MR. BOUVERIE, in rising to move the Second Reading of the Places of Worship Sites (Scotland) Bill, said, that it was not without some reluctance that he did so. The Bill involved, if not a novel principle, at least a new application of an old one. But it was rendered necessary by certain persons, not many in number, but considerable in power, whose conduct injuriously affected the best interests of a number of our fellow-subjects, and was not, as he contended, consistent with those principles of toleration which were supposed to be embodied in our laws. He deplored the conduct of which he spoke, as much as any man in that House or out of it, because it was exhibited by persons, some of them of high character in their country—persons of that position that their example for good or for evil had necessarily great weight with the public. But he deplored still more the circumstances which that conduct had occasioned; and it was those circumstances that constituted his justification and reason for asking the House to assent to the second reading of this Bill. The Bill was entitled, "A Bill to enable Religious Congregations in Scotland to obtain Sites for Places of Worship;" and he proposed to state briefly to the House, first, the grievance which had given occasion for this Bill; and, next, the remedy by which he proposed to remove that grievance. Now, there could be no dispute or doubt as to the facts of the case. They did not admit of being disputed. They had been made the subject of investigation before a Committee of that House of which he was chairman. That Committee sat for a considerable time, and before
it the principal facts of the case were thoroughly sifted and investigated. He would read to the House part of the unanimous report of that Committee, which would place before the House the general aspect of the facts brought before the Committee. The Committee stated that—
They found that there was a number of Christian congregations in Scotland which had no places of worship within a reasonable distance of their homes, where they could unite in the public service of Almighty God, according to their conscientious convictions of religious duty, under convenient shelter from the severity of a northern climate.
And they went on to state that—
It has been proved to your Committee that the members of these congregations are in the habit of meeting for public worship in places and under circumstances which are unfit for the administration of the sacred ordinances of the Christian religion, and which expose both the ministers and the people to weather injurious to their health, and to inconveniences which ought not to attend the free exercise of religious privileges.
That was the unanimous opinion of the Committee; and he would shortly trouble the House whilst he substantiated that general view which the Committee took of the facts which were proved before them, by a reference to portions of the evidence taken on that occasion. There was one case—that of Canonbie in the county of Dumfries—in which the congregation was shown to suffer much inconvenience in consequence of the refusal to sell sites for the erection of places of worship. He would read from the evidence of the minister of that congregation (who bad since died), for the purpose of showing the mode in which they were compelled to join in divine worship. It appeared that at first, and for a considerable time, this congregation had no shelter at all; but they were ultimately permitted to erect a tent in a gravel pit. The evidence of the gentleman in question was not contradicted—it could not admit of a dispute. He was asked this question—
Does the tent protect you from the severity of the weather?—In the winter of 1846–6, I often saw the rain freely percolating through the canvass and filling on the heads of the hearers. I often saw the seats thoroughly wet, as if they had been dragged through the river. I often saw the floor a puddle of mud. We got a tent better weather-proofed for this winter; but in keeping out the rain we kept in the damp that rises from the ground in the tent—the vapour in the tent—and I often in this winter received complaints from the people that the seats were covered with hoar frost; and I saw the melted congealed moisture from the roof of the tent falling upon the heads of the worshippers; the cold was intense, and particularly when the Sabbath school was
opened for instruction after public worship, it was very difficult indeed for the children and teachers to bear it.
He would now quote to the House from the evidence which had been produced relative to the case of a congregation in Skyo, where there were several other congregations in a similar position. The clergyman of one of these congregations, after he had stated that they were in the habit of meeting for public worship, since they left the Church of Scotland, in the open air, was asked—
Is there any shelter at all from the weather?—I have some shelter, but the people have none. Have you preached in all weathers?—Yes, in all weathers. Have you preached there in a fall of snow?—A very heavy fall of snow. Have you preached when the snow has been falling so heavily that you could scarcely distinguish the congregation from the ground except by their faces?—Yes.
A clergyman who ministered to a congregation in the eastern part of Scotland was asked under what circumstances his congregation united in divine worship; and he said that he had preached on the 22nd of November, 1846, during an incessant fall of rain; that he preached again, towards the end of January, when there was again a fall of rain, without intermission, during the whole of the service. He preached again on the 14th of February, when there was deep snow, and it was very stormy; and he had on some occasions administered baptism under those circumstances. He did not like to weary the House with quoting details, but he thought it was necessary he should fully substantiate the truth of the general statement made by the Committee; and, with the permission of the House, therefore, he would refer to one or two more cases. The first was that of Torosay in Mull, where there was no stated minister regularly to perform divine service. The people there were occasionally visited by ministers, who performed the duties of their office. A clergyman was asked whether he had ever administered the sacrament at Torosay, and he replied that he had done so in 1845.
Where did you administer it?—In a gravel pit, within high-water mark. Was there any shelter from the
weather?—There was a canvass tent, which had been a good deal torn and spoilt before I went there. Was that merely for the minister?—There were a number of people underneath the canvass, but there were as many outside exposed more directly to the weather.
He would only trouble the House with one other case, .which was that of a congregation
gation at Leadhills, in Lanarkshire. A clergyman from that district proved that he was obliged to conduct divine service for the people in the open air, exposed to rain, frost, and snow; and on one occasion he had to be lifted off the stone from which he had preached, he was so cold. Now, these were some of the cases, and he might say, perhaps, the principal cases, which were detailed in evidence before the Committee. The evil which was proved to exist then, he was sorry to say, mainly continued to exist still. There was only one case—the case of Sir James Riddell—in which there had been any indication of a disposition on the part of those who had the power to relieve these poor people from the circumstances under which they suffered. The number altogether of these congregations was supposed by the Committee not to exceed thirty-five; and all of them, as the House was aware, belonged to that great body which left the Church of Scotland five years ago, and which had now settled down into a great Presbyterian Church, embracing between one-third and one-fourth of the whole population of Scotland, and which must certainly influence the future welfare and history of Scotland to a very great extent. These congregations, in common with the rest of their body, as many Members of that House were probably aware, abandoned the Church to which they and their forefathers had belonged, rather than, as they supposed, sanction its adherence to a principle of spiritual sub-serviency to the State. They had, from that time until now, worshipped in the way that he had described, and would continue so to worship, as he believed, unless some relief were given by which the owners of domains as large, in some instances, as whole counties or a German principality, were compelled to sell a small spot of their extensive estates for the purpose of erecting a place of worship thereon, which might protect the purchasers from the severities of a northern climate. He contended that the House ought not to permit the present state of matters in Scotland, in reference to this question, if they could possibly prevent it. That state was not conducive to the interests of the public or of religion; and he contended that if he could suggest a remedy, it was their duty to exercise the highest function which they could fulfil—the protection of the weak against the strong, and to adopt it. It was their duty to endeavour to devise a remedy, and having devised it, to apply it for the benefit of
these poor people. That remedy he bad endeavoured to find; he believed it was contained in the Bill which he intended to move should be read a second time; and having stated (he hoped briefly) the nature of the grievance of which these people justly complained, he would endeavour to explain shortly to the House the provisions of this Bill. This Bill then, proposed that congregations should be enabled to procure sites for places of worship, by making application to the highest court of justice in Scotland, the Court of Session, which had great administrative powers. The application was to be made in a formal manner, and the Court of Session would give notice to the proprietor, whose lands were alleged by the petitioners to be necessary to be taken for sites for places of worship. There would be a power on the part of the proprietor to contradict the statements in the petition; there was to be a formal investigation before the sheriff, who would report to the court; and where the Court of Session decided that the material allegations in the petition had been sustained, the sheriff should be directed to go to the estate, and select a proper place, with certain limitations as regarded the convenience of the proprietor; and a further provision was made that the expenses of the investigation, and for the conveyance in proper form of the land so taken, should fall upon those applying for the site. It was, in short, a power to take land compulsorily in certain cases where none other could be got, for the purpose of enabling religious congregations to erect places of worship. Now, he knew very well that here he should be met with the objection, and it was a grave one, that, in making this proposition, he was interfering with the rights of property. But he said that, while he admitted the fact, he denied the inference, because he contended that the proposition which he made came within the operation of the principle which the House acted upon every day, without that principle being ever disputed. There was not a Member who would not see, that, in the case of railways, every Bill which was brought before the House for the construction of a railway contained clauses to the same effect as those contained in the present Bill; and their introduction was assented to without demur. They held in that House—for there was no other principle which could justify that interference—they held that they had a right to say to the proprietor of a certain piece of land, "Provided you are
compensated for the loss of this land, it is but just that the public interest and convenience should override your right." And they went even further than this—they deprived a proprietor, in cases where the public interest was concerned, of land, for which it was impossible to compensate him. He recollected, about four years ago, a case in point. He was on a Railway Committee, in which a proprietor of land was an opponent. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Smyth), who was now a Member of this House, but was not then, was possessed of one of the prettiest seats in Yorkshire, which happened to be located at a junction of railways—the Manchester and Leeds, he believed, and the North Midland. The proposed line was to run across from one to the other, and so place his house in the centre of a small triangle. He naturally objected to the destruction of his seat, which must ensue if the Bill were sanctioned in its original shape; but, notwithstanding the great beauty of his property, he was told by the Committee that inasmuch as the public convenience required it for the purposes of the railway, his objection must be overruled, and he must be content to accept what was deemed the worth, by a fair valuation of the property; although in truth to him it was impossible to fix its value. He knew another case of a similar kind. He alluded to the case of a gentleman which, perhaps, might be known to some Members of that House. His property was situate in Devonshire, close to the sea; the railway ran between his house and the sea; and he believed he might almost say that that gentleman died of a broken heart, in consequence of the destruction of his property thus occasioned. He recollected that about three years ago, the House passed an Act for the construction of a park in Battersea. By that Act some three or four hundred acres were to be taken, under compulsory clauses, from the owners for the construction of a park. And what great public necessity was there for those powers? There was no overruling necessity at all. There was the knowledge that it was desirable at some future day, whenever that neighbourhood was likely to become populous, to construct a park for the recreation of the inhabitants; and the Government, without any objection on the part of the House, introduced a public Bill, for the purpose of obtaining compulsory powers with regard to the procuring of land at Battersea, for
that purpose. And in the same year another Act was passed for widening Piccadilly—no doubt a very desirable thing; but there again was an interference with the rights of private property—he believed, with those of one of the hon. Members for the city of London, Baron Lionel Rothschild, whose land interfered with the projected improvement. Now, he did not pretend to dispute the justice of those proceedings; but he said, while he thought they could fully justify and uphold them upon sound principle, they were bound fully to act upon that principle in other cases; and he defied them to draw a just distinction between the present case and those to which he had just alluded. The case which he had brought before them was one of the highest importance to these poor people and to the public generally in Scotland; and he warned them that not only the health but the morals of these poor people would be grievously endangered if the House refused to assist them in obtaining proper places for the performance of divine worship. Let him read to them what was stated by a gentleman whose name must always carry weight with it, and who had a European reputation for having devoted a long life to the advancement of the best interests of his fellow-creatures—he meant the late Dr. Chalmers. That gentleman was asked whether, in his opinion, the continued refusal to grant sites to the congregations of the Free Church of Scotland would have a tendency to prevent the progress of that Church? His answer was—
I think it may perhaps have rather the reverse effect, and that it may not injure the Free Church: in point of fact, I believe it has drawn a good deal of sympathy and support in favour of the Free Church from those whom such a system as that of the refusal of sites is calculated to revolt. But though it may not injure the Free Church, I think it may effect an injury of a far more serious description in those districts where such a system prevails; it may have the effect of debarring the people from the benefits and blessings of a Christian ministration; and I consider that the injury to the Free Church is a mere bagatelle, as compared to the injury to the moral and religious interests of the districts where such a system prevails.
He (Mr. Bouverie) believed that statement to be most true. And as to the physical injury, a member of the Edinburgh College of Surgeons, who was examined before the Committee, was asked whether, in his opinion, injury to the health had been inflicted upon members of the Free Church attending divine worship in
the open air during winter? and he answered, that in the districts in which he resided, at least fifty such cases had occurred to him in his practice, which he attributed to exposure under those circumstances. It was rather remarkable that the Established Church of Scotland possessed compulsory powers with respect to the procuring of sites for places of worship. He believed that the law in that respect was practically dormant, but it might be brought into operation at any moment. By that law, the Court of Session, upon proper application to that effect, had the power of compelling the owners of land in a parish to give (without compensation) sufficient land for the erection of a church and manse. Well, then, he contended that if that power existed with regard to one Church, they had no right to refuse it with regard to another. There was a strong case of grievance made out, which they were bound to relieve, if they could apply to it a just and fitting remedy. It was no new or unheard-of proposal. Without troubling the House with a list of learned authorities, he could state that modern canonists and civilians were undoubtedly of opinion, that if the erection of a church or a monastery were deemed necessary to the interests of any particular district, the civil law gave compulsory powers for the procuring of land for such purpose. The process of taking it was very similar to the one proposed by him. He could show them, then, that this was a power which was acknowledged by the jurists of other countries as a just and reasonable one. He had shown them the present state of things with regard to these people; and he asked them, were they willing to incur the responsibility of refusing the remedy which he proposed they should grant? He had purposely abstained from entering into all irritating topics, as regarded either the cause of these refusals, or the circumstances which attended that great secession of which he had spoken. He thought the case stood altogether irrespective of them. It was with the facts with respect to the present condition of the people that they ought to deal. They knew from evidence that they were a peaceable, godly, Christian, and moral people; and again he asked the House whether it was willing to incur the responsibility of keeping such a people in this state of suffering, rather than accept the remedy which he proposed to them? He begged leave to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 80; Noes 25: Maiority 55.
|List of the AYES.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||M'Cullagh, W. T.|
|Baines, M. T.||M'Gregor, J.|
|Bernal, R.||M'Taggart, Sir J.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Maitland, T.|
|Bright, J.||Marshall, W.|
|Brockman, E. D.||Matheson, J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Matheson, Col.|
|Brown, W.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Burke, Sir T. J.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Clay, J.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Clements, hon. C. S.||Moffatt, G.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Ord, W.|
|Cowan, C.||Patten, J. W.|
|Craig, W. G.||Pilkington, J.|
|Crawford W. S.||Power, Dr.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Power, N.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Drumlanrig, Visct.||Reynolds, J.|
|Dundas, G.||Romilly, J.|
|Evans, W.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Fergus, J.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Sidney, Ald.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Smith, J. B.|
|Fox, R. M.||Smollett, A.|
|French, F.||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Glyn, G. C.||Spooner, R.|
|Granger, T. C.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Hardcastle, J. A.||Sullivan, M.|
|Hastie, A.||Tennent, R. J.|
|Hayter, W. G.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Heywood, J.||Thornely, T.|
|Hindley, C.||Traill, G.|
|Hornby, J.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Tynte, Col.|
|Howard, hon. E. G. G.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Jones, Capt.||Wilson, M.|
|Keppel, hon. G. T.||Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.|
|King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||TELLERS.|
|Lindsay, hon. Col.||Bouverie, hon. E. P.|
|Loch, J.||Ewart, W.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Greene, T.|
|Benbow, J.||Henley, J. W.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Hodgson, W. N.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Hope, Sir J.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Compton, H. C.||Oswald, A.|
|Drummond, H.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Sturt, H. G.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Thompson, Col.|
|Estcourt, J. B. B.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Fuller, A. E.||TELLERS.|
|Gordon, Adm.||Cochrane, A.D.R.W.B.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Mure, Col.|
§ Bill read a second time.
§ On the question that the Bill be committed,
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY said, that he should be sorry if the question were dismissed before he had offered a few observations on it. He trusted his hon. 1159 Friend would be able to discover some mode of arriving at the same end—an attempt in which he would be ready to assist him, without going the length of the Bill which his hon. Friend now proposed. He had opposed the appointment of the Committee last year, because he thought that its appointment would only keep alive the spirit of opposition, which was dying away. He thought, if that Committee had not been appointed, many of the persons who refused to grant sites for churches would have yielded. But the pressing of the question had the effect of keeping the spirit of the controversy alive. For his own part, he was quite prepared to say, that where so large a number of people found themselves in the painful position of numbering amongst them large, respectable, and pious congregations, who could not find a decent place for worship, it was the duty of the Legislature of the country to find some remedy for so great and extensive an evil. But the question was, whether, to meet the evils of a particular case, it would not be sufficient to provide a remedy for the case itself, and not to enact a law, by the operation of which other sects, not so deserving support as the pious members of the Free Church, would be entitled to make similar claims. He urged his hon. Friend not to seek for so general a measure, but to confine his attention to the case before them; and he would beg of his hon. Friend to look at the possible operation of the measure he now proposed. Let him suppose a case in which a sect, not of so innocent a nature as that of the Free Church, were to find itself similarly circumstanced. Let him suppose that they might not even be Christians who composed it; or, if Christians, persons professing tenets and principles of so objectionable a character to all holders of property, that no one would wish to permit their settlement in his neighbourhood. Surely such a case would be so very different as not to be entitled to share the benefits of that Bill. They had had an instance of the mode in which legislation was made applicable to special cases in the matter of the Dissenters' Chapels Bill, where the remedy was applied directly to the grievance complained of. On that principle he had given his assent to the second reading; but he hoped that his bon, Friend would limit the provisions of the Bill in Committee to the special grievance of the Free Church of Scotland alone.1160
§ Ma. ELLIOT said, that he believed the House had been taken by surprise in going to a division on the second reading; but having voted against the Bill, he wished to explain the reasons which had influenced him in doing so. There was no man in the House more anxious than he was to see the Free Church of Scotland possessed of sites for places of worship; and no man who more strongly condemned those by whom that privilege had been resisted; but his objection was to the Bill itself. He thought that the Bill had been brought in ostensibly for the purpose of providing sites for Free churches alone; but instead of that he found it to be a general Bill providing for every possible religious denomination of which a hundred members might be got together. All these were to have a power of compelling landowners to give them sites for places of worship. His hon. Friend, in moving the second reading of the Bill, had alluded to the case of railways as an instance of the compulsory sale of land; but it should be recollected that an application must be made to Parliament in the case of each railway company before the compulsory sale of land was permitted; whereas by this Bill no application to Parliament would be necessary, but wherever 100 persons, no matter what extent of country they might be spread over, could be got to join in an application, they could insist on as many sites for places of worship as they wished to erect, and it would not be in the power of the sheriff and Court of Session to refuse them. It was clear that under such a Bill, chapels would be established merely for the purpose of propagandism when no considerable congregation would exist. When the separation of the Free Church from the Establishment took place, a great deal of violent language had been indulged in. It had been stated that a Free church would be opened near every Established church in the country, for the purpose of preaching it down; and though such language had been since repudiated, it was clear that persons warmly attached to the Established Church must have been considerably annoyed by it. The number of proprietors who still refused sites to the Free Church was exceedingly small; and he did not see why each of these cases should not be brought forward as a separate case, instead of passing a general measure that would let in all denominations whatever.
§ MR. CHRISTOPHER objected to the 1161 Bill on general grounds. He thought that it was one of the most direct attacks upon property that had ever been introduced in that House. He could not but regret that no Members of Her Majesty's Government had been present when the division took place, to state what were the views of the Government with regard to it; and he hoped that before the debate closed, either the noble Lord at the head of the Government, or the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, would give some explanation to the House upon this subject. If this Bill passed into a law, how could they refuse a similar favour to the numerous classes of Dissenters in this country, or to the Roman Catholics in Ireland? The Roman Catholics would have a right to compel proprietors of land to afford them sites for their chapels whenever they required them; and if the measure were just with regard to the Free Church, it would be equally just with regard to the Roman Catholics, or the Unitarians, or any other class of Christian Dissenters in this country. On these grounds he should object to the whole Bill; and, as he had already said, if it were to pass at all, he would prefer seeing it pass in its present shape, to having it altered in the manner suggested by his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bute.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY said, that it certainly had been his intention to have been present at the second reading the Bill; and he had attended in the House at the early part of the day for that purpose. He had been obliged, however, to leave the House for a short time on public business; and he was much surprised to find that, during his absence, a division had taken place without any debate. If a debate had taken place, he should have been prepared to express his opinions on the question; but the House having decided by a large majority in favour of the second reading of the Bill, the present debate was, he thought, rather irregular, and he was of opinion, that it was better to wait until the Bill reached the next stage before stating the course which he was prepared to pursue with regard to it. At the same time he was ready to admit that he saw great difficulties in the way of any legislation on this subject. When his hon. Friend had brought forward his Motion for a Committee on this subject, he took occasion to state what the nature of those difficulties were; and the House having agreed to the appointment of that Committee, he had 1162 entertained a strong hope that the inquiry would have led to a remedy for what he should say were the very serious grievances of which the Free Church complained, without any further interference on the part of the Legislature being necessary. He understood that the cases in which sites were still refused were not so numerous as when the subject had been before the House last; but still he was informed, though he could not vouch for the information which had reached him on the subject, that there were from thirty to forty instances in which large districts, inhabited by numerous members of the Free Church, were yet left without sites for places of worship. If, as he feared, there were no hope of the just complaints to which his hon. Friend had alluded, as existing on this subject being removed, he could not deny that a grievance existed with which Parliament would have to interfere. That grievance was, however, of a limited kind, and he understood that the members of the Free Church were willing to accede to any arrangements by which their object could be accomplished. Whether the course taken by this Bill was the most reasonable one that could be adopted, was a subject for consideration in Committee; but though he saw all the difficulties which attended legislation on the subject, and though he had hoped that the object would have been obtained without direct legislation, he could not regret to find that the House had expressed so decided an opinion in favour of the second reading of a Bill for providing a remedy for so serious a grievance.
MR. B. COCHRANE: The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department had stated that the question had been virtually settled by the very large majority on the division for the second reading; but he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that the House had been quite taken by surprise on that division. There were many Members who had intended to address the House, but did not even know that the speech of the Mover had been seconded. He was surprised at the tone taken by the House on a question of such vast importance. If no one else ventured to say so, he did not scruple to assert that a more mischievous, a more arrogant Bill had never been introduced to that House. Hon. Members seemed to forget the history of the Free Church of Scotland; that it was a Church nurtured in revolution; and that it sprang into
existence with the Reform Bill and the French Revolution of 1830. Nothing was more arrogant and presumptuous than its pretensions. They had refused every compromise—they rejected Lord Aberdeen's Bill, although that noble Lord said that the parties objecting to the clergyman should only be required to state the grounds of their objections, and however futile these might be, even extending to the colour of the man's hair, they should be admitted; but they would not accept this, and demanded the power of rejecting any and every minister, without stating any objection whatever to him. He had that day met with a passage in Milton which very curiously foretold the increase of ecclesiastical tyranny, and, singularly enough, associated with it the name of the present Lord Advocate, the chief supporter of this Bill:—
Was it for this you bid us sheathe the sword, To force our consciences, which Christ set free—
And load us with a priestly tyranny, Led by ambitious men like Rutherford?
It was quite monstrous to ask the House to pass such a measure as this, when the very parties who brought it forward admitted that these Free Kirk men had already obtained 700 or 800 sites for churches; that only thirty-one had been refused; and he had a paper in his hand, which he would not trouble the House to listen to, but which proved that these thirty-one had dwindled down to fourteen. Why, what were they demanding? To compel a man who conscientiously differed with them to have a church opposed to the Established Church in the same village and parish, thus opening the door to every kind of dissension and misery. And then, why had the schism ever arisen? Simply because the members—the leaders of the Free Kirk party—were arrogant, ambitious men: he would not except Dr. Chalmers. All they wanted to do was to obtain the whole patronage of the Church of Scotland; for their modest request was, that after a certain period the right of presentation, jure devoluto, should be vested in the Church courts; but the truth was, that the term Church should never be applied to such a sect. If, as Mr. Burke so happily said, "All Protestantism was dissent from the Roman Catholic Church, and Presbyterianism was the dissidence of dissent;" what term could be invented low enough to describe the Free Kirk of Scotland,
who differed with the Established, not upon a question of doctrine, but of patronage? and the agitation was created by the very men who only possessed the power of agitation through that very patronage. He (Mr. Cochrane) feared the time was approaching prophesied by Dryden—
When the Presbyter, puff'd up by spiritual pride, Should over the necks of the great nobles ride.
But, for his part, he would give every possible opposition to a measure to confer privileges on such a republican, presuming, and arrogant body of men.
§ COLONEL THOMPSON wished to know what was the necessity for this extraordinary proceeding on the part of the Free Church of Scotland? It had been his fortune to be brought up among a religious body, who, though most numerous, had never thought it necessary to apply to Parliament to assist them in procuring the means of exercising their religious worship. The Methodists, in all their agitation, never sought for any such aid. The conduct of the Free Church of Scotland, on the other hand, would remind one of the man whose horse had died, and who, after describing the numerous means that he had tried in vain, was asked if he had ever tried corn? In the same manner he would ask the members of the Free Church, if they had ever tried holding religious worship in their own houses, or building churches on their own ground? Had matters gone so far that sites for churches could not be obtained in Scotland, either for love or money, which were so powerful everywhere else? He was as friendly to religious liberty as any man possibly could be; but it struck him that it was for the interests of religious liberty in general that some resistance should be made to a proposal of the nature now submitted to the House. At all events, he wished to have time to consult his friends in the Dissenting interest, in order to ascertain whether, in their opinion, their cause could be advanced by a demand of this kind. He had heard of "the demands of the Establishment;" but here was a new establishment, whose demands, he believed, had been fairly described as a religious tyranny. Being such, he hoped they would not only be resisted, but resisted to the utmost, so that no Member should consent to them until he was perfectly convinced of the necessity for supporting so novel an application.
§ MR. OSWALD considered the reasons 1165 assigned by the hon. Member who moved the second reading of this Bill insufficient, and many of them illogical. The report of the Select Committee mentioned only eight congregations in Scotland, where the people were, at this moment, worshipping without a house to shelter them. Thirteen congregations only met in rooms, six were without ministers; there were five concerning whom there was no information either in the report or in the evidence; and one congregation to whom a site had been offered upon conditions. He contended that such a state of things as was here pointed out did not justify the application for the present measure. In fact it was a Bill to provide church accommodation to eight congregations only, and to grant it to them, also, without any reference to the Christian religion. He was not prepared to pass such a law as this without hearing more cogent reasons in its support than had yet been advanced. On looking over the reports issued by the Committee on Public Petitions, he found that up to the 8th instant, sixty-five petitions, with 7,845 signatures, had been presented on this question; and in all but two instances they prayed for "sites for Christian congregations." Whatever might be the spirit of the Church of Scotland, or that of the Free Church, it was certain that neither of them had a latitudinarian spirit; and he greatly doubted if his right hon. Friend (Mr. Fox Maule) would venture to say that the majority of the members of the Free Church would have signed those petitions in favour of the present Bill, if they had known it was a Bill not only for allowing but for compelling proprietors to give up their lands to any denomination of fanatics who pleased to assemble together to the number of one hundred. The case of the Free Church was special and exceptional; and he did not think that, for the sake of meeting a special and exceptional case, a general measure ought to be passed. Holding this view, he should move in Committee, if the Bill arrived there, that it be extended to "Great Britain and Ireland."
§ MR. COWAN defended the late Dr. Chalmers against the remarks of the hon. Member for Bridport (Mr. B. Cochrane), and added that he should not have supported the measure if there had been any other mode of obtaining the desired object. Public opinion had been brought to bear upon the site refusers; yet there was not, after all, the slightest indications of the Free Church congregations obtaining that 1166 right to which both by the laws of God and man they were justly entitled.
§ COLONEL MURE said, he should have supported a practical and specific measure to meet this special grievance, if one of that character had been proposed; but he strongly objected to providing for a special case by a sweeping enactment like the present, which interfered, unnecessarily, with the rights of property, and also with those of conscience.
§ MR. F. MAULE was not sorry that this discussion had taken place, because, notwithstanding the resistance which had been manifested, it was evident that the purpose of the measure had made great progress. All admitted that a grievance was existing; and all seemed to admit that a remedy ought to be applied. The only difference was as to the nature of the remedy. No one regretted more than he did the necessity for a Bill which appeared to have for its object the compulsory taking of land for such a purpose as building sites for churches. But after waiting and weighing the subject for five years, in the hope that the proprietors would of their own accord have volunteered something, he had been unable to discover any means, save such as the present Bill afforded, by which the grievance could be remedied—a grievance, let the House remember, not felt by a few individuals, but by nearly 1,000,000 of religious persons—a grievance, too, which, in his opinion, the proprietors of land, not in Scotland only, but everywhere else, would do well to remove from the long category which at present possessed the public mind. With respect to the Bill itself, he owned that he laboured under considerable difficulty as between the different opinions that had been expressed concerning it. Some hon. Gentlemen had stated that if the Bill were made a specific measure for the Free Church of Scotland only, they would support it; whilst others had said that if it were applied to the Free Church, it must equally be adapted to other Dissenting bodies. His own opinion was—and it was the opinion also of the body to which he belonged—that there was no objection to applying the same principlee to other Dissenting bodies as to the Free Church. Their opinion was, that every congregation should have the means of worshipping God after their own consciences under decent and respectable protection afforded them by the law. After much consideration, he certainly had come to the conclusion that the present Bill af 1167 forded the only effectual remedy that could be found; and he was sure every precaution had been taken to render it as little inconvenient to the proprietors as possible. Should it be the pleasure of the Committee to confine the operations of the Bill to the Free Church alone, of course the Free Church could not object to that; but their principle was, that it should be extended to every Dissenting body.
§ MR. HENLEY said, if the Bill had been intended to have applied to the Free Church alone, he should not have thought it necessary to say one word about it; but they had the express declaration of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that in his opinion the Bill ought to be a general one; but if it were a general measure, it could not be confined exclusively to Scotland. A measure of this description, so extensive in its operation, could only be justified by a very strong case. Such a case had not, in his opinion, been made out; and that was the reason which had induced him to vote against the second reading.
§ MR. F. SCOTT believed that if the question had been allowed to rest, the proprietors would at length have yielded sites in localities not inconvenient to themselves, and suitable for the congregations. It was well known that originally almost all the landed proprietors of Scotland had been opposed to granting sites for Free churches. If, however, in the course of four years that number had been reduced to eight; and, if 700 congregations had already obtained sites, and there were only thirty congregations now requiring them; surely, he thought, the matter might well have been left to the common sense of the proprietors, and that he was warranted in saying that had the subject been allowed to rest, the proprietors would have yielded suitable and convenient sites. He was certainly of opinion that a general measure of this sort was very objectionable. He would recommend that the Bill should be confined to the Free Church; and, further, that it should be made a special Bill for those cases only where sites had been refused.
§ The Bill ordered to be committed.