§ Sir Andrew Leith Hay
I beg to ask the right hon. Baronet whether he have received official information as to the extent of secession which has already taken place from the Church of Scotland? Secondly, I wish to ask whether it be the intention of Ministers to follow up the declaration contained in her Majesty's letter presented by her commissioner to the General Assembly, stating (when too late) the readiness of the Government to legislate for the settlement of the church question; and if so, whether it be contemplated to introduce the bill formerly proposed by Lord Aberdeen, or any measure of a similar tendency? I do this in order that the people of Scotland may be aware of what they have to expect, and be prepared to resist the same to the last extremity.
§ Sir James Graham:
The concluding observation of the hon. Gentleman has taken me by surprise. The first question was, whether the Government had received official information as to the extent of the secession from the Church of Scotland? I have only received this morning from the high commissioner the answer of the General Assembly to her Majesty's address. That was accompanied with an official statement, and with a protest, which has already appeared in the ordinary channels. I cannot collect from the protest a declaration of absolute secession from the church; I collect from it only a secession from the General Assembly. The commissioners statement is to the effect that ninety-three endowed ministers of the Established Church have 688 retired, besides a great number of lay members, and some quoad sacra ministers. With regard to the intention of the Government, as to legislative measures, I have at this moment nothing to add to the declaration made in this and in the other House of Parliament by her Majesty's servants. The assurances we have given we are perfectly prepared to fulfil.