HC Deb 07 June 1848 vol 99 cc475-98

On the Motion that the Speaker do now leave the chair for the House to go into Committee on the Places of Worship (Scotland) Bill,


felt, notwithstanding he was intimately connected with Scotland, that, representing as he did an English constituency, he ought to make some apology to the Members for Scotland for opposing this measure. He made that apology by quoting the words of Swift, "When the house is in danger of being robbed, the weakest of the family runs to stop the door." He, however, must add, that he felt imperatively called upon to take this step, for when this important subject was discussed the other day, no person made any objection to a measure which, he was sure, if they knew its true meaning and tendency, they would have opposed as strongly as he did. He thought, in a question of so much importance, it was essential to the proper consideration of the question, that the House, and particularly those hon. Members who had not paid much attention to the subject, should know what were the principles and opinions of those persons who demanded sites for their meeting-houses in Scotland. Members of the House, it might be, were not aware of the origin of the Free Kirk movement. Did they know that it only commenced in 1834, and that up to that time the question had created no interest since the reign of Queen Anne, when the law respecting the patronage of the Scottish Church was settled The House could not, however, be unaware that the Free Kirk of Scotland went first into the courts of law, and were beaten in the Auchterarder case; that they then appealed to the House of Lords, and that their Lordships also rejected their appeal. They admitted the jurisdiction of the courts by appealing to them; but when they were beaten, then the Free Kirk men turned round and said, "We will separate ourselves; we will secede from the Established Church." Had it been on a question of doctrine, he could have understood it; he could have respected a question of doctrine or of faith, but this was a question only of patronage. Dr. Candlish and Dr. Chalmers wanted to take the whole of the patronage into their own hands, and that was the secret of the whole movement. But he hoped the House would remember that these gentlemen, having gained by the patronage system—having accepted that patronage themselves—turned round and used the power it had given them to injure those who had benefited them. But what was the number that seceded Admitting that the question was one which ought to have been discussed in the General Assembly, which he doubted, the number of seceders was only 294, not more than one-third of the whole members of the Assembly. Let them also consider what were the number of sites that had been refused. The whole number was 29, while upwards of 600 had been granted to them. So far from having any ground of complaint, in a pastoral address, issued in 1846, it was said— We desire to acknowledge with heartfelt gratitude that the opposition to our cause has given way in many instances, in proportion as it was made manifest to all that the aim of the Free Church was directed not to the one third of any temporal establishment, but to the maintenance and extension of the spiritual kingdom of Christ; and we hope that these symptoms of growing liberality and kindness will be duly appreciated by all our people. In 1846 they said that, and in 1848 the right hon. Gentleman who presided over the Committee which sat in 1847 brought in this Bill to compel the proprietors to give sites. If this separation from the Church was a matter of faith, the case would be entirely different; but the real object of the move was to overthrow the Established Church of Scotland. In the report of the Committee over which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fox Maule) presided, there was not one word which suggested the propriety of introducing such a Bill. It certainly did say that proprietors should grant sites, as a means of preserving good feeling among all parties, but it said not a word about a Bill to make them. That, however, afforded no grounds for this Bill; and, while speaking of that report, he must complain of the misrepresentations it contained with respect to the Duke of Richmond. It held that excellent nobleman up to public odium for having refused sites; the positive fact at the same time being that his Grace had offered these people sites, and that they had refused them; and now the House of Commons was called on to say, by this Bill, that they shall be authorised by Act of Parliament to take possession of any ground they choose to select. He should like the House to know what the Free Kirk really was. Did hon. Members know that it had been associated with every republican movement that had taken place in Scotland since its baleful and strife-creating advent If this was doubted, let hon. Members refer to the evidence given before the Committee; and he would also quote, in proof of this assertion, from a last week's paper, published under the authority of the Free Kirk, an article appearing in their organ, the Witness. The hon. Member read the following passage:— Who are revolutionists We would seriously warn the Duke of Buccleuch that intolerance like his, so associated with dastardly meanness, is of more revolutionary tendency than all the pike and powder speeches of Chartist orators. We would warn our aristocracy that they are creating the very dangers which they dread. If consciences are enthralled or debauched, mankind are debased and corrupted. It is to this that the labours of not a few lords and lairds are now tending. And what would be the result of their complete success? What but the outbreaking of this corruption—a foul flood, but mighty enough to sweep them and their coronets and their castles away. Would they be safe with serfs Let them remember the recent stories of the nobles of Gallicia. And let them read again the history of the "reign of terror," and ponder the social and internal history of France for the previous century. Had there ever been anything published, even in Ireland, under the auspices of Mr. Mitchel or Mr. Meagher, more mischievous, more republican, or more outrageous than that extract He believed not, and he thought the House would agree with that opinion. Here, however, was another extract from the Witness:In every case let the person and property of the hireling be sacred; whether he occupy the pulpit of Dr. M'Donald of Urquhart, or of Dr. Burns of Kilsyth, of Mr. M'Leod of Snizort, or of Mr. Stewart of Cromarty, let his person be as sacred as if the Court of Session had presented to the charge one of its red-nosed macers, or as if he were not the Erastian parson, but the constable, or sheriff officer, or thief-catcher of the district. But to his safety and his property let this sense of sacredness be restricted; let it on no occasion be forgotten that he is the person on whose behalf the proprietor is flagrantly oppressive and unjust. And these are the men who come to ask us to force the gentlemen of whom they so speak to give them sites. Let him be regarded as virtually the one excommunicated man of the district—the man with whom no one is to join in prayer—whose church is to be avoided as an impure and unholy place—whose addresses are not to be listened to—whose visits are not to be received—who is to be everywhere put under the ban of the community; and until the proprietor raises the siege of the Free Church on his part, let it be held imperative by the people that the siege of the residuary clergyman and the residuary church be kept up on theirs. There is to be a contest of wills in this matter; and there is standing equally legal for both the antagonist parties engaged in it. But while the people have justice as well as law on their side, our hostile proprietary have law only; and so, if the Scottish character has not lost its old characteristic firmness, if our Whiggism of the old school be still the old dour Whiggism—the Whiggism that has been rarely broken, and never once bent, the better cause in the end must infallibly prevail. [Mr. F. MAULE: When was that written?] In 1847; I have not the date; but it is admitted in the evidence from which I take the extract to he from their own paper, the Witness. [Mr. F. MAULE: The Witness is not the organ of the Free Kirk.] If the right hon. Gentleman really means to assert that, all I have said falls to the ground. [Mr. F. MAULE: I say that most distinctly.] This is certainly a new light thrown upon the subject. It is received as the organ of the Free Kirk party; it is always thought so; and the Witness represents itself to be the organ. [Mr. DRUMMOND here put a copy of the Witness into the hands of Mr. B. Cochrane, and pointed out a passage on the subject, which the hon. Gentleman read. It was a portion of a letter addressed to the editor as the organ of the party, in express terms, an honour not declined in any way or shape. The hon. Member then proceeded.] In order to show the mild and Christian spirit of the leaders of the Free Kirk move, he would quote a speech delivered by Dr. Chalmers himself. He was reported, in the evidence taken before the Committee, to have been asked if he still held his opinions with respect to the "deep guilt" of those who adhered to the Establishment He replied that he did, and then he said as follows:— Even though, through our keeping by this principle, and proclaiming it everywhere, the Scottish Establishment, now the stronghold of that Erastianism which has driven us from its bowers, should be laid prostrate in the dust, and along with it the subsistence of all its dependent families; surely you cannot expect that the principle which we could not give up for the sake of our own livings, we must now give up and cease to act upon for the sake of the livings of other people. This were truly the ultraism of being righteous overmuch. It were not only loving our neighbours as ourselves, but loving them a great deal better than ourselves. Let them hear Dr. Chalmers again, and mark the tone he assumed in talking of that Establishment of which he had been all his life a member:— You say (was the question) that a restoration is possible Yes; but if I were to state the process, it would appear, I fear, so extravagant, that I have not the slightest hope of its being at present brought about. We must, of course, provide for the perfect integrity of our own ecclesiastical principles; and I do not see how that can be done, except by the Legislature adopting the Free Church as the Establishment, and then leaving us to deal with the ministers of the Established Church as so many ecclesiastical delinquents, who have forsaken their original principles. I dare say that we should be very mild, and indulgent in dealing with them, so far as was consistent with our principles. I state this in answer to your question; but at the same time I have not the slightest hope that it is a measure which will soon be carried out; though we would certainly treat those ministers in a way that would be attended with less severity upon them personally than our sufferings have amounted to. If there was such a resolution of the Legislature come to, I would venture to say that there should be no such thing as an instant deprivation of the emoluments of office of any individual, but they should be left to die out; and when a parish was vacant, it should be filled up by a licentiate of the Free Church; and in that way there would be a substitution of a church with its original principles for a church with its altered principles. That of itself, however, would not, I think, satisfy the Free Church now. What a beautiful specimen of Free Kirk moderation! He was sorry to trouble the House; but he was anxious to lay before them his grounds for believing, which he most honestly did, that the aim of the Free Kirk move was to overthrow the Establishment. This design appeared distinctly in the following answers given by several parties to Sir James Graham, when they were examined before the Committee. Dr. Candlish is reported to have said this:— The same view of duty which led us to leave it (the Establishment) will also of course lead us to aim at the Overthrow of the Establishment that remains. Do you think it your duty to maintain, or if by lawful means you can, to subvert, what you consider the Erastian Establishment—I do not precisely know what is meant by lawful means. We feel that our position is one of submission to the authority which we respect, to revere the civil authority in this country, and we would not do anything against the Established Church that is not consistent with the laws of the country as they stand. We would do nothing of that kind; we entertain a high sense of the respect that is due to lawful authority as an appointment of God, and therefore we would refrain from anything upon which that construction could fairly be put. But, on the other hand, if we could, by our prayers or our preaching, or our diligent and faithful spiritual services, lead all the people of Scotland to right apprehensions of what we consider to be the truth of God, we would certainly aim at that, and exert ourselves for that purpose. You would use every effort, in any parish where you were placed, to draw the inhabitants of the parish, the members of the Established Church, to the creed which you believe to be the right one—Yes; but it would be through a knowledge of Christ. There they plainly and distinctly avow their object and intention of overthrowing the Establishment; and now we are asked (continued the hon. Gentleman) to pass a measure which is to compel proprietors, however conscientiously differing from the opinions advocated by the Free Church party, to give sites for churches where a system of religion would he preached of which they disapprove, leading to dissent, to misery, and to wretchedness. I do not see that they have great cause to complain, when they feel strong in this secession. I sincerely trust, that after the observations I have made, the House will throw out this measure. I regret exceedingly that the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's late Government is not now in his place to address the House on this subject, as nothing could be stronger than the language he employed in speaking upon it in 1843:— If the House of Commons is prepared to depart from those principles upon which the Reformation is founded, and which principles are essential to the maintenance of the civil and religious liberties of this country—whether it proceeds from the Church of Rome or from the Presbyterian Church of Scotland—nothing but evil would result; the greatest evil of which would be, the establishment of religious domination, endangering the religion of the country and the civil rights of man. The right hon. Gentleman opposite shook his head when the principles of civil and religious liberty were spoken of; but I maintain that the movement of the Free Church of Scotland commenced with the Reform Bill. It was a Radical movement from the beginning; and I would only refer to the acts committed in the north of Scotland, and to the arrogant conduct manifested towards those who did hot yield at once. It is on these grounds that I hoped the House would throw out the Bill; and I cannot conceive—according to their own statement, and the pastoral address which they issued, and in which they admitted that they had been treated with kindness—I cannot conceive how, because a few sites are refused to them, they can come forward and think that a measure is to be introduced to compel a proprietor, whatever may be his conscientious conviction on the subject, to give them a site. In the evidence of the Committee appointed to examine into this subject, there was a letter from Sir James Riddle, containing a beautiful passage supporting this view of the question; the letter having been written in answer to an application made to him for a site. Concurring fully in those sentiments, I shall deem it my duty to oppose a Bill setting at defiance the law and the courts of law of Scotland. Truly has it been said that— The Puritan and Presbyterian seed Vie with hot haste to make religion bleed, To ruin Prelacy, their only creed: But since they from the Lord are so disjointed, Not to respect the edicts he appointed, How can they reverence the Lord's anointed? And this, I think, has been said in terms severe enough to reprobate the conduct of the Free Kirk, for the manner in which it has pressed its claims, and for the language which its adherents have used on every public occasion, calculated to spread misery and dissension among the heretofore happy parishes of Scotland. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving, as an Amendment, that the Bill be committed that day six months.


had entertained great hopes when this question was introduced to the House on three former occasions, that they would have discussed it free from all those feelings of party hostility which, though they once embittered the subject, he trusted were then fast passing away, and would never again be touched on in that House. It was not his intention to follow the hon. Member through all the subjects of recrimination which he had alluded to; but he must be permitted to point out how truly ignorant he was of all the grounds on which this question rested, and of the facts which had led to, and were connected with, the secession of which he had said so much. No man lamented those proceedings more than he did; but no "an would more firmly maintain that those who had separated from the Established Church of Scotland, did so because they had no other course to pursue if they meant to maintain faithfully the principles which they deemed to be right. With regard to the numbers that had seceded at the time of the first secession, they had been computed by the hon. Member at 292, whereas they were in point of fact, 472. Allusion had been made by the hon. Member to the disaffection to the laws and institutions of the country which was alleged to exist amongst the clergy and laity of the Free Church; but the hon. Member was never more mistaken in his life than when he asserted that the men who composed that Church were connected, however remotely, with any disorderly or disloyal movement. S There was not a body of men in the empire who were better disposed towards the laws, nor was there any which was more anxious to disseminate religious principles throughout the land than those who composed the Free Church of Scotland. The hon. Member would have it supposed that they were disaffected towards the laws, because they could not make their conscientious convictions conform to a decision of the House of Lords. He (Mr. F. Maule) could see no great harm on their part, or on that of any other class of loyal men, in disputing the decision even of so high a tribunal as the House of Lords. It would be borne in mind, that although the decision of that august tribunal—in the case of the Free Church—stood as the decision of the law, and was practically respected as such, some of the highest legal authorities in the courts of Scotland were to this day of opinion that the view taken of the question at issue was the correct one. But as the law of the land had decided to the contrary, the members of the Free Church had succumbed unmurmuringly to the decision of the last court of appeal in this country; and, maintaining their principles, hesitated not to resign the stipends, manses, and glebes which they had enjoyed as members of the Established Church. He would not follow the hon. Member through all the quotations he had made from the evidence that was adduced before the Committee. The hon. Member had alluded to the Witness newspaper, and had spoken of that journal as though it were the authorised and accredited organ of the Free Church party—but such was not the fact. During the sittings of the Committee the question was asked over and over again, whether that paper was or was not the organ of the Free Church and again and again it was answered in the negative. The fact was, that that body had no authorised organ whatever. It was very true that the paper in question was edited by a member of the Free Church, and it was also true that it presented to the public more diffusely and more accurately than other papers what occurred at the meetings and assemblies of the Free Church; but it was equally incontestable that it was not the legitimate and accredited organ of that body. Many articles had appeared in it which were condemned by the Free Church, and which had done injury to it; and recently some articles had appeared in it with reference to his noble Friend the Duke of Buccleuch, which he, for one, was very sorry to have seen published in it; and which, so far from having any authority from the Free Church, had been repudiated by the assembly. The hon. Member had spoken slightingly of the mighty dead. He had talked flippantly of the evidence given by that great man, and had endeavoured to misrepresent it. [Mr. B. COCHRANE had done nothing of the kind.] If he had any satisfaction in this matter, it was in the reflection that the House, in listening to the speech of the hon. Member, would probably feel with him so much disgust, that they would be the less inclined to support the Motion with which he had concluded it. That great man, Dr. Chalmers, would, if he were now alive, dispose of the attack of the hon. Member just as he would brush a fly from his back. If the House should adopt the principles of the bill now under consideration, they would spread peace and contentment through many districts of his country; but if, on the contrary, they should reject it, they would leave an undying source of grievance still rankling in the minds of a large portion of the Scottish population.


denied most emphatically that he had spoken disrespectfully of Dr. Chalmers. It was true that he had quoted from the evidence of Dr. Chalmers, and it was also true that he had spoken of him as a man: of high name and eminent position. Surely the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to advance such a doctrine as this, that, because Dr. Chalmers was unfortunately no longer in existence, he was to be precluded from referring to hi" evidence.


felt it was only due to his hon. Friend the Member for Bridport to say, that he had not understood his speech in the sense which had been attributed to it relating to Dr. Chalmers. He regretted very much—considering his hon. Friend had already had an opportunity of expressing his disapprobation of those who claimed this Bill as a remedy for their grievances, that he should have thought it his duty to offer this opposition to the Bill in its present stage. And, having listened to his speech very attentively, he was at a loss to conceive what good he expected to gain by prolonging a discussion which tended only to promote feelings which should be discouraged. Had he consulted his own feelings only, he should have much preferred giving an entirely silent vote; but representing, as he did, a large constituency who were all one way or another deeply interested in the fate of this Bill, and representing a county which had been the scene of many of the grievances complained of, he felt he should be hardly justified in doing so. He had no feeling connected with this question stronger than the hope he entertained that all superfluous discussion might be as much as possible abridged, on a matter which he sincerely lamented should ever have been brought before the notice of this House at all. He would not enter into the past history of the Free Church, or of the hardships complained of by its members; nor would he analyse the complaints of arrogance and want of humility of which they had been accused by their opponents. He believed that there had been faults on both sides. He would only say that, as a Scotchman, he believed he was pretty well acquainted with the real nature and the true extent of the grievances complained of; and it was his opinion that those grievances ought to be relieved. He bad looked attentively into the Bill; and he was bound to say, that while he considered it a practical and sufficient remedy for all that had been complained of, he did not think that what it required from the proprietors of land was in any way arbitrary, because, make the rights of property as stringent as possible, still there were two boons which could not be refused, even to the pauper: the one was, sufficient land upon which to worship God during his lifetime; and sufficient land to inter him after his death. With this impression, he hoped that the House would unanimously and speedily come to the conclusion that the sooner this question was decided, and the Bill passed into a law, the more speedily we are likely to do justice, not to one party, but to all parties in Scotland—not to the Free Church only, but to the best interests of the Established Church also. He felt justified in urging this mode of proceeding, because he could not in any way be supposed to do so from any interested motives, or from party bias, seeing that he was one of those who deeply deplored the schism that had taken place in the Church of Scotland. Indeed, he for one did not think that the cause of religion was advanced by such importance being given to any church at all—an importance which was due to our faith alone. But he thought that it was of the highest importance that the existing feeling in Scotland should be allayed. The schism had taken place, and everything should be done to prevent the unity of the church, which had unfortunately been destroyed, from being turned into open hostility. He wished to say nothing harsh against the Free Church. He hoped they might prove themselves worthy of all that was claimed for them; but he distinctly wished to state that he gave his vote to-day for the sake of Christianity, not especially for the sake of the Free Church.


remarked, that the Free Church had attained its present position without such an exceptional measure as was now asked for it; and he entertained no doubt that it would ultimately attain all that was desired without resorting to an alteration of the statute law of the kingdom in its special favour. The animosity which had existed on the Free Church question was now greatly allayed, and he thought that this Bill would tend to revive rather than diminish it. By this time those noblemen who had been alluded to would no doubt reconsider their determination, upon finding that this movement was no ephemeral burst of enthusiasm, but the true religious feeling of a large portion of the people of Scotland. When that fact was properly understood, those proprietors would no longer refuse sites. He had no objection to a measure giving to any body of Christian men a right of procuring sites for the purpose of worship; but he could not conscientiously give that special privilege to one body in Scotland only, merely because in the first enthusiasm of the division some persons might have behaved unjustly.


Sir, when this Bill was last before the House, I took the liberty of expressing my regret that so important a subject was discussed in the absence of almost every Member of the Government. I expressed still more regret that a vote should have been taken without any discussion. I trust that this latter circumstance may be pleaded as my excuse for going more at length into the subject than I should otherwise have done. In the first place, however, I cannot help remarking, that I read in the Scottish Guardian, with considerable pain, the following passage in the Scottish quarter:— It is somewhat curious to notice the chief ground of resistance to the Bill taken up oven by those who have no great love to the Free Church, namely, that if it had been a special measure, intended for their relief exclusively, they would gladly have supported it; but extending, as it does, to all dissenters of whatever denomination, they felt compelled to give their opposition to so sweeping a measure. We may, however, rest assured, that had the Bill been restricted to the case of the Free Church, many of these same parties would have been equally loud in denouncing the pretension of the Free Church in seeking to be placed on a different footing from other non-established bodies, and to get exclusive advantages which she would not concede to others, and in declaring, that though they might have considered favourably a general measure, they could give no countenance to such an exclusively sectarian Bill. Now, Sir, I think such a charge unbecoming. I have never in this House stated any thing as being the reason for my vote, which was not the reason, and I never shall do so. Before I sit down I hope to be able to show, that so far from raising fictitious objections to this Bill, for the purpose of preventing the Free Church from obtaining sites, I am most anxious that these sites should be obtained, and this controversy settled. Sir, I beg leave to disclaim all feeling of hostility to the Free Church. Opposed to her I am, and must be—holding as I do the tenets of a Church very different from her. But I feel no personal hostility. Nay, I entertain on some points sentiments of high admiration and sympathy for her. I applaud the sacrifice she made in renouncing the endowment and alliance of the State, when she thought her liberty infringed. I admire the sacrifices she has made, and is still making, to carry her principles and her teaching to every corner of Scotland. When I look, as I have lately done with some care, into the history of the secession, I can, in no small degree, sympathise with the motives which led to it. If any one will examine the documents of that period, he will not be surprised, if he knew anything of the previous ecclesiastical history of Scotland, at what then happened. He will find that the Court of Session interfered with the spiritual courts of Scotland, in a manner which could not but offend the great body of a people peculiarly jealous of such interference. He will find in the Auchterarder case, that of thirteen Judges five pronounced against the competence of the Court to entertain the question brought before it. He will find that Lord Fullarton, a most learned and distinguished Judge, declared his opinion of that incompetence in the Culsamond case. In the Strathbogie case, the same learned Judge differed from his brethren on the bench, yet the Court interfered to compel ecclesiastical officers to proceed to ordination, although inhibited by their esclesiastical superiors. And I might go on to show, that in nearly every instance you had a divided bench pronouncing judgments on intricate points of law—all which points affected, in a strong degree, the feelings and, if you will, the prejudices of Scotland; which feelings and prejudices, as I believe, truly represent the real Presbyterian belief of that country. When I consider these things, especially when I look at them with Scottish eyes, I cannot wonder that my countrymen, in large numbers, left the Establishment. Now, Sir, when I look at what these men have done to maintain their cause, what do I find? I find that there are 684 ministers chargeable on the sustentation fund, which this year amounts to 88,974l., giving upwards of 120l. a year from that fund to every minister. The congregational fund amounts this year to 71,686l., and consists of sums raised by the different congregations for the ministers of each. The two funds, if added together, would give an average of 200l. a year and upwards for the clergy of the Free Church—an average, I believe, considerably more than that which the clergy of the Church of England receive. But this is mot all, they also raise money for building churches and manses, for missions, and for education. The whole amount raised by them in 1847—a year of great distress and almost famine—was 276,496l., upwards of a quarter of a million of money; in 1846, it reached 300,000l., I believe. The whole Sum collected by them since 1843, amounts to 1,590,462l. 17s. 6½d., being more than 300,000l. a year. Let us compare this with the revenues of the Established Church. The whole amount of tithe payable by the land of Scotland, the rental of which amounts to 9,500,000l. sterling, is 177,470l. a year; and, including the value of manses, glebes, and Exchequer allowances, the whole value of the State endowment of the Church of Scotland, is, as I find in a memorial presented to Sir Robert Peel in 1843, under 200,000l. Here, then, we have a church in which "not many noble, not many wealthy" are numbered, collecting voluntarily 76,000l. a year more than all the wealth of Scotland contributes to the Established Church. Truly it may be said, "they did cast in of their abundance; she, out of her want, hath cast in all that she hath." Such is the comparison I must draw between the endowment of the State, and the voluntary oblations of the Free Church. But when I compare the Free Church to the communion to which I belong—the Episcopal Church of Scotland—shame almost seals my lips. Sir, the present Episcopal Church of Scotland numbers among its members the noblest and the richest of the land. I have heard it said that the rental of its members amounts to two-thirds of the whole rent of Scotland—yet what has been done for her? The Episcopal Church Society collected, if I rightly understand the account which I hold in my hand, something less than 3,649l. This sum affords the means of making up the poorer livings to 90l. a year. The Free Church pays 128l. a year from the sustentation fund alone. Such is the comparison I draw—such is the contribution of the high-born and the wealthy to a Church which boasts, and not without reason, of a pure apostolic descent, whose members in the last century shed their blood and lavished their means in a desperate cause, with a desperate heroism; and we, their descendants, have not even built again the altars which in that century were overthrown. We give this pittance to our clergy, and we starve our bishops. When I see all this, what can I say but that the Free Church has given a noble testimony to the sincerity of her religious belief—that she has read us a lesson at which we should blush, and set us an example worthy of being immediately followed. After what I have said, I trust that I shall not be accused of hostility to the Free Church. I am most anxious that this matter should be settled, but I must state the objections I still entertain to the Bill before the House. Now, I must repeat that the evil complained of is one of a very partial nature. The Free Church have nearly 700 ministers in Scotland, yet there are not, I think, more than twenty-two instances of refusals of sites—of these twenty-two cases there are only eight where the people worship in the open air. Now, I would ask, whether there are sufficient grounds for so sweeping a measure? The localities where sites are refused, or where indeed they can he refused with effect, are not numerous; for it is only where one proprietor hostile to the Free Church possesses a large trace of country, that his refusal can prevent a site from being found. Yet you extend this power to every corner of Scotland. You extend it to towns where there never has been any difficulty in obtaining sites, except the difficulty of paying for them. The evil too, is, I am convinced, one of a temporary nature. Much heat and animosity were excited at the time of the secession by the language used by members of the Free Church. That heat has cooled; that language has ceased in a great measure; I trust it will soon entirely cease and be forgotten; yet you prefer a lasting measure for this passing evil. Moreover, you propose to extend these compulsory powers to every sect in Scotland, to every hundred persons of any Christian denomination, who choose to say they want to build a place for any species of what they call religious worship. Now, I will take the liberty of saying, that there is not one single body of any denomination, except the Free Church, which asks such a measure at your hands. Nay, more, I will, with permission of the House, read to you a protest against the Bill by a body of Dissenters of great influence on this side of the border—I mean the Independents:—

"Sites for Chapels Bill.—At a meeting of the Scottish Board for Protecting the Civil Rights of Congregational Dissenters, held in Edinburgh on Monday, 1st May, 1848, the attention of the members being called to the Bill recently introduced into Parliament by Mr. Bouverie, intituled, 'A Bill to enable Religious Congregations in Scotland to obtain Sites for Places of Worship,' the following resolutions were moved by Dr. W. Lindsay Alexander, seconded by the Rev. William Swan, and unanimously agreed to:—

"1. That this Board being decidedly opposed to the use of ail compulsion in the service of the Church of Christ, and regarding the Sites for Chapels Bill of Mr. Bouverie, as proceeding upon the principle that in certain specified cases the holders of land may be legally compelled to furnish sites for the erection of places of worship, are constrained to express their disapprobation of said Bill on this ground; for whilst they admit the obvious difference between compulsion, when used to effect the sale of land, and compulsion when used to effect the payment of money for the support of the gospel, they are nevertheless of opinion that in neither ease is such compulsion compatible with the spiritual nature of the Church.

"2. That whilst maintaining that every holder of land is morally bound in the sight of God, the Great Proprietor of all, not to prevent any body of Christians from worshipping God according to the dictates of their own consciences by refusing to sell them a portion of the soil on which to erect a building for that purpose; and whilst deploring and condemning the conduct of those proprietors who have so acted in reference to any body of Christians, as well as sincerely sympathising with those who have recently been exposed to suffering on this account—the members of this Board, at the same time, think that this claim should be enforced by moral means alone, and, as respects their own denomination, would rather that it should continue to suffer (as in times past it has repeatedly suffered) inconvenience and injury from the refusal of sites for chapels, than be armed with authority to extort this right from an unwilling landlord, by the strong hand of the civil power.—By order of the Board,

"JAMES M'LAREN, Chairman.

"JOHN STEWART, Secretary."

These resolutions were passed a month ago. I have heard not a syllable of any counter resolutions from any other body of Dissenters. I am led then to believe, that these sentiments do not materially differ from those of the great body of Dissenters in Scotland. If this be so, then, why grant powers which not only are not asked for, but which are repelled Why, in such circumstances take a step which to many appear an invasion, and in this instance a wanton invasion, on the rights of private property To sum up in a few words my objections, they are these: The number of cases of hardship are few—they are confined to particular localities—they are confined to one sect—the powers of this Bill are asked for by no other sect—by one they are repelled—the evil is of a temporary nature—yet you propose a general measure for these few cases—a national Act for some local grievances—a catholic remedy for a sectarian evil—an enduring statute for a temporary inconvenience. Such, Sir, are the objections which I entertain to this Bill. I stated them on a former occasion; and I then said, that I trusted my hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie) would announce some modification. I regret he has not done so. My hon. Friend the Member for the county of Roxburgh has given notice of certain amendments which he intends to move in Committee—limiting the operation of the Act to the Free Church, and limiting its duration to two years. Now, I confess that I was disposed to support such a course. I have, however, heard objections from persons for whose superior judgment I entertain so much respect, that I begin to doubt the soundness of my own in the matter. If any better plan is proposed, I shall be glad to vote for it. I will however say, and I trust I may do so without offence, that I look upon the Free Church movement, to a certain extent, as a national one in Scotland—that I believe that Church is very nearly the ideal of what the Scottish Reformers proposed to themselves—that the agitation of this question creates much ill blood in Scotland—that it is impossible for any Member for Scotland to vote on the question, one way or the other, without offending a portion of his constituents—that for all these reasons I think it most desirable the matter should be settled once and for ever. For my own part I should, if I followed my unaided judgment, have agreed to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Berwickshire. I trust, however, that before the debate is closed, some better plan may be suggested, which will meet with the approbation of my hon. Friend who introduced the Bill, and of the Secretary at War who supports it.


At the outset of the observations which I think it necessary to address to the House, I must frankly say that I am compelled to enter once again into the discussion of this subject with more pain and regret than I can well describe. It is an important subject, but I have always regarded it as a painful subject; and, moreover, certain allusions have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridport, which add very deeply to the pain I feel in approaching it. I cannot forget the circumstance, which my hon. Friend has brought to the recollection of the House, that in the Committee of last Session I was brought into collision, more or less hostile, with one of the most eminent men that Scotland has produced during the last century—I of course allude to the late Dr. Chalmers. Here I may be permitted to state, that from my earliest youth I had been honoured with the acquaintance and friendship of that great divine. I admired him as a great philosopher; I venerated him as the most successful champion of evangelical truth; and at no time of my life can I erase from my memory the obligations to him under which I conceive Scotland to lie. I was also brought into contact with another distinguished person, Mr. Spiers, the late Sheriff of Edinburgh—now also no more. And here I will read to the House a short passage from a sermon to which allusion was made in the examination of Dr. Chalmers before the Committee of last year. [The right hon. Baronet read the extract, which was to the general effect that Dr. Chalmers, a great man, and Mr. Spiers, an honest man, had happily gone from this con- tentious world of quarrels and divisions—that they had escaped from the church militant to the church triumphant—and he hoped and believed that they had found that the world of everlasting life was also the world of everlasting peace.] I could much wish, Sir (continued the right hon. Baronet), to enter upon this discussion in the spirit of peace and conciliation, and not in the temper of anger and strife. I think it useless to refer to the origin of this unhappy struggle. Looking back to those transactions occuring during my public life in which I have borne a part, I can truly say I know of nothing upon which I reflect with more anxiety, than on the part I have thought it my duty to take with reference to the secession of the Free Church from the Establishment in Scotland. I look upon it as the most unfortunate occurrence in modern times as regards the religious peace and happiness of Scotland. I must ever regard that secession as a most unfortunate event; and again I say I should deeply regret if any unintentional error of judgment on my part should have precipitated that event, which I consider a national calamity. But I do not know that in the discharge of my duty I could have taken any other course. It cannot be dissembled that that secession numbers in its ranks a very large portion of the entire population of Scotland—I do not think less than one-third—but at the same time I do not think that this fact constitutes a claim for the seceding body to be treated as a national establishment. And this brings me to the bearings of the Bill now before the House. I must look at the Bill first of all in the state in which it is now presented to us; and, looking at it as a Bill about to pass in its present shape without alteration, I must say I have grave and serious objections to it. It involves a great and general principle. If that principle be really sound, it is a principle which ought not to be confined to Scotland, but which ought to be brought into general operation in every part of the United Kingdom. Now, if you apply that principle to the United Kingdom, consider the terms that are used; in the Bill. It provides that members of any religious congregation shall, under certain reservations of minor importance, have a legal right to obtain sites, not for churches only, but for dwellings for their ministers, and for their burying-grounds, to the-extent of about three acres. If this principle were to be of general application, observe its practical effect in England, in regard to the many religious sects into which the community is unhappily divided. In populous districts there are, no doubt, many parishes in which ten or more different religious persuasions or denominations are settled. Each one of these sects would have the right to demand and select the number of acres allowed for the purpose of a chapel, a manse, and burying-ground; and in the case of small parishes in which the population is dense, I leave the House to judge how much confusion and discontent would arise, and what infractions of the rights of property would take place. Yet, on the whole, the owners of property in England and in Ireland are not inexorable; and if there were no great difficulty in obtaining sites in those parts of the United Kingdom, why should the owners of land in Scotland be deprived of the privilege of doing that as a matter of grace and favour which persons of the same class, their fellow-subjects elsewhere, are accustomed to do of their own free will for it was generally felt by them, as well as by others, that every facility ought to be given to the people of this country to enable them to worship God in a manner agreeable to their consciences. He considered legislation on a subject such as this at the present moment extremely inexpedient. To the Bill as it stood he entertained insuperable objections; for England and Ireland it was quite unnecessary, while as regarded Scotland his hon. Friend had stated the case most accurately. He admitted that the extent of the secession was very great; and he was perfectly ready to acknowledge that the members of the Free Church in Scotland were very numerous. Further, he understood that as many as 725 churches had been erected for the use of as many seceding congregations belonging to the Free Church; the sites for which churches had been obtained by grant or purchase. In adverting to this fact, he of course confined himself to Scotland, and he found that at present there were only 30 seceding congregations deprived of sites, and that only eight landlords persevered in refusing them. From the proceedings which took place last Session he had ventured to hope that any pretext for legislation upon this subject would have been avoided by concession, for the cases of absolute refusal by proprietors had been very few. It was true that since this subject had been before Parliament last year, only one concession had been made; but he fully believed that they would have heard of more concessions but for the present ill-advised attempt at legislation. He had reason to believe that if the present measure had not been introduced, other voluntary grants of sites would have been made. He was glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Secretary at War) that the Witness newspaper was not the organ of the Free Church; but whether that journal was to be so considered or not, it was well known to have put forward very severe strictures upon the Duke of Buccleuch respecting his conduct with regard to the Free Church. With the Duke of Buccleuch he had himself been associated in public life; he also enjoyed the advantage of his private friendship—his own property was contiguous to that of the Duke; and he could say, without flattery—which he should scorn to use—that, on the whole, a more kind, more generous, and more just man, did not exist. He knew how the property of the noble Duke was managed, and he knew also, that, with the exception of the matter of the Free Church, there was not a tenant, not a labourer, not a poor man living on the estates of the Duke, who would not be ready to say more in his praise than he (Sir J. Graham) had then said. Still, the best of men were but men; and it was impossible, considering the attacks made upon the noble Duke in the Witness newspaper (to which the hon. Member for Bridport referred), that he should continue to be free from some feelings of resentment. No such articles could be published without leaving in his mind a rankling sore. His hon. Friend had referred to some portion of the comparison there instituted between the Scottish and the Galician nobles, and to the caution there given them, that in the one case as in the other their serfs would rise against them and overturn their power. This was rather a strong indication of the temper and feeling which that journal desired to excite. But it was well known that its columns abounded with charges of the most serious kind against the Duke of Buccleuch, imputing to him religious bigotry, and alleging that he was influenced by a determination to clear his estates of all tenants who were members of the Free Church. It was well known that the Duke of Buccleuch publicly vindicated himself from that accusation; that he had shown those charges to have been false, calumnious, and malignant. The charges were withdrawn; and it was not now pretended that the noble Duke had been actuated by any such motives as were then imputed to him. It was somewhat a matter of regret to him that the noble Duke had not yielded to public opinion. He (Sir J. Graham) should, perhaps, not exercising a better judgment, have adopted a different course. With regard, however, to the cases in which sites for churches had been refused, he could not but regard them as cases of exceptions, which ought pot to become the subject of any measure of general legislation, for they were not dependent upon any general principle. He should not go the length of saying but that legislation might be necessary in the last resort; but he altogether objected to such legislation as was proposed by means of the present Bill, for he thought that it was by private Acts and not by public legislation that the evil ought to be met, and that each case should stand upon substantive ground—that it should be made the subject of a private Bill, not of a sweeping measure. To this course it appeared to him that there could be no objection excepting that of expense. Now, upon that point, he must beg to observe that there were in the Free Church 800,000 members; that they had subscribed 1,000,000l. of money already for Church purposes; that they had built 725 churches; it would not, therefore, be pretended that if there were any case of gross oppression affecting the Free Church, they could not in half an hour raise the funds necessary for their own defence and the vindication of their own rights. Here, then, he would say that there was no case for general legislation, and that if time were given, no measure such as this would be necessary. If circumstances showed that there existed a disposition to adhere to an unjust refusal, a salutary check would he found in bringing each case before Parliament. The evidence might be taken, the facts strictly examined, and to that mode of proceeding he should give his consent. It was not, perhaps, necessary that he should express his opinions any further upon these topics; upon the whole it appeared to him that a general enactment was not expedient. If they went into Committee, possibly the proposition of the hon. Member for Roxburgh might remove many objections; still he entertained strong aversion to a measure such as the Bill now under consideration. If it were likely to prove advantageous to the Free Church of Scotland, why confine it to that body The hon. Member for Ayrshire read a resolution showing that many persons (the old Seceders and Independents, as we understood) were opposed to this mode of legislation; and, for his own part, he did not see why the members of the Free Church were alone entitled to its benefits; further, he must be allowed to say that he did not see how it could be defended except upon general grounds—a species of defence to which it was not entitled. Although he thought the Amendment now proposed might be some improvement, he still should vote against the further progress of the measure, expressing at the same time a strong desire that even the private legislation to which he referred might be superseded by the voluntary concessions of the landowners in Scotland.


lamented sincerely the introduction of the Bill then before them, for he thought that if the lauded proprietors were allowed to take their own course, a great deal of the angry feeling which now prevailed might by this time have altogether subsided, and all the sites at present refused by landlords might have been cheerfully conceded. There were very few cases in which the parties attending Free churches bad more than five miles to travel—a distance which any one acquainted with Scotland must know did not exceed the distance which members of the Established Church frequently were required to pass over. After what the House had heard with regard to the conduct of the Duke of Buccleuch, it was not necessary for him to trouble them with many observations upon that subject; he desired only to say, it would be no wonder if that noble person felt no small degree of resentment at the treatment he had received; for his proceedings had been illustrated by pictures, and he had been abused up hill and down dale. He, as well as the right hon. Baronet behind him, was glad to hear that the Witness was not the organ of the Free Church, though it formerly had been. Its charges against the Duke of Buccleuch were most numerous and most unjust. Not one Free Church minister in those districts where the noble Duke had been reported to have interfered so harshly, was ever examined before the Committee.


, having always objected to interference with property, and to the introduction of Bills connected with religious matters, wished to state that he supported the present Bill for the sake of peace. If they were to have religious liberty in Scotland, they should also have the means of enjoying it. Though the cases of complaint might be few, the sooner they were settled the better; and the only mode of settling them peaceably and speedily appeared to be by means of the present measure.


wished to explain why he intended to give a different vote on the present occasion from that he gave on the second reading of the Bill. When the Bill was brought forward no one opposed it; the House went to a division without a discussion, and there appeared to be a strong primâ facie case in favour of the measure. Under these circumstances, he had thought that it would not have been treating that highly influential and respectable body the Free Church in a proper manner if they had refused to enter into the consideration of their case. That day, however, a discussion had taken place, and what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon had convinced him (Mr. Spooner), that, looking to the peace and interests of the Free Church itself, it would be the duty of the House not to go into Committee on the Bill.

The House divided on the question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question:—Ayes 84; Noes 59: Majority 25.

List of the AYES.
Armstrong, Sir A. Fortescue, C.
Bailey, J. Fox, W. J.
Baines, M. T. Freeston, Col.
Bellew, R. M. Greene, J.
Bernal, R. Grenfell, C. W.
Bowring, Dr. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Boyd, J. Hall, Sir B.
Brotherton, J. Hardcastle, J. A.
Bunbury, E. H. Hastie, A.
Buxton, Sir E. N. Hayter, W. G.
Chichester, Lord J. L. Heywood, J.
Clay, J. Hobhouse, T. B.
Clay, Sir E. Hume, J.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Jervis, Sir J.
Corbally, M. E. M'Taggart, Sir J.
Cowan, C. Maitland, T.
Craig, W. G. Marshall, J. G.
Crawford, W. S. Marshall, W.
Dalrymple, Capt. Matheson, J.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Matheson, Col.
Drumlanrig, Visct. Melgund, Visct.
Duff, G. S. Mitchell, T. A.
Duncan, G. Morgan, H. K. G.
Dundas, G. Morpeth, Visct.
Ellice, E. Morris, D.
Elliot, hon. J. E. O'Brien, J.
Evans, W. O'Connell, M. J.
Ewart, W. Perfect, R.
Fergus, J. Pilkington, J.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Power, Dr.
Fordyee, A. D. Pusey, P.
Forster, M. Rawdon, Col.
Reynolds, J. Tennent, R. J.
Ricardo, J. L. Thicknesse, R. A.
Robartes, T. J. A. Thornely, T.
Roche, E. B. Traill, G.
Rutherford, A. Westhead, J. P.
Scholefield, W. Williams, J.
Smollett, A. Wilson, M.
Somerville,rt.hn. Sir W. Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.
Stansfield, W. R. C.
Stuart, Lord D. TELLERS.
Stuart, Lord J. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Talfourd, Serj. Bouverie, R.
List of the NOES.
Arkwright, G. Hodgson, W. N.
Bankes, G. Hood, Sir A.
Barrington, Visct. Hope, Sir J.
Benbow, J. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Beresford, W. Johnstone, Sir J.
Bourke, R. S. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Bowles, Adm. Lacy, H. C.
Brackley, Visct. Lascelles, hon. E.
Bruce, C. L. C. Lockhart, A. E.
Cayley, E. S. Lockhart, W.
Cholmeley, Sir M. Mackenzie, W. F.
Christopher, R. A. M'Neill, D.
Christy, S. Milnes, R. M.
Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G. Oswald, A.
Cocks, T. S. Packe, C. W.
Conolly, Col. Patten, J. W.
Damer, hon. Col. Reid, Col.
Deedes, W. Repton, G. W. J.
Drummond, H Rushout, Capt.
Drummond, H. H. Scott, hon. F.
Duncombe, hon. A. Seymer, H. K.
Duncombe, hon. O. Sibthorp, Col.
Du Pre, C. G. Spearman, H. J.
Edwards, H. Stafford, A.
Estcourt, J. B. B. Stuart. J.
Farrer, J. Thompson, Col.
Floyer, J. Wall, C. B.
Gordon, Adm. Willoughby, Sir H
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. TELLERS.
Halsey, T. P. Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Spooner, R.

House went into Committee pro formâ and resumed.

House adjourned a few minutes before Sis o'clock.