HC Deb 10 June 1846 vol 87 cc206-28

moved the Second Reading of this Bill. He felt it to be his duty to state to the House the grounds upon which he brought before it this, he admitted, somewhat novel and startling proposition; but he should prove that, after all, it was but a strong remedy for an extraordinary and strong grievance. It was not till all other means had been resorted to, and appeals had been made to the generosity of private individuals and to the justice and generosity of the Government, that he had been compelled to take this course. In the year 1844 a deputation had waited upon Her Majesty's Government, and, individually, upon those parties who had refused sites for churches in Scotland, to represent, in respectful and energetic language, the grievances under which the members of the Free Church laboured. He must say for Her Majesty's Government that, in private as well as in public, most of the Members gave the deputation assurances of their deepest sympathy; and their answers were to this effect, that if they had been individually concerned, they would not have hesitated to do them justice; but still no actual remedy had been afforded. In some places parties had yielded to the force of their own convictions, and partly to public opinion; but so much remained to be done, that he was compelled to come to the House to ask for a compulsory measure. The grievance, he was bound to say, was confined principally, if not altogether, to the religious body with which he was himself connected. In May, 1842, an event happened which had been termed by men whose talents and authority would transmit their names to posterity, one of the greatest revolutions that had ever taken place in this or any other country, attended with the fewest circumstances of discordancy as well as most free from acrimony and strife. In 1843 one-third of the people of Scotland separated themselves, for conscience' sake alone, from the Established Church of that country, remaining as firmly attached to the law and to the Sovereign of their country as any other party in it; and they were now suffering purely for having taken that step which they hod felt bound by conscience and honourable motives to take. On that occasion no less than 470 ordained ministers of the Church of Scotland resigned livings worth to themselves and their families of upwards of 2,000,000l., and more than 2,000 lay office-bearers of the Church followed in the train of their ministers. He must say, before he entered upon the larger and more disagreeable part of the case, that at that time, generally speaking, throughout Scotland, a readiness was shown to give to those individuals an opportunity of carrying out their religious opinions according to their own conscience. The congregations in towns were almost immediately accommodated either by Dissenting bodies, or otherwise; but in the country almost all the congregations were at first compelled to resort to the open air to carry on their religious ordinances; and it was a remarkable fact that for seventeen successive Sundays not a single drop of rain fell in Scotland. After a time, tents and other accommodations were provided. Of the numbers who, for som reason or another, refused at first to grant sites for Free churches, there had been many instances of persons who had since become convinced of the earnestness of the people, and that the movement was not a mere temporary movement, but a lasting one. He could not help mentioning one of these instances. His noble Friend the Duke of Sutherland had at first refused to grant sites for Free churches: till he was convinced that the movement was real, and that it proved an earnestness of conviction, he did not think it right to give sites for edifices which might be only temporarily occupied, and which might, under such circumstances, interfere with the Established Church of the land. The moment, however, his noble Friend became convinced that his people were in earnest, he gave way, and throughout the length and breadth of the county of Sutherland, and in other places, the Duke of Sutherland was one of the first to recognize the claims of the Free Church, and the principles of religious toleration. But there were several who still kept the congregations in a state which was disgraceful to a Christian country—to a country which claimed to itself almost exclusively the merit of respecting civil and religious liberty. It would hardly be believed that in Scotland, at this moment, there were numerous instances of congregations being compelled to hold their meetings for public worship on the seashore, on the mountain tops, and in public roads, not only for ordinary service—for sermon and public prayer—but the ordinances of baptism and of the Lord's Supper were administered in the open air. Even in the depth of winter, exposed to every inclemency, the infant babe was held up for baptism, the child was exposed, and the sacrament administered without a roof to cover the individuals assembled, and all through the wilful determination of certain individuals who took upon themselves to say, at this time of clay, "Because you choose to adopt certain opinions, you shall not carry on your worship with decency and comfort." He regretted to be obliged to bring before the House the names of individuals who had refused sites; but he had no alternative left him, as he was bound to make out to the House the peculiar hardship of the case; and he hoped the House would bear with him. The first case he should mention was that of certain Highlanders who lived in a remote district in the Isle of Skye. Lord Macdonald was a proprietor of large estates in the Isle of Skye. In the district of North Uist, Lord Macdonald had been applied to by a near relative of his own to grant a site for a Free church, his relative offering, if he did, that he would build the church at his own expense. Upon Lord Macdonald's estates there were 4,000 souls connected with the Free Church. Lord Macdonald's answer to all applicants was the same:— Sir—I beg to decline to give ground for the erection of a Free church on my property.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant, MACDONALD. In this wild district, therefore, 4,000 souls were allowed to worship in the open air, or with only the cover of canvass. Sir James Riddell had taken a rather different course from Lord Macdonald. Like him, he had refused sites, but he had addressed to his tenants affectionate letters, in which he had pursued the imprudent course of giving reasons for his refusal; for, if his refusal was hard, his reasons were ludicrous. In that district a very large proportion of the people adhered to the Free Church; and Sir J. Riddell undertook to say that they should be compelled to worship in the open air, and would not allow a Free church to be built, because he differed from his people in opinion. In short, on his property no man who did not agree with Sir James Miles Riddell shall worship within walls, or under any roof but the canopy of heaven, throughout the forty miles of Ardnamurchan! Such area Highland laird's notions of toleration even at this day. The next instance was that of Lord Moray, and it was one of peculiar hardship. Lord Moray had been applied to for a site for a Free church at Petty, where there was a congregation of 500 individuals. Several applications had been made to Lord Moray, and he regretted to say that they all had been attended with the same unhappy want of success. The members of the congregation to whom he referred were now obliged to worship under the flimsy covering of a tent, instead of possessing a substantial and sufficient building, such as they were able and willing to erect. Whether the resistance to the Free Church was to be imputed to Lord Moray himself, or to some other party having influence over him, there could be no doubt that Lord Moray was responsible in the eyes of God and man for the conduct that he permitted others to pursue. In the case of Lord Moray there might be "a power behind the throne greater than the throne itself;" but, however disposed to avoid blaming Lord Moray, he did think it only due to the House to call their attention to the animus with which this persecution of the Free Church was carried on in that part of Scotland with which Lord Moray was connected. In Aberdour there was a Free Church congregation, and they built a manse for their clergyman near Lord Moray's park. The windows of that manse looked into the park, but the ground on which it stood did not belong to the noble Lord—it was obtained by the feuars of Aberdour. But, though the site of the manse bordered on the park, it was three miles from Lord Moray's residence, and it merely was adjacent to his park. Now, the House would be surprised to hear what happened. The manse was scarcely roofed when the factor of Lord Moray ran up a dead wall within three feet of the windows of the manse; and there that dead wall stood to the present moment, a monument of the merciless persecution that was carried on with reference to the Free Church in Scotland; and if any hon. Member would take the trouble to look at a paper which he held in his hand, he would there see depicted the position of the manse with reference to the dead wall. The next case to which he thought it necessary to refer was that of the people who lived upon the estates of Lord Seafield. That noble Lord was a very large proprietor in Strathspey; and there could be little doubt that upon his estates the persecution of the Free Church was carried on with great activity. In the village of Grantown, there was a congregation of 2,000 people when regular service was supplied: a site for a church had hitherto been sought in vain. At Duthill, there was a congregation of 500: in summer it was larger. They were in no better condition. These congregations generally worshipped in the open air. He was not, however, so entirely without hope in this case as in most of the others which existed. With respect to what had occurred on the estates of Mr. Campbell, of Locknell, he should say nothing. The grave had closed upon him but lately, and he had been summoned to a higher tribunal; but he should take the liberty of saying thus much, that he hoped the successor of that gentleman would not follow his bad example, and alienate from him the affections of his people. The case of Lord Ailsa was another which he might mention. That noble Marquess having been applied to, put his refusal on very distinct grounds — "that he had determined to support the Established Church in Scotland, and he would not patronize anything which was calculated to interfere with that Church; he should therefore not accommodate the Free Church with any ground whatever." He humbly thanked Lord Ailsa; but it was his justice that the Free Church asked, not his patronage. It would not be necessary then to detain the House by going into all the special cases with which he had been supplied; but he could not omit mentioning that both Lord Cawdor and Lord Forbes had refused to grant sites. When a refusal upon this subject was received from Lord Forbes, application was made to another proprietor, his hon. Friend who seconded the Motion, for leave to bring in the present Bill. It had for a moment been unjustly supposed that he also would refuse, but that did not turn out to be the case; he did not follow the example that Lord Forbes had set, although the minister of the Established Church in the parish from which the application came, took the trouble to send to his hon. Friend a copy of the answer refusing a site, which had been received from Lord Forbes, in the hope that that reply would have induced him to give a similar answer. His hon. Friend granted a site, though unfortunately it was not so convenient as that which it was in the power of Lord Forbes to grant, but which he thought proper to refuse. He now approached the case of a noble individual for whom he entertained a very high respect. He confessed that he approached that case with great regret, for this among other reasons, that he had long been acquainted with the noble person whose name it was his duty to introduce into the present discussion. All who possessed the advantage of knowing him as a private friend were fully impressed with a very high sense of his character; and there was no doubt that towards his tenantry his conduct was generous, and even munificent—honourable traits, which only made his conduct in this matter entirely unintelligible. His course, however, in this matter assumed a very serious aspect, not only on account of the high station which he held in Scotland, but on account also of his position as a Minister of the Crown in this country. The Duke of Buccleuch was the person to whose conduct in this matter he desired to call the attention of the House. The noble Duke refused in two instances to give sites in the year 1843. He refused to accommodate any congregation of the Free Church with any spot of ground whatever. In Canonbie there was a congregation of between 600 and 800 persons: at that place the members of the Free Church were obliged to worship in a tent; the number of hearers averaged about 400; and they pitched their tent upon a piece of waste ground, and there they continued for some time, until they found it necessary to remove, in consequence of the special interdict of the Duke of Buccleuch, to which they yielded obedience on the 5th of November. Upon that day they were driven from the spot of waste ground, and the only place then at which they could assemble was one where four roads met; and from the 5th of November, 1843, till the 4th of July, 1844, they continued to assemble at that place. At length the time arrived at which it became necessary for them to administer and receive the holy communion of the Lord's supper. Preparations were made for that sacred ordinance, and it was arranged that it should be held in the open air, where the four roads met. If the congregation which there assembled had been willing to put the Duke of Buccleuch quite in the wrong, they would have adhered to the resolution which they adopted, of holding that sacred ordinance in the open air; for, according to the doctrines of that church to which he (Mr. F. Maule) and they belonged, it was of no consequence whether they worshipped God under the wide canopy of heaven, or upon the wild heath, or by the shores of the roaring sea. They held that their worship could be as calmly and as conscientiously offered to the Divine Being in those places as within the proudest fane that the wealth or ingenuity of man had ever erected—that priest had ever consecrated. It was intimated to the Duke of Buccleuch, that the congregation intended so to hold their communion; and his grace thereupon gave them the use, for that single occasion, of a field where a tent might be placed for that purpose; and there, under the shelter of their tent, they were allowed to celebrate that sacred rite. Of that leave they availed themselves, not wishing that an ordinance so sacred should be exposed to the possibility of disturbance. But let it be remembered, that after that occasion they were no longer permitted to enjoy the use of the field. On the following Sunday they were obliged to go back to their old position at the cross-roads; and there was no place in which they sought to establish a tent, that they were not sooner or later obliged to vacate, excepting that on which they had met since July, 1844. An application of no ordinary character was then made to the Duke of Buccleuch. It was one not signed by Free Churchmen, but, on the contrary, bore the signatures of 1,083 persons, belonging to every class of religionists in the parish. They were persons who entertained a high respect for the Duke of Buccleuch; and in addressing him they thought it their duty to represent that by those repeated refusals he was doing injury to his own character, and weakening his own influence. They earnestly petitioned the Duke that he would grant a site for the Free Church; but they received no answer. A petition was then addressed to the Duke by the Presbytery of Lockerby, the receipt of which was merely acknowledged. Again in July, 1844, another application was made to the Duke, to which a verbal answer was given through his factor, granting permission to erect a tent, removeable at the Duke's pleasure, wherein they now met. It might be said that there were three churches in the neighbourhood; but he assured the House that the centre of the congregation was at Limiecleugh, which was six miles from Langholm, and five and a half from Morton. Next, there was the case of Wan-lochhead, which was perhaps the highest inhabited ground in Scotland. It was a village which dated its origin from the time of the Revolution. At that time there was a German in Scotland, who thought that he saw indications there which justified an opinion that there were mines in the neighbourhood that contained the precious metals. Those expectations were not realized; but lead mines of considerable value had for a long time past been worked by the inhabitants of Wanlochhead. To show the House the hardship of this case he would sketch to them this interesting and isolated people. Without exception they all belonged to some church, and according to his information might be classed nearly as follows: The members of the Free Church there were 520; those of the Established Church 250; and though thirty-two belonged to one sect, twenty-eight to another, and nine to a third, yet there was not one inhabitant of that village who had not selected some church or other to go to; yet, though as many as six applications were made to the Duke of Buccleuch for a site there, those applications proved unsuccessful, and the people attached to the Free Church were without any means of going to church in decency and comfort. There were in that village as many as 150 persons who had for many years abstained altogether from the use of spirituous liquors; but though the inhabitants of that village were so few in number, they possessed a joint library of 1,900 volumes; and so rare amongst them was crime of any sort, that within the memory of man there had been only one conviction, and that was for forgery. Now, the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite knew that forgery, in Scotland, though against the law, was not always a crime of the same magnitude as in England. Further, it might be stated to the honour of those miners, that they contributed one shilling per cent on their earnings to the support of the poor. Was not this a village of which a landlord might well be proud? He should now ask the House what did they they think was the accommodation provided for the clergyman? He lived in a room nine feet square. If application were made to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he would not sanction such a space as a cell for a common thief. He would read an extract from a letter written by the pastor of the Free Church at Wanlochhead in these words:— My accommodation consists of one apartment, which I believe is not larger than the cabin of the Betsy, being about nine feet each side, and which if I had not accidentally obtained I must have left this place. My family lives thirty miles distant, in Maxwelltown. I am frequently attacked, and Mrs. H. more so, in moderate newspapers, for being so far separate, there being no necessity. But in September, after the disruption, I went to Sanquhar, and to Thornhill, and could find no proper house to put them in; and, therefore, was obliged to go where one could be obtained. It is no easy matter to flit often. I was born and brought up in the neighbourhood of Thornhill, within sight of the castle of Drumlanrigg, and feel deeply attached to his Grace by every tie, and would go through fire and water to oblige or benefit him, if it were in my power; and, therefore, we hope and pray that the means now using will cause his Grace to yield and grant us a site. And, further, he begged that the House would allow him to read a letter from Dr. Chalmers to the Duke, dated December 22, 1845—the last appeal, and, from a quarter which, it was thought, that no reasonable request would come in vain. Nothing could be more moderate or charitable than the tone of that letter; and yet, would it be believed, it had remained to the present hour unanswered?—

"Edinburgh, Morningside.

"My Lord Duke—The days have been when, honoured by your Grace's confidence, I held full converse with you on matters connected with the Christian good, and, as closely related to this, with the highest moral and economic well-being of the people.

"The unfortunate misunderstandings that have occurred since, have not effaced the strong conviction which our intercourse then, of some ten years back, left behind it—and that is, of your Grace's earnest and patriotic desire for the substantial prosperity and welfare, in every sense of the word, both of your own people and of the community at large.

"It is because encouraged by this persuasion, and under a deep sense of duty, that I now venture to address your Grace; and to add one interceding voice more to the many others which have been lifted up on behalf of the families of Wanlochhead and Canonbie.

"Had I the slightest apprehension that the lessons to be delivered in that church which they crave the liberty of erecting on your Grace's property were to be any other than the pure and peaceful lessons of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I should be the last to appear in favour of their humble and most righteous application. But, believing as I do that they are actuated by a real and honest religious principle, I would most respectfully implore of your Grace not to persevere in a conflict with the rights of conscience and the sacred cause of religious liberty.

"It is not a spirit of faction or of turbulence which actuates these men. They have come out from the Establishment under the impulse of what they deem to be a high and holy cause, and of convictions transmitted from those good old days of their forefathers, when Scotland could lay claim to the most intelligent and orderly, as well as the most religious population on the face of the earth. But I am not going to advocate either their particular views or my own. It is enough that they are the views of well-meaning and conscientious men, whose principles are in fullest harmony with all the demands of law and of public order; and from whom, I promise your Grace, that should you be moved to comply with their petition, you will experience nothing but the utmost loyalty and gratitude at their hands.

"I am unwilling to lengthen any further my communication, for which I have to crave your Grace's forbearance and favour. Let me hope that in the spirit of our great and blessed Mediator, who interposed between God and man, not to shut but to open the way of access for the guiltiest of our race—let me earnestly hope and pray that his blessed Spirit from above may descend upon us all; and then, while in the full enjoyment of religious freedom, might we yet look for the re-establishment both of 'peace and of truth in our days.'—I have the honour to be, my Lord Duke, your Grace's most humble and obedient servant,


"His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch."

He would not ask the House to give an opinion as to who would benefit most by this transaction, the Duke of Buccleuch or Dr. Chalmers. Such conduct on the part of the Duke was the more extraordinary, for there was no trait in his character which he (Mr. F. Maule) more admired than the admirable and disinterested manner in which his Grace had uniformly acted with regard to the distribution of church patronage. And on that subject there was an anecdote which he should take the liberty of relating to the House. One day, whilst Dr. Chalmers sat at dinner in the bosom of his family, he was told that a young man wanted to see him on business connected with the Church, Dr. Chalmers went out to him, and so modest, so simple, so unassuming was the conduct of the Duke of Buccleuch (for it was he), that the doctor thought he was a student come to ask for aid in obtaining some appointment in the Church. The Duke, however, at once undeceived him, and told him that he had come to consult him, not as to how he might get, but how he ought to distribute church patronage. The anecdote was equally honourable and creditable to the Duke and to Dr. Chalmers. The conduct of persons of such exalted rank and station was most beneficial, if directed for good—most baneful to the public, if for evil. He would next take the Duke of Richmond, who had complained that the Free Church people were disposed, when they were offered sites, to cavil at them. Now the case stood thus. The Duke of Richmond had offered twelve sites for churches to the people on his property. Of these eleven had at once been accepted, without stop or hesitation to consider whether they were eligibly situated or not. They were taken, too, not for ever or for long terms, but on leases for only nineteen years, and the Free Church congregations had invested large amounts of property in building both churches and schools upon them. The twelfth site they certainly had refused to accept, because it was situated remote from the place where their congregation resided. It was in the upper part of the parish of Inner Avon, some miles from where they were chiefly collected, and amongst a people who were almost exclusively Roman Catholics. When they expostulated, the Duke replied that he thought they had better go to the upper part of the parish, where they could have plenty to do in converting the Roman Catholics. They said they did not want to convert the Roman Catholics; they only wanted to worship in peace after their own fashion, and they wished the Roman Catholics to worship after their own fashion also. He (Mr. F. Maule) thought he had now made out a sufficient case of individual hardship, of great intolerance, and of great persecution, to warrant sufficiently the interference which he sought. To show that foreigners looked upon it as such, he would refer to the published report of a divine of no mean reputation, he meant Dr. Merle D'Aubigne, who had thus expressed himself in a letter to Dr. Chalmers:— I may tell you frankly, dear and venerable brother, that this refusal of sites is perhaps the only painful impression which I carry away from Scotland. A foreigner comes into your land as into that of the gospel and of liberty, and he sees there things which are not to be met with in the most despotic countries of the Continent. How can this denial of religious liberty accord with the national character of Scotland? This is to the stranger an inconsistency which it is impossible for him to explain. Had I been deputed to the General Assembly of the Establishment, as I was to yours and to the Continental Associations of Edinburgh and Glasgow, I would have spoken there to propose a measure from that body in favour of religious liberty. I do not doubt, that all the honourable men who are found in it will feel themselves called upon to propose such a step, should the refusal of sites last another year. But I hope that it will not last, and that the painful impression which the stranger now receives will be quickly effaced. I do not hesitate in saying, the honour of Scotland is engaged in it. The honour of Scotland was so engaged; and if the Established Church of Scotland, which had lately shown a sympathy with persecution elsewhere, would extend it to those whom they believed to be more hostile to her than they really were, she would do more to disarm prejudice than by the course she was now taking. She had sympathized with the Canton de Vaud; but after she had looked at and expressed an opinion on the persecution abroad, let her now look at and ponder on persecution at home. He was not without hope of the Government aid; for he had in favour of the principle of his proposal the written declaration of the head of the Government on the introduction of the Maynooth Bill, which would be equally applicable to any proprietors of any country; and of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in his deprecation of the proceedings in the Canton de Vaud, which he could not avoid quoting. The Premier, in introducing the measure for Maynooth, and in speaking of Protestant proprietors in Ireland with Catholic tenantry, said— Such a man, his tenantry being all Roman Catholic, and he deriving his wealth from their labour, should rather say, 'I should act against the will of the Supreme Judge of all if I refused my assistance in order that you should enjoy the consolations of religion. I feel a conviction that I shall act more in accordance with the principles of the faith which I profess, by seeing that you have those consolations. I differ from you on religious doctrines; but still my wish is, that in the hour of need, you should receive spiritual instruction and consolation from the hands of those from whom you can derive them. I will consent, therefore, and I will give you a piece of ground for a chapel.' If I were in such a position, should I violate any precept, in the face of the country, of the holy religion which I profess, were I to act in this liberal spirit? Again, what says Lord Aberdeen to the rulers of the Canton de Vaud? They did not merely refuse ground to build, but they silenced the preachers:— Her Majesty's Government are unable to comprehend how any peculiarity of legislation or position can be considered as justifying a departure from those first principles of civil and religious freedom, the maintenance of which forms the distinction of civilized Christian States, and had, till now, been the boast of the Canton do Vaud. On the contrary, Her Majesty's Government were entitled to expect that those Cantons would call themselves liberal, would have been solicitous to establish their claim to that title, by setting the example of a scrupulous regard, equally for the rights and liberties of their own citizens, as for those of their confederates. These were noble opinions—entirely concurrent with his case. He (Mr. F. Maule) wished that Her Majesty's Ministers would turn their eyes from the Canton of Vaud to Scotland, and apply there those opinions which they had expressed with regard to other places. Let them remember the Free Church of Scotland was not an isolated body consisting of few and scanty congregations. In 1843 the considerable number of 470 ministers resigned their livings, and they were followed by many who had not livings, so that there were about 500 congregations: these had now increased to 831 congregations. Since 1843, that poor country had for religious and ecclesiastical purposes subscribed and paid into the Bank within 100,000l. of 1,000,000l., and with the sums uncollected, but quite certain to be paid, the whole amount would exceed 1,100,000l. They had built about 600 churches; 40 more were in progress, and many more would be built within a succeeding year or two. There had been subscribed for manses upwards of 112,000l., and 191 manses had been built for the accommodation of the ministers. They had also conferred a boon, for which the country was indebted to them, by founding 558 places of education, for which they had provided 46 teachers with a salary of 20l. each, 41 teachers with a salary of 15l.each, 273 teachers with a salary of 10l. a year each, and 200 teachers receiving no salary at all. These schools communicated knowledge on no sectarian principle; they gave a moral, religious, and general education, and all might come within its range. They were also establishing, and there would be soon established, an ornament to the city of Edinburgh—a theological college for this Free Church. In the course of three weeks, twenty-one individuals had subscribed the magnificent sum of 21,000l. The college was in the hands of one of the most eminent architects Scotland had produced, Mr. Playfair; and this college would not only be an ornament in itself, but in it nothing would be disseminated but pure gospel truth, and no lessons taught but lessons of peace. This was the body for which he claimed the interference of the Legislature. The Bill proposed to take from the proprietors a certain portion of their land forcibly and without their consent. If he looked for precedents, he might find them in the case of lighthouses, where, for an object beneficial for all nations, the Trinity-house was allowed to take such lands as would answer their purpose; but he passed by all precedents, and said at once that his Bill was founded on imperative necessity, and its machinery taken from an Act called "Lord Roseberry's Act." By that Act permission was given to the owners of entailed property to alienate it for precisely the same purposes as he asked by this Bill; and he took the same machinery, he left it to the same judicial officer to see that individual comforts were not interfered with, and that the new churches were not built within objectionable distances from the Established churches, and he left it to the sheriff to fix the price of the land; but where the former Act only permitted alienation, he would, under the circumstances of Scotland, compel the sale. He admitted that, to a certain extent, this was an interference with private property; but they interfered in the cases of railways and canals, with the addition of exposing the proprietors to the expense of a fruitless opposition. But then it might be said, that in those cases the Legislature said by the Act itself the exact property that should be taken, and the manner of taking it; and that he might have brought in a private Bill for each site; but could he propose such an enormous expense after the efforts which these parties had made, and which would be entailed on them to maintain their own church? There were duties with reference to property which, if neglected, made it liable to the risk of its being interfered with by the Legislature; and after the instances he had quoted—and the more he could quote — no one would stand up and deny that the duties of private property had not been grossly neglected. He asked the House which was the best of the two alternatives — whether they should pass this Bill, by which, at the instance of a judicial officer, responsible to that House and the Executive Government, an eighth of an acre in some instances, one-fourth in others, and at the most two acres of a man's land, might be taken to provide sites whereon to build churches; or whether they should refuse it, and thereby engender in the breasts of one third of the people of a great country a spirit of discontent and hostility towards those who made the laws by which they were governed, as well as towards their landlords, and spread amongst them disaffection and despair of any remedy for their grievances? If they did not meet the evil, and nip in the bud the cause of discontent, it would so extend as to place his country in the same position as a neighbouring country, and to make Scotland as discontented as Ireland. Men were but men, and there was a point to which tyranny might go; but at which it must stop at last. There was a point at which human endurance ceased, when the hope of amelioration was lost. His country had not yet lost hope; but if the blessed hope they still entertained were frustrated, the consequences might be disastrous. If, deprived of the means of religious instruction in the only way which she could conscientiously accept it, the poor Highlanders of the Free Church should once more become a savage because an ignorant race, the fault, he hesitated not to say, would lie at the door of the Legislature, which had refused to interpose when they might have prevented the evil. All that the Free Church asked for was simple toleration. They asked not for grants or endowments—they would repudiate them if offered; they asked only for toleration, that every man in the country should be permitted to worship God in decency and peace; and if that were refused them, he could not answer for the course which many might pursue under such desperate circumstances. It had been said of their church, by those who had most foully calumniated them, that they had taught lessons in that church disrespectful to the law, and tending to subvert the obedience of men to that law. He denied that fact; they only claimed for themselves the right of worshipping God according to their consciences—a right which they were prepared to concede to all the world. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.


Sir, knowing as I do the deep interest which the right hon. Gentleman takes in the subject which he has brought under your notice, and admitting also that this subject is deeply interesting to a very large portion of his fellow countrymen, I cannot in justice complain of the length of time he has occupied in addressing you upon this occasion; but the remaining portion of the time allotted for the discussion of the day being short, I shall not follow the example of the right hon. Gentleman by trespassing at any great length upon your patience. But at the same time I think it necessary that I should at once rise to address you after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and I can say with great truth that I approach this subject for the second time with heartfelt pain. This subject was discussed towards the close of last Session, and my feelings with respect to it, so far from being altered, have, if possible, received a deeper tone from the consideration I have given to it, and from the observations that have been made upon it by others. I cannot but regard the large secession which took place from the Scotch Church in 1842 as a great national calamity. I admit that that secession was large—I admit also that the evil of the secession was great—and I also admit that the conduct of the ministers who seceded was pure and disinterested—disinterested in an eminent degree; because for conscience' sake they made a sacrifice of their temporal interests. There are many principles for which the right hon. Gentleman has contended, against which not only am I not prepared to argue, but which I readily admit. I admit, for instance, that it is not for the interest of religion that the evils complained of should exist; and, I am convinced that persecution on the part of an ecclesiastical establishment is not only contrary to the interest of that establishment, but a disgrace to it. I also adopt every expression that fell from my right hon. Friend the First Minister of the Crown upon this subject on a former occasion. I adopt also most gladly, and I am proud of the opinions expressed by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in a despatch written by him with respect to ecclesiastical persecutions in the Canton de Vaud. With respect to my noble Friend, it is not sympathy in the spirit of toleration only, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will allow that upon this very matter of granting sites, Lord Aberdeen, immediately after the secession, was the very first person in Scotland who set the example. My noble Friend necessarily took an active part officially in the discussions with that portion of the Established Church of Scotland which seceded; and no sooner had the secession taken place, than upon his own property he took the earliest opportunity of granting sites for the erection of Free Church places of worship. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted several instances in which sites have been refused. I am not prepared to follow him through those details; but I would beg him to observe that the instances of refusal which he has brought before us are few in number, although they are not unimportant, from the rank of the persons who gave those refusals. The right hon. Gentleman, however, made many important admissions. He said, that nothing but extreme necessity could justify legislative interference; and he said also, which is most important, that when this secession first took place, there was, on the part of many landed proprietors in Scotland, a disposition, which he did not blame them for, to wait and to see whether this disruption might not be healed, and whether a reunion with the Established Church, in a case where there was no doctrinal difference, might not still be effected; for, although I do not say that because in a matter of conscience the groundwork of difference may in the eyes of spectators be small, therefore the secession may not be justified; yet in this case, it must be remembered that the Westminister Confession of Faith is common to both parties; and therefore, in point of doctrine, there is no substantial difference—the difference is only one of discipline. Still I admit that the rights of conscience are not varied by that circumstance. But I was about to remark that the right hon. Gentleman had admitted that in some cases the proprietors were not to be blamed if, in the first instance, they refused to admit that this secession was permanent; and the right hon. Gentleman has stated, that the Duke of Sutherland and many proprietors in the north of Scotland hesitated in the first instance, in the hope that the secession might not continue; but directly they felt the painful truth that it was of a permanent character, they recalled their refusals and had granted sites. [Mr. F. MAULE: I said "some proprietors," not "many."] In Ross-shire I am told that many proprietors refused, but they have also withdrawn their refusals, and the progress of time will have the effect of softening that indisposition on their part; and I believe that in a short time, if you will wait a little longer—without any violent interterpotion of law, all that you desire will be effected. With reference to the case mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, of a wall having been built on some property of the Earl of Moray, close to the windows of a new church, it appears to have arisen from some misunderstanding on the part of Lord Moray's factor, and without the knowledge of Lord Moray himself. I hope the House will not imagine that I justify acts of that kind; but I fear that, if you pass this Bill, you will infallibly fall into the evils which the right hon. Gentleman referred to in the case of Lord Moray, and will increase the social bitterness which exists in that country, and aggravate all the evils which you are so anxious to mitigate and allay. You may compel the granting of sites; but you cannot prohibit the building of walls on adjacent lands. Then the right hon. Gentleman referred to the case of a Colleague of mine, and he mentioned two parishes, with one of which I am acquainted — the parish of Canonbie. I admit that, in the case of that parish, no site has been granted for the building of a new church; but there are three churches already there—the average distance from them of all parts of the parish not being more than four or five miles. I do not say that this is a justification of the refusal of a site; but still I contend that with regard to the circumstances of Scotland, a distance of four or five miles from a church is not attended in that country by the same inconvenience as here. And then the right hon. Gentleman said, that the minister of Wanlochhead was compelled to reside in a place not nine feet square. These cases are much to be deplored, and I cannot but think there must be some deep-seated cause for such conduct as the right hon. Gentleman has described in such an individual as my noble Friend the Duke of Buccleuch. What did the right hon. Gentleman admit? He admitted that towards his neighbours and tenantry the general character of my noble Friend was that of a benevolent and kindhearted man; that even with respect to the church, he disposed of his patronage, which was large, not from any political or interested motives, but with a sincere desire for the spiritual welfare of the parishioners. He has told you, highly to the honour of the noble Duke, whose manner and conduct upon all occasions is anything but presumptuous, of an interview with Dr. Chalmers, when he wanted to promote the welfare and peace of a parish by consulting him with regard to the disposal of certain church patronage. And here I must say that I can never mention Dr. Chalmers's name without expressing the high opinion I entertain of his merits. I once had the honour of enjoying his friendship. I venerate his character, I admire his talents, and I respect in the highest degree that single-mindedness that renders him pre-eminently remarkable among the great men of the present day. I say, therefore, for that individual I can feel nothing but warm respect and veneration. Can it be, then, that the Duke of Buccleuch, having sought confidential intercourse with Dr. Chalmers, having heretofore consulted with him as to the disposal of his church patronage, should have made the refusal referred to by the right hon. Gentleman without some strong and justifying cause? May there not be some deeply-seated cause for the disapprobation evinced by the Duke of Buccleuch towards the seceders from the Church? I say it with pain, but I am satisfied of this, that there are two causes which at the present time have operated in the resistance on the part of conscientious men with reference to the progress of the establishment of the Free Church. Those men, being conscientious friends to the Established Church, have been deeply grieved by the conduct of the seceders; for not only have those seceders left the Church, because they disapproved of its discipline only, and not its doctrines, but they have gone forth, attempting to alienate others from it also, and to work its overthrow. Their cry has been, "Down with it, down with it; it is an abomination." Such being their conduct with respect to an Establishment which others love and revere, you must make some allowance for human infirmity if, in the first instance, persons should be reluctant to aid in particular localities where they possess property those who were actuated by so hostile and unchristian a feeling towards the Establishment they loved. A spirit of bitterness and anger, from causes acting and reacting upon each other, has thus been mutually engendered; and the consequence has been that the ministers of the Free Church in those localities have used their influence on public occasions to denounce in angry and unjust terms the proprietors themselves to their tenants. This is all natural; but, as I said, it acts and reacts, and an angry feeling is thus excited and interchanged. This I have no doubt is the true explanation why a man so kind, so generous, and who is anxious to consult the wishes of his tenantry, and who is not disposed to resist public opinion—this is the reason why the Duke of Buccleuch has not given those facilities for building churches upon his estates which, under other circumstances, he would have done spontaneously. [Mr. F. MAULE: He never did it anywhere.] The Duke of Richmond, in eleven out of twelve parishes, has granted sites; and the cases of complaint are, therefore, narrowed to one out of twelve against him. What are the general circumstances on the showing of the right hon. Gentleman himself? The Free Church has already built 600 churches, and there are 40 churches now building. It has funds to the amount of 1,000,000l. The number of parish churches in connexion with the Establishment is 1,100; and the Free Church has, therefore, already built more than half the whole number of churches in connexion with the Establishment. There is no want of funds and ample means; and my own strong opinion is, that unless you interfere prematurely and unnecessarily with the course of law, all that you can desire will be effected within a short time. I will not go into a searching criticism of the speech of the hon. Member. But if you extend the principle of such a measure to Scotland, why should you not extend it also to Ireland and England? Why, too, should you limit it to a Christian congregation? Here, then, are two knotty questions which meet you—why should you restrict the Bill to Scotland? and why should you restrict it to a Christian congregation? The spirit of toleration knows no such limits. You ought to extend the measure, if it be a sound one, to every part of England, and to every sect, without an exception. I don't wish to put the principle of an Established Church higher than it ought to be placed; but it is the duty of the Legislature to take care that in every district of the country, within a reasonable distance, there should be a religious edifice in connexion with the Establishment, where the whole community may have the opportunity to meet for religious worship. It is consistent with toleration that the State should offer no impediment to the means of religious worship, carried on without the aid of the State—not by the State, but by the permission of the State. But what is the Legislature asked to do here? That a power should be given, limited to Scotland, to take by force of law four and a half acres of land in each parish for the use of one sect. It may be presumed that the parish church in each parish is in the most convenient situation. Assuming, there fore, that the Dissenters are dispersed through the parish, as the members of the Established Church are scattered, the probability is that the sheriff, acting under the powers of this Act, will choose a position for the Free church immediately adjacent to the parish church. If this Bill is extended to other sects, we shall have all the churches of all the Dissenters brought to one spot; and there will be a Babel of dissent in every parish, where, by the force of law, churches, schools, and schoolmasters, without the consent of the landowners, are brought together in a state of chaotic confusion and of angry discord. I object to this Bill, because I can see no public good arising from it. Religious strife will be increased by it; and I do not believe that it is necessary. The proprietors of land in Scotland generally exercise their rights with moderation, and are amenable to public opinion; and I believe that they will not hold out and refuse sites for churches and schoolhouses. On the whole, I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman should press his Bill now, when it is admitted that this step is extraordinary, that it is unjustifiable, and that it is unprecedented. I deny the analogy between the present case and that of railroads; and I doubt the propriety even of the Established Church possessing a power of this kind. A doubtful power of taking sites is said to be given by the Church Building Act; but it is so guarded and restricted, that in practice it cannot be carried into effect. I object to the Bill, because so far from adding to the prospect of religious peace and harmony, it will greatly aggravate existing evils. It is not a message of peace, and concord will not be its fruit. It is, therefore, my duty to move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.


rose to speak in defence of religious toleration. Freedom of conscience and religious toleration were not confined to congregations, but extended to the individuals who were the proprietors of land. What right had the hon. Member to quote the names of different individuals who had acted from conscientious motives, and to say that they ought to be bound, either voluntarily or otherwise, to give encouragement to a cause which they believed not to be right? They had consciences as well as Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Candlish. He agreed with the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that the question ought to be discussed on larger grounds than as between the Free Church of Scotland and the Establishment in that country. Instead of being built in those parts of the parish where there was a want of religious accommodation, his information led him to believe that the Free churches had been placed as nearly as possible in juxtaposition with the parish church, for the purpose of drawing away the old congregation to the new church. The inconvenience complained of by the refusal of sites only existed, it was admitted, in a very few instances. No difficulty was felt in towns, but only in distant parts of the country; and it would be, in his opinion, a gross act of tyranny to compel proprietors to give their land. He should support the Amendment that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Debate adjourned.

House adjourned at Six o'clock.