§ Order for Second Reading read.
MR. M'LAREN, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, it might be necessary, in the first place, to explain that its principal object was to reduce the number of ministers now in the City churches of Edinburgh, which at present was thirteen to ten, in order that by the saving of clerical power a small tax of 3d. in the pound, which is now paid by all occupiers of property within the ancient boundaries of the City of Edinburgh, may be entirely got rid of. In 1853, Mr. Adam Black brought in a Bill which had the same object in view as the present measure, though it took a different mode of attaining its object, leaving the clergy in possession of £2,000 a year, amply secured on docks, wharves, feu-duties, &c, in the town of Leith, and also of the seat rents. Mr. Black's Bill was twice carried
in this House; but unfortunately, in 1860, he did not proceed with it, hut withdrew it in favour of another Bill, which was introduced by the Government of that day. Referring to this subject, he would adopt the explanation respecting the authorship of the Bill, given by a deputation from Edinburgh, which waited upon the Home Secretary a few days ago. Mr. David Smith, the Chairman of the Edinburgh Ecclesiastical Commissioners, is reported to have said that—
As the settlement of 1860 had been effected by the Lord Advocate in the name and on behalf of the Government, the Church was entitled to ask the Government to adhere to that settlement.
Now he did not mean to challenge the statement, indeed, he admitted it; but the statement was not that an arrangement was made with the people of Edinburgh at that time, but only that arrangements were made on the part of the Church and on the part of the Government of that day. He would ask was the present Government to be bound by everything which had been done by preceding Governments? Were they not living in a progressive age? If, indeed, the Lord Advocate, as Member for Edinburgh, had supported and carried the Bill through Parliament in sympathy with the wishes and desires of the people of Edinburgh; if he could have said that the inhabitants, or Town Council, or public bodies, supported the settlement, and if these things could be proved— which he undertook to say could not— he admitted at once it would have been a very important fact; but so far from the people of Edinburgh approving of the Bill which was passed by Lord Palmers-ton's Government, they did everything in their power to oppose it. The Town Council of Edinburgh had circulated a paper among Members of the House, in which they stated that they had done everything in their power to stop the Bill; and warning the House that they would never accept such a settlement, but would go on agitating until they got it altered. Before the Bill passed large public meetings were held, protesting against it; and after it had become law, a great public meeting was held, at which it was agreed to get up a solemn protest against the settlement, and that solemn protest was signed by 7,600 rate-payers of Edinburgh, including nearly 3,000
electors. From these facts, which were incontrovertible, it could not be alleged that any settlement had been made with the inhabitants of Edinburgh, whatever might have been done on the part of the Church, and whatever might have been done by the Government of the day. Moreover, the present Government had no share in, and were in no way answerable for what had been done under Lord Palmerston's Administration; and he could show that the Administrations which intervened between that time and the present did not consider themselves as so bound. In 1866, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth, then Home Secretary, and who had filled the same Office in Lord Palmerston's Administration, when the Bill was passed, agreed to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the operation of the Act, which was obviously inconsistent with the notion of a final settlement in 1860; for if any such settlement was then made why should a Select Committee be appointed in 1866, to consider and report upon it? Nor did Lord Derby's Government consider that any final settlement had been made, for they brought in a Bill during their last year of Office to deal with the case of the parish of Canongate, which had two ministers, paid by a public rate of 1s. in the pound; and they carried the Bill to reduce the ministers from two to one, and the tax from 1s. to 3d. in the pound. All that the present Bill sought to accomplish was to abolish the small rate which was now imposed, and which amounted to 3d. in the pound. As to the details of the Bill objections were formerly taken with some of the clauses which were intended to give a complete guarantee for the life interests of existing incumbents. It was objected that these clauses would not be effective for the object in view; but when the Town Council took these representations into consideration they adopted and circulated draft Amendments to the Bill, which would remove all doubts as to the subject, and give complete security for the life interests of the ministers. He would trouble the House with only a few statistics. There were five ministers and churches in the New Town of Edinburgh, and eight in the Old Town. The population of the five New Town parishes was about 40,000; and there were a great number of empty sittings in these
churches. The population of the Old Town was now about 30,000, and it had eight ministers and eight churches. What the Bill sought to do was to reduce the number of ministers in the Old Town by three, not interfering with the ministers in the New Town at all. In the Old Town there were about 15,000 Roman Catholics, leaving only about 15,000 Protestants of all ages; and for these the Bill proposed to leave five ministers. Edinburgh, moreover, teemed with Dissenting places of worship of every kind, both in the Old Town and in the New. Now, these considerations showed that there would be no hardship in making the reductions proposed. In the whole City of Edinburgh there were twenty-six Established churches and chapels of ease, and of these thirteen depended partially for endowments on this local rate which the Bill sought to abolish. There were thirty-five Free churches and nineteen United Presbyterian churches, making a total of fifty-four churches belonging to these two bodies—who were negotiating for a union, and who might be regarded as only one sect—or double the number of those belonging to the Establishment. Then there were twelve Episcopal churches, ten Baptist and Independent churches, and fourteen of the smaller churches; making altogether 116 Protestant churches, and three Roman Catholic churches, which brings the total number of places of worship in the City up to 119. It had been asserted that we propose by this Bill to make the City churches practically voluntary churches —giving them no public endowment; but the facts were altogether contrary to that assertion. Thirty years ago, the City of Edinburgh sold all its property and rights and interests in the harbour and docks and yards and shore ground of Leith under a valuation, afterwards sanctioned by Parliament. It was arranged that £2,000 a year of this sum, as the value of their interest, should be paid to the Established clergy. That had been paid for the last thirty years, and it was as good and as solid a security as any to be found in the United Kingdom; and if the Church Establishment was abolished to-morrow, this £2,000 a year would go into the coffers of the City of Edinburgh for the property which it had sold. In addition, the clergy would, by the Bill, be left with the pew rents amounting to £4,300, which were increasing at the rate
of £120 a year. Then there was a certain amount of free-will offerings at the church doors amounting to £ 1,700 a year. We propose, in place of giving these free-will offerings to the poor, to let the poor be supplied from the proper quarter—the poor rates — and that these offerings in churches should go to pay the small miscellaneous expenses incurred—in the same way as in the Church of England, and in all the unendowed Churches. The pew rents might also be largely increased. In proof of this he might state that under the present system, in three of the most recently erected, churches in the New Town, notwithstanding the enormous increase in the population, and that the rental of the City had nearly trebled, and the cost of education and of everything else had greatly increased—the average of the seat rents had fallen from £1 0s. 6d. in 1832 to 12s. a sitting in 1868; and in three churches in the Old Town, the average which, in 1832, was 12s. was now 5s. 6d. only. The Bill was based on the calculation that there would be from the seat rents and the £2,000 a year from Leith property an annual income of £600 for each of the ten ministers. There were too many of these churches—there was a mere handful of people in each; and if they suppressed three of the churches it would do good in place of being injurious; for the congregations would have nothing to do but to walk into other churches which were almost next door to them. The whole area of the eight Old Town parishes of Edinburgh occupied less than one quarter of a square mile, and if they shut up three churches, the only inconvenience would be that the people who attend them would have to turn a little way to the right instead of the left, and vice versa. No possible injury can accrue from the adoption of this scheme. There had been forty Petitions in favour of the Bill from all parts of Scotland; for this was not considered a local question. This annuity tax was the only existing rate for ministers' stipends in Scotland, and therefore the Nonconformists in all parts of Scotland objected to it. There tad been only fifteen Petitions against the Bill, and they are mostly from presbyteries, and not from the people generally. There was only one other point he had to mention, and that arose from the statement which was made to the
Home Secretary by a gentleman to whom he (Mr. M'Laren) had already referred, who said that since the Bill proposed to raise the same sum from ten churches which was now raised from thirteen, it must fail practically But that did not follow. Take the case of the High Church, for example, which produced only £49 from new pew rents, but for which £120 a year was paid for the small miscellaneous expenses of the church. If this Bill were passed, the £49 would still be forthcoming in the other churches, where the parishioners took seats, but the £120 for miscellaneous expenses being already provided for in these churches, would be saved, and thus the general funds of the church, would be increased by the change. In other words, the gross revenue would be the same as now, while the gross expenditure would be less by £120 a year for each suppressed church. He would not now trespass further on the attention of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. M'Laren).
§ SIR GRAHAM MONTGOMERY
rose to move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months. The hon. Member having gone at great length into the history of the annuity tax, and the various measures which had been introduced prior to the Act of 1860, proceeded to say that the Act of 1860 provided for the teen ministers at £600 a year each, amounting altogether to £7,650; and in order to raise that sum it took the £2,000 from Leith, then the bonds of annuity which the Act granted to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners over the town, amounting to £4,200, and £1,450 from seat rents. There were several other very important provisions in the Act of 1860. Before that time the Corporation of Edinburgh managed the collection of the annuity tax, but under that Act the collection of the tax and the management of the City churches was handed over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of Edinburgh, who had ever since continued to manage the ecclesiastical property of the City. The Act of 1860 reduced the tax from 10d. to 2d. —which was a manifest gain to the City of Edinburgh—and the number of ministers was now only thirteen instead of eighteen. Then as to the proposal of 844 the hon. Member opposite (Mr. M'Laren), he proposed to find stipends for the City clergymen in this way—He proposed that they shall have £2,000 from Leith. The hon. Member had not explained the origin of that fund, but it arose as an ecclesiastical revenue belonging to the Corporation of Edinburgh, in the shape of an annuity, payable to the Corporation in lieu of its property in Leith, harbour, docks, warehouses, feu-duties, &c, which were surrendered in 1838. Now it appeared to him (Sir Graham Montgomery) if the City of Edinburgh was to be excused from paying this £4,200, then the town of Leith would have an equal right to claim that this £2,000 a year should not be imposed upon them. The hon. Member also proposed that the annuity be reduced from £4,200 to £2,050, and that the Commissioners shall so regulate the letting of the seats in the Church that they shall never produce more than £4,800 in a year. Unfortunately, those rents have never produced that sum yet. The hon. Gentleman proposed to do away with three of the churches in which money for the seat rents were paid; he also proposed to make considerable alterations, so as to secure in a better manner the life interests of the clergy of Edinburgh; and in that way he held out a bribe to the clergy of Edinburgh to agree to the Bill by making their private interests so much better than they would otherwise be. He expected that these gentlemen, in their desire to secure better terms for themselves, would neglect the interests of their successors; but he (Sir Graham Montgomery) thought that in that matter he might be somewhat disappointed. Another most objectionable provision of the Bill was the proposal to take away the church-door collections, which were made every Sunday in Edinburgh, and which had hitherto been applied to assist in supporting the poor. No doubt the poor of Edinburgh, like the poor of any other place, were supported by the poor rates; but still there could be no doubt, also, that many an honest person was kept off the roll by the administration of this fund. He could not conceive a more excellent provision than this one which the hon. Gentleman proposed to do away with. The hon. Gentleman has said that the Act of 1860 was no compromise, for that it was not made with the consent of the in- 845 habitants of Edinburgh, but was only an arrangement between the Government of the day and the Established Church; but anyone who read the evidence that was given before the Select Committee in 1866, would find from many statements that many people consider the Act of 1860 a compromise. The Lord Advocate himself had stated distinctly that the Act of 1860 was a compromise. The right hon. Gentleman said—I hold, as far as I am concerned, and shall hold as long as I have a voice in public matters, that until the men with whom I made the compact of 1860 come forward to me, willing to relinquish it they are entitled to require me to uphold it, and I am determined to do so.Then the Town Council of Edinburgh were equally committed to that compromise, for on the 30th of April, 1860, a meeting of the inhabitants of Edinburgh was called by the Town Council to consider the Bill which was then in progress, and that public meeting passed a Resolution—That in reliance that every effort will be made for attaining aid from other sources towards the reduction of the tax and for the sake of the peace of the City, and as the condition of an immediate settlement, the meeting would acquiesce in the proposal of a tax on occupiers which would enable the Corporation to provide stipends for the present ministers, and ultimately for fifteen, at £600 a year—taking the seat rents as stated in the tables of the Lord Advocate, commencing with a free balance of £1,660 till they reached £2,500, the tax to be redeemable in the option of the ratepayers, and undoubted security to be given for the payment of the stipends.Another party to the compact of 1860 was the Church of Scotland, or rather the Presbytery of Edinburgh; for the ministers, instead of having £550 a year now would have received stipends of £800 a year; and the Church also made a great sacrifice of principle in reducing the number of ministers. Then there are other parties who were also concerned in this matter; for instance, previous to 1860 the College of Justice, which consists of writers to the signet— the barristers and advocates of Edinburgh, were exempted from the annuity tax, but under the Act of 1860 they agreed for the first time to pay their share. Another thing he wished to mention was that as the Lord Advocate first introduced his Bill in 1860, he proposed to establish a sinking fund, by which, if that proposal had been adopted, the tax at this moment would have been more 846 than half-way redeemed; but the Corporation of Edinburgh declined the arrangement. It should also be mentioned that if the ministers of Edinburgh ceased to collect this fund, the payment of the ministers, so far as the City of Edinburgh was concerned, would be in exactly the same position as in many of the other burghs of Scotland—as for instance in Glasgow, where the ministers of the Established Church were paid their stipends derived from the commonality of the town; and the same was the case in Perth, and in other places. He hoped, therefore, the House would not interfere with the settlement produced by the Act of 1860. He would conclude by moving that the Bill be read a second time on this day three months.
MR. ORR EWING*
Mr. Speaker, it is with considerable hesitation that I rise to second the Motion which has just been made by my hon. Friend, and to address a few remarks to the House upon the Bill which is now under discussion; and I venture to do so because I believe that this Bill aims a heavy blow at the existence of the Church of Scotland, an institution which I feel has done more to mould the character of Scotchmen, by its teaching from the pulpit, and its admirable system of parochial schools, and to make Scotland what it is, than all the other institutions in that country. It is that institution which has made our people self-reliant, independent, industrious, and peaceable; and notwithstanding that we suffer from an inferior climate and an inferior soil, there is no part of Her Majesty's dominions which is more prosperous, more contented, or more happy than Scotland. I wish, in the first place, to direct the attention of this House to the Preamble of the Bill which has been introduced by the hon. Member for Edinburgh. The Preamble, instead of doing that which a Preamble is generally supposed to do, conceals the real intention of the Bill rather than gives expression to the force of its clauses. The Bill is entitled—a Bill to abolish the annuity tax for ministers in the parish of Canongate, and for other purposes; and the Preamble goes on to say it is expedient that the annuity tax for ministers in the parish of Canongate on behalf of the ministers of the parish should be abolished, and other provisions should be made re- 847 specting future payment of said ministers in the City of Edinburgh, by amending certain Acts upon the subject. I am sure hon. Members would believe from the title and Preamble of the Bill that its principal object was to abolish the annuity tax in the parish of Canon-gate, and to provide for a change in the provisions relating to the other ministers in the City of Edinburgh, which would be equally secure and satisfactory to the clergy of the Church of Scotland, and, at the same time, less objectionable to the Dissenters of Edinburgh. But what is the real object and intention of the Bill, and what do its clauses carry out? Its clauses carry out the entire disendowment of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, with the exception of £2,000 paid to the Church by the town of Leith, to which I will again refer; and to disendow the Church of Scotland is to disestablish it, for we acknowledge no supremacy of the Crown, and the sole reason why we are an Established Church is because we are endowed by the funds which this Bill, if passed, will rob us of. I therefore think, Sir, that it would have been more straightforward on the part of the hon. Member for Edinburgh had he followed the example of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, in his Irish Church Bill, and called this Bill, a Bill to put an end to the Establishment of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, and to make provision in respect of the temporalities thereof. This Bill may be generous to the rich inhabitants of Edinburgh, by relieving them of payments which they hitherto have made; but it is by no means generous to the poor, for one of its provisions is, that the money now collected at the church door, which is distributed amongst the deserving poor of the City parishes, is to be used for the payment of the clergy. We are taught by the highest authority how great is the virtue of giving to the poor, but what shall be the reward of those who do not give, but who taken away from the poor? It is also provided that the seat rents are to be handed over to the clergy, but in country parishes seat rents in the Church of Scotland are unknown; people, therefore, going to live in towns from the country do not think of taking seats and paying for them, because they have never been accustomed to do so. I need not go 848 into the history of the annuity tax, because that has already been so ably done by my hon. Friend the Member for Peeblesshire. I should just wish, however, to call the attention of the House to a fact that my hon. Friend omitted to go into, and that is that when the agitation first took place in 1851 it was not so much because of the burden of so many ministers, but because of the injustice of certain portions of the inhabitants being relieved from the tax. In 1851, after the Report of the Select Committee, a Bill was brought in by Lord Dalhousie, and why was not that Bill carried through Parliament? Because of the opposition of the Church party. Who was the Gentleman who promoted that measure? The hon. Gentleman the author of the Bill now before the House. In 1852 and 1853 similar Bills were brought in and supported by the hon. Member for Edinburgh and his Friends, but again they were opposed by the Church party, and consequently withdrawn. In 1857 a Bill was introduced by the present Lord Advocate, but it was not carried, through the opposition of the Church. After other attempts at legislation we come to the Act of 1860, by which the Church of Scotland made great sacrifices for the sake of peace, and the inhabitants of Edinburgh received great benefits. The number of clergy was reduced by this Bill from eighteen to thirteen, and the tax upon the inhabitants was reduced from 10d. to 3d. in the pound. The hon. Gentleman has stated that if the inhabitants of Edinburgh had given their consent to that Act he would admit that he and the inhabitants of the City were bound not to disturb that settlement, but that they did not give their consent. But the hon. Baronet who moved the rejection of the Bill read resolutions which had been passed at a public meeting of the inhabitants, which had authorized the Lord Advocate—who I am glad to see now in his place—to carry that Bill. The principle of that Bill was satisfactory to the people of Edinburgh. The hon. Member seems to consider that he had proved, to the satisfaction of this House, that because, in 1866, a Royal Commission was issued to examine into the operation of that Bill of 1860, and also because, under Lord Derby's Administration, a Bill was brought in—in 1867—for the diminution 849 of the Canongate ministers, that the late Government did not consider the question finally settled; but every Member of this House knows how easy it is to get Select Committees, or Commissions, appointed on questions with which the House does not agree. As to the Bill of 1867, its object was only to settle the affairs of another parish which had not been included in the arrangement brought about by the Act of 1860. I am sure that if hon. Members will take the trouble of reading the evidence which was given before the Select Committee which sat in 1866, they will come to the conclusion that not only the City of Edinburgh, but especially the hon. Member himself, is bound, in honour, not to disturb the arrangement which was made by way of compromise in 1860. The hon. Gentleman has said that since that settlement he has learned wisdom. Now there are two kinds of wisdom—there is the wisdom of the serpent and the wisdom of the dove. I do not know to which he lays claim; but I do think the hon. Member has not been taught that wisdom which tells us to do unto others as we should wish others to do unto us. Nor has he been taught that wisdom which induces a man, whether acting in his public or private capacity, to adhere rigidly to all agreements into which he may have entered. I have no doubt the hon. Member considers, from the peculiar circumstances of the last General Election, that he has received great adventitious aid to rely upon in proposing to carry out the destruction of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. He, no doubt, thinks that hon. Members, who have been sent to this House to support the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government in disestablishing and disendowing the Irish Church, will not be acting consistently if they do not support this Bill, which is to disendow and disestablish the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. I would, however, direct the attention of hon. Members to the fact that the two cases are not parallel. The Church of Scotland cannot be called an alien Church. It cannot be said, either as regards its doctrines or its form of worship, that it is not in consonance with the feelings of the people of Scotland. On the contrary, it is that Presbyterian form of worship for which our forefathers fought and conquered, and which, at this pre- 850 sent moment, is in strict conformity with the feelings and aspirations of the people of Scotland. No doubt, it is not now the only Presbyterian Church—we have the United Presbyterian and Free Churches; but, although we differ in one important point of Church government, yet, in all the essentials of a Christian Church, we are the same. Even in our government, with one exception, we are identical. We are governed by our Kirk Sessions, our Presbyteries, our Synods, and our General Assemblies, in all which the laity are fully represented, having equal powers with the clergy in all their deliberations—a system of government, I venture to think, that is most wise and worthy of imitation by all Churches, for, in my opinion, it is the best safeguard of the energy, the purity, and the popularity of the Church. The part of Church government in which the Dissenting Churches differ from the Church of Scotland is patronage. The law of patronage has been the cause of all the dissent from the Church of Scotland for the last century and a half, and is at this moment the chief cause of our continued separation. It was the sole origin of the great disruption of 1843, an event which will be ever memorable in the annals of our country, exhibiting as it did the noblest sacrifice ever witnessed of nearly 500 men giving up churches, glebes, manses, livings, and everything that could be held dear, for the maintenance of what they believed a great principle. Much has been said on behalf of the Free Church, and I willingly add my testimony in her behalf. She has done noble things. Her efforts with respect to education are beyond all praise. But I ask is there nothing to be said on behalf of the old Church of Scotland and of that gallant band of brave, good men, who did not believe it to be their duty to leave the Church in 1843, but who stuck by the sinking ship, and not only took her safely into harbour, but have so repaired and strengthened her, that she is more capable than ever to carry the glad tidings of the Gospel not only through our own land, but into our colonies and dependencies? I think, Sir, there is much to be said on behalf of that Church. There never was a Church placed in such trying circumstances as the Church of Scotland then was, and which, notwithstanding, is at present 851 doing more good, and is more powerful than it was in 1843. I should like to correct the statistics on this subject, which were given by the junior Member for Edinburgh on one occasion on which he addressed the House. On that occasion the hon. Member said that the combined strength of the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church amounted to between 1,500 and 1,600 churches; whereas, that of the Established Church amounted to about only 900. I wish to inform the hon. Member and the House that the number of churches belonging to the United Presbyterian Church in Scotland amounts to 493, and those of the Free Church at 872, making in all 1,365 churches; whereas, the number of churches belonging to the Church of Scotland amounts to 1,250, being 350 more than the hon. Gentleman gave us credit for. When the disruption took place in 1843, the Church of Scotland had only 1193 churches. Since then we have increased that number by] fifty-seven. We have also endowed since 1843, 131 churches, at a cost of not less than £496,500. The hon. Member has attempted to show to this House by statistics—of which he is a great master—that the Church of Scotland is in a dead state. Now, I should like to call the attention of the House to what the Church of Scotland is doing in the way of education, of endowments, and of promoting other philanthropic objects for the benefit of mankind in Scotland and throughout the world. We collected in 1868 no less than £165,093 for educational, missionary, and charitable purposes at home and abroad. For education at home we collected last year £22,847. For home missions, £69,397, and for endowment, £40,700—in all, £132,944; whereas the Free Church collected last year for missions and education, £66,729, and for local building fund, £56,279, making in all £123,008. I hope, therefore, the House will not be led away by the statistics of the hon. Member, because I believe the Church of Scotland was never more active and energetic than she is at the present moment. I think I have shown that the case of the Irish Church and of the Church of Scotland are not parallel cases. But, assuming that they were, I should like to ask does the hon. Member deal with the question in the same way as the Premier has dealt with the 852 Irish Church? What does the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Edinburgh propose? That the £4,200, which is now paid by the inhabitants of Edinburgh, under the Act of 1860, should be taken away from the Church. But does he propose to value that at twenty-two and a-half years' purchase; or that, after it has been taken from the Church, it should be applied to the public purposes of the nation? Not at all. He proposes nothing of the kind. But he proposes that the inhabitants of Edinburgh should absorb this money. Now, I should like to know what right the people of Edinburgh have to this money any more than the landlords of Ireland to the tithes? The House will be no longer surprised at the popularity of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, the author of this Bill, which, while it robs the Church of her property, enriches the people of Edinburgh. Nor will they be at a loss to understand how it was that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate, of whom every Scotchman is justly proud, and who enjoys the confidence and esteem of Members on both sides of the House, was obliged to withdraw from the representation of the City of Edinburgh, because he preferred to maintain the integrity of an arrangement solemnly entered into and confirmed by the Act of 1860, to the following of the leadership of the senior Member for Edinburgh. It is not the first time that the inhabitants of Edinburgh have repented of their conduct to one of Scotland's greatest sons, and I feel certain the day is not far distant when the City of Edinburgh will make reparation to the right hon. Gentleman for the treatment he has received, because of his honourable conduct in this matter. It is true that the Bill does not entirely disendow the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, because it leaves the £2,000 which is obtained from the harbour of Leith. The hon. Member laboured hard to shew that this property belonged to the City of Edinburgh, and. not to the harbour of Leith. But the hon. Gentleman forgets that the grant was given to the Church of Scotland a century and a-half ago of 1 merk Scots upon every ton of goods coming into the harbour of Leith, which grant was commuted into a fixed charge of £2,000 in the year 1838, when the City of Edinburgh having got into a state of bankruptcy sold the harbour of 853 Leith to the inhabitants of Leith. Now, I should like to know upon what principle the hon. Gentleman proposes to relieve his constituents of the payment of £4,200 a year, which is the sum paid under the Compromise Act of 1860, and to leave the inhabitants of Leith still burdened with the £2,000? The latter are surely more entitled to be relieved from the payment of that sum than are the citizens of Edinburgh from the £4,200; because, while a certain portion of the inhabitants of Edinburgh do derive a benefit from these churches being in their midst, the people of Leith can receive no possible benefit there from, as they are at too great a distance to have the advantage of the ministration of these particular clergymen. But it would not suit any party or political purpose that this £2,000 should be given back, and hence the indifference which is shown as to whether it is taken away or not from the Church of Scotland. Does this not prove that there is no principle involved in the Bill? It is only a Bill to rob the Church and enrich the owners of property in Edinburgh. It is entirely a Town Council question, got up for party purposes, and that the citizens of Edinburgh take no part in the matter. In order to show that such is the case, I will just read to the House an extract from the most talented paper that we have in Edinburgh—a paper which has the widest circulation, and which is sure to receive at the hands of hon. Gentlemen opposite the greatest consideration; because I say, without hesitation, that it is the most powerful lever on behalf of Liberalism which exists in this country. I allude to the Scotsman. The Scotsman of April 7, 1869, says—However desirable, or however objectionable, the object of the meeting here on Tuesday night, presided over by the Lord Provost, the meeting itself certainly supplies another instance of the fact that public meetings in Edinburgh receive little countenance from the public. The public may, or may not, be in favour of the propositions made at the meeting; but assuredly the public is giving itself no trouble one way or the other. The meeting also illustrated another peculiarity of our municipal condition—the almost entire separation between the Town Council and the town. The reporters seem to have stretched a point to make out a good platform list, but it is almost all Town Council, er preterea nihil. The fullest lists contain fourteen or fifteen Town Councillors, and five or six other lay citizens—one even of these a salaried officer of the Council. The question before the meeting was one about taxa- 854 tion, which makes it additionally strange that so nearly all the zeal should be monopolized by Town Councillors, who represent the local taxpayers so imperfectly that a virtual majority of those who elect them pay only one thirty-fourth part of the City's burdens. There was something, perhaps, even stronger still—those Town Councillors who make a business or trade of agitating this miserable question are almost all elected by that half of the city which has not a ½d. of interest in the matter—which never had more than the false pretence of an interest, and last year lost even that. The grievance of the municipal agitators used to be that, under a compromise suggested by themselves, and an expedient devised by their own Parliamentary representative, they had to pay 4–5ths of a penny, not to the clergy, as they represented, but to a municipal fund devoted to purely secular purposes; and now that that grievance has been removed they seem only the more aggrieved—their wound was great because it was so small, and now it is greater because it is none at all. There are two ways in which the question of provision for the clergy of the Established Church in Edinburgh might be honestly and reasonably dealt with. Let it be abolished altogether along with all such provisions throughout Scotland, or till things are ripe for that settlement let the Edinburgh arrangement remain as it is, which is where it was placed by the request of the very parties who are now assailing it, and with the reluctant consent of all the other parties interested. There is just as much or as little reason for abolishing the Established Church elsewhere as here. The Edinburgh clergy are now paid just as the clergy of Glasgow, Dundee, Stirling, or other towns, by a fixed payment from the burgh funds, and not from the produce of any particular tax.I should like to ask the Government if they are prepared to support the principle of this Bill and the proposed appropriation of the money? If so, then common justice should compel them to hand over the funds of the Irish Church to the Irish landlords. It would be less objectionable to do this in Ireland than to do in Edinburgh what is proposed by this Bill. Some hon. Members may think from the fact of Scotland having returned so many Liberal Members to support the Premier in disestablishing the Irish Church, that Scotland is in favour of severing all connection between Church and State. I have no hesitation in saying that the feeling of Scotland is quite the reverse. The great majority of Scotchmen believe that religion is the foundation of all sound government; and the true cause of the great preponderance of Liberal Members returned to this House by Protestant Scotland at the last election was that Scotchmen, not unmindful of their own struggles, did sympathize with the roman Catholics of Ireland in having thrust upon them an 855 alien Church, with whose doctrines or form of worship the great majority of the people do not agree. Although the Scotch people have no sympathy with Roman Catholics in religion, yet they had sympathy with simple justice; but, though wishing to see justice done to Ireland in this matter, I believe the people of Scotland are as sincerely attached to the principle of connection between Church and State now as they were at the time of the disruption in 1843. It was said by Members of the Government during the General Election, and by many of their ardent supporters, that the injustice of the Established Church in Ireland was a source of weakness instead of strength to the Established Churches of England and Scotland; and that it was a delusion to say that, if the Irish Church was disestablished, it was the intention of the Government to disestablish the other Churches too; and they declared that they had no such intention. I give them full credit for sincerity in these declarations; but I warn the Government that if they support the second reading of this Bill they will create the greatest alarm throughout Scotland at least, if not throughout England, because the people will begin to doubt the sincerity of those declarations. I appeal, then to the Government not to support this Bill. For my own part I trust the day is far distant when the Church of Scotland shall be disestablished; for I believe she is an active and zealous Church, that is doing much good work; and I hope she will for many centuries remain the Church of the people, carrying the consolations of the Gospel to the bedsides alike of the rich and of the poor.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Sir Graham Montgomery).
§ MR MACFIE
said, that the constituency he had the honour to represent joined their neighbours of Edinburgh in their desire to have this question at length settled. The endowments of Edinburgh did not date back to the time of the Reformation; they were originated, or applied to the Church in Edinburgh, a century later. The people of Edinburgh wisely and befittingly wished to provide ministrations suited to the metropolitan 856 character of their city. The Parliament of Scotland gave effect to their views. In the Scotch Act imposing the annuity tax you read—For-as-meikle as the City of Edinburgh, being the chief and principal city of this kingdom, whither upon occasions' of the sitting of Parliament, for the most parte, the Secret Council and Session, and other great judicatures within the same, the nobilitie, gentrie, and people of the kingdom, of all sorts, and from all the corners of the country, do daily repair and resort, not only the inhabitants of the said burgh, but the whole kingdom is concerned that able and faithfull ministers, of partes and abilities suitable to the eminency of the place and weight of the charge, should serve in the said city, and for their encouragement competent stipends should be settled and provided for them. And the said town having been at vast charges for building of churches and public works upon that and other occasions, the common good and patrimony thereof is exhausted and overburdened, and upon the considerations aforesaid the inhabitants of the said burgh, who have the comfort and benefit of the said preaching of the Gospel, and ministery within the same, and His Majesty and Estates of Parliament, considering that there is not a more easie and effectual way for providing and paying the stipends than in manner and by the imposition foresaid, and that it is just and necessary that the same should be authorized and sattled by ane perpetual law in all time coming.By this quotation you will observe that not only have the inducing circumstances changed with respect to the sittings of Parliament, the residing of nobles, &c, in Edinburgh, but the justification alleged no longer exists. The persons who obtain the benefit of the religious services provided for are no longer those who pay. You have just heard what a large proportion of the inhabitants are not connected with the Established Church. Many also now live not intra but extra muros. He believed the settling of this question would be greatly to the advantage of the Church of Scotland. He agreed with hon. Members opposite that it was not a decaying or lifeless body. He looked forward to its being re-united in vigorous life with other large bodies in Scotland. It was a happy indication that the Church of Scotland seeks again to be freed from patronage. He was happy to be one of a numerous deputation who, a few days ago, waited on the Prime Minister, and were well received on this object. The present Bill provides for the acquisition and exercise of patronage by congregations. It was in his (Mr. Macfie's) opinion a great recommendation of this Bill to the House's attention and 857 favour that it is promoted by the Town Council of the City of Edinburgh—the very body who had originally assigned the endowments which they now see have become anomalous and objectionable—a corporation which had all the stronger claim on their confidence, inasmuch as it has—throughout, so far as he knew—used its right of presentation with remarkable discretion. The object sought was reached by three different endowments—Bishops' Teinds—the merk per ton, a tax imposed on all goods brought into Edinburgh and Leith by land or water—and an annuity or rent-charge. The first of these Government very long ago re-claimed and took to itself; the second exists no longer, with respect to goods brought to Edinburgh by land. With respect to goods brought by sea there are remains of it in the payment of the £2,000 a year to the Edinburgh clergy, of which he had been glad to hear hon. Members on the other side speak as they have done. He trusted the time was coming when Leith would get justice in this matter. His hon. predecessor in the representation of the district opposed all attempts to rid Edinburgh of its burden because the burden on Leith was not at the same time cancelled. He preferred the other course of helping Edinburgh, in reliance on the good feelings of our neighbours and the justice of the House. He left the matter to be considered and settled at the proper time. There were likely to be fitting opportunities, either when the general subject of ecclesiastical endowments should be under review, or when there should be legislation on the subject of charges levied on shipping and at ports for other than maritime and port purposes.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he would explain in a single word what the measure really was. It was simply a Bill to reduce the number of ministers from thirteen to ten. But the real and important point was whether it was advisable that they should have in the City of Edinburgh the question of ecclesiastical endowments revived? It was really the Irish Church question applied to Scotland—were they to have religious endowments in Scotland? To read the outside of the Bill one would suppose that it was a measure to abolish ministers' money in Edinburgh, and to make other provisions in respect to the stipends of ministers in 858 that parish. Well, what were those other provisions; how did the Bill secure to the Established Church in Edinburgh by other means the things necessary for the maintenance of worship? The hon. Member's explanation was that the Church was to have £2,000, which was to come from Leith, and were to have the pew rents and the church door collections. With the exception of the Leith fund, there was absolutely nothing, because the pew-rent system was simply a voluntary one, and the effect of this Bill would be to relieve the Church of these voluntary sources, because the pew-rents were to be paid to the general fund; and, as regarded the collections at the church doors, they were simply as now for the relief of the poor. So that, in fact, the Bill was a double measure for robbing the Church and plundering the poor. That is the plain English of the measure. He did not pretend to say whether endowments were right or wrong; but do not let hon. Members go into the Lobby with a false impression as to what the Bill meant. It meant that you are to accept the principle of disendowment in regard to ecclesiastical establishments. But the question was really a subordinate one on the part of those who were promoting that Bill. What was really meant was the assertion of the voluntary system for the maintenance of ministers. The question was simply one as to religious endowment; and as this question had been raised in Ireland, so it would be raised in Scotland. Perhaps Wales might be the next in respect to disestablishment and disendowment. The present measure, he maintained, was a distinct departure from the engagement and compromise entered into by his right hon. Friend the present Lord Advocate in 1860. Whether it was right or whether it was wrong, it was a compromise deliberately entered into by both parties. The tax was reduced from 10½d. to 3d., and gave other relief, and his hon. and learned Friend said—"We bought that relief by a settlement which we made with the ministers." That was a distinct compact, and if he knew the character of that House they would uphold it.
§ MR. MILLER
said, he supported this Bill because, if carried, it would produce something like peace in the City of Edinburgh; and he must remind the House that the Lord Provost had said that if it 859 is not carried he would not be responsible for the peace of the City. The Established Church in Edinburgh is at a discount in consequence of the controversy constantly arising on this question. Were it removed by the passing of this Bill, that Church would be on the same footing as other Churches there. But there could be no peace while it stood in the way. There are within the Parliamentary burgh twenty-six Established churches, fifteen maintained by endowment, and eleven voluntary; and, beyond one which has not yet been opened, these churches have not increased since 1843. The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Orr Ewing) said that in his part of the country the Established Church was flourishing, but he did not give any facts to prove it. He talked of having got £400,000 in twenty-six years. Why, the Free Church during that time has raised between £8,000,000 and £9,000,000. The Bill asked £4,000 a year from the rich Church party of Edinburgh—certainly a small sum, looking to the fact that one denomination, the Free Church, has alone built within Edinburgh thirty - five or thirty - six churches, and has maintained every one of them. Other denominations are flourishing in a similar fashion. He should be sorry to see that the Established Church could not be kept up in Edinburgh; he knew many excellent ministers in it, and he believed that were it relieved from the odium of the annuity tax it would be the means of doing great good.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, he had not intended to take any part in the discussion; but after the observations which had been made, he could not avoid saying a word with respect to the arrangement which, with the consent of his hon. Friend (Mr. M'Laren), they carried, with such an overwhelming majority, at the request of the Town Council of Edinburgh, which he admitted supported the measure in the most substantial manner. He consented to do so in consequence of receiving at public meetings and elsewhere decided proof of the public feeling in the matter, and when the measure was carried through Parliament and became law, it gave large relief to the rate-payers of Edinburgh. But, at the same time, it was right to say that a great many people raised a great deal of opposition to the 860 measure, and protested against it. Under these circumstances, when the Bill passed it was rather a Parliamentary compromise than a binding engagement. It was impossible for Parliament to bind either its successors or itself; and even those who took part in the proceedings were not in the least excluded from exercising their own opinion upon certain questions which arose subsequently. The contested election for Edinburgh in 1865 turned altogether upon this question of settling the annuity tax. He (the Lord Advocate) was opposed to any unsettling of the compromise of 1860; and although, he was sorry to say, he had not that amount of encouragement which he might have expected, he could not regard that as any reason for altering his opinion as to the binding nature of a compact which had been so solemnly entered into. He had maintained that opinion throughout; and upon that ground he opposed the Motion for the second reading of the Bill of last year, although he was quite aware of the risk he ran in doing so. Subsequently, on the General Election of last year, he took leave of his constituency on this plain ground—that he felt he could not, as their representative, be a party to undoing the settlement of 1860. He felt that he ought not to engage in a contest in these circumstances, and thought it more proper and due to himself to take the course which he adopted, holding himself perfectly free and entitled to consider this annuity tax question in the future, and to adopt what course he might feel it his duty to adopt with regard to it in the circumstances that might arise. To the position which he took up as representative of the constituency of Edinburgh he still adhered. He was, therefore, perfectly free to consider the question which had now arisen—what course they were to follow in the present circumstances. He was not prepared to throw over the settlement of 1860; but, at the same time, neither was he prepared, in the circumstances which had arisen, to oppose the second reading of the Bill. The reason why he was not prepared to oppose the second reading of the measure was this—There was an excitement, there was an agitation in respect to this matter; he could see no end to it; and he found that a certain portion of those gentlemen who supported him in bringing about the settle- 861 ment of 1860 had now come to be of opinion that the time had arrived when the matter ought to be re-considered. He therefore did not intend to offer any obstruction to the second reading of the Bill; but he did not see his way to go further; and he thought it was likely he might oppose the measure in its future stages. If there was really a wish to get rid of this tax, the means were not far off, for the truth was that the tax could only be levied when required for municipal purposes, and the revenues of the Town Council were increasing so steadily that it might before long become unnecessary to levy it.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that every hon. Member would of course take the view which his conscience dictated as to the course he should pursue upon this question. But how stood the case? What took place in 1860? There were several parties to the compact then made. There were the people of Edinburgh themselves, the Town Council, the members of the College of Justice, and the Government, as represented by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Lord Advocate). Now, had no alteration taken place in the position of these different parties since the compromise was entered into? First, the College of Justice undertook to bear a burden of 3d. per pound, not having been liable to pay anything on that account before. Yet he did not find that the Town Council, while desirous of getting rid of the burden themselves, were equally anxious to relieve the College of Justice. With respect to the Corporation, as representing the people, they were relieved of a tax of 10½d. in the pound, which might have been 14d. in the pound, and that was reduced to 3d.Upon that consideration they passed the resolutions which the right hon. Gentleman (the Lord Advocate), as he contended, had a perfect right to regard as confirming the Bill he was bringing in, and as agreeing to the terms on which the Bill was proposed. The Corporation were thus relieved of the 10d. in the pound, and they undertook for that to give a bond for a payment in perpetuity—for whom? Not for the same number of ministers as before; for the Church had agreed to reduce the number to thirteen. So that all these parties had changed their position; and now you came forward to undo a compromise, not of the nature 862 represented by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, but which must be regarded as binding upon all the parties to it. He was not going to argue this question as a question of disendowment, but as a question between man and man, and he asked whether it was a proper thing, when only nine years have elapsed, and when the parties to the compact were still living, to upset a compact so solemnly entered into—a compact to which the Government, the Church of Scotland, the Corporation, and the College of Justice are all parties. He asked whether, in passing this Bill, the House would not be entering on a very dangerous course? He was not disposed to undervalue the excitement and agitation which might exist in Edinburgh, with regard to this annuity tax question, but he could remember how that agitation arose. It did not originate with the people from any dissatisfaction with the settlement of 1860, but with some of those very persons who were parties to that compromise. He asked whether it was just, whether it was moral—that that House, nine years after so solemn an engagement was made, should undo that engagement—a compact which, he maintained, that House ought rather, with all its strength and moral power, to uphold?
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, that as to the settlement of 1860, he thought his right hon. Friend (the Lord Advocate) was fully justified in regarding the resolutions of the Corporation as warranting him bringing in that Bill of 1860. The hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) said there was no compact between the Government and the people of Edinburgh; but the fact was that the Government acted in direct accordance with the wishes of the people of Edinburgh. All that was objected to was that his right hon. Friend had rated too low the receipts that would be derived from the pew rents, which was a very trifling matter comparatively. He thought therefore, that his right hon. Friend did quite right in proceeding with the Bill on the assurance of those resolutions, backed up as he was by the all but unanimous support of the Members for Scotland. The Church made concessions, and gave up advantages which they possessed, in order that that compromise, which he regarded as a desirable settlement of the question, 863 might be carried out, and in these circumstances, and seeing that the arrangement, before it was finally entered into, underwent so much deliberation, it ought not, he thought, to be lightly-upset. He admitted that the settlement of 1860 might not have been perfectly satisfactory. He thought, the manner in which the Church funds were lumped together was an objectionable feature of the Bill; but he was of opinion that the Church of Scotland would derive increased strength from greater independence of action, and that with this view some arrangement might be entered into by which—sufficient security being given—a portion of the annuity tax might be surrendered. In that way, he thought, it was quite possible that some solution of the question might be arrived at; but he would resist to the utmost any such interference with the settlement of 1860, as was proposed by this Bill.
§ MR. M'LAREN
briefly replied, saying, with regard to the observations of the Lord Advocate, that the right hon. Gentleman had really admitted all that he (Mr. M'Laren) had contended for— namely, that the people of Edinburgh, before the Bill of 1860 passed, in place of approving of it, did remonstrate strongly against its passing in the shape in which it did pass.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, he should vote against the second reading. He had always been of opinion that this annuity tax ought to come to an end, and he thought if the hon. Member for Edinburgh had brought in a Bill properly framed, there would not have been much difficulty in accomplishing that object. But he objected to this Bill because it was a Bill which repudiated the obligation to pay the tax; the contract and the life interest involved were entirely disregarded, and the security of the parties was altered. The ministers were placed on a new footing with regard to their salaries; the securities guaranteed to them by Act of Parliament were altered; the basis upon which these securities were obtained was destroyed, and they were placed upon the shifting basis of pew rents. Such a Bill ought not to be passed by this House, and he thought it due to protection of the rights of contract that he should give his vote against the second reading.
said, that if he could regard this arrangement of 1860 as a contract between individual parties, he should have no hesitation about giving his vote against the measure; but when they came to deal with a public body, and especially under the peculiar circumstances of the case under consideration, the question became more difficult. He admitted that the resolutions passed by the Town Council when the Bill of 1860 was before this House were sufficient to justify the framers of the measure in proceeding with it; but it must also be borne in mind that before the compromise was finally effected, the Town Council did, in the strongest possible manner, on behalf of the inhabitants of Edinburgh, state their objections to that compromise, and the subject had been of continual turmoil ever since. It was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to give full weight to these considerations. What they had to do was to see that the rights and interests of all parties were secured and cared for; and in these circumstances, without pledging himself to the details of the measure, which would be open to discussion in Committee, he was prepared to support the second reading.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 151; Noes 142: Majority 9.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Tuesday next.