle of Established Churches had been taken in. In regard to the first point, victory had been gained all along the line. The Welsh Church, instead of dreading Disestablishment as a great evil, ought to welcome it as one of the greatest boons. The ideal of a Christian Church ought to be entire submission to the will of its Founder, both in doctrine, discipline, and ceremonies; and in the judgment of Nonconformists—and he was glad to say of many Churchmen also—the intrusion of the State into sacred things was productive of nothing but evil. He knew of no Church so entirely subject to the State in all its functions as the Church of England, which was practically a Church created and controlled by Act 659 of Parliament. He had been much astonished by the statement of the hon. Member for Plymouth that Parliament could no more alter the doctrines of the Church than it could alter the laws of gravitation. During the Reformation period Parliament three times radically altered the doctrines, rites, and ceremonies of the Church of England. It broke away from the Papacy under Henry VIII., returned to it under Mary, and broke away from it again under Elizabeth; and these great, sweeping changes were carried out in spite of the protests of the great bulk of the Bishops and clergy. It was an entire misstatement to say that the Church of England was not controlled by Parliament. Were not the Public Worship Regulation Act and the Clergy Discipline Act recent interferences with the powers of the clergy? It had been said that Parliament merely registered what Convocation had previously decided; but was it not a fact that the greatest of all changes made in the Church of England was made in the teeth of the protests of Convocation? If the Church of England was wholly free from control by the State, how was it when a Bishop was inducted into his diocese he had to do homage on behalf of the diocese to the Queen, and took an oath declaring that Her Majesty was the only supreme governor of the realm in spiritual and ecclesiastical, as well as in temporal, things: that no foreign prelate or potentate had any jurisdiction within the realm; and that he held the Bishopric and the spiritualities and temporalities thereof only of Her Majesty, "and for the same temporalities I do my homage presently to Your Majesty. So help me God"? He did not believe there had been any change ever made in the rites or ceremonies of the Church since the Reformation without an Act of Parliament passed though this House, consisting of men of all religions and no religion. Nonconformists honestly held that they were conferring a great boon on the Welsh Church in seeking to deliver her from this bondage, and to endow her with freedom to govern herself as all Christian Churches should do. He believed that a hundred years hence the Church in Wales would realise that the severance of the tie which bound her to the State had conferred upon her inestimable blessings. Look at the existing 660 law as to the appointments of Bishops and Clergy. After the Reformation the supremacy of the Pope was changed for the supremacy of the Crown. All ecclesiastical rights which used to belong to the Pope and the higher Roman Clergy passed to the Crown and Parliament, including the appointment of Bishops. As they all knew, the appointment of Bishops used to be made mainly on political and secular grounds, and in no proper sense on spiritual grounds. Who had virtually the appointment of Bishops of the Church of England at the present moment? Everyone knew it was the Prime Minister of the day. He might be a Presbyterian, a Roman Catholic, a Unitarian, or an Agnostic, yet he had the appointment of the chief officers of a Christian Church. Could anything be more contrary to the intentions of the Founder of the Christian religion or the letter or spirit of the New Testament? It might be said that this was ancient history, and that the appointment of Bishops was now in perfectly sound hands. He would quote from the "Life of Bishop Wilberforce" an extract from his diary in 1868, about the way in which Bishops were appointed by Mr. Disraeli:—November 28.—Much talk with the Dean of Windsor. He talked with great reserve about the late appointments, but said: 'The Church does not know what it owes to the Queen. Disraeli has been utterly ignorant, utterly unprincipled; he rode the Protestant horse one day, then got frightened that it had gone too far, and was injuring the county elections, so he went right round and proposed names never heard of. Nothing he would not have done. … Disraeli recommended——for Canterbury, but the Queen would not have him; then Disraeli agreed, most reluctantly and with passion, to Tait. … Disraeli then proposed Wordsworth for London. The Queen objected strongly. … Then she suggested Jackson … and Disraeli chose Jackson. The Queen would have greatly liked——, but Disraeli would not hear of him. You cannot conceive the appointments he proposed and retracted, or was overruled. … He had no other thought than the votes of the moment; he showed an ignorance about all Church matters, men, opinions, that was astonishing, making propositions one way and the other, riding the Protestant horse to gain the boroughs, and then, when he thought he had gone so far as to endanger the counties, he turned round.Would not the Church in Wales gain from being relieved from this galling slavery? Then it would be further re- 661 lieved from the evils of lay patronage. One half of the clergy were appointed by lay patrons, who owned the right of next presentation just as they might own land, houses, or cattle. Nothing but long familiarity with it had deadened the mind of the country to this unscriptural, un-Christian method of selecting the clergy. It involved continued traffic in the sale of livings. The late Archbishop Magee, in one of his charges, used these words:—It is a fact that a certain number of patrons are in the habit, whenever their livings fall vacant, of selecting the oldest and most decrepit clergymen they can find, after the most careful search and inquiry, and putting them into their livings, in order to enhance the selling value of those in the market—a preceding which I regard as one of deliberate and enormous wickedness, and yet which, at present, may be, and is, adopted in defiance of parishioners and of Bishops, for there are absolutely no limits in law to the age or decrepitude of a presentee.One of the principal witnesses before the Royal Commission of 1878 was Mr. Emery Stark, one of the principal clerical agents, and his evidence gives striking proof of the demoralisation of the clergy which was produced by this traffic in livings. He said:—The Commissioners are well aware that the sale of advowsons, with the understanding that immediate possession is to be given, is, according to the law, illegal. Three-fourths of the patrons with whom I have come in contact, and among them clergymen of the highest standing, do not recognise any moral crime in an infraction of the present law of simony; and the consequence is, that they freely and unhesitatingly sell and purchase advowsons with the understanding that immediate possession is to be given, not looking upon it as any sin.Was it not a scandal that such a thing should exist at this time of day? It would be conferring a favour on the Welsh Church to relieve it from this traffic in the cure of souls, and from the political appointment of bishops, and to give it the precious boon of self-government. One reason why the Nonconformists in Wales were so opposed to the Church was that they had witnessed for centuries the effect of these malign practices. Why had they so long existed? It was because Church and State had been blended together in unholy alliance, and because there had been no observance of the sacred behest—Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's.662 The Welsh Church is now offered an opportunity of starting clear of this Egyptian bondage. The argument that the State "ought to profess a religion" was an argument of a most respectable kind, and he did not deride it, for it contained an element of truth—namely, that all men, rulers included, ought to be subject to the Law of God. So ought the nation in its corporate capacity, but that did not involve the establishment of a Church. The connection of Church and State was contrary to the teaching of the Master himself, and was necessarily fraught with those evils of which he had spoken. It was said that if the Church was disestablished it would follow that this House would open its proceedings without any recognition of God, and that prayers must be discontinued. He would point to the example of the United States, where every Session of the Congress was opened with prayer. Indeed, the President went much further, for every year he set apart a day for national thanksgiving, and also occasional fast days.
§ *MR. S. SMITH
The whole country. The President acted, not as representing a denomination, but as representing the entire Christian Church, composed of all denominations. There was more recognition of Christianity in the United States than there was in England. How many years was it since this country had made an appeal to the Almighty by setting apart a day for fasting and humiliation? The time was when it was customary; but the practice was wholly passing away, and he was sorry it was so. He wished we could recur to the more wholesome precedents of former days—precedents which are acted upon in the United States, but not here, and surely this proves that the existence of a national Church did not afford any security for the national recognition of God. The Welsh Church would be given by this Bill the opportunity of carrying out enormous reforms, including the association of the laity with the clergy in the government of the Church. One of the chief hindrances to the success of the Church in Wales had been the absence of any control on the part of the laity. The Church 663 would be greatly improved when the laity had equal power with the clergy. If ever the Church of England was Disestablished it would be owing to the growing sacerdotalism. The leader of a large party, Lord Halifax, was actually suing for Communion with the Church of Rome, and asking for alliance with it, supported by tens of thousands of members of the National Church. This was the thing that would Disestablish the Church of England. Disestablishment was coming sooner or later for the whole country, and it was well members of the Church should know who its real authors were. It was not the Nonconformists who in the last resort would Disestablish it; but it was the sacerdotalists within it. True, the Church in Wales was much more earnest and devoted than it was some years ago, but it was further apart from Nonconformity in doctrine and in teaching than at any time since the Reformation. The strong feeling on this subject all over England would ere long find expression in a way that would surprise this House. To Disestablish the Church in Wales was to give it a chance of vitality and of true reformation, to pave the way for a better understanding between the sections which divided religious society in Wales, and to remove the source of much existing bitterness. The cause of Disestablishment was the cause of righteousness; and there was not a Member who did not know that sooner or later it would be carried to victory.
§ *MR. BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)
said, he wished to look at the matter from purely a business point of view. They were told, and he believed, that the people of Wales were a religious people; but were they more so than the people of England, Scotland, or Ireland? Argument of this description was not altogether worthy of the occasion. Let it be assumed—let them try to believe—that all Members were honest in the votes they were about to give. He wished to find the birthday of the so-called national sentiment of Wales, because if there was no national sentiment apart from political desire they ought not to pass this Bill. If there was to be a religious census, Nonconformists ought to be divided into two classes, and those who were in favour of 664 Disestablishment ought to be distinguished from those who were against Disendowment. He believed there were many Nonconformists who would hesitate before they would touch the endowments of the Church of their forefathers. Where was the birthplace and origin of the so-called national sentiment? It did not exist before 1812—it did not exist then. There was an excellent reason for it. It was only in the year 1797 that the Wesleyan Nonconformists first became a well-formed body, and it was not until 1812 that the Calvinistic Methodists got their Deed of Trust. No one would be bold enough to assert that even in 1812 the desire for Disestablishment was synchronous with Disendowment. First came Nonconformity, the cause of which was, in the first instance, for the sake of argument, the failing of the Church of England. He accepted that, though he did not admit that it was true. From 1812 to 1834 nothing happened, but in 1834, 500 preachers and elders of the Welsh Methodists, at their annual meeting at Bala, unanimously resolved that they deeply lamented the nature of the agitation having for its object the severance of the National Church from the State. Therefore, in 1834, there was no national sentiment in favour of Disestablishment and Disendowment. Coming to the year 1870, one year after Parliament had dealt with the Irish Church, Mr. Watkin Williams introduced a Resolution into the House dealing with the Church in Wales. Disestablishment without Disendowment was of no value at all," he said. Was it national sentiment that moved him? The present Member for Midlothian voted against that Resolution for the reason, and a very good reason it was, that it was not called for by the circumstances of the times, and that it would be a mischief to carry it out. The national sentiment, then, did not live in 1870. What was there to show that it existed between 1870 and 1885? It had its birthday in 1885. It had, therefore, existed for ten years, and what were ten years in the life of a Church hundreds of years old? In 1885 it was the great argument of Radicals that it was the Conservative party who first put the question forward of danger to the Church. It was the late Prime Minister who said, in 1885, 665 that if the Radicals obtained power, they would do then what they were doing now. It was then that the keynote was given to Wales, and since then she had done what she could to press the question in the House. He would call the attention of the House to something written in 1885 by the present Member for Cardiff. When he was accused of intending to make an attack on the Church of England, he said it was not the Church he wanted to hurt or her Endowment he wanted to injure; but his complaint was that the clergymen in Wales were Tories. What a beautiful reason for Disestablishing the Church! Because the clergy happened to be Tories, therefore the Church was to be Disestablished and Disendowed. That was the best reason the hon. Gentleman could give. When it suited the Radical party to find fault with the clergy for being political agents, they did it, but not else. He wished now to draw attention to the observations of the present Leader of the House. The right hon. Gentleman said that the ballot boxes and the franchise had been the machinery that had brought the question forward. The Ballot Act was passed in 1873. In 1874 there was a general election, the Ballot Act was in force, and there was household suffrage, but there was no national sentiment. Another general election took place in 1880, but there was no national sentiment then. In 1885, for the first time, traces of it were found. If no better case could be made out than that their national sentiment was ten years old, the House ought to pause before it Disestablished a Church which was hundreds of years old. He now came to what took place in 1886. Mr. Dillwyn introduced a resolution in 1886. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then said that, according to the established and necessary proceedings in Parliament, the Government could not support resolutions unless they were prepared to take upon them definite and early action. Did the House think that the Government of the day would not have been keen enough to take action if there was anything like a national sentiment with political power behind it? Then he came to 1892, and in that year he found the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian addressing a crowd of admirers in Wales, 666 and reminding these Welsh people that their political regeneration was of very recent date. He would now draw attention to a few of the reasons which hon. Members from Wales had given for Disestablishment and Disendowment. Though he looked upon them as the true reasons for the agitation, he considered them wholly insufficient. The first was that the Welsh people were Radicals and the Welsh clergy Tories. That was the hon. Member for East Carmarthen. Secondly, the Church of England in Wales, with its stereotyped ritual and historical constitution, was utterly unsuited to the genius of the Welsh people. Thirdly, that the Nonconformist ministers did not stand in the eye of the law so high socially as the most insignificant clergyman. That was what Nonconformists complained of and wished to see changed. That reason was given by the hon. Member for East Glamorgan. What had it to do with Disestablishment and Disendowment? Was the House to be told that because Nonconformist ministers did not stand so high socially as the most insignificant curate, the Church was to be Disestablished? It was an absolutely inaccurate reason. The law knew no difference between them. The fourth reason given was that the Church was a proselytising Church, and was waging war against Nonconformity. Who was waging war now against the Church? Surely those who were in favour of passing this Bill. That was the saying of the hon. Member for East Denbigh. These might be very good reasons. They might account for something; they might lead the House to see that there was some slight jealousy between Nonconformists and the Church of England, but they should be set aside and have no attention paid to them when the House was dealing with the all-important question of Disestablishing and Disendowing the Church of the forefathers of the Welsh people. Then came a reason which he could not believe to be a good one, and which he certainly did not consider true or sufficient. The hon. Member for the Carnarvon District said:—During the whole history of the Church in Wales she had been the enemy of the common people, and he protested against any indulgence to the establishment of a priesthood who during the whole of their career had simply had one regard—that of the betrayal of the nation's highest interests.667 To say that the clergy in Wales had betrayed their trust knowingly or maliciously was to make an assertion for which there was no historical foundation. The Home Secretary reminded him of the famous highwayman, who, having lightened ladies of their purses and jewels, used to invite them to descend from their coach and to step a minuet upon the sward in order to prove his friendly disposition—for the right hon. Gentleman declared that, although he wanted to take the Church's Endowments, he wished her nothing but good. They could not take from the Church her Endowments, which were, so to speak, the breath of her life, without injuring her, for the Church could not do as well without Endowments as she could with them. No doubt the Endowments of the Church were the gifts of pious donors in years gone by. He should like to hear how Nonconformists would argue the case if they should be told that Endowments given to them were to be taken away, and that they were to start afresh to do the best they could. The President of the Board of Trade had said on a former occasion that in 20 years' time the Church would not feel the change which they were asked to effect; but 20 years hence was 20 years hence, and to ask the Church to look forward to such a distant time was not reasonable. No valid reason had been adduced in support of this proposal to take her Endowments from the Church and to sever the Church from her connection with the State. He honestly believed that there was something grand in the connection between a State religion and the Civil Power. He had never heard of a State being the better for having no connection with an Established religion, and in a country like ours it was something to be proud of to see the State associated with Religion.
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON (Devonport)
was anxious to say a few words in that Debate, because he approached the subject from a standpoint from which only one other Member had approached it, namely, the standpoint of one who had been brought up in the Church of England, and who was now a member and a communicant of that Church. The one 668 Member of the late Government who had addressed the House that evening had stated several times that all the arguments which he had heard from the Ministerial side of the House were arguments which would apply as well to proposals for the Disestablishment of the Church of England in England as to proposals for the Disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales. The right hon. Gentleman ridiculed the particular argument which he called the argument of Home Rule; but it seemed to him that that argument went indisputably to support Welsh Disestablishment as distinguished from the Disestablishment of the Church in England. Out of 31 Welsh Members, returned to support the cause of Welsh Disestablishment and Disendowment, four were returned without opposition, but not one out of the three who were returned to oppose that policy was elected without a contest. The average majority of the 27 Disestablishment Members who were opposed was 1,975, only 25 short of 2,000; whilst the average majority of the three who were returned to oppose Disestablishment was only 312. The Bishop of St. Asaph, in his statistical eccentricities, counted as against Disestablishment and Disendowment every elector in Wales who voted for a Unionist at the last election, in spite of the fact that it had been proved that thousands of these electors voted only for Unionists who declared that they were in favour of Disestablishment, and that thousands more voted for candidates who declined to express any definite opinion upon the subject. The Bishop of St. Asaph sought to show that the cause of Disestablishment was supported by only 47 per cent. of the electorate, or less than half. In estimating the total number of electors for Wales, the reverend Prelate took the registers of the various constituencies and the whole number of names on each register. He overlooked the fact that there were such things as duplicates. There was, for example, an elector in one constituency whose name appeared in the list six times, although, of course, he could only vote once for that constituency. The reverend Prelate also paid no regard to the fact that the register was a year old when the last General Election was fought, and he 669 took no account of the number of men who had died, and of the number who had left the Principality. Ten per cent. was really too low an estimate of the number of names that ought to be knocked off that register in consequence of deaths and removals; but taking that estimate he (Mr. Morton) arrived at this result: that the supporters of Disestablishment were entitled to claim that they had on their side 17–90ths, or a majority of the electorate of Wales, instead of only 47 per cent. In 1880, when there were only 33 Members for Wales and Monmouthshire, 28 Members were elected who were in favour of Disestablishment, and 5 who were against it. In 1885, when the number of Members was raised to 34, 29 were returned in favour of Disestablishment and 5 against. In 1886, 28 Members were returned in favour of Disestablishment and 6 against; but by the result of a bye-election these numbers were changed respectively into 29 and 5. Then at the last General Election, when the Liberal Party had taken up Disestablishment in Wales as the second plank in its platform, the number of Members returned in favour of Disestablishment swelled from 29 to 31, in spite of the activity and enthusiasm of the Bishop of St. Asaph on the other side, and the number returned against Disestablishment dwindled from 5 to 3. He should have thought if, as hon. Gentlemen opposite sometimes maintained, there was nothing inconsistent between Toryism and Democracy, a prima facie case had been made out for the Bill. He had noticed that few arguments had been directed against Disestablishment as distinct from Disendowment. One of the chief arguments advanced by the right hon. Baronet who moved the rejection of the Bill was that the four dioceses affected by the Bill were part of the province of Canterbury. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of this as a wicked and cruel proposal, and the noble lord the Member for Edinburgh said the Church of England was one and indivisible, and that if they were to have Disestablishment he would rather have it for the whole Church and not piecemeal. He was unable to follow that argument. He did not understand why the severance of the four dioceses could be anything more than one of 670 those operations of reorganisation which repeatedly took place in branches of every Church which claimed to be a portion of the Catholic Church. It proceeded in the Anglican Church, in India and the Colonies, and elsewhere, and he would say that the question of Establishment made no difference whatever to the unity of the Church. Let him take the case of the Roman Catholic Church. It was Established in Spain, where certain public funds were guaranteed and enforced by the State. In Ireland the Roman Catholic Church was not Established. Was it less a portion of the Roman Catholic Church on that account than the Church in Spain? He might point out that in the United States, in India, and in Ireland, they had now Established or Disestablished Anglican Churches in communion with the English Church, and they were every whit as much part of that Church as any diocese in England. He would now refer to the speech of the late Home Secretary—a speech which, he observed, did not give much satisfaction to hon. Gentlemen opposite, for he frankly admitted that the Church of England was bound in fetters, and trammels, and bonds, and that if he were a member of the Church of England he would be against those fetters and bonds. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Church in Wales would no longer be a portion of the Church of England, because it would be governed by a specially constituted body, but that was not the view accepted by the hon. Gentlemen behind him. The Anglican Church in their colonies was separately governed by bodies, yet they were in communion with the Church of England. The right hon. Gentleman told them to take the case of the Disestablished Church in Ireland, and then he said the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland was governed and served by earnest and devoted bishops and priests, as earnest and devoted as any bishops and priests found in any part of the world. The right hon. Gentleman then said:—Look at the effect of that Church not being Established. The effect is that the priests of Ireland are dragged at the heels of the people into the vortex of politics, which they would not otherwise enter.The party opposite must select which leg they were going to stand on, for this was 671 exactly the opposite of the argument they had been accustomed to. When Home Rule was before the House they were told that the people were driven like sheep by the priests, but when it was a question of Disestablishment they were told that the priests were dragged at the heels of the people. He admitted that they could not consider the question of Disestablishment apart from the question of Disendowment. It seemed to him that the arguments which hon. Gentlemen had used on this question mixed up the question of property as held by an individual and property as held in trust by a Corporation. He admitted that when a man had earned the property he held, or if he had been brought up in the expectation of receiving property, they were accustomed to think that it was a great hardship that he should be deprived of that property, and that he had an abstract right to it. No such claim could be made on behalf of a Corporation holding property in trust. While a man might be considered to have a right to the property he possessed, he had no right to control the way in which that property should be disposed of after his death. But supposing they allowed that a man had the right to control his property and to say how it should be applied after his death, it seemed to him even in that case it could be argued that the present Church of England in Wales could not claim an absolute right to the property it now held. It had been pointed out over and over again that the property held now by the Church was given to the Church by pious donors many centuries ago, at a time when all the people in Wales and in England held the same religion and were in communion with the same Church. There was no difference of opinion. All persons, of whatever opinion, even those who held no religious opinion whatever, were today the true and accurate heirs of those people who formed the whole nation centuries ago, to whom those funds were left. He therefore said that no one section of the people living in Wales to-day could claim to have the same administration or profit out of those funds. He noticed that the right hon. Baronet who moved the rejection of the Bill said, in arguing about the ancient pious donors, that the fact that the funds were 672 left to the Church was a proof that they agreed with the teaching of the Church. He was willing to allow to hon. Members opposite that the Church of England to-day was essentially the same Church in organisation and in history as the Church of England which existed before the days of the Reformation. He did not pretend that the Church was created anew at the Reformation; but surely hon. Members could not contend that no change of opinion or of belief had taken place since, say, the Twelfth Century and the present time. Surely there were many doctrines of vast importance which had been changed since that time. For example, the bulk of the Church of England did not allow masses for the souls of the dead, nor did they hold with the doctrine of Tran-substantiation. The fact of the pious donors of the Twelfth Century leaving those funds for the Church as it was then so far from being an argument to say that they agreed with the Church of England in Wales to-day was distinctly an argument in the contrary direction. Those Endowments of the Church, particularly tithes, were left to the Church at a time when the duties performed by the Church were vastly more extensive than the duties performed by the Church to-day. That was a point upon which sufficient stress had not been laid. If the phrase "religious uses" was employed to denote the purposes for which the Endowments were originally given he pointed out that the mediæval Church, to which those Endowments were left, not only performed spiritual duties, but all education—elementary, secondary, and higher; and even, to a certain extent, technical education—was in those days in the hands of the Church; and this work the Church was able to overtake by reason of the Endowments. All the work now done by hospitals, dispensaries, and the affording of medical relief was then done by the Church. When the right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Goschen) spoke of diverting the funds of the Church from spiritual purposes to the establishment of art galleries he could not help recalling to mind that the Mediæval Church, supported by these funds, was the great supporter of the art museums of the time. The Mediæval Church, moreover, in the 673 country districts at least, supplied the hostelries for travellers, and afforded the whole poor relief of the country. When hon. Members spoke of diverting those funds from their original purposes he said, rightly looked at, this Bill proposed to restore those funds in a large measure to the original purpose for which they were left, and from which since they had been diverted. It had been declared over and over again that the scheme of Disendowment proposed in the Bill was a mean scheme. The right hon. Baronet who moved the rejection of the Bill said that the scheme was mean to incumbents, because it deprived them of their emoluments on the resignation of their livings. But according to the Bill, any incumbent in Wales who continued the duties he was now performing would for so long receive his present stipend. He was placed in precisely the same position as that which he now occupied, or rather in a slightly better position, for while now, if he gave up his position he also gave up the, whole of its emoluments, under the Bill he could resign and receive some compensation. Then the scheme was said to be mean in respect of the curates. The sole proposal made in the Bill was to hand over the curates to the tender mercies of the incumbents who employed them. To say that that were hard measure it was to make a charge against the incumbents themselves. He remembered one case of a vicar in the Disestablished Church of Ireland, who as soon as possible after Disestablishment left his living with a sum of money, obtained another living in England, the stipend of which had been up to then sufficient to maintain the vicar, and preached an annual sermon on the wickedness of Disestablishment and Disendowment in Ireland. But the meanest part of all the scheme, it was said, was the treatment of the Welsh Church itself. He did not see how from a pecuniary point of view that treatment could be considered mean. The Bill proposed that the Disestablished Church should be allowed not merely the exclusive use of the Cathedrals, but should no longer have the expense and duty of maintaining them. But, passing to the main point, he believed that the spiritual interests of the Church of England in Wales would be very largely increased and improved by this Bill. The right 674 hon. Baronet, who moved the rejection of the Bill spoke of the Welsh Church as having displayed an aggressive vitality in the last ten years. Yes, but it was not against sin and crime so much as against Dissent. As a member of the Church of England who desired to see the bounds of the Church of England extended, and her communicants increased, he distinctly did not wish to see the Church in any part of the world placed by the State in a position of special dignity or importance, or placed by the possession of ancient emoluments, left when the whole of the people were of one communion, in a position of special pecuniary importance. It was only by going to the people of Wales on terms of equality and brotherhood that the Church could ever extend its influence. Those who urged the importance of social distinction for the clergy of the Church, and maintained that the Church ought to be placed in a position of the law and dignity, had completely lost the spirit which originally inspired the Church. The right hon. Baronet who moved the rejection of the Bill stated that, as Disestablishment in Ireland had weakened the union, so Disestablishment in Wales would tend towards Home Rule in Wales. It was curious that right hon. Gentlemen opposite were continually determined to ignore the force of nationality as a motive force. It was the most vital and important force to be found in any part of the United Kingdom at present. Gentlemen on the I ministerial side of the House did not seek to stimulate the force of nationality in the several parts of the United Kingdom they did not think that it was possible to do so, but they recognised that since the beginning of the connection between the Church in Wales and the Church in England, that Church had been continually antagonistic with the national enthusiasm of the Welsh people. One hon. Member had pointed out that this country had had a long struggle with Rome, as a foreign power seeking to interfere in England, and that at the Reformation England had finally freed herself from the domination of Rome. But the hon. Gentleman forgot to notice the fact that Wales never had to complain of the interference of Rome. What from the very beginning Wales had to complain of, and did complain of, was 675 the interference of the Archbishop of Canterbury in her own ecclesiastical affairs. The struggle with Canterbury began in the time of William Rufus. The Welsh petitioned the Pope, as an external authority of some influence to whom they might appeal, against the anti-national proceeding of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in appointing to administer Welsh dioceses Norman Bishops who could not speak Welsh. From that time onwards the struggle had been, on the part of the Welsh people, a national struggle; it had been a national struggle in which they sought to sever their ecclesiastical relations with the Province of Canterbury. As a member of the Church of England who desired to see the Church of England increased and strengthened in power, it seemed to him the only chance the Church of England in Wales had was, that she should be severed from the Province of Canterbury, and that she should be relegated into a distinctive Welsh institution, that she might appeal freely and fairly to the national instincts of the Welsh people. Severed from those artificial State Distinctions, and State Endowments, and State Possessions which she at present enjoyed, she might have a chance of appealing on equal terms with the Welsh people, and might become, in very truth, the Church of Wales.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
, who was received with Opposition cheers, said: At the close, Mr. Speaker, of a Debate which has lasted five nights, which has been distinguished, I venture to say, amongst the Debates of recent years, not only by the ability, but by the fulness of the speeches which have been delivered, which has ranged over questions not only of great importance for the moment, but over questions which have an immense historical interest, whatever be the result of this particular controversy, it would be, I think, absurd that I or any other speaker should attempt to reiterate and, as it were, sum up all the valid arguments that have been urged either for or against the positions we respectively hold. No such task, at all events, will be attempted by me. I shall endeavour very briefly to give the House the views that I have long held, views only confirmed by the tenour of our recent discussions, and to explain in a very simple way the great 676 and leading motives which induce me to give the vote that I shall give to-night. I shall therefore not waste the time of the House in traversing the weary ground of Welsh history; I do not think we have anything to be ashamed of with regard to that particular portion, of the debate. I am not going to follow the Home Secretary in discussing the exact value to be attached to Sunday school attendances or to the numbers on the communion roll of the various bodies, or to any other of the amateur efforts that have been made to arrive at a true proportion between the Established Church on the one hand and the collective body of Nonconformity on the other. We, at all events, have the beau rôle on this occasion. We, at all events, have always desired that we should not be compelled to depend upon these conjectural estimates, but that we should have at our disposal the actual figures got by official returns of the facts of the case. Had we been permitted by the gentlemen who are now so lavish in their arguments drawn from their own estimates—had we been permitted to obtain these estimates, it might have been worth while my occupying the House with the deductions which might be made from them. We should have rested upon solid ground. But really, upon the quaking and moving bog of these interminable calculations with regard to which nobody can come to any final conclusion, which never have been tested, which have been brought together by irresponsible officials, I think it would be perfect folly to ask the House, either now or at any future time, to waste any of its time or strength. Putting statistics thus aside until the happy date when it shall please the Welsh Nonconformists to assist us in arriving at the real facts, I also say that I shall not dwell upon the argument which has been stated, and re-stated, and reiterated by speaker after speaker to very nausea—I mean the argument that because 31 out of 34 Welsh Members desire Disestablishment, therefore, by constitutional practice, by the laws of constitutional equity, Disestablishment should be granted. In the first place, I am told there is some possibility that a not distant event may alter that fraction. I do not know what the Welsh Members think of that. I do not know whether they think a fraction of three to 31 is to 677 be the perpetual law of the Principality, and that we are never more to see in this House anybody but the faithful three who are in favour of the Establishment. But, from such information as I have been able to collect, I think it not improbable that that fraction may be materially altered in a comparatively small number of months. Whether this electoral conjecture be true or untrue, are we bound by anything that deserves to be called a reason not to look behind the electoral facts of the day? Our electoral system is a rough-and-ready, and, on the whole, not an unjust method of arriving at the popular opinion of the country at large. The inequality which undoubtedly exists, or the want of representation of particular opinion in one part of the country that undoubtedly exists, is balanced by a corresponding injustice in another part of the country. But wherever it happens, the differences of opinion are fairly evenly distributed over any large district, and under the system we have chosen to adopt you will necessarily have the grossest and most absurd injustice with regard to the representation of particular classes. Scotland and Wales are standing examples of this injustice. No human being endowed with even the slightest modicum of judicial equity and the smallest amount of knowledge of the facts of the case could pretend that either the Scotch or the Welsh representation follows the balance of Scotch or Welsh opinion. I have no reason to deny, and it may be perfectly true, that the majority of the Welsh are in favour of Disestablishment, as it may be true that the majority of the Scotch are in favour of the policy of the party opposite. But I know enough of Scotland by personal experience, and I know enough of Wales by information I have collected from various sources, to make me perfectly confident that the system of representation in those two countries is grossly anomalous and unjust. I do not complain of that; that is an instance of the working of our electoral system. But do not try to make us shut our eyes to the plain facts of the case, or pretend to tell us that we are incompetent to look behind the gross, the broad, and the obvious facts of the representation of Wales—to the real electoral opinion which lies behind it. I say, and hon. 678 Gentlemen opposite know it in their hearts, that if the electoral opinion could be collected in a manner that would do justice to minorities in Wales a very different proportion of Members than 31 to 3 would come to this House in favour of the destruction, or of the Disestablishment at all events, of the English and Welsh Church in that part of the United Kingdom. I dismiss, therefore, as unworthy of our notice, that particular argument. I shall not dwell, Sir, at any great length upon one of the most interesting aspects of the Debate—namely, the history of the origin of the Welsh Church. That particular branch of the Debate has been illustrated by no less than two Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench—the Secretary to the Home Office and the Under Secretary to the Home Office—and both of them have with great elaboration explained to the House how very much they differ from the Prime Minister. I cannot conceive why those two Ministers should have taken that line of action. The Home Secretary quite sufficiently explained what his reading of ecclesiastical history was, and it not only differed from the Prime Minister's reading, but absolutely cut to the root the whole argument which the Prime Minister used in Wales only two months before on this very question. That might have been sufficient. But the Under Secretary to the Home Office evidently thought it only due to his chief to follow in the same lines, and so the Prime Minister has been trampled upon not by one but by two of his colleagues, which, from my point of view, was a very unnecessary proceeding. I think no one can now deny the iconoclastic tendencies of the Under Secretary. He was in a destructive mood the day he made that speech. He was not content with destroying his Leader in the Lords, he must destroy his Leader in the Commons too, for he told us no one had been foolish enough to utter Erastian views on this question, knowing perfectly well that the one declared Erastian—the one Member of the House who has never disguised, I will not say his Erastian leanings, but his Erastian convictions, is the present Leader of the House of Commons. The Under Secretary, having destroyed his Leader in the Lords and his Leader in 679 the Commons, then proceeded to attack the Church, to which he announced himself proud to belong, and followed up that by attacking his own family. He singled out as the most characteristic example of the improper use of any property that particular use to which, more or less directly, we owe the presence of the hon. Gentleman amongst us to-day as the representative of a great Whig family. Surely iconoclasm could no further go. The hon. Gentleman must have sat down with the satisfaction that he left nothing undestroyed which the rules of the House would permit him to deal with in this particular Debate. If we put aside, as I think we ought to put aside, at all events, at this late hour, the niceties of this historical Debate, that to which we are ultimately reduced is the practical problem before us. I do not wish to argue it from any high ground. I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not agree with those of us on this side of the House who consider that it is absolutely essential to a healthy State that there should be a Church in close connection with it. I know they do not accept that premise, and I do not propose to demonstrate it. I will confine myself to arguments to which men of all shades of opinion, on whichever side of the House they sit, ought, I think, to pay real attention. I therefore put a question to the House. We are now concerned with the Second Reading of a Bill which will deprive that part of the English and Welsh Church situated in Wales of the whole of the property which it possessed before a certain arbitrary chosen year, 1703, and the first proposition to which I ask the House to agree is that it requires a strong case to be made out before we proceed in a legislative capacity to deprive any Corporation of long-standing of the property of which it is possessed. I claim as my ally, so far as that proposition is concerned, the hon. Member for Fife, who spoke this evening. He, I think, expressed his entire sympathy with that general proposition. If anyone denies it, I would ask whether the intention of the donor, even though that donor may have lived a thousand years ago, is to be absolutely neglected. I remember the Under Secretary of the Home Department, and, I think, the President of the Board of 680 Trade, told us that in their belief, if the donor could have foreseen the course of ecclesiastical history during and since the Reformation period, he would have certainly left his money to the village pump or to the museum, or to whatever this Bill is going to give it, rather than to the Church. Well, that is a great exercise of historical imagination. So far as we can put ourselves into the minds of those who lived in the Middle Ages, so far as we can reconstruct in imagination their point of view, I think that if they had been asked whether the money they left for religious purposes should remain in the charge of the same historical organisation which they knew and revered, or whether it should be handed to some future County Council or village council for some unknown local purposes, they would have elected without hesitation to leave it to the Church. Hon. Gentlemen have a right to their opinion, and if their opinion is that gentlemen in the Middle Ages would have preferred a museum, I have no conclusive proof that they are inaccurate. Therefore, Sir, I pass to the second argument. Granted that a donor of the Middle Ages would have preferred the strange provisions of this Bill to the actual destination of his money, I ask whether the existing Church has not derived some rights from the long use of this property? I say that, since the Reformation period, since 1550 or 1560, the Church has had undoubted possession of this money, and has made no change whatever in the formularies by which it is governed. Why are 300 years to be too little for the Church of England, when 25 years are enough to a Nonconformist body? This House, in its wisdom, in the year 1844, passed an Act that any Nonconformist body in the undisputed enjoyment of an endowment for 25 years might hold this endowment for ever without dispute; and the very men in whose behalf that Act was passed, who came to this House as suppliants and requested that that act of justice should be done—these very men are those who say that 300 years of undoubted possession are not sufficient to guarantee the Church of England in Wales against spoliation. Now, be it observed that, so far, I am doing no more than saying there ought to be a strong case made out for this Bill. I am not putting 681 it higher than that; but I say that every man who is going to vote for this Bill, in face of the arguments and facts I have put before him, should hesitate before he gives his vote until conclusive proof is laid before the House in favour of the gigantic and cruel revolution it is proposed to make. What is the case I made out for this change? The Member for Fife, I think, is the only Member of the House who says he wants to plunder the Church because he disagrees with it. He told us he was going to say something that had not been said before in the Debate, and I think that was the something. He told us, as I understood him, that the Church of England was a sacerdotal Church, that he and his Nonconformist friends were irreconcilably opposed to sacerdotalism, and that that was an adequate reason for passing the Bill for which he was going to vote tonight. As he was alone in that opinion, and as it savours more of an age of bigotry and persecution than of the enlightened era in which it is our privilege to dwell, I go to the arguments which received apparently more support from Gentlemen on the other side of the House, and I find several arguments which require notice. There was one given us, in eloquent language, by the President of the Board of Trade. He quoted Primitive Christianity, and he told us that in the time of St. Paul there were no Endowments, arid that St. Paul supported himself by his own labour. I do not know whether he seriously thinks that the change of circumstances, which have come over the world in the 1,800 years which have succeeded, requires ministers of religion to support themselves by trade other than that of preaching the Gospel? If he does not, I am surprised at the argument he brought forward. He tells us that Primitive Christianity is opposed to the views that we take, and he went on, with all that wealth of historical knowledge and information which is at his command, probably more than any of other Member of the House, to tell us that the whole progress of the Church since those I primitive times has been one in which wealth has acted as a corrupting influence. That the Church, after it became Established, consisted of proud and bloated prelates may be or may not be a true account of what happened in the 682 first 12 or 14 centuries; but what have bloated prelates to do with the condition of the wealth of Wales at this moment? Are we to describe as clergy corrupted with wealth those who are living on the petty stipends which are all the Welsh clergy now get from their Endowments? Are they lapping in luxury on £100 and £130 a year? Are they clothed in purple upon the wretched salary which they at present receive? Sir, all this appeal to prejudice based upon history proves to me how little historical studies have to do with sane and sober political appreciation of the facts. The right hon. Gentleman, full of the Borgias and Leos, attempts to give us an estimate of the present position of the Church in Wales, which, to everybody who knows that position, is obviously ludicrous and absurd. The truth is that, whatever may be the faults and the shortcomings of the Church in Wales at the present moment, it certainly is not excess of money that produces those faults; and it certainly will not remedy them by depriving her violently of the relatively small amount of money which her existing Endowments give her. We are told also by the same right hon. Gentleman, and this argument was used a good deal, that the example of the Irish Church was in favour of this measure. A quotation has been made from the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, from which you might almost gather that nothing could be so good for the financial position of the Church as the taking away of its money. Such a statement would be a paradox. I do not deny that persecuted Churches have almost always been pure Churches, and have very often done a great work for the cause in which they believed. But if that argument is worth anything, you will not stop at spoliation. You will try a little burning. And I am bound to say that, if you are simply to consider what effects suffering, persecution, and wrong may, under certain circumstances, produce upon human beings, I think your philanthropy will take a strange turn, of which little parallel will be found since the Middle Ages; and, once again, we are driven back upon arguments which I should have thought the Nonconformists of England would have been the last to hold up to approbation. Then there is another argument. It is an argument 683 that the Church itself is now so bound by legal claims that in the interests of the Church itself it is absolutely necessary that Disestablishment and Disendowment should come about. The Home Secretary, in his opening speech, was very indignant with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Sir M. Hicks-Beach) because he described that argument as "cant." Well, Sir, I mean neither to use nor to repeat any hard language, but I think, nevertheless, that there is an easy way of discovering whether or not hon. Gentlemen opposite who intend to vote for this Bill really are animated by a desire for liberating the Church, or whether there is any other motive for their action. The sort of limitations of which the Home Secretary spoke, if I remember rightly, were that the Church of England in Wales could not alter its liturgy, and could not alter its terms of subscription, without coming to Parliament in order to legalise its procedure—without coming to a House composed largely, it is true, of members of its own body, but composed also largely of Christians of other denominations, and composed also of Members who are not Christians at all. But the Church of England is not the only Established Church. There is another Established Church, which has neither of those limitations placed upon it. The Church of Scotland may have precisely what form of worship it pleases, and may alter its terms of subscription as it pleases. [Cries of "No!"] Yes! It may define as it pleases the meaning which the subscription to the Westminster Confession carries with it. If the Gentlemen who are in favour of Disestablishment are in favour of it because it frees the Church, manifestly they must be more in favour of it in Scotland than in England. The fact is, that Establishment, as Establishment, is what moves the wrath of the Nonconformist bodies of this island, and that in Scotland before England they began the Disestablishment campaign; and it is the Scotch Church which they will attack before they will begin to try their teeth upon the English Church. Then does not the argument for liberty manifestly disappear? Does it not stand confessed and patent to all that it is not the liberty of the Church that is the true motive of the 684 advocates of Disestablishment, but some other and different motive which lies at the bottom of the course which they commend to us to pursue? But in truth what should we say? Consider how hollow this is. We are told that the Church of England is bound in golden fetters. Yes; but if we saw somebody relieving a person entangled in golden fetters of those golden fetters, we might be tempted to think that liberty of the captive was his motive; but if the liberator proceeded afterwards to put the golden chain into his own pocket, and if, not content with putting the golden chain into his own pocket, he afterwards tore off, with violence and contumely, every other ornament with which the person he was thus attempting to relieve was invested, we should be tempted to say that plunder, and not liberation, was the object of his intentions. I am bound to say that when we consider the principal Provisions in this Bill which the Government have thought fit to introduce into it that idea is impressed more and more forcibly upon our minds. The most obvious intention in this Bill is not merely to free the Church, but to destroy it. ["Hear, hear!" and cries of "No" from the Ministerial Benches] My reason for thinking so is that they have the parallel of the Irish Church before them. They saw that by the terms they had given to the Irish Church it was impossible, by great self-sacrifice, by great public spirit, to capitalise the sum which would prevent that Church from suffering so much as she might otherwise have done. And what have the Government done? They have determined that this Church shall have no terms like the Irish Church—that she, at all events, shall not be allowed to do for herself what the Irish Church has done with so much success. They have doomed her beforehand to death by a kind of creeping paralysis, in which parish after parish, by the accident of death, is to be deprived of its Endowments, in which each limb is to be cruelly destroyed in turn, till the whole organisation is paralysed so far as they can paralyse it, to absolute death. I am always disposed, I hope, to attribute not ungenerous motives to those to whom I am opposed, but it is difficult indeed to exercise charity when I look at the particular 685 provisions by which the Government have endeavoured to carry out what they describe as a work of public liberation. And that is the case presented by hon. Gentlemen opposite for the destruction of the Church so far as the Church is concerned. But they have another argument. They tell us that it is necessary to destroy that Church for the sake of the people in Wales. And how do they demonstrate that proposition? In the first place, their argument is, that the existence of an Established Church conduces to a great want of charity and to a great friction between various sections of society and various sections of Christians. Surely, Mr. Speaker, this is a very strange argument. The Nonconformists, or at all events the political Nonconformists, of Wales come before us and tell us that all their evil passions are aroused by the existence of an Established Church. They tell us that they are driven to acts of want of charity, that they are driven to envy, and that they are driven to feel that there are social inequalities which ought to be smoothed down, and they say: "Remove this stumbling block, destroy that which we envy, take away from us this Church which arouses in us all these unhappy emotions, and then you will have a state of amicable peace in Wales, when every man will love his brother, and when every member of every sect will feel that, after all, he belongs to, and is bound together with, the members of every other sect in one great religious work." I do not think that argument ought to weigh with us. After all, the Church in Wales is one at this moment—I freely admit it—with a large number of organisations, all engaged in the greatest work which can be done among men. Ls it impossible, without depriving that great organisation of means of usefulness, that co-operatively the work of spreading Christianity should go on unhindered? Is that asking too much of human nature, even of the human nature of certain political Nonconformists? Is it asking too much to allow us to hope that the time may come when every member of every denomination may use to the utmost the means placed at his disposal for a common work; when he may feel, not that he loses by some other denomination having its powers of usefulness increased, but that he and his fellows gain by such a condition of 686 things? It would be impossible, and I think the House would not desire that I should attempt any survey of the comparative utility of the various Welsh denominations, and it is an invidious task which I do not wish to enter upon. But certain facts have been brought to my knowledge, and I believe they are authentic, which I should like briefly to give to the House, as to the sort of work which has to be done by all denominations in Wales, and which is now being done, so far as I can discover, more effectually by the Church of England than any other. I believe that in Monmouthshire and Glamorgan there are about 1,000,000 of inhabitants, the whole population of Wales being only 1,700,000. More than half the population of Wales I are confined in those counties. So far as I can discover, you cannot put higher the adherents of all the Nonconformist bodies together, including infants, as more than400,000. That leaves 600,000 who are either members of the Church of England or who belong to no religious denomination at all, and in regard to whom no religious work is being carried on. Is not that a great religious problem for all the religious bodies in Wales? It is admitted to be so by all the best Nonconformists, and I find that the chief of the Nonconformist bodies in that particular district is the Congregationalists; and they themselves admit, with a regret which we all share, that the increase in that body has not kept up even with the increase of population: while we find, on the other hand, in regard to the Church of England in those districts, that there has been progress by leaps and bounds—progress in the construction of churches, progress in the ordaining of clergy, and progress in the number of persons confirmed, which show that, at all events, the work in that I particular district, the great work in which all bodies of Christians, conforming and nonconforming, are equally concerned, is being carried out more efficiently at this moment by the Church of England than by any other of its collaborating sects. [Cries of "No!"] The figures are there, and I can draw no other conclusion from them. The question I wish to put to every man who has come to this House tonight with the view of voting in favour of this Bill is this: Does he think he will 687 further the great cause of religion among the growing masses in Wales by this Bill or does he not? I suppose that 99–100ths of this House believe that in every healthy civilisation the element of religion is absolutely necessary, and I suppose that nine tenths of this House-perhaps the figure is too high—but, at all events, a large majority of this House do not differ from the tenets of the Church of England sufficiently to say that that great Christianising work ought not to be performed by her. If that be true, is it not a tremendous responsibility to take upon yourselves to vote that the Church which has got this work before it, which is doing its work by your own confession, and doing it well, or is helping you to do it and helping you well, is to be deprived of its means of usefulness? I make that appeal to the House at large. Perhaps I ought not to make it to those who have hitherto regarded the Church question as a political question, nor to those who insist, most unhappily, as I think, upon looking at our existing ecclesiastical controversies through the mists of prejudice born of the unhappy conflicts which have raged in times past in England. Those times have long gone by. Surely we may now all work in harmony for the common good, and those Nonconformists who take my view of the situation, who think with me that we may forget the wrongs, if you like, inflicted in times past and under a different state of things by the English Church upon those who differed from her, and who think with me that all denominations of Christians are called upon now in these times of changing populations, of great movement and great growth, to use their best efforts to further convictions which all share—surely they will think, as I think, that the Church in Wales now deserves something more than generous treatment at their hands. This, at all events, I am certain of: that, if misled by the memory of the unhappy past or by the prejudice born of the daily conflict of party and of sect, men earnestly desirous of furthering religion, yet vote for this Bill, they will find that, though they have inflicted a great—I will not say an irreparable—injury upon the Church against whom this Bill is directed, they have done nothing to benefit those denominations of Christians to which they belong, and that they have 688 done very much indeed to destroy that work in which they, as well as we, might heartily join, and which might be for the permanent benefit of that part of the country whose interests they profess especially to have at heart.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOUKT, Derby),
said: I should have thought that the consideration which would have presented itself to the mind of the right hon. Gentleman when, in his eloquent peroration, he called upon all sections of all religious Communities to co-operate in that common work would have been to feel that the first step in the direction of that co-operation would be to place all those communities, without invidious distinctions, upon a common footing. Is that opinion not shared even by Churchmen in Wales? I had put into my hands to-day a letter from a gentleman who signs himself "Edmund Jones, Warden of the Diocesan School of Divinity in Wales," and the conclusion of that letter is this:—It is a reform that we want. It is quite hopeless to defend the present state of things as immaculate, and I do not shrink from saying in your columns that a large number of Welshmen, both Churchmen and Nonconformists, are longing to have some reasonable settlement of this vexed question, which has poisoned the social, religious, and political life of the Welsh nation for nearly half a century.That is the view of a man who holds apparently a distinguished place in the Church of England in Wales. Then we have an evil in Wales that has to be dealt with, and the question we have to determine to-night is how that evil is to be dealt with. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this long Debate has been in many respects interesting, and that it has been characterised by many brilliant speeches—some of them, I venture also to agree with him, not absolutely relevant to the vote that we are going to give to-night. We have had many historical disquisitions. Some of them, which have come from what is called the Church party, have surprised and, I venture to say, have amused us. They have their source in certain publications which have given to me an extremely novel and astonishing view both of history and of law. In these descriptions of Church government and the relations of Church and State there are some chapters in history which were 689 entirely omitted. There is one event which in former days was considered of some importance which has entirely disappeared. It is the event which used to be known by the name of the Protestant Reformation. On reading the publications of the Church Defence Association you would imagine that Henry VIII. never existed, that Edward VI. was a minor, that Mary Tudor of Blessed Memory had never lived, and that Elizabeth had never reigned. All these personages, as far as Church and State are concerned, have disappeared from the scene. Nothing material happened in Church and State in the 16th Century at all, or nothing that signified particularly. Everything is just as it was before, and the Church of to-day is exactly the Church of the period before the Reformation—in doctrine, in discipline, and in the whole of the relations of Church and State. We know that well. It is like the axe which had a new head and a new handle, but was always the same axe. I confess that I am too old myself to have adopted these views of the relations of Church and State, but I shall not attempt at this hour to reproduce ideas which seem entirely to have gone out of fashion. All that, I think, is a good deal beside the question we have to decide to-night—the question of the Church in Wales and nothing else. That is the subject which the Government are responsible for placing before the House. The question we have to determine is not the general merits of Establishment or Endowment, but whether Establishments or Endowments are, under the present condition of things, advantageously applied to society as it now exists in Wales. I think the right hon. Gentleman himself has admitted that that is the question at which we should look, and I entirely agree with him. I decline altogether to be diverted from that consideration by the larger questions which have been extensively introduced in these Debates. But there are arguments of a character which, if they were well-founded, would debar us altogether from making any change in the Establishment as it now exists in Wales or elsewhere. It is true they have not been advanced by the Leader of the Party. He said he was not going to take the high line, and he has not taken the high line. I think his main 690 argument was to stand upon the Statute of Limitations. What has become of the high line of the right hon. Member for Bristol, who opened this Debate, and of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth? I doubt whether the Party which the right hon. Gentleman so admirably represents are prepared to take what I may call the low line. I will not use that phrase—but the line which the right hon. Gentleman has adopted tonight. What has become of the "national sin?" What has become of the doctrine of the right hon. Member for Bristol—that it is absolutely essential that the State should be connected with the Church; that without the State the Church has no strength, and without the Church the State has no religion? That was the argument advanced—and I am quite sure sincerely held—by the right hon. Member for Bristol. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth said that Disestablishment and Disendowment was a national sin. It is necessary, at all events, that we should make up our minds whether that is a good plea or not, because if it is a good plea there is no use discussing the question at all. It has been stated, and I have no doubt is held by the Church party, that it is for the highest interest of the State, and that it makes the State more religious, to have an established Church. Is that true? [An hon. MEMBER: "Yes."] I know it is a firm belief, I should say of the majority of the Church party, that the existence of a Church gives a religious influence to a State. If that is so that is a conclusive argument; but is it true? When the Nonconformists went to New England, was New England less religious than England under Charles II.? Was the Church under the Stuarts the Church in its most religious form? When Penn went to Pennsylvania was Pennsylvania a less religious community because it had no Established Church? Canada had an Establishment and an Endowment; Canada has parted with it. Is Canada less religious than England? Are you prepared to say so? Are you prepared to say that of any of our colonies? Why, Sir, it is not true. Of the English race probably three-fourths, certainly two-thirds, are without an Established Church. Are you prepared to affirm that those communities are less religious 691 than, that to which we belong? Then, when you speak of Disestablishment as a national sin, I should like to know how far you are going to carry that doctrine. You have on the other side of the House, I know, a profound veneration and confidence in the House of Lords, but in the case of the Irish Church that assembly acquiesced, and the main instrument in carrying the Irish Church Bill through the House of Lords was Lord Salisbury, the present leader of the Tory party. He was supported by a man, whom certainly everybody who knew him would admit to be a most religious man—the late Lord Carnarvon; and another person who took a great part in the settlement of that great question was the late Duke of Devonshire, who made a speech on that occasion which anybody who wants a refutation of the argument of which I am speaking I would strongly recommend to read. Well, Sir, therefore I dismiss the argument, as the right hon. Gentleman has abandoned that argument.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No, Sir, I am sorry to interrupt, but I must not be supposed to abandon an argument because I do not repeat it.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman explained the line of argument he was going to take when he said he was not going to take the high line. That is what I call the high line. Now, Sir, I do not pretend to argue the question of the merits of Establishment and Endowments in general. What we have to consider to-night is whether, in respect of a particular community—that is to say, the community of Wales—the Establishment and the Endowment is appropriate and politic as applied to that community. We have to consider two questions—one Disestablishment, the other Disendowment. Now, Establishment and Endowments are interdependent and inseparable in my opinion. I observe that the advocates of the Church generally in this debate have insisted a great deal more upon the question of Endowments than upon the question of Establishment, and that has been very characteristic, I think, of the Debate throughout. [An hon. MEMBER: "No." Yes, I am quite sure that it is so, and a gentleman who spoke after dinner gave the reasons for it. The hon. and learned Member for the Epson Division of Surrey said the Endowments 692 are the breath of its life—the life of the Church. Now, Sir, I quite understand why that should be so. Indeed, there are many Churchmen who would gladly part with Establishment altogether. Everybody knows that, and it is natural, because Establishment is a restriction upon a Church, whereas Endowments are a benefit and a privilege, and it is quite easy to understand why people should lay much more stress and much more value upon that which is a privilege than upon that which is a restriction. What is Establishment? The ex-Home Secretary gave us a definition of it. He said:—What did Establishment consist in? The supremacy of the Crown; the appointment of Bishops; the assembling and dissolving of Convocation; the control of the Crown over any canon that Convocation might pass; and in the interference of Parliament which followed from the supremacy of the Crown;and he might have added a good many other things too. Now, the change which had passed over the Church at the Reformation period in the Tudor reign was very much like the change which passed over the Monarchy at the time of the Revolution. The Church, like the Monarchy, became a limited institution, and that was the operation that took place at that time with regard to the Establishment. Now, the essence of Establishment is the control of the State over the Church. What is it that the Church gains by Establishment? The ex-Home Secretary, in the words I have read, showed plainly what the advantages are. It gains certain titles of honour; it gains in its prelates a distinctive costume—[Opposition cries of "Oh!"]—well, but it is so; and it gains also seats in the other House of Parliament. Really, beyond that I do not know what it is that the Church gains by Establishment. But the State insists on the Establishment as the co-relative and condition of endowment—and naturally so—and it imposes on the Church as a condition of imposing these endowments the fulfilment of laws prescribed by the State. Only one speaker in this Debate has insisted greatly upon one great feature of Establishment, and that was the ex-Home Secretary. He said:—If you Disestablish the Church, the Queen will no longer be the supreme Head of the Church in Wales.I was a little surprised at the quarter 693 from which that came. It seemed to me that it was hardly the voice of the Vatican, but was rather inspired by the Quirinal. I do not know whether it is a recollection of the day when the right hon. Gentleman, in a vicarious character, exercised the functions which belong to the supreme head of the Church of England, whether he assisted, as I have often done myself, at the homage of Bishops for their temporalities—a most interesting ceremony, and one which indicates that the Supreme Head of the Church has something to say to the temporalities of the Church. I dare say it is that recollection which induced the right hon. Gentleman to lay so much stress on the importance of the Crown being the Supreme Head of the Church in Wales. Well, when we come to the question of endowment, we come to the real fighting part of the case. I think anybody who has listened to this Debate must recognise that that is the fact. It is not a question of doctrine or discipline, but of money. Nobody can doubt that. But it is mot by an objection—which would be fatal to the case of endowment if well founded—that the State has no right to deal with the property of the Church. That is assorted very confidently by the Church party. It was put forward by the right hon. Member for Bristol. He said:—I care not what was done, in Ireland. This House has no more moral right to take one penny of these endowments than it has to take the property of any Corporation, any trade union, or society in the country.Very well; he may say he does not care what was done in the case of Ireland. But other people have to care. Lord Salisbury has to care. [Opposition cries of "Oh!"] Wait a minute; he voted, and it was his vote and interest that carried the Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church in Ireland. The Duke of Devonshire has something to say. But what was done in regard to the property of the Church in Ireland? The Duke of Argyll, the great vindicator of the rights of property, was a party to this act of public plunder and confiscation. The hon. Member for North Armagh was one of the confiscators of those days.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Did you? Then I beg pardon. At all events, there is the right hon. Gentleman who has considered the case of Ireland; he has spoken to-night; and he had to explain his position. I am always rather sorry for anyone who finds it necessary to explain his position. He explained his position; and I do not know what the gentleman who held the doctrine of sacrilege and national sin thought of that explanation. They would have heard that the right hon. Gentleman was guilty of a national sin and committed sacrilege as a peace offering to soothe a discontented people. That was the explanation he offered to-night. He said, not that it was a national sin, but that it was a national sacrifice. He made a national sacrifice, because Ireland was in such a state of disorder and discontent; and he used this other phrase, that he Disestablished and Disendowed the Irish Church in order to buy peace. Is that intended as a lesson for Wales? Is he going to say that if there was only discontent enough, if only Wales was in a condition in which it was necessary to buy peace, then he will be prepared to make a national sacrifice of the property of the Welsh Church? This is the way in which the right hon. Gentleman explained his position upon that subject. But, Sir, again I must agree with the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary. He said he did not think any advantage was to be gained by entering into the legal and moral right of Parliament to entertain such a question as this. Rather a rebut to the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Member for Bristol—That right was beyond question, and precedents to support it were very numerous.Certainly, and I think he added these words:—He would not talk about sacrilege; there was abundant precedent in our history for Parliament interfering with the property of the Church.Well, no one is in a better position to judge of that than a gentleman who belongs to the communion of which the right hon. Gentleman is a member. That is perfectly true, and it is perfectly idle at this time of day to question the right of Parliament to deal with the property of the Church. [An hon. MEMBER: "Oh, oh!"] Does the hon. Member 695 think he is a better judge than the right hon. Member for East Birmingham? On the whole, I prefer his authority. I have heard it advanced in this House that the tithe was a voluntary gift of the landowners to the Church. If that is so, they must have been very different from the landowners of the present day. I have heard complaints made of the manner in which tithe is paid by landowners. On this point I will trouble the House with one extract of an historical character. There is an account given by Lord Coke, a good authority on the law and history of tithes; it will be found in Selden, the great antiquarian authority. This is what he says about the origin of tithes:—When Gregory the Great sent Augustine, about the year 600, assisted by 40 preachers, to publish the Gospel to our forefathers in England, it is testified by the laws of Edward the Confessor among other things that he preached and commanded tithe to be paid. This St. Augustine preached and taught, and this was granted by the King, the Barons, and the people.A pretty good description, of statecraft. I do not see how you could describe statecraft in better terms. "But afterwards by the instigation of the devil—" I suppose he means the landlords—" they detained it and did not pay it." Selden says that when you come to Domesday Book it almost seems as if tithe had disappeared. Then, if this were a private grant by individuals, how comes it to be of general application? You do not find that in the case of private gifts. Where you find an obligation placed upon land which is universal and obligatory, it is perfectly idle to contend that that is a grant of private origin. Then, as to the right of the State to deal with these Endowments; I should like to know how these Endowments came into the hands in which they are found at present, if the State had not the right to deal with them. The right hon. Member for West Bristol, if I am not mistaken, is a distinguished alumnus of the great House of Christ Church, Oxford. Yes, Sir; but that great House is endowed with Welsh funds. How did Christ Church get hold of the Welsh tithes? I am afraid a part of them seems to have been devoted to the education of the right hon. Gentleman; a very good purpose, too, an excellent purpose, but I am afraid a national sin. Then there is another great collegiate 696 institution which had the honour of educating the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. It had the honour, also, and a great honour it is, to have as one of its most distinguished ornaments the Member for the University of Cambridge, who always addresses this House with so much ability; and I, too, in a humbler capacity, was a partaker of its advantages. The whole of the Endowments of the great Foundation of Trinity College, Cambridge, is in tithes and land once devoted to ecclesiastical uses. Of course, everybody knows that it was by the act of the State that the tithes were given to these institutions. Reference has been made by the right hon. Gentleman to allusions which have been made to the lay impropriators. In this instance it was introduced by my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Home Department, and I hope he has escaped the hereditary taint; but there are other persons who benefit by the right of the State to dispose of ecclesiastical property. When the Duke of Devonshire has rejected this Bill in the House of Lords, he will be able to go home to the moors which lie above Bolton Abbey, and my young and distinguished Friend, my Representative in the New Forest, has a magnificent home known as Beaulieu. How did they become possessed of these properties except by the right of the State to dispose of the property of the Church? But this case really has been settled by the case in Ireland, and it is idle, at this time of day, after such an Act as the Irish Church Act has been passed, to contest the right of the State. I do not say whether it was politic, or wise, or just to do it—to contest, as the right hon. Gentleman has contested it, the moral right of the State to deal with the property of the Church. I have been obliged to allude to these questions because they have been advanced in this Debate. I have been obliged to allude to the argument that the State ought to have an Established Church, and to the argument that the State has no right to deal with the property of the Church; but I perfectly agree that the question and the only question upon which we are going to pronounce a judgment to-night is whether it is right, politic, and wise to deal in this manner with the Church in Wales. That is the 697 question and the only question. It is not a question of the policy of establishments generally; it is not a question of endowments generally. The question is whether it is to be applied to the social community in Wales, and I venture to affirm that a National Church ought not to exist in a community like Wales unless it represents the sentiments and convictions of the majority of the people. In old days, no doubt, the ground for a National Church was, that it represented the sentiments and convictions of the people; but in later days we have been obliged to adopt, and we do adopt, a more restricted view than that, and I admit that in a community where the majority of the people are in favour of the existing Established and Endowed Church, the argument would be strong and weighty in favour of maintaining that Church, and I should not be a party to any speculative view of establishments and endowments for disturbing that state of things. But is that the condition of things in Wales? The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to refute the arguments on this subject. He said he would not enter into any calculation, but he endeavoured to dispose of the arguments of the majority of the representatives of the people of Wales. I should like to apply that argument to the case of England. Supposing that in England you had the same proportion of persons as in Wales for and against Disestablishment, how long do you think that the Establishment would continue to exist? The right hon. Gentleman knows it would not exist for a day. There are about 460 Members for England. Supposing there were 420 against the Establishment and 40 in favour of it, do you think that the question would not be settled at once? The right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, endeavoured to-night—not very candidly, if I might say so—to cite against us the great authority of the right hon. Member for Midlothian. He read a passage from a speech made 20 years ago by my right hon. Friend, in which he said that there was a distinction betwen the case of the Church in Wales and the Church of England in Ireland. But the right hon. Member for St. George's ought to have referred to a speech made by my right hon. Friend in 698 support of a Motion for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Welsh Church in 1891.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I did. I distinctly stated that the right hon. Gentleman had said at a later date that he bowed to the decision of the majority of the people of Wales.
SIR W. HABCOURT
The right hon. Member for Midlothian said more than that. He said:—In two vital and determining points the case of the Welsh Church corresponds with that of the Irish Church. In the first place, it is the Church of the few as against the Church of the many. In the second place, it is the Church of the rich as against the Church of the comparatively poor.That is a good deal more than merely bowing to the majority, and my right hon. Friend went on to say:—It is not very far from the truth to say that the Nonconformists are the people of Wales, undoubtedly the bulk of the people of Wales.If that is true there is no justification for maintaining m Wales an Established Church. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said that the opinion of Wales may be changed at the next election. I doubt whether that is very likely, for what happened at the last Election? Of the Unionist candidates how many declared themselves in favour of the Church in Wales? There were 34 Unionist candidates, and out of those only 8—no, 5—declared m favour of the Church in Wales. In these circumstances is the opinion of Wales likely to alter on this subject? Twenty years ago very few votes were given in favour of Disestablishment. Every year there has been an increasing number. How, then, can you doubt what is the opinion of the majority of the people of Wales? It is said that the Church in Wales has greatly improved of late, and I am glad to know it has. Has that altered the opinion of the majority of the people of Wales? It has not. Why, concurrently with the improvement, the opinion of the people of Wales is as strong or stronger than it was before. Then the last argument that is addressed to us is, that it is so unfair to the Welsh Church to deprive it of its emoluments. What is the figure of these emoluments? The right hon, Gentleman the Member for Bristol put it at £157,000. Is that the sum on 699 which the Church in Wales is prepared to come before the country and say that the absence of that sum will disable it from its religious duties? In the presence of what we know has been done by the Free Kirk of Scotland, in the presence of what has been done and is being done by the Nonconformists of Wales, is it possible to say that the Church that reaches the richest part of Wales would be for ever disabled from its religious work by the loss of such a sum of money as that? I cannot believe it. I am astonished that such an argument as that should be put forward. Is it likely that this will destroy the religious action or the religious influence of the Church in Wales? The evidence of the Church in Ireland is sufficient to satisfy us upon that point. The Church in Ireland has not suffered either in its wealth or in its means, or in its religious influence; and therefore, Sir, believing as we do that the case of the Church in Wales stands upon very much the same footing as that of the Church in Ireland—that it is not a Church which represents the sentiments or the convictions of the majority of the people, and that that is the condition upon which alone a national Church can stand, that it is the only condition which can justify Establishments or Endowments—being firmly of that conviction, we have taken the responsibility of asking the House of Commons to-night to determine that in Wales the Establishment and Endowment shall cease to exist.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 304; Noes, 260.—(Division List No. 39.)