§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. M'LAREN
, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, its provisions were somewhat intricate, and he was therefore obliged to go further into the details than he should have done under other circumstances. The Bill was founded upon the Act which was passed in 1860—in fact, the whole structure of the Bill depended upon the provisions of that Act. The Act of 1860 professed to abolish the annuity tax or ministers' money, which was then levied in Edinburgh. It did so in form, but it imposed other two rates, which were simply church rates, in place of the annuity tax which was abolished. The passing of that Bill was strongly opposed by the inhabitants of Edinburgh, by the corporation, and by all the public bodies of the city, and it was protested against at large meetings of the ratepayers. A petition was sent to this House, signed by 15,000 inhabitants, against its being passed into law; and after the Bill had passed another meeting was held under the presidency of the chief magistrate, at which a solemn protest was agreed to be signed, and this was done by nearly 8,000 inhabitants, declaring that they never would be satisfied with the provisions of that Act, and that they would continue to urge its repeal, until a more reasonable settlement of the matter had been made. This protest, signed by 8,000 ratepayers, included about 4,000 Parliamentary electors of the city. The Act of 1860, he admitted, did effect a beneficial change, financially, in the city of Edinburgh, which would have been important if there had been no evil principles embodied in the Bill. Previously to that time there were five churches, having two ministers each; and the Act provided that those churches should thereafter have only one minister, as vacancies occurred, thus saving all existing life interests. Two vacancies had occurred at the time of the parsing of the Act, and three had occurred since; so that, in fact, the Act was now in full operation, and its effect had thus been to save the stipends of these five ministers to Edinburgh, amounting to £3,000 a year. As a mere question of money, this was not of very great importance, as 1d. in the pound on the present rental of Edinburgh would produce 656 £3,000, and in that part of the city where this tax was levied, the same amount could be raised by a rate of 2d. in the pound. The Act of 1860 had a number of intricate provisions. It imposed a tax of 3d. in the pound to be levied, not avowedly as a church rate as before, but along with, and as part of, the police rate for the lighting, watching, and cleaning of the city. That tax of 3d. in the pound, within the limited area, would produce £4,200, and that sum was required to "be paid annually to certain Ecclesiastical Commissioners appointed under the Act to be applied for ministers' stipends. Then it imposed an additional rate of 1d. in the pound to be levied, not only within this limited area, but over the whole parishes within the municipal boundaries of the city, in place of pew-rents, given to the Commissioners for ministers' stipends. That rate, though small in amount, had perhaps given rise to more opposition than any other part of the Act; because it was so unjust in principle thus to tax two other parishes which were not ecclesiastically connected with the old Royalty of the city. It was to remove these several grievances that the present Bill had been brought forward. The Bill consisted of three parts, the first of which abolished the annuity tax in the Canongate parish within the city of Edinburgh. By some strange oversight, which he could not understand, while the annuity tax was abolished in the richer districts of the city, it was kept up in this the poorest of all the poor districts of Edinburgh. The Canongate parish had a population of 11,653, of whom 2,733 were ratepayers, and 2,312 of these occupied premises under £10 of rent, and only 420 in the whole parish occupied premises of £10 and upwards. The result was, as might be supposed, the tax, although it was 4½ per cent, only yielded on an average of the last five years a sum of about £220 to each minister; and last year, when considerable additional efforts were made, the amount was only increased to £250 for each minister. When the Select Committeee was appointed during last Session of Parliament, the ministers of this parish sent a solicitor to London to be examined before the Committee, to state their case and suggest a remedy. That gentleman, on the part of the ministers, suggested that each of them should receive a stipend of £250 during their lives, in lieu of the annuity tax; that one of the 657 collegiate charges should be abolished when a vacancy occurred; and that the single minister should then get £350 or £400 a year. Now, the present Bill proposed to do exactly what had been suggested by the solicitor to the ministers. It contained a provision that they should have £250 during their lives, and that£350 should be given to the successor when a vacancy occurred. So far as he was aware, no objection whatever had been urged against that part of the Bill. There had been no petition presented, and he had received no letter of remonstrance, and there was nothing to indicate that there was anything less than a general and hearty feeling in favour of that part of the Bill. Another part of the Bill proposed to abolish the rate of 1d. in the pound levied, not over the old Royalty, but over the Canongate parish and St. Cuthbert parish. The Bill proposed to abolish this small rate of 1d., immediately on its passing, so far as the two parishes he had named were concerned, because they had nothing to do with it in any equitable point of view; but as the Town Council could not afford to lose all this income at once, it proposed to abolish the other half, relating to the city parish, only in five years. In that way this rate of 1d. would at the end of five years be totally abolished. He had reason to believe that all parties were perfectly unanimous also on this question. The corporation of Edinburgh, as the House knew from the petition which he had just presented, passed, by a majority of twenty-one to thirteen, a Resolution to petition in favour of this Bill. They were willing to do without that rate of 1d., and they could afford to do without it. The petition which he had this day presented showed that 11,000 of the ratepayers of Edinburgh, of whom about one-third were Parliamentary electors, petitioned for its abolition; and even the Conservative and Church paper of Edinburgh entirely approved of the abolition of the 1d. rate so far as the outer districts were concerned. He now came to the third and most important part of the Bill, which related to the abolition of the rate of 3d. in the pound in the city parish, now levied in lieu of the old annuity tax. That rate produced £4,200 a year, and the strongest possible objections were made to that impost. The Bill proposed to secure the life interests of the whole of the existing ministers, but that when three vacancies occurred they should not be filled up 658 again. In the old town there were too many places of worship for the church-going population, and by the saving which would be effected from not filling up those vacancies, and by taking the ordinary church-door collections or free-will offerings, which were at present legally applicable to the relief of the poor, for the miscellaneous expenses connected with the maintenance of the churches, this source of expenditure would be amply provided for. Those expenses were now defrayed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners out of their general funds, which to this extent would be set free for the payment of ministers' stipends. The blue book just delivered from the Board of Supervision showed that these free-will collections, during the last year, amounted to nearly £1,600, and the whole of the church expenses during the last five years, in which they were managed by the Town Council, averaged about £1,700, so that there would be no difficulty in meeting all the expenses he desired to meet. If that arrangement were entered into the funds would be, first the pew-rents, which brought in about £3,800, and there were other small items amounting to between £180 and £190. Then there was an annuity of £2,000 a year payable in respect of certain property which formerly belonged to the city of Edinburgh connected with the harbour and docks at Leith. This property was surrendered in 1838 upon compensation being given under an Act of Parliament, on a valuation made by the Government of the day, and sanctioned by the Report of a Select Committee of this House; and £2,000 of that compensation was given to the clergymen with the consent of the city authorities. The sums he had mentioned thus amounted to about £6,000, for the purposes he had named. There were now thirteen clergymen, and it was proposed to make the number ten, and this endowment of £6,000, obtained from the sources alluded to, would give stipends of £600 to each of them, which was the amount fixed by the Act of 1860. Therefore, the Act of 1860 was complied with in everything except the reduction of those three clergymen. With respect to the pew-rents, he might explain that in 1832, before the Free Church disruption took place, those pew-rents produced £7,539, and the value of the unlet seats was then £2,212; and there was no reason why these pew-rents should not bring in the same amount now. At present they 659 were very nearly £4,000, and he believed they would exceed £4,000 during the current year; therefore, the endowment would be quite sufficient. After the great split took place in the Church of Scotland and the Free Church was established, the authorities from time to time reduced the rates for the pews, and to some extent that reduction had been going on during the last few years; and the result was that persons who worship in the city churches of Edinburgh paid only about one-half of the pew-rents which the people belonging to other denominations in the city paid. Before the disruption there were 9,455 sittings let, producing £7,539; and in 1865 there were 8,518 sittings let, producing only £3,790; so that while the number of sitters had been reduced by only one-ninth part, the amount paid by them had been reduced by one-half. That showed that the fund was of a very elastic nature. Since the Bill proposed to strike off, as vacancies occurred, three ministers, it might, perhaps, be objected that this would cause a deficiency of ministers in the city. The House would, however, be surprised to learn that besides the thirteen endowed ministers in the city parish, there were two in St. Cuthbert's, and two in the Canongate parish, making altogether seventeen ministers; and there were twelve other Established Churches which were not endowed from any public source. He believed a careful scrutiny would show that these twelve churches which were not endowed were more vigorous and more healthy than are those which were endowed. There were thus twenty-seven churches in the city of Edinburgh all belonging to the Established Church, having twenty-nine ministers; but there were other churches holding the same doctrines, subscribing the same confession of faith, and having the same form of government. Two of these bodies were each larger than the Established Church. These were the Free Church, which had thirty-two places of worship, and the United Presbyterian denomination, which had twenty churches, very numerously attended. There were thus fifty-two churches in addition to the twenty-seven Established Churches which were in all respects on the same footing as to doctrine and government. He believed all these voluntary churches, whether taken singly, or collectively, or on the average, were better attended, and raised far larger sums, for the purposes of religion and 660 benevolence, than the Established Church. Again, the Episcopalians had twelve places of worship; there were seven Baptist churches; and the smaller denominations had fifteen, making altogether 113 Protestant places of worship with 129 ministers, in which substantially the same doctrine was preached; and of these, only fifteen were endowed Established Churches. To show how little three ministers would be missed, he mentioned that the whole population of Edinburgh, including not only the city parish, but the other two parishes, amounted at the last census to 168,000. Of these, about 18,000 were claimed as Roman Catholics, leaving 150,000 Protestants, or persons—and he feared there were many such in all large towns—who did not belong to any denomination. Now, it was obvious, as there were 113 churches in Edinburgh, and the Protestant population was 150,000, that there was a place of worship for every 260 families; and therefore no one could stand up in that House and say that the leaving out of three ministers, and three of the endowed churches, could have any appreciable effect on the spiritual interests of the people of Edinburgh. There were three of these churches in which there were only 509 sittings let altogether, while there were 1,435 unlet, and 821 free sittings. Taking all the thirteen churches, there was an immense number of empty sittings. By the last Return there were 4,645 unlet, and 2,280 free sittings. The city parish, in which this rate of 3d. was levied, contained 67,000 inhabitants; the Canongate parish 11,600 inhabitants, with two endowed ministers; and St. Cuthbert's 90,000 inhabitants, with only two endowed ministers. Now, if the two last-named parishes could do with only two endowed ministers, surely ten endowed ministers were sufficient for the wants of the city parish, with its 67,000 inhabitants? Dundee had a population of 69,000, or more than the city parish of Edinburgh, and it had only five ministers. Glasgow city parish had only ten ministers, with a population of 147,000—more than double the population of the city parish. In reducing the number of ministers in Edinburgh to ten they would still be largely in excess, proportionally, of the number of ministers in any other large town in Scotland. He would like the House to understand that these thirteen parishes, sometimes called distinct parishes, were really all one parish—the city parish. The municipality of Edinburgh had added vo- 661 luntarily, from time to time, a considerable number of additional churches, partly in the hope of getting a large return from their pew-rents; and those churches were built when there were not so many Dissenters as there are now. To prove that all those alleged parishes were, legally, only one parish, it was sufficient to state that there was only one poor-rate levied, and one parochial board to manage the affairs of the parish. The Bill proposed to give the sitters in these city churches a great advantage which they did not now enjoy. The Act of 1860 said that the communicants and elders of these churches might obtain the right of appointing their own ministers on each congregation paying £600 to the Town Council for the privilege. The present Bill, however, proposed to abolish that payment of £600, and to give the right of appointing the minister to the male heads of families and elders of the church as provided for by the Act of 1860. In that was it was calculated that from the people having an interest in the minister to be appointed, they would be sure to select a man of talent and of Christian worth and piety who would work among the poor, and who would devote himself to the interests of the church and people. The result would be that the churches would be well filled, the pew-rents, in place of £4,000 a year, might in a short time rise to a much higher sum, thus affording additional funds for additional ministers, if required hereafter. The money value of the unlet pews, even at the present reduced rates, was, according to the last Return, £3,232. It had been stated that this was a Bill founded on the principle that there was to be no Established Church. There could not be a more erroneous statement made. The city of Edinburgh was giving up an endowment of £4,000 a year from the pew-rents, which belonged to the city as corporation revenue. It was likewise giving an endowment of £2,000 a year derivable from property formerly belonging to the city, and which was made over to the clergy, by consent of the city, by Act of Parliament. Those two sources of endowment amounted to £6,000 a year. Again, it had been said that £4,000 a year of that sum was derived only from seat-rents, and the fund was spoken of disparagingly as being only pew-rents. But the clergy of Edinburgh brought an action against the Town Council in 1810, to have it determined that those pew-rents belonged to them, in addition to their other 662 sources of income; but it was decided by the Supreme Courts that those pew-rents belonged to the magistrates and council for the municipal purposes of the city; and they were always so received and so applied. Even when they yielded £7,500, they were applied to the municipal purposes of the city, and always thereafter till the passing of the Act of 1860, when they were made over to the clergy. The £4,000 a year thus drawn from the pew-rents, and which might increase to £7,000 in a few years, was as much the revenue and property of the city of Edinburgh as any other revenue or property belonging to the corporation; but by the passing of the Bill there would no longer be any taxation levied for the support of the Church. Within his own recollection the corporation of Edinburgh had expended £80,000 in building three additional churches, and it had also expended large sums in improving other churches; and the Courts of Law very properly held that, as the Town Council always acted liberally in maintaining and extending the Established Church out of the corporation funds, they were entitled to draw those pew-rents, and apply them for municipal purposes. Under these circumstances, he hoped the House would agree to the principle of the Bill by allowing it to be read a second time. If, however, it should be opposed on the ground that an alleged contract was made when the Act of 1860 was passed, he was prepared to show that that idea was founded upon an entire misconception, and that no kind of contract was ever made to which the city of Edinburgh, by its municipal authorities, or public bodies, or its inhabitants, were in any way consenting parties.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. M'Laren.)
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that the hon. Member who had introduced this Bill had a hard case to prove, for he had to show that the Act of 1860, which professed to deal with this vexed question, had been fairly tried and failed. They had heard from the hon. Member very little about the working of the Act of 1860. Nor had they heard much from him of the state of feeling in the city of Edinburgh, which had been represented in various quarters to be so greatly excited that further legislation on this subject was absolutely neces 663 sary. He thought it was shown before the Committee which sat to inquire into this subject last Session, that the feeling of excitement which bad been caused did not I exist to any large extent, but that, on I the contrary, it was confined to a small portion of the inhabitants of Edinburgh. It would, indeed, be a matter of great regret if any Act of that House, but still more if any Act imposing an ecclesiastical impost upon any large and important place, led to great agitation. But he (Sir James Fergusson) contended that the allegation of excitement was problematical, and that it might be shown that there was no real ground of complaint. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the leading features of the Act of 1860, which he now sought to amend, but he did not explain sufficiently to the House the amount of concession that was then made. Previous to 1860, the provision for the ministers in the city of Edinburgh, though not on an extravagant, was on a more liberal scale than the present one. There were eighteen parish clergymen, who were supported out of what was called the annuity tax, and under the provisions of the law at that time they were entitled to sums nominally exceeding, but really amounting to £800 a year each. The Act of 1860 reduced the number to thirteen, and the salary of each to £600 a year; and with the view of lightening the tax to the bulk of the inhabitants, large classes who had hitherto been exempt from it—members of the College of Justice, including the Bench, the Bar, and all branches of solicitors—voluntarily agreed to become subject to it. They had previously resisted attempts to reduce the number of the clergy; but in 1860, for the sake of peace and on condition of greater security being given to the arrangement proposed, they consented to the reduction and to relinquish their exemption. It was thus that the tax on the inhabitants was reduced from 6d. to 3d. in the pound. All the persons upon whom the additional 1d. was imposed, to make up for the pew-rents taken from the municipality and given up to the ministers, were previously contributors to the general city funds, which were charged with the maintenance of the clergy, who held the seat-rents of the churches as security; and the 1d. was imposed to make up the security formerly possessed in the pew-rents for the payment of the debts of the city. The hon. Member dissented from that statement; but it was so stated at the time; and was it not 664 because security was to be increased, and the burdens of the inhabitants reduced, that the reduction in the number and in the salaries of the ministers was consented to and approved by Parliament? It was repeatedly and distinctly stated that the reduction of the number of ministers was acquiesced in simply for the sake of peace and the increased security given to the remaining ministers. And yet in 1867, when the reduction to thirteen ministers had been for the first time attained, and when the Act, therefore, came into full operation, it was proposed to reduce the security for the stipends of the ministers and their number from thirteen to ten. He might fairly ask where was the reduction to cease? There was one matter in connection with the Act of 1860 which the hon. Member might have recognised—namely, the abolition of the most improper machinery by which alone the stipends of the clergy could be recovered. Previous to the year 1860 the 'clergy had to sue such of the ratepayers I as might be in arrear for their stipends, and the painful spectacle was constantly witnessed of a process at law at the direct I instance of the clergy; but by the change, under which the city became the purse holders, the clergy were freed from the obnoxious necessity of being obliged to have recourse to law to recover their stipends. If it were true now that a majority of the inhabitants of the city of Edinburgh had to be coerced into the payment of the tax, if it had to be wrung out of reluctant ratepayers, then he (Sir James Fergusson) would admit that its imposition involved injustice and hardship; but there were few refusals to pay, they were made by a small but noisy section, who sought to disturb a settlement to which they had been parties, and there was no real hardship or injustice. With regard to the proposed method of paying the stipends, as the seat-rents were to be supplemented by property of the municipality—the sum it received from Government in lieu of its Leith harbour claims—the clergy would still be paid out of the common fund of the city, with this difference, that the security would be doubtful and the results problematical. It was proposed to raise the seat-rents, or so to manage them that they should amount to £4,000 a year. [Mr. M'LAREN: They are about that now. He did not believe the House was prepared to depart from the principle of an Established Church, and he doubted whether the members of those religious bodies in Edinburgh, who had been 665 referred to as being independent of public endowments, would be prepared to follow the hon. Member; for the Free Church, to its honour, had never joined in the attacks made on the ecclesiastical endowments which they had voluntarily relinquished, and some of the clergy of that Church had left on record perhaps the most eloquent defences religious endowments had ever received. He doubted whether the churches of Edinburgh were built upon any such speculation as that the seat-rents would provide the stipends for the ministers; because he believed they were intended to be places for the free worship and religious instruction of the poor, and it was required by Act of Parliament that at least one-tenth of the sittings in them must be free. By evidence given before the Committee last year, it was proved that the clergy were careful not to take seat-rents from the poorer attendants, because they believed that in so doing they would defeat the object with which their churches were provided. Although it appeared that in some churches all the sittings were let, yet there was ample free accommodation in the churches which had the largest congregations. It had been said sarcastically that the clergy of Edinburgh preached to empty benches, and an unworthy attempt was made before the Committee last year to represent the congregations as very scanty, by producing the returns of a voluntary census which some of the agitators had taken; but on inquiry it was found that the figures were fallacious, for where the attendance was represented at 200 or 300, there were 800 or 900 in full communion, and congregations were always calculated to include one-third or one-fourth more than the number of communicants, so that the number of the congregation in question would be three or four times what it had been represented to be. The letting of seats was not so much an object with the Established Church as the encouragement of the attendance of those who could not afford to pay seat-rents; it never had, and he hoped it never would be the case, that the taking of a seat should be regarded as a condition of attending church. When that time came, then, the principle of an Established Church would be really in danger. After taking the pew-rents, the Bill proposed to lay hands on the church-door collections which were now applied to the relief of the poor, and to devote them to the payment of the miscellaneous ex- 666 penses connected with the maintenance of the churches. There was no money more usefully and properly applied than that collected at the church doors, and he should have been inclined to appeal to the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Dunlop) as an authority against the proposed appropriation of the collections; for in a standard work on the Scotch law he laid it down that considerable latitude was permitted in the allocation of church-door collections, and that the general practice was to disburse them in the form of temporary relief, in cases of sudden and exceptional distress, so as to save the recipients from falling into the ranks of the permanently poor. There could not be a more charitable purpose than thus to distribute relief through the hands of Christian neighbours, in order to save the unfortunate from pauperism; and it would be grievous if the free-will offerings of the people were diverted to any other object. Why was the hon. Member more sensitive to the grievance of Edinburgh than to that of Leith? Had not the people of Leith a better title to be relieved from the virtual payment of £2,000 a year than Edinburgh had to be relieved from the 3d. in the pound paid for the support of the parish clergy? As to Edinburgh having more clergy than Glasgow, so much the worse for Glasgow. [Laughter.] It was no laughing matter that Glasgow had only ten clergy maintained by public funds; for, notwithstanding the great exertions made there by very worthy people to supply the lamentable deficiency of public endowments, it was well known that the result still fell far short of the requirements of the city; and the deficiency of Glasgow or other towns was no argument for reducing the provision possessed by Edinburgh. To lay stress on Edinburgh being one parish for the relief of the poor, and that therefore the endowed churches within its bounds might be reduced, was to say that parishes containing 15,000 or 20,000 people had no existence but in name. The hon. Member closed his speech with a taunt which might well have been spared. He said that if the people of Edinburgh had the choice of their ministers seat-rents would soon rise, and all outside endowments might be dispensed with. Now, he (Sir James Fergusson) would say that nowhere were to be found more pious, earnest, and useful clergymen than in Edinburgh—worthy successors of an illus- 667 trious line. Thanks to these endowments, there had not been wanting for the last 200 years provision for earnest and pious men who had done their work in a manner that had redounded to the credit of the Church and the advantage of the people. If the House were disposed to maintain the Act of 1860, which was working well, he thought it would not hesitate in refusing its assent to the hon. hon. Member's Bill. He would not urge, as he might fairly have done, the shortness of the time that had passed since the introduction of the Bill—so that, of the petitions against it, three or four had only reached him since this debate had commenced—nor would he dwell upon the objectionable manner and tone with which it had been introduced; but he was content to rest his opposition to the measure on the faith of the Parliamentary guarantee, deliberately given in 1860, which he hoped the House would maintain, and he therefore moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Sir James Fergusson.)
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he supported the Act of I860 because he entertained the hope, though not a very sanguine and profound one, that it might be possible to sot the question at rest for a considerable period. He was aware at the time that a large portion of the inhabitants of Edinburgh were dissatisfied with its provisions; but, considering that the delegates they sent up did not appear to know their own minds in the matter, and did not bring forward any substitute, it was not extraordinary that the House should have acceded to the proposition then under discussion. The sweeping accusations which had been made against those who passed the Act of 1860 were wholly unjustifiable; but he could not agree that the provisions of that Act were to be stamped with the character of finality. It was admitted before the Committee of last year that excitement did prevail in Edinburgh upon this subject, but what was disputed was the universality of that feeling. He was now of opinion that this mixing up of ministers' stipends with police rates had not been successful in attaining the object 668 contemplated, and he therefore thought the hon. Member for Edinburgh perfectly justified in coming forward with an amended proposal. The hon. Member for Ayrshire (Sir James Fergusson) was not correct in stating that the salaries of ministers were reduced by the Act of 1860 from £800 to £600 a year. Never on any occasion had the amount been more than £600, and they renounced nothing therefore when they agreed to that measure; and it had been distinctly laid down by the Law Courts that the creditors of the city, and not the clergy, held the seat-rents as security. His firm and conscientious judgment was that if they passed the Bill of his hon. Friend, the security of the clergy would be very considerably increased. The main point was this—was the House prepared still further to reduce the number of the clergy from thirteen to ten, and so put a stop to the heart-burnings which existed. It had been asked if this was conceded, where were the demands to cease? The answer was, as soon as the annuity tax was abolished, and not before. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said there had been no time to ascertain the feeling of the inhabitants of Edinburgh; but the hon. Member for Edinburgh had presented a petition this afternoon, signed by about 11,000 ratepayers, being more than half the electors, upon the subject. He could not imagine that there was any doubt that if the Bill passed it would put down the agitation existing, while it would afford security to the clergy, and not be prejudicial to the interests of the Established Church. He therefore thought the House would give the Bill their attentive consideration.
said, he rose to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Ayrshire, because he felt that the principles of the Bill would only give satisfaction to a very small portion of the citizens of Edinburgh, while it would give very little satisfaction indeed to the people generally. In Scotland the Church depended upon rates and local assessments for its maintenance even to a greater extent than was the case in England, and that was a system that he did not think should be done away with. No man had a higher respect for Dissenters than he had; but he believed that this excitement had been stirred up by certain individuals, who were always to be found in sufficient numbers in large communities, ready to seize upon any opportunity of supposed or real grievance merely for the sake of bringing 669 themselves conspicuously before the eyes of their neighbours. After all the hopes that were entertained of peace being restored to Edinburgh by the passing of the Act of 1860, it was too soon to disturb the people again and throw them into a state of excitement. In the inquiry which had taken place before the Committee, of which he was a Member, almost all the witnesses were of opinion that that portion of the assessment levied upon the ships trading to the port of Leith ought more properly to be abolished than the tax upon the houses in Edinburgh. It was unfair and ungenerous to try to undo the settlement which had been come to in 1860, and the people of Leith thought it a great injustice to pass a Bill like this, which would perpetuate the imposts on the ships frequenting their harbour.
§ MR. MONCREIFF
said, that as he had taken considerable part in passing the Act of 1860, he wished to say a few words. There were several entirely distinct matters involved in the Bill now before the House. One would suppose from the title of the Bill that the annuity tax was still levied in Edinburgh, but the truth was exactly the reverse. The aunuity tax had been repealed and abolished by statute, and there was no such thing now in that city. But if the hon. Member had confined the scope of his Bill to the tax in the borough of Canongate and to the tax of 1d. in the pound to meet the deficiency caused in the municipal revenue by the abstraction of pew-rents, he (Mr. Moncreiff) would have gladly voted for the second reading in order to go into Committee, where the matters complained of might be easily redressed. When the annuity tax was abolished in the city of Edinburgh it was still left remaining in the borough of the Canongate; and, on the other hand, the new tax of 1d. in the pound which was imposed was extended over the borough of the Canongate, which received no relief whatever from the provisions of the Bill. There was therefore some ground of complaint on that score. But as regarded the 1d. over the municipality the case stood in a different position. It was absurd to talk of it as an ecclesiastical tax; it had not the slightest ecclesiastical character about is. The state of the matter was this:—Before 1860 the corporation used the pew-rents as part of the ordinary revenue of the city; but in that year those rents were appropriated to the support of the clergy in order to make some amends for the abolition of the annuity tax, and a 670 tax of 1d. In the pound was ordered to be raised for municipal purposes The seat-rents were valued at £1,600 a year, and if the tax now produced much more than was required there was a fair case for redress. Consequently, if his hon. Colleague had confined his Bill to matters which might fairly come within its reach, he would have gladly supported him. If the Bill were lost, he would himself consider whether in the course of the present Session he could not introduce a measure with regard to these two matters, the tax on the borough of Canongate, and the impost of 1d. for municipal purposes, in order to give such relief as might be consistent with the spirit of the Act of 1860. But the present proposal went far beyond this, for it would have the effect of taking from the ministers the security for their stipends which was guaranteed by the Act of 1860. He did not moan to contend that legislation upon such a subject ought necessarily to be absolutely final; but he said that those members who had been parties to an arrangement of that description might fairly deem themselves bound to maintain it to the best of their power. As far as he was concerned, he held himself bound in honour to adhere to a compact by which the ministers consented to have their numbers reduced from eighteen to thirteen. But there were other parties to the transaction. The members of the College of Justice—namely, the bar, the solicitors and attorneys, a very large and influential section of the community of Edinburgh, who up to that time refused to waive their privilege of exemption from the annuity tax—consented to have themselves taxed because they thought the settlement then proposed would be final and satisfactory. The House came to the consideration of this Bill under circumstances very different from those of 1860. At that period the annuity tax amounted to 10d. in the pound, and was collected directly by the clergy for their own support. They were now asked to deal with an impost of only 3d. in the pound, which instead of being an ecclesiastical, was a purely municipal tax. A great deal had been said about the ratepayers; but if hon. Gentlemen reflected, they would see that the ratepayers had not got a very bad bargain by the settlement of 1860. For twenty-five or thirty years Edinburgh had been agitated without being relieved, reaping all the time a plentiful crop of bad feeling and acrimonious discussion, but nothing beyond that crop. The question served, from time 671 to time for political capital, but not a single farthing had been taken off the tax, and no relief given either to the pockets or the consciences of the ratepayers. But now two-thirds of the tax had been taken off, and the impost which was levied was levied, not for the clergy, but for the purposes of the municipality. If he were to deal fairly his hon. Colleague should propose to repeal the Act of 1860, give the College of Justice back their privileges, and restore the ministers to the number of eighteen. But instead of that the hon. Gentleman took the Act of 1860 as his starting point, and endeavoured to make use of it as a lever for obtaining more. The twenty-five years of agitation which it had taken to obtain the Act 'of 1860 proceeded on the very principles of the settlement which was then made, and those principles were to reduce the amount of taxation by diminishing the number of ministers, to obtain aid from other sources, to give the ministers security for their stipends, and to make any taxation that might he levied taxation for municipal purposes. The principle of the Bill of 1860 was no invention of his, of the clergy of Edinburgh, or of the Members of that House; but it was in accordance with the recommendation of the Select Committee of 1851, who reported in favour of reducing the ministers to fifteen, and imposing a municipal tax of 5½d. in the pound. The present Earl of Dalhousie in 1852 introduced a Bill founded on the recommendations of that Committee, and was supported by the people of Edinburgh and the Liberal Members of that House, but the Bill was subsequently lost. Lord Advocate Inglis prepared a Bill to which his hon. Colleague, then chief magistrate of Edinburgh, was not strongly opposed, although he could not give it his absolute support, inasmuch as it did not propose to reduce the number of ministers, though it embodied the other object of converting the tax from an ecclesiastical to a municipal impost. That Bill, too, failed. But in 1853, when Lord Aberdeen succeeded to office, he (Mr. Moncreiff) introduced a Bill which proposed to reduce the ministers to fifteen. His hon. Colleague was so well pleased with that Bill that he recommended the inhabitants of Edinburgh to petition in its favour. That Bill was also unsuccessful, principally because the ministers and the other side of the House were not satisfied with the security for the stipends contained in it. Mr. Black also in 1858 attempted to settle the question, and failed. At last, in I860, he 672 himself again took the matter in hand, and made a proposal to continue the tax for fifteen years, with a view to its redemption at the end of that time. The Town Council of Edinburgh, however, opposed the proposal, and passed a resolution to the effect that they would unanimously acquiesce in a Bill which should enact that, instead of a temporary, there should be a permanent law to make provision for thirteen ministers at £600 a year, and that there should be undoubted security for the stipends. Upon receiving that resolution, he said that if a public meeting were called, and a vote obtained to sanction the proceeding, he was ready to take the matter in hand. A public meeting was held, his hon. Colleague was present, and it was agreed that they would accept a tax of 4½d. in the pound, a reduction of ministers to thirteen, and would give ample security for the payment of the stipends. Upon this he placed himself in communication with the other side of the House; after a good deal of discussion, the proposal was agreed to, the Act of 1860 was passed, and the ministers of Edinburgh were now paid precisely in the same way as those of many other boroughs in Scotland. It was perfectly true that no sooner was it found that they were going to settle the question than an opposition was got up in the city of Edinburgh by the very men who asked him to shape the Bill on the very principle on which he had introduced it. He found from the city accounts that there were from year to year surplus funds arising out of the current income which were applied to the redemption of property. His opinion was that they ought to apply the current income to the current expenditure, and that they ought not to proceed to the use of the current income as so much capital to be employed in the purchase or redemption of property. Last year he found that there was a sum of £3,900 applied in this way. If next year the same surplus should be available the magistrates would not require to lay on the tax of £4,200 a year. In saying this he did not mean to throw out any charge against the members of the Town Council. He believed that they had acted in the best of faith, and that what they had done had been done from a misreading of the real intentions of the statute. He had thus explained the reasons which rendered it impossible for him to give the slightest sanction to the proposition for taking away the security guaranteed to the clergy in 1860; but if he were to go into 673 the details of the Bill it would be equally unfavourable for him to support it. It proposes that the ministers were to be paid £4,000 out of the seat-rents; but the seat-rents last year yielded only £3,700, and out of that sum £1,700 was taken for the maintenance of the fabrics of the churches, so that the ministers only received £1,900. Now, the Bill says that these seat-rents may be so managed as to produce £4,000, for which no reasons are given whatever. Then, it is proposed that for the maintenance of the fabrics, and for cleaning, lighting, and so on, they should lay hands on the church-door collections, if they could get them for such a purpose. He thought it would be a most improper use of them; but did not his hon. Colleague in a moment see that if he were to obtain such an enactment, the contributors would find out other channels for their money if the charities in which it is now spent were closed, and not a single farthing would come into his hands, so that the result would be, while you gave £4,000 with one hand out of the seat-rents, you would take back £2,000 with the other for the maintenance of the fabrics. He would strongly urge upon his hon. Colleague not to persevere with his present Bill, which could only produce one result—the increase of the agitation. If his hon. Colleague would address his mind to a subject which he well understands—the state of the city accounts—and see whether this sum of £4,200 can be liquidated out of the surplus revenue, and without touching the security, he would render material service to the city. He hoped he would not press his Bill, but that he would at once withdraw it. Should he go to a second reading he should be compelled to vote against the measure which he had introduced.
§ MR. CRUM-EWING
said, he would remind the House that he had not supported the measure of i860, and rose to correct a mis-statement of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir James Fergusson). The hon. Baronet said that the opposition to the Bill of 1860 was carried on by a few noisy sectarians. That was not a correct statement. 7,600 of the inhabitants signed petitions and protested against the measure, and amongst those whom the hon. Baronet called "noisy sectarians" were Mr. Douglas, Professor Balfour, Sir James Simpson, Mr. Duncan, and Mr. Cowan, formerly Member for Edinburgh, and several others of equal respectability. He was 674 sure the hon. Baronet would not deliberately designate these men as mere noisy sectarians. The subject was viewed in Scotland like the question of church rates in England. It was not the amount produced by it that gave rise to the feeling against it. The opposition against it was a matter of sentiment, and as such was to be respected. He was sure the agitation would never cease until such a Bill as was now proposed was passed. He therefore gave it his cordial support.
§ MR. HADFIELD
observed, that the principle of the measure was affirmed in the year 1859 on two divisions, in which the majority in its favour was in the first instance 40, and in the second 60. In 1860 there were 15,000 petitioners against the continuance of this impost, and it was so objectionable that when distraints were made on account of the non-payment of the sum demanded there was the greatest excitement, and on one occasion no less than fifty-two policemen were called in to preserve the peace. This was a simple question of the reduction in the number of ministers who received this money from thirteen to ten, and it was only a few even of the Established Churches in Edinburgh which could claim to participate in the money derived from this tax, and it was a singular fact that the congregations attending those churches were in such a position as to be able to ride in carriages. He thought it disgraceful that fifty-two policemen should be employed to assist in levying an objectionable tax of this nature in Edinburgh for the benefit of the comparatively rich portion of the populace.
§ MR. CUMMING-BRUCE
remarked, that the hon. Gentleman who last spoke had referred to the agitation which the question had excited, but had not noticed the mode in which that agitation was fomented. Now, the evidence given before the Committee of last year by Mr. Maitland, the sheriff clerk, showed that very inflammatory suggestions were published in some of the newspapers. It was recommended that in every case of distraint a placard should be posted on the door in these terms:—"Provided for clerico-police tax…Who'll buy? Shame! shame! so to outrage Dissenters and religion," or that a black flag, bearing the notice or inscription, should be suspended from the window. In one instance, moreover, a placard was issued headed "Robbery and religion," and inviting all who loved justice and hated robbery to attend the sale. 675 The settlement of 1860 was passed with great unanimity, and was based on terms exceedingly fair. The clergy sacrificed five of their number, and agreed to accept £600 a year, whereas their incomes would otherwise have reached £800 or £1,000, while the members of the College of Justice gave up their right of exemption from the tax in order to promote the peace and good feeling of the city. That object had on the whole been attained; for, though some slight agitation had since been attempted, the more influential classes had held aloof from it, and the fact of a petition bearing 11,000 signatures amounted to very little, it being easy for persons hawking petitions about to get signatures for any object. As for the Committee of last year, it was an utter waste of time, and the proceedings were virtually a duel between the two Members for Edinburgh, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. M'Laren) wishing to throw dirt on the late Lord Advocate, and the latter occupying hours in cross-examining witnesses to show that he was not deserving of censure.
§ MR. M'LAREN
, in reply, said, that he was desirous in the first instance of giving the most emphatic denial, which the forms of this House would allow of, to the statement which had just been made by the hon. Member for Elgin to the effect that when the Committee sat he endeavoured to throw discredit upon his Colleague (Mr. Moncreiff), They would not find one particle of evidence in the blue book to support this allegation, which had been so unjustly made. Seeing that his hon. Colleague was not present in the House to-day during the period when he had spoken in support of the second reading of this Bill, he had refrained from even alluding to his existence—though if he had been present there were several points upon which he should have touched, but which, in consequence of the non-attendance of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he had, from a feeling of delicacy towards him, omitted from his statement to the House. The hon. Baronet the Member for Ayrshire seemed to think that he (Mr. M'Laren) had spoken disparagingly of the worth and usefulness of the ministers in Edinburgh. He hoped the hon. Baronet would do him the justice to believe that this was an entire misconception. He had known most of the ministers of Edinburgh personally for the last thirty years, and nobody in this House respected them more than he did, and it was not in the 676 least degree in his mind to cast any reflection upon them. He merely meant to say, that when the people should have the selection of their own ministers in these churches the appointment of good men, according to the views of the different congregations, would be ensured, and the churches would be well filled. It was said that the clergy gave up a large portion of their stipend—agreed to accept £600 instead of £800, which they had before received. He believed, however, that it would be found that the clergy had never received more than £600. He denied the accuracy of the statements made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith, that there was any grievance of which the people of Leith could complain, seeing that the Town Council of Edinburgh had given the clergy, from their own property, this sum of £2,000; and it was therefore quite incorrect to say that it was a burden on the dock dues or other charges leviable by the authorities of the port of Leith. It was a perfectly fair equivalent for the £2,000 a year which the clergy formerly levied as "Merk per ton," which rate was entirely abolished by a clause in the Agreement Act of 1838. This Act was unanimously approved of by the Town Council and inhabitants of Leith, who sent a member of the Town Council to London to assist in getting the Bill carried through Parliament, to confirm the agreement so unanimously concluded, along with himself (Mr. M'Laren), who had been appointed for the same purpose by the Town Council of Edinburgh. It was a mere delusion to say that the people of Leith paid one farthing in lieu of the Annuity Tax. His predecessor, Mr. Black, had been met with the same groundless allegation in 1859, when, according to Hansard,heShowed that the £2,000 was the property of the city, which the inhabitants of Leith had no more right to than the inhabitants of Dalkeith.The hon. Gentleman concluded by quoting the opinion of the late Sir George Lewis in favour of a measure similar in principle to the present, observing that he thought that the deliberate judgment of so calm and sagacious a statesman ought upon such a point to be conclusive.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 74; Noes 107: Majority 33.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.678
|Allen, W. S.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Amberley, Viscount||Laing, S.|
|Ayrton, A. S.||Lawrence, W.|
|Barnes, T.||Leatham, W. H.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Leeman, G.|
|Bazley, T.||Lefevre, G. J. S.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Lennox, Lord G. G.|
|Bowyer, Sir G.||Lewis, H.|
|Brady, J.||Locke, J.|
|Bright, J.||Lusk, A.|
|Browne, Lord J. T.||Merry, J.|
|Candlish, J.||Mill, J. S.|
|Chambers, T.||Mills, J. R.|
|Clay, J.||Monk, C. J.|
|Cowen, J.||Morris, W.|
|Dalglish, R.||Murphy, N. D.|
|Davey, R.||O'Beirne, J. L.|
|Denman, hon. G.||O'Brien, Sir P.|
|Dilke, Sir W.||Oliphant, L.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Pease, J. W.|
|Edwards, C.||Potter, E.|
|Erskine, Vice-Ad. J. E.||Potter, T. B.|
|Ewart, W.||Seely, C.|
|Ewing, H. E. Crum-||Shafto, R. D.|
|Eykyn, R.||Sherriff, A. C.|
|Fawcett, H.||Simeon, Sir J.|
|Forster, W. E.||Smith, J. B.|
|Fortescue, hon. D. F.||Stansfeld, J.|
|Gavin, Major||Stuart, Col. Crichton-|
|Gilpin, C.||Sykes, Colonel W. H.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||Taylor, P. A.|
|Gridley, Captain H. G.||Trevelyan, G. O.|
|Hadfield, G.||White, J.|
|Harris, J. D.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Henley, Lord||Young, R.|
|Hibbert, J. T.|
|Hurst, R. H.||TELLERS.|
|Ingham, R.||M'Laren, D.|
|King, hon. P. J. L.||Baines, E.|
|Adam, W. P.||Dimsdale, R.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||Du Cane, C.|
|Bagge, W.||Dunne, General|
|Bagnall, C.||Earle, R. A.|
|Baillie, rt. hon. H. J.||Egerton, hon. A. F.|
|Barclay, A. C.||Egerton, E. C.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Evans, T. W.|
|Bateson, Sir T.||Fane, Colonel J. W.|
|Beach, Sir M. H.||Feilden, J.|
|Bentinck, G. C.||Forde, Colonel|
|Blennerhasset, Sir R.||Forester, rt. hon. Gen.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Goddard, A. L.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Goldney, G.|
|Bruce, Lord C.||Goodson, J.|
|Bruce, C.||Gore, J. R. O.|
|Burrell, Sir P.||Gorst, J. E.|
|Carnegie, hon. C.||Graves, S. R.|
|Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.||Greenall, G.|
|Chatterton, hon. E.||Grey, hon. T. de|
|Clive, Capt. hon. G. W.||Griffith, C. D.|
|Cole, hon. H.||Gurney, rt. hon. R.|
|Cole, hon. J. L.||Gwyn, H.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Colthurst, Sir G. C.||Hardy, rt. hon. G.|
|Conolly, T.||Hartopp, E. B.|
|Cooper, E. H.||Hay, Sir J. C. D.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Holland, E.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Hotham, Lord|
|Cubitt, G.||Howes, E.|
|Dickson, Major A. G.||Huddleston, J. W.|
|Hunt, G. W.||Schreiber, C.|
|Karslake, Sir J. B.||Scott, Sir W.|
|Kekewich, S. T.||Scourfield, J. H.|
|Lanyon, C.||Selwyn, C. J.|
|Lennox, Lord H. G.||Seymour, G. H.|
|Lindsay, hon. Col. C.||Simonds, W. B.|
|Lowther, J.||Smollett, P. B.|
|M'Lagan, P.||Speirs, A. A.|
|Malcolm, J. W.||Stanhope, J. B.|
|Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir W.|
|Miller, W.||Stuart, Lieut-Col. W.|
|Moncreiff, rt. hon. J.||Surtees, H. E.|
|Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.||Taylor, Colonel|
|Naas, Lord||Tottenham, Lt.-Cl. C. G.|
|Neate, C.||Tracy, hon. C. R. D. H.|
|Noel, hon. G. J.||Waldegrave-Leslie, hn. G.|
|Northcote, rt. Hn. Sir S. H.|
|Parker, Major W.||Walker, Major G. G.|
|Patten, Colonel W.||Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
|Peel, rt. hon. General||Whitmore, H.|
|Powell, F. S.||Wise, H. C.|
|Read, C. S.||Yorke, J. R.|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.|
|Robertson, P. F.||TELLERS.|
|Rolt, Sir J.||Fergusson, Sir J.|
|Russell, A.||Montgomery, Sir G.|
Bill read the second time, and committed for Wednesday,13th March.