§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. H. H. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
in rising to move for leave to introduceA Bill to terminate the Establishment of the Church of England in Wales and Monmouthshire, and to make provision in respect of the Temporalities thereof,said: In making the Motion which stands in my name, I shall trespass for a very short time indeed upon the attention of the House. I was rebuked when I asked for leave to bring in this Bill last year because I did not enter at any length into the large and highly controversial questions of policy which proposals of this kind necessarily raise, and which agitate Parliament and the country. I pointed out then what I venture now to repeat, in justification of myself in adopting a similar course, that if I abstain from going into these matters now, it is not in any degree because I underrate their gravity or shrink from their discussion. At the proper time and at the proper stage (that is to say, on the Second Reading) I shall be perfectly prepared, in accordance with what used to be the uniform practice and usage of this House—[Ministerial cheers, and Opposition cries of "No!"] An hon. Member says 1488 "No." I would remind him that the Irish Church Bill—a measure, as I pointed out last year, of much greater complexity than the measure I am now introducing—was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian in a speech of some three hours' duration, and was, with the assent, and I think at the suggestion, of Mr. Disraeli, then the Leader of the Opposition, allowed to receive its First Reading before dinner on the same night. As far as I and the Government are concerned we do not intend to contribute to what we regard as the growing abuse of making the First Reading an occasion for a Second Reading Debate. Acting on that assumption, it would be, under ordinary circumstances, my duty to explain in considerable detail, with a view of laying them before the House, the provisions of this measure; but as I discharged that task to the best of my ability, with great elaboration, and, I fear, at excessive length, when I introduced what is, to all intents and purposes, identically the same measure last year, I hope the House will not think me guilty of any disrespect to them or of any disparagement of the importance of the subject if I confine myself to a brief recapitulation of the main provisions of the Bill. Shortly, our proposals are these: we propose that on January 1, 1897, the Church of England, as far as it is established in Wales and Monmouthshire, shall cease to be an Established Church. From and after that date both the privileges and duties incident to the status of Establishment will come to an end. The coercive jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts will cease. What is now ecclesiastical law will be enforceable, as far as it affects the discipline of the clergy and the doctrines and ceremonies of the Church, by way of contract, and as far as it affects the use of property, by way of trust. Provision will be made in the Bill for the formation of a representative Church body; and power is given to the Bishops and clergy and laity of the whole synod to frame a constitution and generally to legislate in ecclesiastical matters for themselves. Shortly stated, that is the effect of the provisions of the Bill as far as they relate to Disestablishment. I come now to the other side and aspect of the subject—the 1489 Disendowment of the Church. There I may remind the House that we are dealing here with ecclesiastical revenue arising only from Wales itself; and throughout, in speaking of Wales, it must be understood that I include the County of Monmouth. The Whole of that revenue, for whatever purposes it is now applied—that is to say, whether in Wales or England—comes within the scope of the Bill. On the other hand, ecclesiastical revenue arising in England, parts of which now, under the operations of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, go to the benefit of the Church in Wales, do not come under the scope of the Bill. The result is, that in Wales we have to dispose of a gross annual revenue of £279,000, which, as I pointed out last year, may be conveniently divided into two distinct categories. First of all there is the parochial revenue, which is at present attached to and enjoyed by parochial benefices, and which amounts in rounds figures to a gross sum of £233,000 a year. On the other hand, there is what I call the central revenue of £46,000, which is made up by the incomes of capitular and episcopal states and the revenues received from Wales by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for disposal in Wales. For strict accuracy, and to make the matter clear, I ought to point out, before I pass from this, that we have excluded from the operation of the Bill what are called private benefactions; and that for this purpose we have treated all private benefactions newly created since 1703, under the constitution of Queen Anne's Bounty, as sums which ought to remain the property of the Disestablished and Disendowed Church. In dealing with this fund we have acted on two principles, to which for the moment I will ask the special attention of the House. The first principle is this: we have endeavoured to preserve the corpus of the ecclesiastical property in Wales for local and national purposes, and to prevent its alienation and dissipation; and to keep it, as far as legislation can keep it, as an available asset for the purposes to which we propose that it should be applied. Our second principle is this: we have aimed throughout at providing that, as far as this property and the income arising from it is at present derived from and attached to localities, they shall continue 1490 to be subject to the elastic limitations which I will refer to later, and be locally applied. For the purpose of applying these principles to the circumstances of the case, we call into existence, as was done in the case of the Irish Church Act, a Commission, which in constitution and in the status and emoluments of its members will be the same as that described last year, and as this is a matter of comparatively unimportant detail, the House will forgive me for not I going into it again. The function of these Commissioners will, in the first instance, be to secure the vesting of the various classes or heads of property the income of which is at present enjoyed by the Church in Wales. It will be, their duty for this purpose to transfer the churches and parsonages to the representative body. The burial-grounds and glebes will be transferred in rural parishes to the Parish Council, and in urban parishes to the District Council, and in county boroughs to the Town Council of the borough. Tithe rentcharge—and I need hardly remind the House that it is by far the largest and most valuable ecclesiastical asset in Wales—will be vested by the Commissioners in the County Council of the county in which the land is situated from which the tithe arises. The whole of the other property of the Church will remain vested in the Commissioners themselves.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The provision with respect to them is the same as in the Bill of last year—that is to say, the property of cathedrals will be vested in the Commissioners, on whom will lie the obligation of maintaining and keeping them in repair, subject to the right of the Disestablished Church to continue to use them for their present, purpose. Now, Sir, I come for a moment to the provision made in the Bill for existing interests. Here, again, we have adopted a plan which we think will avoid or minimise the dangers which the practical working of the Irish Church Act has shown to exist and to be very real. We propose that every person who has at present a vested interest in an ecclesiastical office shall, as long as he continues to discharge the duties of that office, receive the emoluments which he 1491 at present enjoys. In order to prevent the dangers which I pointed out last year—the dangers and hardships to the Church which would undoubtedly ensue from stereotyping the existing arrangement in this respect—in order to prevent the immobility of the clergy, and to permit of the promotion of men from one office to another, we have provided an alternative scale of compensation under which the beneficiary may receive an annuity on the lower scale, with the consent of the representative body, and when he adopts these terms it will not be a condition of his enjoyment of that annuity that he should continue to discharge the duties of the office which he at present holds. Next, as to livings in the gift of private patrons; and these, I may say, in Wales are only one-third of the total livings in the country—344 out 970. It is here proposed to follow the precedent set by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in the Act of 1874 for the Abolition of Patronage in the Scotch Church, and to provide that where a patron chooses to claim he may receive a sum by way of compensation for the loss of his right not exceeding one year's net emolument for his living on the basis of three years before the Bill becomes law. Then I come to consider the ultimate application of the property. The central fund, which consists of £46,000 gross, we propose, in the first instance, shall be charged with the expense of administering the Act. The surplus will be supplied by the Commissioners to the purpose sanctioned in the Bill, with the provision that of the balance of this central fund not less than two-thirds shall be applied to higher education. The local funds, which constitute by far the largest item of the property of the Church, and of which the tithe rent-charge is itself the most important detail, will be applied in accordance with the schemes framed by the County Councils with the approval of the Commissioners. As this was the point which excited the largest amount of hostile criticism from those who accepted the principle of the Bill, I think I may say two or three words, in passing, by way of justification. It was laid down as a principle that these local funds should be locally applied. It is perfectly true that if you treat the properly of the Church in Wales as one 1492 and indivisible, and throw it into one central fund, and then proceed to distribute it according to population—which is the only alternative, to the scheme the Government lay down—you would be led to startling results. Let me give the House, for the purpose of illustration, two or three figures bearing on the point. The county of Glamorgan, by far the most populous county in Wales, has a population of 687,000. At the present moment the total income arising from the ecclesiastical property situated in the county of Glamorgan, and applied to ecclesiastical purposes there, is £26,000. The county of Monmouth, which is the next most populous county, has a population of 252,000.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I am not dealing with tithe only, but with tithe and rents, which may be treated with tithe.
§ MR. ASQUITH
No; not glebe—I rents and tithes. The right hon. Gentleman will see that the balance which is not tithe is really very small. If I confined myself to tithes alone I believe the figures would bring in proportion about the same result. These figures are founded on a return moved by the hon. Member for Merthyr at the end of last Session. Well, the county of Monmouth has a population of 252,000, and an ecclesiastical income of £27,000. The county of Denbigh, with a population of 117,000, has an ecclesiastical income of £25,000; and the county of Pembroke, with a population of 89,000, has an ecclesiastical income of £25,000. So you have four counties, ranging in population from 687,000 to 89,000, each of which yields practically the same ecclesiastical revenue. I cannot think it would give satisfaction to the people of Wales if you were to ignore the sources from which this property is derived, and to give to the counties of Glamorgan and Monmouth—the two most populous and certainly the two richest counties—not what they at present enjoy, not an equivalent to the burden under which they at present lie, for ecclesiastical purposes, but a sum proportionate to their population. The result would be that these two counties, having a population of 940,000 out of the total popu 1493 lation of Wales and Monmouthshire of 1,750,000, would get more than one-half of the ecclesiastical revenue of the Principality, although now they only derive one-fourth or one-fifth. We do not believe that principle would give satisfaction in its application. The anomalies—no doubt considerable if you look upon population as a test—arise from the fact that tithe is not a burden upon all kinds of property, but a burden on agricultural land; and those counties of Glamorgan and Monmouth, which, although not originally rich, after the discovery of minerals, developed a large industry and became a very flourishing community, have never contributed to the Church in any thing like the proportion that the poor counties have. Sir, we therefore propose to adhere, notwithstanding the apparent anomalies—taking population as the only test—to that principle of distribution, and each County Council will be empowered to appropriate locally the tithe arising within that county. But I wish to point out that these will not prevent in the least two or more counties from joining together to make joint schemes for joint purposes, nor would it prevent the whole of the counties of Wales, if so minded, from making common contribution out of the revenue received by them to central purposes in which the whole of the Principality is interested.
§ MR. D. A. THOMAS (Merthyr Tydvil)
Would not the counties necessarily give back the tithes to the parishes from which they are derived?
§ MR. ASQUITH
I am coming to the question of the parishes. I have been dealing with the counties so far. Now I come to the parishes within the counties. A close examination of the figures as regards the interests of the various parishes no doubt does show that if you adopted a cast-iron rule and compelled the whole of the tithe arising within the parish to be applied to the purposes of that parish, and that alone, you would have an absurd state of things, which would lead to great waste and invidious and unneccessary distinctions. We, therefore, propose that, while the Commissioners and County Councils are to have a free hand, they are to have regard to the wants, circumstances, income, and so forth of each parish, and in making their scheme 1494 they are to take all these matters into account and do justice, as far as justice needs to be done, to parochial interests in the distribution of the funds. But we do not propose to bind them down by a rigid rule in that respect, but simply to indicate certain considerations which should be attended to. The only thing that remains is the question of the ultimate application under these schemes of the funds which will be set free. Perhaps the House will allow me simply to read the list of the purposes which are enumerated in the first schedule of the Bill. They are—''The erection or support of cottage or other hospitals or dispensaries and convalescent homes; the provision of trained nurses for the sick poor; the foundation and maintenance of public, parish, or district halls, institutes and libraries; the provision of labourers' dwellings, to be let at reasonable rents, and allotments [Opposition laughter]; technical and higher education, including the establishment and maintenance of libraries and museums and galleries of art of local or go general utility [renewed Opposition laughter], for which provision is not made by Statute.I observe that that enumeration excites the hilarity of some hon. Gentlemen opposite. I confess I should have been better prepared for some expression on their part of the sentiment of indignation at this sacrilegious misappropriation of ecclesiastical funds for secular purposes. But they prefer—at all events, one hon. Gentleman prefers—to treat it as a laughing matter. So far as we are concerned, although we may be charged, and shall, I have no doubt, be charged with the secularisation of religious funds, we believe that the purposes, a list of which I have just read, are in a large, and yet perfectly legitimate sense of the word, religious purposes, and we do not consider that it is any profanation of property dedicated to pious uses that it should be applied to the relief of suffering [Opposition cries of "Museums," "Art."], yes, and even in providing and bringing home to the common people, at least, the means of access to refining and humanising influences. That is the spirit in which this Bill has been framed. I submit it now to the consideration of the House, and I am certain that, whatever criticisms may be passed, either upon its main principles or upon its particular details, it has been conceived with an honest desire on the one hand to meet and satisfy what we believe to be the 1495 genuine demand of the vast majority of the people of Wales, and, on the other hand, to satisfy that demand with the smallest amount of hardship and with the least possible amount of detriment to those spiritual interests of which the Church will continue to be the guardian. Sir, I beg to ask leave to introduce this Bill.
§ *SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
I do not think the House of Commons was ever invited to consider the principal legislative proposal of a Government—with a whole Session before it—under more singular circumstances than at the present moment. We have had a proposal made to us which all Members of the House will admit to be of first-rate importance, teeming with issues of the greatest magnitude. We have had it explained to the House in a speech of 20 minutes—an admirable speech, as all his speeches are—by the Home Secretary, without one single word as to the policy upon which this measure is founded. What is his reason? It is that he desires to check what he is pleased to call the growing abuse of lengthened debate on the introduction of important Government Bills. [Ministerial cheers.] Sir, I have sat in the House a great deal longer than the right hon. Gentleman, and a great deal longer than the hon. Members who cheered his statement, and I will venture to say it has always been the practice in this House—and was remarkably so when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian was Prime Minister—that not only were the principal Government Bills introduced with a full defence of their policy from the Minister who introduced them, but ample opportunity was given for debate on the speech of the Minister afterwards. The right hon. Gentleman has himself admitted that the right hon. Member for Midlothian explained and recommended to the House the policy of the Government of the day with reference to the Irish Church in a speech of three, hours' duration; and that, Sir, was after debates of days and weeks upon the Resolutions which were proposed to the previous Parliament by the right hon. Gentleman himself with reference to the same subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, if he will not condescend to defend his policy here, says a good deal about it in the country. 1496 I have paid considerable attention to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, and I will presently trouble the House with a few remarkable quotations from them. I think he might have made some, at least, of those statements here to-night. But he appears in this matter to treat his opponents with singular contempt. I do not know, however, that that is the real reason of his silence on those points. I believe that at the bottom of the right hon. Gentleman's mind, and at the bottom of the mind of every hon. Member of this House, whatever his opinions upon the principles of this Bill may be, there is this feeling—that the country knows and recognises to the full the unreality of the proceedings in which we are engaged to-night. Such a feeling might have been due, when this Measure was before the House in 1893 and 1894, to the fact that it occupied such a place in the Government Programme that it was perfectly obvious to anyone who had the slightest Parliamentary experience that that would be the only occasion on which, during those Sessions, it would occupy our time. But that is not the case now. The measure now occupies the first place in the Government Programme. It is perfectly certain that for a considerable period of this Session it must occupy the close attention of the House. But we are oppressed by the casual phrases of the Prime Minister. He has told us, speaking on behalf of the Government of which he is the head, that there is no earthly prospect of this Bill becoming law. The labour to which we are condemned by the, Government can only be compared with that labour which, in the ancient fable, was the symbol of useless toil. We are condemned by them—and their policy has been sanctioned by a small majority in this House—to pass the present Session in a new species of penal servitude, in discussing, debating, and voting upon this and other measures which they know, and say themselves, cannot by any earthly possibility pass into law. That, Sir, is why I believe the right hon. Gentleman has detained the House for no more than 20 minutes in the introduction of this most important Bill in the Programme of Her Majesty's Government. Now I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we do not intend to follow his example. 1497 We are opposed to the principles of Disestablishment and Disendowment which are embodied in this Bill, and we intend to slate on every reasonable and Parliamentary occasion our reasons for that opposition. We intend to criticise his measure to the full, as such a measure requires Parliamentary criticism; and we shall not shrink from a laborious and a not very pleasant task on account of the unreality of our proceedings. Before I touch on the measure itself, which the right hon. Gentleman has asked leave to introduce, should like to draw attention to a certain alteration in the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman himself towards this matter. When he first took charge of this question, in 1893, he treated us much as he has treated us to-night. He described those who did not agree with the principles he laid down as "belated controversialists,'' and he told us our opinions were "only fit to be preserved in a museum of political antiquities." I suppose it was in pity for our stupidity that he unbent a little in 1893. [Several hon. MEMBERS: "1894"] Yes, in 1894. He did not even then enter into arguments, but favoured us in his most dogmatic and didactic style, with certain bald assertions upon the subject of the Church in Wales which I think he must have culled from the publications of the Liberation Society. But during the last six or eight months, in his speeches in the country, he has adopted a different line altogether, and he has posed, forsooth, as a friend of the Welsh Church. He has been good enough to express his belief that in the policy he has put before us to-night—he is doing nothing injurious to the interests either of the Church or of religion, but that, on the contrary, he is promoting the best interests of both.He has claimed—that he and the Party by whom he is supported are prosecuting absolutely disinterested ends.He has admitted that—so far as the Welsh people are concerned, and still more so far as Englishmen and Scotchmen are concerned, it is perfectly true that we shall not be one penny the better when the Welsh Church is disestablished.1498 But he—disdains to put, and never will put, the cause of Welsh Disestablishment upon the low, sordid footing that it will materially benefit the Welsh people.On the contrary—he feels indignant and almost ashamed that a great cause of this kind, affecting deeply as it does the most cherished traditions, aye, and the loftiest and purest feelings, of the Welsh people, should be reduced to the level of a question of pounds, shillings, and pence.He claims—to be engaged in a high and sacred task in redeeming the cause of religion and of the Church itself from the obstacles and embarrassments which, in the eyes of the Welsh people, impede and discredit it,''And this evening he has supplemented these declarations by assuring us that in his mind he is about to devote the funds of the despoiled Church to religious purposes. No doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer eminently approves of the declarations of his colleague. I dare say that those sentiments which I have just read may appear noble and beautiful to the last degree to Her Majesty's Government and to hon. Members who sit behind them; but I should like to ask the Home Secretary to put himself in the place of those millions of Englishmen and women who believe that Disestablishment is a wrong to the State, and that Disendowment is a wicked plunder of the Church. Let him think whether they must not feel that insult is added to injury, when such words as I have read are used of a policy forced upon. Her Majesty's Government by their supporters in Wales, by those who never say a word or do an action with regard to the Church which does not show hostility and hatred to her. [Cheers and Ministerial cries of "Oh!"] I speak of the main promoters of the agitation against the Church. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he could put himself in the place of those who entertain the feeling to which I have alluded, whether he would not regard, as we regard, such language of his as I have quoted as sheer political cant, and cant of the most nauseous kind? Sir, I infinitely prefer the earlier manner of the right hon. Gentleman. Let him tell us boldly, as he told us in 1893, that this measure is based simply on the fact 1499 that 31 out of the 34 Members for Wales are in favour of it. But I turn to some of the statements that the right hon. Gentleman adopted in his speech last year with regard to the Church in Wales. He said that she is an alien Church, and thatshe is associated in the minds of the people with humiliating memories.I have studied very carefully the speeches of hon. Members from Wales, in order, if I could, to ascertain of what these humiliating memories consist. I could understand humiliating memories with regard to the Welsh Church in the minds of Englishmen on account of the atrocious conduct—I can use no other epithet—of the State to the Church in Wales during the 17th and 18th centuries; but I cannot understand how Welshmen can have such memories in relation to her. If an alien Church means a Church imposed by the will of a stranger upon, a conquered people, I think Welshmen should be proud rather than humiliated to remember that it is an absolute historical untruth to say the Welsh Church is an alien Church. The Church in Wales existed in the sixth century, when England was heathen. The four dioceses in Wales existed for centuries before they accepted the supremacy of Canterbury, and whatever may have been the position of the Church in Wales under the Plantagenet Kings, it is certain that in the Tudor and Stuart period she was eminently national, so much so that it was mainly due to her that the Welsh language has been preserved. I could quote the right hon. Member for Denbighshire to show that if there is anything in Wales in religion that is foreign and alien it is not the Church, but it is Nonconformity.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire)
I have never said that; I have over and over again corrected the statement. I have never said that Nonconformity was a foreign growth in Wales. What I did say was that it was a modern growth 25 years ago. The right hon. Gentleman no doubt quotes from a misreport which I never corrected in "Hansard," but the context shews that I used the word "modern."
§ *SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
If the right hon. Gentleman had said it was 1500 a foreign growth I think he would have spoken the truth. But I do not wish to attribute to him any more than he did say. What he did say was that it was a modern growth, and that 150 years ago it did not exist. What I think is meant by calling the Church in Wales an alien Church is this—that people think of the present and not of the past. They find, as is no doubt the case, that in the Welsh-speaking population the Church is in a minority, possibly a small minority, and that Nonconformity is in a large majority. But in Wales do you not count as Welshmen any but those who speak the Welsh language? ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member cheers that statement. Would any Irishman or Scotchman decline to count as Irishmen or Scotchmen any except those who spoke Gaelic or the ancient Irish? The proposition is absurd. When speaking of the inhabitants of Wales we mean all Welshmen, whatever language they speak; and I say if you take Wales as a whole it is not true that the Church is in a small minority. In the large towns it is admitted that she is a strong and a growing force. In the country districts no doubt it is the fact that she does not occupy perhaps the same position. But why? Not because she ever ceased to be a national Church—not because, as in England, those who left her in the bad times of the last century differed from her in ritual or doctrine. No. But because of the neglect and abuses for which the State, and not the Church, is responsible. And now, when we see what she is admitted to have done in the larger populations; now that she is notoriously doing her very best in these rural districts to redeem the past; now that there is every reason to anticipate that she will turn what may, no doubt, be a minority as compared with all those who belong to other religious bodies—into a majority—is this the time to deprive her of her position and emoluments? I do not wish to dwell upon this question of the comparative numbers of the Church in Wales. I do not think it is conclusive either way in regard to this matter. But I will say this—that it does not lie with hon. Members below the Gangway to talk of the Church as in a small minority in Wales unless they are first prepared 1501 to take that, test of the number of her members to which we have repeatedly challenged them, and which in all fairness ought to have been carried out before the introduction of this measure. If we say that the Church is living and growing in Wales; if we say that within a period, that will be short indeed as compared with the life of a Church or a nation, she will have a number of members in that part of the country which certainly will no more justify her Disestablishment and Disendowment than would the existing number of members of the Church in England justify Disestablishment and Disendowment here—if we say these things, what are we told by the Home Secretary? We are told that the Church is regarded by the bulk of the people as an aggressive sectarian power, a symbol of national discord, a source of embitterment and animosity. How can a Church help being aggressive if she is living and growing? She must be aggressive upon sin and unbelief. But where is the embitterment and animosity? Is the embitterment and animosity with the members of the Church? No; it is with those who attack her. Why are they embittered against her? I used last year, I think, the words "envy and jealousy," and the hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs rebuked me for applying such words to his country. I will not apply such words now. I will make this simple statement—that the Nonconformists in Wales appear to be embittered against the Church, because, exercising their religious freedom, they decline to be members of that Church, and because they are not members object to her being established. Again, they object to the Church possessing her Endowments because, though it would be perfectly open to them to have the benefit of these Endowments if they agreed with her, they prefer not to agree with her, and therefore they say that these Endowments must be taken away from her and devoted to some other purpose in which they may share. I will not use the words "envy and jealousy"; but how are you to describe the sensations which I have endeavoured to put before you? That is the reason of the embitterment and animosity on their side. But now I want to put this before hon. Members. Is the right hon. Gen 1502 tleman so absolutely sure that, if the Church in Wales were disestablished and disendowed, embitterment and animosity on the part of the Nonconformists towards her members would cease? Is it not really a social grievance? Is this not really the fact that the Church in Wales, as she is in the United States, as she is in the Colonies, where she is neither established nor endowed, is the Church which is most attractive to the wealthier and more educated classes, and that for this reason there is a feeling of embitterment and animosity among certain persons against her? I remember a very curious example of this social grievance being put before the House some years ago on this subject, by the hon. Member for South Glamorganshire. He drew a very painful picture. He said—Here is a farmer with three sons; they all wish to undertake religious work. One becomes a Baptist minister, one becomes a Congregation alist minister, and one becomes a clergyman of the Church of England. The squire invites the clergyman of the Church of England to dinner; he will not invite the Congregationalist and the Baptist.That was the terrible social grievance which the hon. Member for South which Glamorganshire seriously urged as a reason for Disestablishment and Disendowment. Just as if the squire of the parish would not always, if he wanted clerical society at all, be likely to prefer the society of the clergyman of his own Church to the society of ministers of other denominations! [Cries of "Why?"] Because he agrees with him. But there is a more serious matter. It has often been alleged that farms are let, and custom is given to farmers and tradesmen in Wales, because they are Churchmen, in preference to others who are Nonconformists. ["Hear, hear."] Hon. Gentlemen cheer that. I confess I do not believe it. I do not believe it has ever been proved, But, assuming it to be true now, it would be ten times more true if by Disestablishment and Disendowment you compelled Churchmen to band themselves together as Nonconformists have often banded themselves together, for mutual assistance and support in the maintenance of their Church, instead of leaving them in the position which they occupy now. I do not believe that hon. Members opposite who are in favour of this policy have really considered what a powerful social 1503 and political force a Disestablished, and even a Disendowed Church might, become. Can they suppose that Churchmen, so banded together, who after all are human, will be able to forget—assuming this measure to become law—that their Church has been degraded and despoiled through the action of their Nonconformist neighbour; and can they find in such a state of things any chance of a cessation of embitterment and animosity? I know it is said by many that because the Church is established she is privileged. I never could see why it should be called a privilege to the Church to be to a certain extent controlled and limited in her action by the State. Is she privileged because, in common with other religious bodies, she is protected by law in the possession of Endowments which were given to her by private persons long before any other religious body in this country was endowed at all. It is true that they were given long ago. I should have thought that if there is any argument to be made on this, it is not that which I rather understood the Home Secretary to suggest last year, that the Church had had her Endowments long enough, and that, therefore, they ought to be devoted to some other purposes; but that centuries of possession and enjoyment, centuries during the main part of which—certainly during our present time—these Endowments have been used for the best purposes for which money can be used, ought to be the best title that the Church could possess. I really do not want to dwell upon this side of the question, because I feel in addressing hon. Members opposite upon it that they and I do not regard it from the same standpoint. We do not occupy the same ground. We cannot meet in argument when we so absolutely differ in principle. To them I dare say it is the ideal of a State that the State should be neutral to all religions alike if not rather unfriendly towards them. To me a State is without some of the best and most important parts of Government if it is without the recognition of religion which is implied in the fact of an Established Church. They consider that Establishment does harm to a Church. I believe that Establishment is an infinitely better security for religious freedom than the narrow limits of any trust deed. They think that Parliament 1504 has not only the power, but morally the right, to take the Endowments of the Church and to apply them to any other purpose it likes. I believe that any such action is a moral wrong. We are as wide apart as the poles asunder, and though it is necessary and right for us to put our opinions upon this subject before the country, yet I prefer now to invite hon. Members to consider whether, assuming these principles of Disestablishment and Disendowment which they hold are right, anything that has ever happened in the history of any country affords a precedent for the manner in which those principles are to be carried out under this Bill. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade is in his place, but he made a very able speech on the introduction of the Bill into the House of Commons last Session, in which I noticed two statements. He said:—There is not a Roman Catholic country in Europe in which Church property has not been taken by the State on the ground of common utility.Well, that is true; but it is not the whole truth. Take the case of Italy. The relations in Italy between the State and the Church are, and have been all along, so exceptional and so unique that I do not think any argument whatever can be drawn from anything done in that country. But even in Italy the Church at the present time is in possession of many of her endowments. Let me refer to France, Spain, and Belgium. It is true that in France and Spain, and I believe in Belgium, the property of monasteries, convents, and colleges has been absolutely confiscated by the State; but we are not dealing with monasteries, convents, and colleges, but with the property of what I may call the working part of the Church—the Bishops and clergy—and therefore it is only in regard to them that any argument can apply. What has happened in Spain with regard to the property of the Bishops and clergy? In Spain, I believe, the State took that property, but its value was handed over to the Bishops and clergy in Government stock. In France and Belgium the Government took that property, but instead of it a considerable sum is annually given, France ranting about 1¾ millions through the Legislature for the purposes of public 1505 worship in the country, and therefore in not one of these cases has anything been done which affords a precedent, for the proposal in this Bill, which is absolutely to deprive the Church of her Endowments without any compensation whatever. But the right hon. Gentleman asserted that something had been done nearer home, in England itself, which would justify it. He said that the property of the Church here has been frequently used and disposed of by the nation by being transferred at the Reformation from those who held one set of doctrines to those who held another. What the right hon. Gentleman must have meant by that is this—
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. J. BRYCE,) Aberdeen, S.
I explained it much more fully than that, which is a very abbreviated statement.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
I took it from the fullest report I could find. What the right hon. Gentleman must have meant was this—that the property which had belonged to the Roman Catholic Church before the Reformation was at the Reformation handed over to the Protestant Church. He did not venture to assert that the Church before the Reformation was endowed by the State, and none but an ignorant person would assert it. I think last year one hon. Member for Wales actually had the hardihood to repeat to this House the old fable about the ancient king who, in expiation of a murder he had committed directed that one-tenth of the land should be made over to the Church. It is perfectly clear that the property of the Church in England and in Wales is property which has been given by individuals to local ecclesiastical corporations, as the right hon. Gentleman said last year, and originally consisted of private Endowments. But as to the assertion of the President of the Board of Trade, I would not set my view of history against so high an authority as his. I will, however, maintain that no such transfer as he suggested ever did take place in England, and I will quote against him authorities which even he will recognise. What does Professor Freeman say? He says:—It is certain that no English ruler or English Parliament ever thought of setting up a 1506 new Church, but simply of reforming the existing Church. The facts of history compel us to assume the absolute identity of the Church after the Reformation with the Church of England before the Reformation.What does another authority state?—I can find no trace of that opinion which is now common in the minds of unthinking persons that the Roman Catholic Church was established in England at the period of the Reformation and that the Protestant Church was put in its place, nor does there appear to have been so much as a doubt in the minds of any of the reformers whether the Church legally established in England after the Reformation was the same institution as the Church legally established in England before the Reformation.These are the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). If the Roman Catholic Church before the Reformation had been despoiled as the right hon. Gentleman erroneously supposes, you may be quite sure that the Roman Catholics of the present day would not have forgotten it. What did the Roman Catholic Bishops of Great Britain say in 1826? In the most solemn way they disclaimed on behalf of themselves and their co-religionists in this country any right or pretension on the part of British Catholics to the revenues or temporalities of the Established Church; and declared that they regarded these revenues as the property of the body in which they were now vested by law. I think I have established the falsity of the erroneous supposition of the President of the Board of Trade. I think I have shown that, as he did not venture to affirm that the original Endowments of the Church were anything but private Endowments, they remain private Endowments still, and did not become State Endowments by anything that was done at the time of the Reformation. But I know that the great precedent which the right hon. Gentleman himself considers establishes his case with regard to this Bill is the precedent of the Irish Church Act. Now, I think I can prove, though I will not attempt to go into it at length on the present occasion, that the Irish Church Act is really no precedent at all. The circumstances of the Irish Church were, unfortunately, in the year 1869 absolutely different from that living and growing condition in which the Church is now in Wales. The Endowments of the Church in Ireland were, to a large extent, Parliamentary Endowments taken 1507 from the majority of the population and given to the creed of a small minority as part of the English settlement in Ireland. Nothing of the sort ever happened to the National Church in Wales. Endowments of the Church in Wales have never belonged to anybody but the Church to which they were originally given. But if the circumstances are different, so is the action proposed. When the Church of Ireland was disestablished it was solemnly asserted at the time, by those who were responsible for that step on the part of Parliament, that it was no precedent whatever for any similar operation in Great Britain; but, assuming it to be taken as a precedent, yet the Church in Ireland was disestablished as a whole, and now you propose to disestablish the Church in England piecemeal. I think if Her Majesty's Government felt it incumbent upon them to disestablish four dioceses of the English Church, for that is what they propose, they were bound to use every means in their power to secure the maintenance of spiritual and ecclesiastical unity in that Church after the operation of Disestablishment. But what have they done? They have done nothing of the kind. They have simply cut off these four dioceses, and have left the maintenance of unity either among themselves or with the rest of the Church of England purely to the chance of voluntary action; and they have inserted provisions in their Bill which will certainly be likely to prevent any such voluntary action being taken at all. Now, let me give one example. In dealing with the question of vested interests last year, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary very properly, as I thought, said that any vested interest must be subject to the performance of the duty to which the person possessing such interest was bound, and to the laws of the religious body to which he belonged. The clergymen of no Church in the world would be so independent as an incumbent in Wales possessing a life interest would be if this Bill passed into law. Suppose any such person did not perform the duties of his office; or suppose he required correction in matters of doctrine or ritual, who is to correct him? The Commissioners from whom he derives his income? Why, the Commissioners may be of any or no religion at 1508 all! Is the Bishop to correct him? Why, you deprive him of all means of enforcing his spiritual authority. The hon. right Gentleman has professed his desire to provide for the future welfare of the Church in Wales. Does he think he provides for that by establishing a state of ecclesiastical anarchy? He says he desires to place the Church on an equal footing with other religious denominations in that country. Does he not know—he knows very well—that the most important religious denominations of the Nonconformists, like the Wesleyans and Congregationalists, are not only well endowed, but well organised, and in close union with their co-religionists in England? How is he to place the Church in a position of equality if he deprives the four dioceses of their existing organisation, and puts nothing in its place, and takes such steps as seem calculated to assure that the Church shall never have a fresh organisation at all? I have referred to the precedent of the Church of Ireland, which, it is often said, has become more vigorous after Disestablishment. Well, that may be so. I do not want to enter into that argument now. Assuming it to be true, what is the fact? Why, provision was made for the Church of Ireland so that it was possible for her to become more vigorous. I will assert that those who know Ireland best will agree that, if the Church of Ireland had been dealt with in the way proposed with regard to the Church in Wales, it would have been absolutely impossible for her to have attained her present position. The Member for Midlothian brought forward as an essential part of his Irish Church Act, provisions for facilitating the reorganisation of the Church after Disestablishment by giving great inducements to those persons who possessed vested interests to commute and compound those interests for the benefit of the new Church body. That was done, greatly to the credit of those individuals and the good of their country. What was the result? The new Church body was founded under most favourable auspices. The right hon. Gentleman, in his scheme, debars those entitled to life interests as existing incumbents of the Church in Wales from doing anything of the kind. He says the Government have no disposition to do anything 1509 of the sort. That is unjust to the Church in Wales. It is worse—it is unwise. If the Government were wise, they would have followed the example of the Member for Midlothian in being generous to the disestablished and disendowed Church. The right hon. Gentleman, I know, holds strong objections to a central fund, and he stated those objections to the House. He has practically asserted that he declines to consider any idea of the sort. What is his argument against obstacle to a central fund? Why, it is this. He told us last year, and, although not in the same words, he repeated the statement to-night, that the fund will be squandered and wasted if dealt with in that way, and that 25 years after Disendowment in Ireland there is practically none of the capital available for any purpose whatever: He is absolutely wrong. A certain part of the funds of the Irish Church are gone. There was a section in the Irish Act which provided that regard should be had to unavoidable calamity and suffering, and large sums amounting to £2,250,000 were in consequence granted to the relief of distress, the payment of tenants arrears, and other matters of that kind. It may be true that is gone, but there is no reason why a similar course should be taken with regard to the Church in Wales. What was done with the rest of the funds of the Church of Ireland? £1,150,000 was given to the Congested Districts Board and £250,000 to promote sea fisheries. In both these cases the capital is not wasted. It remains; it is reproductive. Again, £1,000,000 was given to intermediate education; £1,300,000 in pensions to national school teachers; and £20,000 a year to the Royal University. In every one of these cases the capital still remains absolutely intact; only the annual income is devoted to the purposes I have named. Therefore the view the right hon. Gentleman has taken, that he could not adopt the scheme of the Irish Church Act without losing the capital sum, is absolutely without foundation; and I venture to say that under a scheme of a central fund the capital sum would be safer than if it were devoted to those parochial and local purposes which are so dear to him. I do not ask him to accept all the details of the Irish 1510 Act. I only ask him to consider the principle. He alluded to the inequalities which would arise in the distribution of the funds if they were allocated in any other way than that which he proposes. I think the Leader of the Opposition showed amply last year how utterly absurd was the allocation then proposed. Not a penny would be available in any parish under the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman so long as the existing incumbent lives. In the next parish there may be a death, and the parish will have the funds at its disposal. The tithe will go into the hands of the County Council. But it will fall in, not as a whole, but parish by parish. How is it possible for a County Council to frame a scheme dealing with tithes parish by parish except for the benefit of each parish alone. He has told us that counties may join, and even parts of Wales may join. Is it likely they will join? Do not we know that this is a bribe to the local ratepayers? Do not we know that it is an appeal to the greed of the local ratepayers? Of this I am quite certain—that if it lie the mind of the House to Disendow the Church in Wales in this fashion, most of the funds will go to those parishes which want them least, to the relief of the payers of local rates, and also of the landlord, and not, as in Ireland, to the benefit of the country at large. I know the right hon. Gentleman holds strong opinions on this matter. I am afraid these opinions are coloured by his desire not to give as good terms to the Church in Wales as were given in Ireland. In other respects he treats the Church in Wales worse than the Irish Church was treated. I should like to know why he has assumed it is a proposal so obvious that it is one to which no objection can be raised, that the churchyards in Wales are not to be dealt with as the churchyards in Ireland were dealt with—that they are to be handed over to the Parish Council, instead of, as in Ireland, being handed over to the Church, except where the churchyard is separated from the edifice by a highway. I dare say the arbitrations were too favourable to the owners of advowsons in Ireland; but is that a reason for awarding such scant justice to the Owners of advowsons in Wales as giving to them, as a maximum, no more than 1511 one year's purchase, when it is notorious that some of those advowsons have been bought from the Government itself, and many of them purchased at prices far beyond the value which the right hon. Gentleman names as his maximum? I now come to the case of the curates. It may have been the case—and the right hon. Gentleman appeared to put it strongly—that in Ireland curates were ordained in order that they might receive compensation. Assuming that to have been the case, would it not have been a wiser course for the right hon. Gentleman to have inserted in his Bill provisions which would have prevented any abuse of that kind, instead of refusing compensation to curates altogether? Curates in Wales have been obliged to spend time and money upon a costly education; they have been ordained as Welsh-speaking curates specially for the service of the Church in Wales; and through their speaking Welsh many of them will be deprived of opportunities of employment or advancement in England. Does the right hon. Gentleman think as many curates will be employed in Wales after the passing of this Bill as there are now? There are some gentlemen who hold that, after all, the funds of the Church in Wales yield so small an annual income that but a short time will elapse before Disendowment is more than compensated for by the voluntary contributions of Churchmen in Wales or in England; and for that reason, forsooth, it has been actually argued that it is a moral and a proper process to take away funds from a corporation because it is likely to be endowed again! It appears to me that the spoliation of old Endowments is not the best way to encourage new ones; and if one Government can propose the date of 1703—a purely arbitrary date—as the date before which nothing shall be considered as a private Endowment, some Government 50 years hence may propose a date much nearer to the present time. But, assuming the funds of the disendowed Church in Wales are supplemented by voluntary effort, as it is anticipated they will be, will not the very institutions which it is desired to help by the allocation of Church funds be deprived, through the Disendowment of the Church, of the 1512 help which they now enjoy? I dare say there may not be in Wales as many hospitals, dispensaries, convalescent homes, or nursing funds as we should desire to see; but what there are, I venture to say, are largely maintained by the subscriptions and donations of Churchmen; and does it not stand to reason that if you compel Churchmen to maintain their Church, which is now maintained by old Endowments, you must necessarily deprive those institutions at any rate of some of the subscriptions which they now enjoy? What good will you do by taking those Church endowments and handing them over to cottage hospitals and so on, on the one hand; and, on the other, transferring the voluntary offerings of Churchmen to the Church? I do not think it will benefit the ratepayers if many schools that are now maintained as voluntary schools, without being a burden upon the rates, are thrown upon the rates, although they may be relieved, at the cost of Church funds, from their present liability to provide parish rooms and allotments. The right hon. Gentleman told us that nobody in Wales will be a penny the better materially for this Bill; but will nobody be any the worse? I can understand a secularist, who hates all religion, approving of this Bill, as a step towards the suppression of religion; but I cannot understand a Christian Nonconformist, who knows the benefit of endowments for his own denomination, who must admit it is impossible for the ministers of his own denomination to supply all the needs of the people of our remote rural districts or the thousands in our large towns—I cannot understand how such a man can desire to deprive the Church in Wales of its modest means—not exceeding the sum which is annually spent by this House upon the British Museum, through which she is enabled to preach those great truths of Christianity, on which all Christian sects are agreed, in the dark places of the world where but for her they would not be preached at all. I cannot understand how any Christian can be in favour of depriving the Church of the means of going on with this teaching, which was never more required in the history of the country and never more zealously given than it is now, and devoting those means to no better purpose than the 1513 endowment of a museum. I have not dealt with this question as a question affecting England; but it must be so dealt with on some occasion. It is a blow aimed not merely at Wales; it is a blow which is intended, if not by the Government, at any rate by their supporters, to have an ulterior effect on England. I notice that throughout this controversy the right hon. Gentleman has taken as much care to keep entirely in the background the case of the Church of England and the mode in which the Church of England will be affected by this Bill, as if Wales were a separate country situated on the other side of the globe. The English people in everything are slow to move, but I think they are beginning to move upon this great question. We know that with them, whatever the proceedings of this House, must rest the ultimate decision; and I am convinced that, when once they realise the injustice and wrong that are proposed to be done by this Bill to a poor but living part of their Church, they will visit the Bill and its authors with the condemnation they deserve.
§ *MR. F. EDWARDS (Radnorshire)
said that the right hon. Gentleman had charged the Welsh supporters of the Bill with hostility to the Church; but he was a Churchman himself, and he was not acting in a hostile manner to the Church; indeed he considered it to be for the good of the Church that she should be freed from State trammels. The right hon. Gentleman repudiated the idea that the Church was an alien Church in Wales; and on this point he should like to quote the language of a Welsh clergyman, the Rev. T. Edwin Jones, vicar of St. Marys, Bangor. This gentleman said:—Where is the ancient British Church, I should like to know? There was once an ancient British Church. If the present Church he a distinct Church, as the ancient British Church was, we can deal with it separately from any other Church. If it be not, if it be one and the same as the English Church, that is why it has come to be looked on us an alien Church. The truth is, the ancient British Church died long ago, and was decently buried in the Welsh cathedrals; and the inscription on his tomb may be written from a verse in the Diocesan Calendar—'All the cathedral services are in English.' The dignitaries of the Church have the hands of Esau, it, is true; but they speak with the voice of Jacob, and they are so wedded to English sentiments and customs that Welsh 1514 men have come to look upon them and their Church as aliens.["Oh, oh."] Well that is the language of a Church clergyman, and hon. Members must settle the matter with him. Then it was said foreign missions would suffer if the Church was disendowed. But the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists had been carrying on foreign missions for 20 years; and while the sum collected for Church purposes at home was increased last year by 88 per cent., the contributions to foreign missions was increased by 94 per cent. He was glad the Bill would contain the provisions of the Bill of last year as to the allocation of the tithes. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of it last year as being intolerable, and not to be justified on any general principle. Hon. Members opposite asked that they should be regarded as the peculiar guardians of the interests of the rural districts; and yet the provision of the Bill which secured what was their own to these rural districts was denounced as intolerable. If it was proper that the tithes of a parish should be devoted to the spiritual purposes of a parish, it was equally right that they should be devoted to parochial purposes under Disestablishment. Any other course would operate very hardly in the county he represented. Radnorshire was small in area and population; it had no manufactures; and the tithes were small, about £4,000 a year. Glamorganshire was large in area and population; it possessed minerals, railways and docks; its rateable value was 20 times that of Radnorshire; its tithes were £11,000 a year; and yet it was suggested that the Bill ought to embody a scheme under which Radnorshire, which needed all its tithes, would give some part of them to Glamorganshire, which did not need them so much. It was very clear that the Church in Wales only ministered to the minority. If hon. Gentlemen would not take that from him he would give them his authority. Canon Howell, in 1890, said:—There is the unquestionable fact that the majority of the people are no longer within the fold of the Church. There is the equally unquestionable fact that her adherents are largely made up of English settlers and Anglicised Welshmen, not of the Welsh-speaking masses who mainly hold the future, of the Principality in their hands.** 1515 The people of Wales ardently desired Disestablishment and Disendowment. Some interesting inquiries had lately been made on behalf of The Record, to English Clergymen. One answer was that the origin of tithes was unknown. Yet it was claimed that they came from pious ancestors. What a lot of pious ancestors there must have been! They were not confined to the landowning class, for tithes were formerly laid upon personal earnings. The Statute 27, Henry VIII., c. 20, contained these words:—Forasmuch as divers numbers of evil disposed persons inhabited in sundry countries, cities, towns, and places of this realm, have attempted to subtract and withhold in some places, the whole and in some places great parts of their tithes and oblations, as well personal as predial, due unto God and the Holy Church, and pursuing each their detestable enormities and injuries, have attempted in late time past to disobey, contemn, and despise the process, laws, and decrees of the Ecclesiastical Courts of this Realm.And it was enacted that every subject of the Realm should yield and pay his tithes, &c., and if he refused he was to be—committed to ward, there to remain without bail or mainprize.That was a statement of fact that, in the time of Henry VIII., there was as much unwillingness to pay tithes us there was now. They knew that a great part of the tithe had come into existence since the time of Henry VIII., and they were asked to believe that the people of Wales had since that time changed their nature—that a sort of Ecclesiastical Millenium had sprung up, and that tithes were now paid willingly.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Edinburgh, W.)
Will the hon. Member give us an instance of tithe arising since the time of Henry VIII.?
§ *MR. EDWARDS
said, that a great part of the land had come into cultivation since that time, and had so become titheable. In some cases it had been stated that the tithe was the only source of a Rector's income. After the Church had been established all these centuries, would it be believed that a Rector was to be found to deliberately write down that the tithe was the only source of his income? He did not think that that showed that the Church had a very strong hold upon the people. The same 1516 Gentleman who stated that, went on to say:—The effect of Disestablishment would be to deprive the Church of the services of a resident Minister, as it would be beyond the power of the congregation to support their own clergyman, and to defray the current expenses of the Church.In that parish there were 18 chapels, and yet they were asked to believe that, if the Church was disestablished, there would be no means of religious instruction. If the Nonconformists could support 18 chapels, he did not see why the Churchmen could not support the Church in the parish. The voluntary system had worked well in Wales, and was amply sufficient to provide religious institutions. Of course, a great deal might be said about the great progress made by the Church. He did not think the progress was as great as it should be, or as great as it would be after Disestablishment. In the towns the Church was making progress, but how? On the voluntary principle. In the country she was declining because she had to be supported by tithe. He referred more particularly to Radnorshire, where the Church was in a majority 30 years ago on the testimony of the late Mr. Henry Richard, but was now in a minority. He felt confident that, in supporting this Bill, he was doing nothing that would damage the Church. He felt that he had established that the voluntary system had worked well in Wales, as adopted by the Nonconformists, and that, as far as the Church had progressed, she had progressed by that very principle; and, in asking the House to Disestablish and Disendow the Church, they would be doing something which would be a gain, not only to the State, but even to the Church herself.
§ *COLONEL SIR EDWARD S. HILL (Bristol S.)
desired to intervene in this Debate, and to say a few words not, because he was a Welshman, for he had not that honour, but as one who had lived nearly 40 years in Wales, mostly in the cathedral city of Llandaff, who had been intimately connected with the great port of Cardiff, and who, having been for many years in in the Commission of the Peace for the County of Glamorgan, and having served the office of Sheriff, might, perhaps, without presumption, lay claim to have 1517 some knowledge of that part of the principality. He had naturally watched with much attention the conduct and progress of the Church, of which he was an humble but devoted member. Yet was his devotion not of that partisan character which precluded admiration for, or appreciation of the good work done by other religious bodies, at a time when the fires of Christianity burned low, and the stirring of their embers was a vital necessity to their rekindling and the bursting forth of the flame which had since shone so brightly. He rejoiced to think that many of the most distinguished Dissenters—not political but religious Dissenters, entirely reciprocated this sentiment, and would deeply regret that any agency for the spiritual good of their fellow-countrymen should be hindered. He grieved to think they had seen the day when the Prime Minister of this Christian country should see fit to lift his hand to strike a deadly blow to that Christianity which had been its glory and its boast for so many centuries, and that for, as he should venture to show, no other valid reason except the necessity of conciliating a certain portion of his followers, and supporters of his Government. The Prime Minister recently visited Cardiff and delivered a long speech in which his attack on Christianity in his proposal to deprive the British Church in Wales of its property occupied a prominent place—that place in fact, which they had so often been told, that by justice and expediency, and every right belonged to Home Rule, but which, with the kind assent of hon. Gentlemen who usually sat below the Gangway on his left, the Government had been allowed to shelve—possibly for an indefinite period. Curiously enough the Prime Minister disclaimed any intention of attacking the Church. He said he only wished to remove it from a position of prominence; that was, to reduce it to poverty and then cast it adrift. He could not help asking himself,—Would his Lordship approve of such a method of improvement being applied to the House of Lords and to his own person? He could not help thinking his Lordship would call such a process by one word, and the only word which in his opinion was applicable to it, namely, Robbery. The Prime Minister gave two reasons 1518 for this proposed treatment of the Church in Wales. The first reason was, that it was an alien Church forced upon the Welsh nation; and the second, that it was effete and useless in its object;—"an alien Church that alienated everybody, a missionary Church that converted nobody." That, no doubt, was very smart, but his Lordship would forgive his saying it was wanting in that veracity which would give it point. "The Welsh nation," was an expression he often heard, but which failed to convey to his mind any definite idea. He was quite aware that within the geographical limits of the country now called Wales, and also outside of it, there existed the remains of the ancient race that once peopled this country, speaking a beautiful language of their own, with a history of which they might well be proud. But this race was so inextricably commingled with the other races with which Great Britain and Ireland were populated, that to talk of it as a nation to whom separate existence was possible, or in any way desirable, was to use a figure of speech which did not commend itself to his understanding. He sometimes heard the cry of "Wales for the Welch," and he had shuddered to think of the depopulation and devastation which would take place in the principality if this foolish cry could be carried out, and all the so-called aliens were to be sent away with their belongings. Aliens first developed the coal and iron of Wales; aliens first made the seaports and the railways connecting those seaports with the minerals; and aliens were now for the most part working the copper, steel, and tin; but there was one thing that aliens did not do for Wales and the Welsh—and which should be a source of pride and glory to the ancient race—aliens did not establish the Church. Christianity flourished in Wales long before St. Augustine, moved by the beauty of English boy captives in Rome, came over to convert them. Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire were full of relics of the ancient British Church, which was established in Wales by the Welsh, which some dared to call alien and in their rage would pull down. That Church, established without Rome, fell under the influence of Rome, and then regained her independence, but she had always been the same Church, and it ill became those whose existence began 1519 only some 150 years before, to dare to insult her venerable antiquity with the term "alien." As to the Prime Minister's second reason, that the Church was effete and useless, he would ask,—What was the condition of the Church in Wales? He would reply by quoting the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, who, in 1891, said the Church in Wales was an advancing, an active, a living, and a rising Church. He would not enter into the question of the proportion which the Church bore to the population. That was a matter which could only be ascertained by counting, and to which process, for some reason, those who were opposed to the Church always offered the most strenuous opposition. But beyond all question the Church was by far the largest of all the religious bodies in Wales, and was daily increasing. Some people said dissent was decreasing. He did not think churchmen should rejoice at that. The field was so vast, the work so great, that there was ample room for all. The Prime Minister allowed himself to say—he hoped he did not mean to say it—that the Church in its present form could neither benefit the nation, the Church itself, nor even the cause of religion. Was his Lordship aware, and if not why was he not aware, that 1,488 clergymen were working in the four dioceses he would fain destroy? Did he know that the dioceses of London and Llandaff were, in the last return, bracketed as equal in the number of their churches built and restored? Did he know of the immense sums of money that had been spent? Why, something like £40,000 had been expended in the restoration of Llandaff Cathedral, and large congregations were to be seen there every Sunday. True, there was now no Welsh service. Why? For the same reason that it had been discontinued in the Wesleyan Chapel—because a Welsh congregation could not be obtained. It is difficult perhaps for hon. Members fully to appreciate the feeling of indignation with which those who have watched the restoration of this ancient Cathedral, stone by stone, and who may possibly have been privileged to assist in the work, view the proposal of Her Majesty's Government to hand it over to some new-fangled body as a "National Monument," in which, by their kind permission, the Church may hold Divine 1520 Services according to its rites. No one who knew the country could deny the efforts that the Church had of late years made to keep pace with the increasing population. Yet this was a Church which converted nobody. Would anyone who knew anything of education say that the Church was effete and useless when in the last eight years the attendance at Sunday School had increased something like 30 per cent.? He could easily weary the House with figures proving the vitality of the Church; but he thought he had said enough to prove that the Church deserved the encomiums of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian; and although this might be annoying to the Agnostic and the Atheist, it should be a matter of rejoicing to all true Christians. A third argument brought against the Church was that it was State-paid. The Prime Minister, in his speech at Cardiff, did not venture to state this in explicit terms, because he knew he could not substantiate such an assertion. But he adopted the old artifice of assuming the major premise, and spoke as if it were an established fact. He said, "if you have an established religion you must pay for it." But how and where was this payment provided? It certainly did not appear on the Estimates, from the very fact that no such payment was made. If the Church were disendowed to-morrow, the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not remit a penny of taxation in his approaching Budget. How, then, was the Church supported? By its own property, some of which was given it in very remote times, some in less remote times, and some in much more recent times. It was of this property which it was proposed to deprive the Church. It was true that in some instances the Church had sold some of her tithes, and otherwise invested the proceeds; in other instances the Church had been deprived of her property, notably in the time of Henry VIII., and so, what once belonged to her had passed into lay hands. He had been told of one instance in which the tithes had become the property of a dissenting body. The rightful ownership of such property it was not proposed to question. Upon what possible grounds of justice, then, could it be proposed to take it from the Church? It was curious reasoning, that because a portion of a 1521 property had been taken it is right to appropriate the remainder. If it could be shown that the property possessed by the Church, given to it for the service of God, was more than was required for its pious work, there might be some plausible reason for asking that a portion might be allocated for similar purposes through other agencies. But what was the fact? The average income of the 1,488 clergymen, if the whole revenues of the Church were divided equally, would amount to £220 a year. Few got over £.300, very many under £150. Comment was needless. Such stipends were less than the wages often given to a cook. He maintained from his personal observation that the Church was doing a great spiritual work in Wales, and that at her own charge, unaided by the State. That this great work should continue to be done was, he asserted, of the greatest moment to the whole community, but especially to the poor. The Church and her property were the inheritance of the poor man. The poor man might or might not attend her services, but he had a right to free entry at all times to the ministrations of her clergy—whether for baptisms, marriages, or burials—and finally to be laid in the sacred ground of her churchyards; while the clergyman was often the only man within miles from whom he could seek counsel and advice, either in his spiritual or temporal difficulties. He asked that this inheritance might be preserved to the poor; and he ventured respectfully to hope that all who loved Christianity—laying aside all prejudices—would unite and prevent the great injury with which that Christianity was threatened.
§ *MR. J. LLOYD MORGAN (Carmarthen, West)
said that, whatever the result of the introduction of the Bill might be, of one thing every one who was in favour of religious equality might congratulate himself, and it was that a great many of the arguments which were constantly put forward on the platforms of the Church Defence Society were at once and for ever dispelled. After the Bill was introduced last year there was a great meeting of the Church Party at Swansea, and the opinion was generally expressed that when the Welsh people knew what the Bill contained they would repudiate the measure. Since the Bill was introduced last Session, he 1522 and his colleagues had lost no opportunity of explaining the measure to their constituents, and to the people outside the borders of Wales. By the Bill, each Welsh Member, and all favourable to religious equality, were perfectly willing to stand or fall. By it the Church retained her articles, her doctrines, her rites, and her ceremonies. It had been said that when the Church was Disestablished the Churches would be turned into theatres and music halls, and the churchyards into playgrounds. [Sir R. WEBSTER: No, no.] He did not say that had been said by gentlemen in the position of the hon. and learned Gentleman, but the statement had been constantly made by those who went about speaking under the auspices of the Church Defence Society. Again, it was said the clergymen would suffer, as they had nothing but tithes on which to keep themselves. But under the Bill the vested interests of the clergy were protected. There was not a beneficed clergyman in the Established Church who, if the Bill became law, would not only receive compensation if he desired it, but his stipend as long as he remained in the Church. Not only did the Church retain all her modern Endowments—all the Endowments she had received during the last 200 years, but the plan by which it was proposed to bring about Disestablishment was of so gradual a character, and worked so slowly, that no sudden or severe strain would be put upon the resources of the Church, because she would be required to find by very slow degrees the money she would lose by Disestablishment. The hon. and gallant Member for South Bristol spoke of the blow which the Welsh people were making at Christianity. They had nothing of the kind. It was the Establishment they were concerned with. The hon. and gallant Member prefaced his speech by saying that he knew a great deal about the Welsh people. But if he knew any-at all about them, or understood their political action, he could not have made a statement so much at variance with the truth. The Welsh people made no blow at Christianity in their efforts to obtain religious equality. This question was one that appealed to their very deepest convictions, for they believed that it was contrary to the teaching of religion that there should be any connection whatever 1523 between the Church and State. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol fell into exactly the same error when, confounding the Church with the Establishment, he spoke of the Welsh people being influenced by their hatred of the Church. The Welsh people were not opposed to the Church, and they never had been opposed to the Church. It was the purely political side of the question that appealed to them; it was the connection that existed between the Church and the State they wanted to see severed. It was their desire that the Church should flourish, and they believed that when the Church was free from the trammels which now bound her to the State she would become a far greater influence for good than she ever had been in the past. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol also said that the Disestablished Church would be a very powerful Church. That was exactly what the Welsh people expected; and, more than that, it was exactly what they desired. It was said that during the last 20 years the Church had made great strides in Wales. Assuming this to be correct, for the sake of arugment, how did it carry the case of the opponents of the Bill forward? This was a political question, and not a religious question. The connection between the Church and State was of a purely political character. Parliament had always regarded it as such; and it was only by political action that that connection could be severed. But on the other side they had that which was admitted by the opponents of the Bill—the growth of Nonconformity. It was proved by the Welsh representation in the House. So that side by side with the growth of the Church the movement for Religious Equality was gaining ground. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol said a religious census ought to be taken. The only census the House had to deal with was the census of the polling booth. In 1870 only seven Welsh Members voted for Disestablishment. When the Division was taken on this Bill 31 out of the 34 Members returned by Wales and Monmouthshire would vote for it. Could any stronger evidence be given of the opinions of the Welsh people on the question? Again many difficulties had been got rid of 1524 since 1870. First of all, there was the difficulty of separate Legislation for Wales. Wales had been separately treated from England in the case of the Sunday Closing Act; and even the last Conservative Government had adopted the precedent by passing a separate Bill dealing with Intermediate Education in Wales. But the greatest difficulty had been swept away by the passing of the Irish Church Act; for that Act laid down the principle that when national property had been exclusively used by one particular religious body that it was not sacrilege, but the exercise of an undoubted right, by Parliament to divert that property to causes that were beneficial to the people, and which were in harmony with the desires of the people. He would also point out that the Conservative Party had done a vast deal to push the question of the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church to the front. At a time when the question was scarcely mentioned on Liberal platforms the cry of "The Church in Danger" had been raised by Church people, not because there was any danger to the Church, but because Church people were more anxious to serve the interests of the Tory Party than to protect their Church. [Opposition Cries of "No, no!"] Perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite would accept the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury on that point. In 1885, when the Welsh Church question was not in the opinion of the Liberal Party within the range of practical politics, the right hon. Gentleman speaking at Radcliffe as a Churchman and as a friend of the Church said—The Tory Party certainly preferred the interest of their Party to the stability of their Church Establishment. …. All that the Tory Party could do they were doing to make every Member of the Liberal Party hostile to the Church Establishment. …. Whatever might be the fate of the question hereafter let the record be made that it was the Tory Party who forced it to the front now. They pushed this question forward and fought behind it. What cowards they were! They were like men who being unable to defend the citadel placed the women and children on the ramparts and appealed to the enemy to beware that by firing on the town the weak and defenceless would suffer.He accepted the Bill. He did not say that in every detail it came up to his ideal; but speaking generally he thought it was an excellent Bill. If the Government had not introduced it they 1525 would have done an injustice to the Welsh people. The question had been a burning question in Wales for a quarter of a century; and the more hon. Members looked into the condition of Wales the more they would find it conclusively proved that the voluntary principle was the principle by which religious bodies in Wales, as in other countries, promoted the best interests of Christianity.
§ MR. J. A. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
said, that Members on the Opposition side were much struck by the frank admission of the hon. Member for West Carmarthen of the very point they had been chided for contending for—namely that this was purely and simply a political question. The hon. Member also made a frank display of the sentiments of his Party towards the Church when he said the Church will be allowed to retain her ceremonies, doctrines, and rites. Having taken away everything else from the Church the Party opposite could not well deprive her of her doctrines, ceremoines, and rites, unless they were prepared to reintroduce the principles of the Inquisition.
*MR. J. LLOYD-MORGAN
said, he had also pointed out that the Church was left all her endowments for the last 200 years, and that all the vested interests of her clergy were protected.
§ MR. RENTOUL
said that he accepted the hon. Member's explanation. The hon. Member also stated that the opponents of the Bill declared that the cathedrals and churches of Wales were to be turned into stables and theatres. That was one of those remarks which he had never heard anyone make. The hon. Member further adduced, as a reason for supporting the Bill, that the clergy of the Church were to be allowed to retain their incomes for life—that was to say, for the present generation. If it were good for the present generation, how could it be pronounced bad for future generations? All would frankly admit the ability of the Home Secretary, but compliments had been paid to the right hon. Gentleman in respect to the speech in which he introduced the Bill. It could hardly be dignified by the name of "speech," for it was a mere recapitulation of the leading provisions of the Bill, without a single argument in its favour. When the right hon. Gentleman dealt 1526 with the purposes to which the funds of the Church would be applied, there was no applause even from the Welsh Members, except in regard to the application of some of those funds to higher education. But there were some who believed that, though higher education was all very well from the secular point of view, the Church funds were now being devoted to the highest education, and that to divert them to any other purpose would be to degrade them. Though he was not a member of the Church of England, he entertained a fixed and emphatic hostility to Disestablishment in any shape. As an individual should belong to a Church, so the Church should definitely and in form acknowledge Christianity; and he did not see how that could be done apart from the vehicle of a Church. He defended existing Establishments, not only because they happened to exist, but because he approved of the principle of them. Even if they were indefensible in theory, still, if they worked well and bore good fruits, he held that they should be maintained. This question of Disestablishment and Disendowment was in no sense a political question; because it raised issues which would reach beyond the lifetime of present political parties, and exercise an influence for good or evil long after they had passed away. Before a man could believe in his heart that Disestablishment was right, he must believe that it would be a good thing for Christianity generally or for the particular Church to be disestablished. But even then, Disendowment must be for him quite a different matter. He might believe that a young man who possessed a large fortune, the gift and accumulation of his ancestors, would be a more useful person without it. But, even then, he had no right to touch that young man's possessions. In like manner, whatever his conclusion with regard to the Established Church in Wales, he had no right to touch her Endowments, which were not given by him or by the State. But those who were engaged in this Disestablishment and Disendowment movement, asserted that they were not actuated by envy or greed. They were divided into two classes—those who were inside and those who were outside the Church—which must have entirely different motives. The Churchman must desire 1527 Disestablishment for the benefit and advancement of the Church; but that was not the principle which actuated the Nonconformists. They did not wish to develop the activity of the Church if they were true to their own faith. They must desire to see their own Nonconformist Church cover the whole ground. He was sure that no Welsh Nonconformist Member would dare to tell his constituents that his only desire was to benefit the Church as against Nonconformity. In the present case, the oldest Christian Church in Great Britain was under trial, and the evidence hitherto brought against her in all public speeches was not worthy of serious attention. The Church was largely unrepresented by those who were sent to the House by Churchmen. The clergy, who had been so much attacked, had no power of speaking for themselves in the House, and that ought to make hon. Members careful in the statements which they made. But the accusers of the Church seemed to have spent most of their time of recent years in playing the part of private detectives, on the look-out for hostile evidence only. The muck-rake had been largely used; and they had refused to look at what was bright in the history of the Church. It was because he thought that the defence of the Welsh Church should not be left only to those who were of her communion, that he took part in the Debate. He spoke as an outsider, and as one who, if he lived in Wales, would attend the worship of some Nonconformist Church. But he had seen a Church disestablished in his own country, and he knew that no good whatever had resulted. The country had become no more contented, and the Church itself had suffered enormously. People had stated that the Irish Church had not suffered from, but been benefited by, Disestablishment. He wished any utterance of leading Churchmen in Ireland could be quoted bearing out that statement. Of course, some irresponsible persons could always be found to make any statement; but the leading clergy of the Church had never said anything of the kind; and, if they had, it would not be true, nor would it be accepted by any man who knew Ireland and the state of the Church both before 1869 and now. It was sought to make Disestablishment in Ireland 1528 a precedent for Disestablishment in Wales, though it was impossible to find two cases more dissimilar. The Church in Ireland was an alien Church. It was the Church of England brought into Ireland, and a Church almost exclusively attended by the English, who first settled in Ireland. It was a Church forced into a country which never accepted the Reformation at all. It was never at any stage of its history the Church of more than one-eighth of the population. The grounds that Lord Rosebery urged in favour of Disestablishment in Scotland did not apply to Wales, yet he advocated Disestablishment there. The Prime Minister's position with regard to Disestablishment in Scotland was purely political. He said the Liberal Party had been forced to the conclusion that the Manse—or nearly every Manse—was an agency of the Tory Party. He wished to refer to Lord Rosebery's four reasons against the Church in Wales, and to show that the four facts he put forward were in reality four fictions. Lord Rosebery put forward as facts: (1), that the demand for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales was so great as to be almost unanimous; (2), that the Church in Wales was a branch of the Church of England; (3), that the Welsh Church was an alien Church; and (4), that the State Church in Wales did more harm than good to the cause of religion. As to the supposed unanimity of the demand, the total electorate of Wales and Monmouthshire was 320,298, and the total number who voted for the Liberal Party and in favour of Disestablishment at the last election, was only 144,882, or about 43 per cent. Those who voted against it, or did not vote at all, were 176,726. With regard to the Church in Wales being a branch of the Church of England, the right hon. Member for Midlothian, speaking in the House of Commons in 1891, said—It would be as reasonable to talk of the Church of Wales in England as to talk of the Church of England in Wales.So that the ex-Prime Minister repudiated entirely the idea of the Church in Wales being a branch of the Church of England. Moreover, each of the Welsh dioceses applied to be received, and was received into the dominions of the Arch 1529 bishop of Canterbury. Lord Rosebery said the Welsh Church was an alien Church. On this subject they had emphatic testimony from many quarters, and especially from the late Mr. Watkin Williams, who might be called the father of the Welsh Disestablishment. Movement. On 24th May, 1870, he said—The Church Establishment in the Principality of Wales wan an ancient and venerable Institution. It was not like the Church in Ireland, an alien Church.If there was anything alien in Wales, it was Nonconformity. The right hon. Member for Denbighshire once said that Dissent in Wales was a plant of foreign growth.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbigshire, E.)
dissented. He said in a speech delivered a quarter of a century ago that it was a plant of modern growth.
§ MR. RENTOUL
said the right hon. Member was reported in "Hansard"—whose Reports were generally correct—to have used the word "foreign."
§ MR. RENTOUL
said the "Hansard" reporter seemed to have reported the right hon. Member more correctly than he expressed himself. The right hon. Member must know that of the two leading sects in Wales Wesleyan Methodism was introduced by John Wesley in England, and the sect of Independents by John Brown, an Englishman of Scotch extraction. Then the Prime Minister said the Church in Wales was doing more harm than good to the cause of religion. That was a serious charge to make against 1,488 clergymen. It was a charge which, if uttered by name with respect to an individual, would have rendered him liable to an action for slander. The right hon. Member for Midlothian had borne emphatic testimony to the Welsh Church, which he had described as an advancing and living Church, rising from elevation to elevation. He had said: "I have seen it grow under my own eyes," but, according to Lord Rosebery, it was a Church active in doing harm rather than good to the cause of religion. A Rev. Mr. Jones had been quoted by an hon. Member, and he Would quote a Rev. Mr. Lewis Jones, a leading Nonconformist minister in Wales, 1530 on the staff of the North Wales University College. He wrote in the Welsh National Quarterly for July, 1891:—Every honest Nonconformist will admit that a great reformation has taken place within the Established Church in Wales during recent years, and that the Church, especially in the towns, is gaining ground. The best class of Nonconformists are quite prepared to agree with all that Churchmen say touching the revival that exists among them. I say again, it would be dishonest on our part, as Nonconformists, to attempt to deny the progress that goes on within the Church in these days.That was the most abundant testimony to the progress of this Church. The way in which Nonconformity in Wales was spoken of was very misleading, as there was more difference between the several Nonconformist Churches amongst themselves than between any single one of them and the Established Church. There was, for instance, vastly more difference in doctrine between a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist and a Welsh Wesleyan Methodist than between a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist and a member of the Established Church in Wales. With reference to the relative strength of these bodies, he wondered that Welsh Members ever referred to statistics, as they had again and again refused an official census. But though there was no official census, very important sidelights upon the question might be obtained from other statistics. According to the Registrar-General's report, in the last ten years there had been 13,000 more marriages by the clergy of the Church in Wales than by all the Nonconformist ministers put together. In 1885 the number of Sunday school scholars in the Church of England in Wales was 92,000; in 1893 it was 123,445, an increase of 33,000. The number of communicants in 1885 was 74,788; and in 1893, 114,885, an increase of over 40,000. The average per year of confirmation candidates from 1882 to 1892 was 9,654, and in 1893 the number was over 11,000. The burials attended by the Church of England clergy in Wales in the past ten years was 20,598; the burials attended by all Nonconformist ministers was 1,441. These statistics were very remarkable, and he did not understand how the Welsh Members could answer them. With regard to the sums contributed to hospitals in Wales, the Bishop of St. Asaph's, 1531 speaking last year, said that in the previous year, to the hospitals in Wales the Church contributed £11,574, and all the Nonconformists taken together contributed £2,917, so that the Church was subscribing four times as much as the Nonconformists. If their endowments were taken away clearly the hospitals must suffer very severely indeed. Moreover, half a century ago there were between 700 and 800 clergy in Wales; at the present moment there were 1,488, and all this increase was in an area whose total population was 1,700,000. That seemed to him to be the greatest increase in any religious denomination in the entire British Islands. He now came to the sadder and meaner side of the subject, and he was glad to see the hon. Member for Flintshire in his place, because he wished specially to refer to him. The hon. Member delivered a lecture at Rhyl in December last, and sent a copy to him, and probably did the same to other hon. Members. It was a remarkable document of 28 pages, and the title of it was, "The Religious Aspect of Disestablishment." Why did not the hon. Member give it the right title and call it "The Religious Aspect of Disendowment." But he dared not do that—for it would mean the religious aspect of taking from other men what belonged to them. Yet the first sentence of the lecture proved that the hon. Member meant Disendowment and nothing else, though he was not straightforward enough to say so. That first sentence was—I am frequently asked in Wales to assist Nonconformist churches in their efforts to obtain funds to carry on their work"—thereby clearly admitting the dreadful straits those churches were in. Yet this Bill would give them no money. But it was curious that more than three-fourths of the lecture were an attack on the Roman Catholic Church, and in the last note the hon. Member made this statement:—It is objected that Ritualism is creeping into the Free Episcopal Churches of America and Australasia. I admit it, but these Churches have no hold on the masses of the people; they have not the prestige and the quasi sanction of an Establishment.That was a gentleman who assumed to look at the religious aspect of this question—rather, perhaps, the irreligious aspect. The last six pages of the lecture 1532 were taken up entirely with the sale of indulgences in Germany by Tetzel 400 years ago. The syllogism of the conclusion of the lecture appeared to him to be this: The sale of indulgences is wrong; Tetzel sold indulgences in Germany; therefore we should Disestablish the Welsh Church. Lord Rosebery, speaking at Cardiff, said in reference to this matter that—if the State gave funds for a certain purpose, it had the right to divert them to another purpose.Supposing he admitted that proposition to the full, it would be an ungenerous thing for the State to do, but the State never gave a single penny to the Welsh Church, and therefore, according to Lord Rosebery's own contention, the State had no right to divert the funds of that Church. On this point, with regard to the funds of the Church, the Secretary of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, writing in December 1885, said:—I am directed by Mr. Gladstone to inform you that the clergy are not State paid.And Lord Granville, writing at the same time, said that—tithes existed in England before Acts of Parliament.Lord Rosebery said also:—It is not wise for the Defenders of the Church to rest too much on the right of property, because, if the indefeasible right of property vested in any way in these endowments it was vested not with the Reformed but with the Roman Catholic Church.He was sorry the Prime Minister should have said such a thing as this. They would all admit that Lord Rosebery was an able and a scholarly man, but he could not have turned his attention recently to history, because otherwise he would hardly have made such a statement with regard to the Endowments of the Church in Wales in opposition to the testimony of many distinguished men, some of whom had been quoted in that Debate. Reference had been made to the possibility of compromise in this matter. But compromise with them was impossible. If a number of highwaymen attacked one of them on the highway and said they would take only three-fourths of his property; that if he would consent to this they would leave him the remaining one-fourth as a sort of compromise, and shake hands upon it—an independent man would rather lose all 1533 than accept such a compromise as that. Before he sat down he should like to refer to one other statement. The hon. Member for East Bradford, speaking at Cardiff, said it would be better to disestablish the publican first and take the parson afterwards, for he thought the publican did more, harm. Now if that statement had come from a man who had recognised the publican as a fair and honourable trader, it might have passed, but the hon. Member had again and again compared the publican to the vilest outcasts of society, and had used every possible word of vituperation against, him. Then to compare, the clergy of any Christian Church with the publican, under such circumstances, on a public platform, and to say, in effect, they were pretty much in the same basket, was an insult, and unworthy of a fair-minded man. He wished now to refer to a totally different statement, and one which bore another complexion, In an interview, an hon. Member of the House was asked whether all Noncomformist churches were in an unsatisfactory state. He replied:—Nearly all of them are; many large Nonconformist churches are mere places of business for securing the income of the minister; hardly any of them are doing aggressive work or doing anything to fight the devil. As a matter of fact, said the hon. member, the denomination that more than any other was doing work among the poor, the miserable, and the wretched and the sinful is the Church of England.Who was the hon. Member who made the statement? No less a man than the hon. Member for East Bradford. Had ever any Party been engaged in a poorer crusade? If the Welsh people only knew what they were to get! It was admitted that of the £280,000 of Church revenues in Wales only £150,000 could be taken away altogether. That would give the inhabitants of Wales 1s. 8¼d. each for pulling down the oldest monument of religion in the country. "Gallant little Wales!" One-and-eightpenny Wales! The Church in Wales was the splendid inheritance of the poor of that country, and it was doing a great work. His view was, that a State Church was a great power for good, because it gave an impetus to national life, built up the national character, and fixed national principles to an extent which no non-State-recognised Church could possibly 1534 do. And, in spite of past failures, the Church in Wales was, after all, the Mother from whom all Nonconformist Churches had sprung. It was the oldest monument of Welsh nationality. Its creed was fixed, its doctrines were definite, and it could not be used, and never had been used, as the tool of any particular Party. Its temples of worship had never been desecrated, as Nonconformist chapels frequently were, as the battleground of political parties. It was bound by its connection with the State to hold a dignified course, and among all the sects in Wales none had shown greater charity towards its foes. He would say to Welsh Members, in view of the great work the Church was doing in Wales, and in view of the small satisfaction which Irish Disestablishers felt when their work was done, that it would be better to leave churches and chapels alone to vie with each other in promoting that honesty and charity, that integrity and sobriety, which so much exalted a nation, and in that way to place Wales in the forefront of the United Kingdom and of the British Empire.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN
said the hon. Member, in the course of his very amusing, but somewhat discursive, speech, addressed a challenge to Welsh Liberal Members which ought to be answered at once. He asked whether any Welsh Churchman would dare to get up and say that he advocated the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales because he believed Disestablishment would be for the benefit of that Church.
§ MR. RENTOUL
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I said I would ask any Welsh Member to go to his Nonconformist constituents and tell them that he desires to disestablish the Church in order that it may be so improved as to practically blot out and overcome, Welsh Nonconformity.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN
said, he was a Welsh Churchman and the son of a Welsh clergyman, and he had over and over again told his constituents that he advocated the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church because he believed that, if disestablished, that Church would be infinitely more powerful for good than it was now. He would not further follow the hon. Member over the wide field 1535 which he had traversed. They would have ample opportunities of dealing with his arguments at future stages of the Bill. He agreed with the Home Secretary that, of all the devices for consuming time which had been invented in recent years, the practice of making Second Reading speeches on the First Reading of a Bill was the most mischievous. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that practically and substantially this was the same Bill he introduced last year, and therefore he (Sir G. O. Morgan) would content himself with repeating what he said last year, viz.: that he believed, without in any way committing himself to its details, the Bill was a just and statesmanlike measure; and, looked at from point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, it was most certainly the very best Bill they would ever get. But he rose to address a very respectful and earnest appeal to the opponents of this measure. Of course, he did not refer to Members like the noble Lord the Member for Rochester (Viscount Cranborne) and some others he saw opposite to him who held, with perfect sincerity—and he honoured them for their sincerity—that the Church of England ruled by a sort of Divine right over all the counties south of the Tweed, and that any attempt to interfere with its privileges and endowments was the worst form of sacrilege. To argue with those gentlemen was useless. But surely there were some hon. Gentlemen opposite—he knew there were many amongst his Liberal Unionist Friends—who took a more practical, or a more matter-of-fact view of the situation. Now he wished to ask them whether they really believed that, by fighting this Bill, line by line, and clause by clause, as he was told they intended to do, or by throwing it over to another Session, or even another Parliament, they could avert the doom which was hanging over the Established Church in Wales? [Opposition Cries of "Yes."] If that be the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, it was certainly not the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, for he had said in the most emphatic way that Disestablishment in Wales must come, and the only question was by what method it could be accomplished. It was not the opinion of the most far-seeing Churchmen in Wales. 1536 They knew that the weakness of the Church in Wales lay in the fact that its main support came from without, that the citadel was held—not by native levies, but by foreign auxiliaries. The editor of The Aberystwith Observer—whose names had a very Saxon ring, (whose views were vainly sought to be discredited in The Times by two gentlemen) writing to The Times the other day, said:—I give you my word for it that Churchmen, almost to a man, would be glad to be disestablished, and many of them are prepared for a degree of Disendowment, whilst some would accept almost any terms so long as they got Disestablishment. It must not for a moment be supposed that all Welsh Churchmen are prepared to 'die in the last ditch' for the principle of Disestablishment. In Wales, amongst Churchmen and Nonconformists, the whole thing resolves itself into a question of terms. I am sure the views expressed by Mr. Chamberlain in his letter are the best for the Church.That threw some light upon the folly of the cry for a religious census, which could not tell them what they really wanted to know—not the proportion of Welsh Churchmen to Welsh Nonconformists, but the number of Welshmen, whether Churchmen or Nonconformists, who were in favour of Disestablishment. He had lived in Wales probably longer than any man in the House, and therefore he warned the Opposition not to be misled, not to be bamboozled, by what they heard, or even by what they saw going on in Wales. If he might venture to offer them a piece of respectful advice, it would be that of the old lady, who at the end of a long life, said she had learned to believe nothing she heard and only half what she saw. Hon. Members saw English money poured like water into the Church in Wales for every purpose, from the repair of a dilapidated Church, or the purchase of a parish magic lantern, to the payment of the election expenses of any Church candidate—or, to give him the popular name, any "Grosvenor House" candidate—who was willing to put the holder of a Liberal seat, however safe, to the worry, annoyance, and the cost of a contest. If men chose to be so foolish as to invest their money in such hopeless enterprises, perhaps no one had a right to complain. Yet, he thought it was a little hard on his colleagues and himself, who were, of course, comparatively poor men, 1537 that they should he put to the expense of £1,300, £1,400, or,£1,500 simply because a knot of enormously wealthy Peers, in ostentatious defiance of the Standing Order of the Commons, could afford to throw away £1,000 as easily as he and his friends could spend a £10-note. But of this he was sure—not all the gold in the coffers of the Duke of Westminster, not all the gold in the Bank of England, could ever turn the Established Church of England into the National Church of Wales. It was an alien Church. ["No."] Well, he would produce some evidence of that. It was alien in its spirit. It was alien in its attitude towards the great national movement going on in Wales. He referred hon. Gentlemen opposite to the words of Professor Goldwin Smith, with whom he did not always agree, who said that the Celtic peasant might be a fervid Catholic, or a fervid Presbyterian, or a fervid Methodist, but a staid and decorous Anglican he never could or would be. The breach was becoming wider every day, because, while the nation was growing more democratic, the Church was growing more oligarchical. How could it be otherwise when the Church assumed its present attitude to the great nationalist movement now going on in Wales? How could it be otherwise when they saw Welsh Prelates and English Peers combining together to maul and mutilate educational schemes which had received the unanimous support of the local authorities of Wales? How could it be otherwise when they saw the Church Defence institution flouting and insulting in every way they could the spirit of Welsh nationality? ["How?"] Were they not told that Wales was only an "appanage" of England, and that they in Wales were not entitled to have Disestablishment because England was not ripe for it? Was that the way to appeal to the patriotic sympathies of the Welsh people? Was it common justice? He did expect hon. Members opposite to accept what he said on this question, but would they accept what the flower of the Welsh clergy said? Last year a great deal was said about a revolt in the Welsh Parliamentary Party. It did not look like it now. The revolt was now in the opposite camp, and it was a revolt which would shake the Church to 1538 its foundation. It was the rift which, although it might not make the music mute, would, at all events, cause the lute to give out some most discordant sounds. He called the most earnest attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the manifesto which had been issued by the most eminent Churchmen in Wales. Numerically they were few, and that was not surprising. In Wales nearly all the Church patronage was in the hands of the Diocesan, and clergymen with small incomes and large families could not be expected to quarrel with the patron of 109 livings. But the manifesto was signed or approved by the Warden of the Diocesan School of Divinity at Bangor, by the Vicar of Bangor, by the Vicar of Welshpool, by the Vicar of Llanidloes, and others. These eminent Churchmen, nearly all Oxford First-Classmen, declared that their object was—to put an end to the present intolerable situation and to the disastrous conflict which is at present destroying our national unity and impairing our spiritual life.And how did they propose to carry out that object? By disestablishing the Church of England in Wales, by cutting Wales adrift from the Established Church, by—constituting the ancient British Church into a separate province, entirely distinct from the province of Canterbury and the Anglican Church, and so restoring to her her ancient national character.But if that "national character" had to be "restored," it was obvious that it had been lost, and they went on to say:—At present our leaders in the Church and the Conservative Party are bewildered by the national awakening which we see on all sides in politics, in literature, in education. The whole stream of the national revival is flowing past us.Archdeacon Howell, the most eloquent and gifted clergyman in Wales, in a sermon some time ago, preached at St. Margaret's, Westminster, said—The weakness of the Church in Wales is due to the fact that so much of the best blood of the nation no longer runs in her veins. It is sheer folly to hide from ourselves the fact that the most vigorous life of the Welsh people no longer wells forth from the heart of the Welsh Church. What is the exact proportion of the people to 1539 be found within and without the Church is a matter of secondary importance. Far more important is the fact that so large a portion of the vigour and enthusiasm of the Welsh people is in full activity outside the Church.He asked them, in the face of that evidence, coming from the foremost Churchmen in Wales, was it wise to kick against the pricks? Was it wise to oppose the eternal non possumus to the demand supported by 31 out of the 34 Members for Wales and Monmouthshire, returned to the House of Commons by an average majority of 2,000? The hon. Member for Sunderland had well said last week that the unanimity of Wales on this subject was unparalleled in the annals of Parliamentary history. Nor could they forget the memorable utterance of the present Duke of Devonshire, in a speech he made in Scotland 16 years ago, when he said that questions of Disestablishment and Disendowment must be settled by the opinions and votes of the constitutionally elected Representatives of the people affected by them. It was quite possible that by the aid of Peers and Prelates, who knew about as much of Wales as of Uganda, and perhaps less, the solution of this question might be delayed until the cry for Disestablishment swelled into a chorus; but what would be gained by that? The longer the settlement was delayed the worse would that settlement be. As those Welsh clergymen had told them in their manifesto, it would be the story of the Sybilline Books over again; and the time would come when the best friends of the Church would look back upon the policy inaugurated that day, as its consequences gradually unfolded themselves, with feelings of bitterness and unavailing regret.
§ *MR. ARTHUR S. T. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
said, the right hon. Gentleman had stated that the Church would go on better if she were disestablished; he had also told his constituents it would be stronger and more able to do its work if it were disendowed. [Sir G. OSBORNE MORGAN: "Yes."] But why had he not also told his Nonconformist friends that they would be stronger if they were disendowed? A good deal was said about congregations supplying their own ministers on the voluntary 1540 system. No doubt it was an excellent system where you had rich congregations; but there were many parishes in Wales where there was no resident Nonconformist minister, and, if there were no Church Endowment there would be no clergyman. In those cases, he asked not whether the Church would be stronger, but whether the Christian religion would not cease to exist. If the voluntary system was so good why was it that Nonconformists strained every nerve to obtain Endowments? Why was it that in England they had hundreds of chapels endowed? There was one place in Wales where a chapel had an endowment of £14. 10s. a year from a fully-licensed public house; and he wondered whether the Nonconformists there were in favour of a Local Veto Bill without compensation. Perhaps some day a majority of two-thirds of the Churchmen of the parish might carry Prohibition and Disendowment by the same vote. If it were true that the help of the Church in Wales came "mainly from the outside," how came it that in the last 50 years the number of clergy in Wales had doubled although the stipends had fallen? How came it that the number of children in National Schools belonging to the Church had doubled? How came it that the number of scholars in the Sunday schools had increased six-fold? How came it that the number of communicants had doubled in 20 years? The truth was, there had been an enormous increase in Church work, and the people were coming back to the Church. The other day at a meeting at Brymbo a working man said they often had to make way for the hon. Baronet opposite because the Church was so full. The increased adhesion of the Welsh people had become so marvellous that the supporters of the Bill knew that if they did not strike a fatal blow at once it would soon be impossible to do so. He asked this Government what mandate they had from the constituencies. They spoke of their majority in Wales; but what mandate had they from England, not only to disestablish and disendow the Church in Wales, but also to mutilate the Church in England, to cut up the dioceses and re-arrange parishes, to destroy Convocation and to break up the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and, in fact, the whole 1541 fabric of the Church in England? The Prime Minister had contended that Parliament must have the assent of the "predominant partner'' before it proceeded to break up the Union; so, in the same way, the Government ought to have a similar assent before proceeding to Disestablish the Welsh Church. The question of Disestablishment had not been brought before the constituencies at the last election, but even granting that it had, there was a majority of 80 against Disestablishment from England. He asserted that Disestablishment had never been brought specifically before the Welsh constituencies at the last election. In analysing the election addresses of the leading Welsh Radical Members, he showed that the hon. Member for Merionethshire put Local Self-Government for Ireland, Scotland and Wales as the first item, Disestablishment next, the three F's next, Liquor Traffic Reform, and the Abolition of the House of Lords. The hon. Member for Mid Glamorgan put Home Rule for Ireland first, Disestablishment next, then the Eight Hours Bill, Employers' Liability Bill, general sympathy with the Labour Movement, Taxation of Ground Rents, Local Veto, the three F's, One Man One Vote, and Parish Councils. The hon. Member for Cardiff put Home Rule first, Disestablishment next, sympathy with the Labour Party, and Graduated Income-Tax to follow. Thus the leading Welsh Radicals had not even put Disestablishment first on their programme. There were 314,540 voters in Wales. Of this number 145,818 voted for Gladstonian candidates, and 86,883 for Unionist candidates. Only 47 per cent, of the whole electors of Wales recorded votes in favour of Gladstonian candidates at the last election, though the President of the Board of Trade at Cardiff stated that the whole of the Welsh nation had recorded a vote in favour of Disestablishment. Instead of there being 31 Gladstonian Members there ought to be only 22; instead of three Unionists there ought to be 12; and he asserted that if the Church question had been put as fair and straight to the people at the last election as it would be at the next, the result to-day would have 1542 been very different. But, taking the last election as a test, he maintained that there was no real mandate from the English or Welsh people in favour of this Bill. Why was not a religious census taken in 1891? It had been proposed by Baron Dimsdale in the House, and it was supported by the Church Party. Not a Churchman in the House or in the country flinched from the result of a religious census. Lord Rendel and the right hon. Baronet objected to it on the ground that a religious census would be a means whereby a large number of persons who did not clearly state their views, or who stated them wrongly, would be classed as members of the Church of England when they were not. But the census proposed, in the first place, was an optional census, and the people who did not choose to state their religious views, needed not to do so. In the second place—and he called special attention to this—the absurdity of the statement that people would state their opinions wrongly was proved by this, that the right hon. Baronet opposite himself used these words:—In Wales there is a deep religious feeling, and I am perfectly certain that the people would have no hesitation in stating correctly their religious views,What fear, then, had hon. Members opposite that people who were not members of the Church would be classed as such? The only fear they had was that the Church would come out a great deal stronger than they wished to make out. They knew the result would be such as utterly to ruin the cause of Welsh Disestablishment in the House. Hon. Members opposite objected to official religious censuses, but they were very fond of taking amateur censuses. Year after year amateur censuses were taken by the Nonconformists in Wales. Mr. Gee took one in 1877, but he chose a day in the winter, when people might be prevented from going to church by the weather. The day was also a Calvinistic festival, but, even in these circumstances, so unsatisfactory was the result, that the figures were never published. In 1891, a certain Nonconformist busybody took a census of the people in church and chapel in Brymbo; but he 1543 omitted altogether 367, the congregation of St. Paul's Church, although he counted the inhabitants of that district in the total population. Thus were hon. Members driven by their fear of a religious census into such ridiculous devices, in order to make out that the Church was as weak as they contended. All sorts of estimates were brought forward by them as to the real strength of the Church. In 1871, Mr. Watkin Williams stated that the number of church people in Wales was l–6th of the whole population. In 1866, Mr. Dillwyn spoke of l–8th. In 1891, the hon. Member for Merthyr stated them at l–6th; and, in 1892, the hon. Member for Flint stated them at l–4th, though, on the same evening, as if to make up for such generosity, the hon. Member for Carnarvon put them at 1–10th. Thus, on the same night, there was the very large discrepancy between 1–4th and 1–10th, or of about 263,000, which was the size of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, the strongest sect in Wales. He would take one last instance of the absurdity of the figures put forward on which they were asked to proceed with their Bill. His right hon. Friend who spoke last, has recently issued a remarkable pamphlet called "The Church of England and the People, of Wales." The right hon. Gentleman was in a great difficulty. He had to prove that the members of the Church were not so strong as the strongest Nonconformist sect. Finding that there were 114,000 communicants on Easter Day, he multiplied that number by two and, adding on a few as a margin, actually said that the total number of Church people was 250,000.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN
explained that the figures were not his own, but were taken from the Liberal Magazine. He, however, accepted the full responsibility for them. The statement in question was that if the proportion of Church adherents to Church communicants was the same as the proportion of Nonconformist adherents to Nonconformist communicants, the number would be as stated.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
ob-observed that everything depended 1544 upon the meaning ascribed to the word "communicants." In the Church nobody could be a communicant who was not of a certain age and who had not been confirmed. What conditions had to be fulfilled by communicants in the Nonconformist bodies he did not know. To suppose that 45 per cent. of the Church people could be communicants was absurd. Besides, the same Year Book, which stated the communicants as 114,000, also stated there were 129,000 children in the Church Sunday Schools. It followed, therefore, that according to the right hon. Baronet's explanation there were only 7,000 Church people in Wales who were not either communicants on a certain day or children in Sunday School, which was ridiculous. The Bishop of St. Asaph had pointed out that the leading Nonconformist sects in Wales numbered only 47 per cent. of the whole population, and the late Dr. Dillwyn estimated the minor sects in Wales and the Roman Catholics at 3 per cent. If these figures were accepted it followed that the total number of Nonconformist Christians in Wales amounted to only 50 per cent. Then the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire declared that the adherents of the Church of England numbered only 10 per cent. It would appear, therefore, that 40 per cent. of the people did not go to any place of worship. The hon. Member for Merthyr had said that there were 500,000 atheists in Wales.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
asked whether the hon. Member would deny that he had said that there were 500,000 people who refrained from going to any place of worship.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
accepted the hon. Member's statement, of course. The conclusions to be drawn, however, from the calculations of the hon. Member and his friends was that 40 per cent. of the population did not go to places of worship. In order, therefore, to prove that the Church was weak, hon. Members below the Gangway found themselves compelled to make the libellous 1545 suggestion that 40 per cent. of the people did not attend any church or chapel. Never was a Bill brought before this House with less reason. The House was asked to Disestablish and Disendow the Church in Wales for two reasons. The first was that it was an alien Church. That statement had been disproved time, after time, and by none more effectually than by the right hon. Member for Midlothian. The second was because it was alleged to represent a miserable minority of the people. Of that the supporters of the Bill had no proof, and they were the people who refused to have any proof. There was only one fact known about the Church, and that was that it was growing in strength every day. He might add, as the complement of that truth, that dissent was declining every day in Wales, and he made that statement on the authority, not of a Churchman, but of Mr. J. R. Davies, a leading Nonconformist, speaking at a meeting of the Welsh Nonconformist Union at Carnarvon on October 20, 1892, when he ascribed to this "purely political aspiration" for Disestablishment the "spiritual poverty" of Welsh dissent. In truth, the day of dissent was entirely over in Wales. Its origin was due to the abuse of Chuch patronage in the last century, when English bishops and English vicars banished the Welsh language from the Church Service; but now there was a Welsh Service in every single church in Wales where there was a Welsh congregation. The result was that the raison d'être of Welsh dissent had gone, and the people were coming back every day from the chapels into the Church. He could not congratulate the Home Secretary on the changes he had introduced into the Bill. The only new thing the right hon. Gentleman appeared to have done was to discover that museums and academies of art were religious institutions. He could tell the right hon. Gentleman that the Welsh farmers and tithe-payers would have no sympathy with that proposal. Some time ago he heard a Welsh tithe-payer, a Nonconformist, discussing this very proposal say—I object to paying tithe to an alien Church, but I prefer to do that to giving it to an old-bones house.1546 The Government would find it rather difficult to satisfy the Welsh tithe-payers that a museum or old-bones house was a religious institution. The Bill remained not only one that ought never to have been brought in, but a measure which in its terms was most unjust, unfair, and illiberal to the Church it was proposed to Disestablish and Disendow. He ventured to think that this was a political Bill brought in for political reasons; it was most unjust and unfair in its methods, and neither in the country nor in that House would Churchmen offer any compromise whatever. They should oppose the Bill line by line, and clause by clause, believing it to be a most unfair and unjust measure, brought in merely in order to purchase votes for a tottering Government, which felt that without a measure of this sort it must inevitably come to grief in a short time.
§ MR. ABEL THOMAS (Carmarthen, E.),
referring to the last speaker, said, that the hon. Member really being the Church Member for Wales, they naturally thought he would have carefully looked through his facts and have made sure of their veracity before he had given expression to them in that House. But how very untrue to reality many of these statements were! The quotations he had made from speeches alleged to have been delivered by hon. Members on the Liberal side of the House had been immediately contradicted and shown to be utterly without foundation and under these circumstances one must naturally come to the conclusion that one must take some of the hon. Gentleman's other facts with a large amount of salt. What did the hon. Member say about the number of the Church of England people in Wales? He said that, at any rate, they consisted of 243,000 persons, because there were 129,000 children who attended Church schools and 114,000 who were communicants. He quietly added the two numbers together, and, his arithmetic being perfectly accurate, got the total of 243,000. But were there no communicants in the Church of England who went to Sunday schools? [An hon. MEMBER: "They are children."] It was new to him that nobody went to Church of England schools of 10 or 11 or 12 years of age. He knew a considerable number of communicants of that age in the Church 1547 of England—or certainly of the ages of 13 and 14—and these were just the persons who would go to the Sunday School. Why, therefore, they should be added and made two instead of one, he could not understand. Again, with regard to the Calvinist Methodists, the hon. Member said he had the authority of the Year Book for the statement that they numbered only 250,000. [Mr. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN: "I said 268,000."] He had the Year Book for 1892–93 before him, and he saw that the Calvinist Methodists numbered 292,000 odd. If all the hon. Member's "facts" were to be treated in the same way as those which they had been able to detect and correct at a moment's notice, they must not rely very much upon them. Dealing with the election statistics the hon. Member had told them that in Wales there were 145,000 Gladstonian voters and 86,000 Unionist. How did he obtain his figures? The hon. Gentleman had stated that where there was no election in 1892 he had taken the previous contest. But was that fair? In his own constituency he (Mr. Thomas) was opposed by a Nonconformist, who said he believed in Disestablishment and Disendowment; and his hon. Friends the Members for Cardiganshire, Carmarthen Boroughs, and Anglesea could tell the same tale; and yet these were the figures, obtained in such a way, which the Bishop of St. Asaph and the Member for the Church of England in Wales, flouted before them as those who believed in Disendowment and Disestablishment. The Unionist Party had tried their utmost to conceal the issue from the people, and to put Disestablishment and Disendowment in the background. If, however, they thought that their only hope of success was by admitting that Disestablishment was the right thing for Wales, they had put forward Unionists, like the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who on his visit to Wales told the Welsh people he knew much better than their own Members what was good for them, and that if they wanted Disestablishment and Disendowment they must go to the Unionist Party for it. He could show within five miles of his own home in Pembrokeshire, half-a-dozen 1548 parishes which had no resident clergyman in them, while, on the other hand, there were parishes in the same county, consisting perhaps of one farmhouse and three or four workmen's cottages, which did possess a clergyman. It was childish to play with the Welsh people in that way. The great question was, whether they had a chapel to which they could go, and if they had one, it did not matter a brass farthing whether it was on one side of a stream or on the other. It had been said that Nonconformity was an alien religion in Wales, but nothing was wider the mark than such a statement as that. One hundred and fifty years ago, when there was scarcely a Baptist or Nonconformist chapel in Wales there might have been some truth in the statement, yet it must be recollected that there had always been Nonconformity in Wales. What was the state of the Church of England there 150 years ago? Her religion was dead in Wales at the time, and the little Nonconformist centre had to do their work in a cottage up in the hills, where they were beyond discovery. The result was, that from that time they gained strength throughout the whole of Wales, while the English Church remained dead—in fact, it was dead so far as its work was concerned 50 years ago. He recollected the time when he could have pointed out half-a-dozen clergymen near his own home, who were notorious drunkards and evil livers. That state of things had happily passed away, and of late years the Church had certainly awakened to her position, and had made some progress in power and had increased in strength; but it was useless for hon. Members to lay ridiculous statements before the House, endeavouring to show that the Church was now six times as big in Wales as she ever was. Of course the increase in the population must be taken largely into account in that matter; and he claimed that the progress of Nonconformity had been infinitely quicker in Wales than that of the Established Church. Some reference had been made to the Rhondda Valley. Well, he could pick out 30 Nonconformist chapels which had been built there during the same period in which the Church had been said to have made such advances in that 1549 particular district. He maintained that the Nonconformists, besides increasing their numbers to a greater degree than the Church, were engaged in the good work of reaching and looking after a class of persons which the Church itself did not touch. The Church failed most in places where she was rich, and succeeded best in places where there were no tithes or endowments. Go where they would go through Wales, they would find that where there were big endowments the Church did not succeed, for only a few rich people, such as the squire and his retainers, attended the services. But where there were no endowments—where there was a poor clergyman who stood on the same footing as the poor Nonconformist Minister, and both had to fight against poverty, the Church and the Chapel were each as good as the other in missionary work. The hon. Member for East Down said the Church of England in Wales was the Church of the poor, and advanced a most astonishing reason in support of that assertion. He said that three-fourths of the people in the poor-houses were Church people. If that was true, it was the greatest disgrace and the greatest blot upon the whole Church Party in Wales. If the richest people in Wales allowed their poor in their old age to go into the workhouses, and the Nonconformists kept their poor out of those asylums, it was a disgrace to the Church people. The hon. Member might, he believed, also claim that three-fourths of the prisoners in the gaols were Church people. But it was ridiculous to advance such arguments. It was true that a large number of the poor called themselves Church people in order to receive doles. If, however, the dress of the people who attended the chapels was compared with the attire of the people who frequented the churches, it would be at once seen that the mass of the poor were Nonconformists. The hon. Member for East Down also said that the Nonconformists in Wales were a political party; and that at least that charge could not be made against the Church. He wondered whether the hon. Member had ever been in Wales during election time. Did the hon. Member know that at elections the representatives 1550 of the Church were to be found on political platforms, and always on the Unionist side? Practically the whole of the Church people and a small proportion of Nonconformists were on one side in politics, and the whole of the Nonconformists with a very small number of Church people were on the other. So long as that condition of things lasted there must be something radically wrong in the state of the country, and he could not conceive of a greater danger to the State than that the whole of the Nonconformists should be Radicals, and the whole of the Church people Unionists. The hon. Member for East Down then went on to say that the Church had charity for those outside her fold. Most of his friends were Churchmen, unfortunately; and speaking from experience, he ventured to say that there was infinitely more bitterness and uncharitableness on the part of Church people towards Nonconformists, than on the part of Nonconformists towards Church people. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol also said that the Nonconformists never did a thing and never said a thing in favour of Church people. He begged to deny that statement. His constituency was as Nonconformist, as any constituency in Wales; and he had always declared in his speeches to his constituents that in his opinion Disestablishment and Disendowment would strengthen the Church in Wales. What they wanted was religious equality. Of two farmers' sons, why should the one be looked up to and the other looked down upon by the neighbours because the first went to the church and the second went to a Nonconformist chapel? The only way of finding the opinion of the Welsh people on this question was from the Representatives they sent to Parliament. A religious census would only show how many believed in the religion of the Established Church and how many believed in some Nonconconformist faith. The question was, what the Welsh people thought of Disestablishment, and about that question they were practically unanimous. It would be much better for the Conservative Party to pass this Bill through the House of Commons and the House 1551 of Lords. They would greatly strengthen their own hands by so doing.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Viscount Wolmer).
§ Motion agreed to.