HC Deb 09 March 1870 vol 199 cc1580-602

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said—I shall detain the House for as short a time as possible; but I hope that, considering the importance of the subject, the House will allow me to go a little into details. The title of the Bill is, I find, objected to by certain Members. It is said that there are no "church rates" in Scotland. I admit at once that local imposts levied in Scotland are generally called assessments in the Acts relating to them; and if it please hon. Members to have the words "church assessments or rates" instead of church rates, I shall not object. If the Bill is approved in oilier respects, I shall not object to that alteration being made in Committee. I am aware that in Scotland police rates, water rates, and other imposts of the same class are generally called assessments; and hence I should not object to the change which seems to be desired, although I prefer the words of the title, and think them more expressive. Then, again, the Definition Clause is by some considered too broad, because it includes certain places of worship which are not legally entitled to have church rates imposed for their benefit. I admit that that is the case; but why is it so? Because, although there have been attempts to bring them tinder the operation of the law, those attempts have not been successful, and I have included them lo prevent a repetition of such attempts. The great argument, however, as I understand, of those who object to this Bill, is that there are no church rates or assessments in Scotland in all respects the same as the church rates which have been abolished in England and Ireland. I contend that this argument is quite fallacious; that the church rates in Scotland are not only of the same nature as were the rates in England and Ireland, but that there are several aggravations attending them which did not attend the operation of similar rates in the sister kingdoms. For example, in England, as I understand, a church rate could not be levied for rebuilding a parsonage house; while one of the great grievances in Scotland is, that the courts have never done with litigation and orders about the rebuilding of parsonages, or, as we call them, manses. I hold, therefore, that the grievance is much greater in Scotland than it was here. If there had been 13,000 parsonage-houses in England to be kept in repair, and rates had been levied for repairing, and in many cases for rebuilding those parsonages, the grievance would have been perfectly intolerable; but in that case church rates would probably not have been allowed to exist so long as they did. The annoyance and strife which might have happened in England, under such circumstances, is what does happen in Scotland every day. Again, it is said that a church rate in England was unlike a church rate in Scotland, because the English rate was levied upon the occupants of lands, while the Scotch rate is levied upon owners. I admit the fact, but I deny the inference—that the English landowners did not pay the church rates. We had opportunities of discussing the incidence of the rate before the English Church Rate Bill was passed; and it was strongly contended in this House that the abolition of church rates would relieve landlords to a large extent, because, although the tenants paid the rates in the first instance, its existence was perfectly well known and was calculated upon whenever an occupancy commenced. But if the argument now used against this Bill be sound, I should like to know what those who use it say about the poor rate in England? The poor rate is entirely levied upon the occupiers in England; but in Scotland only one-half of it is levied upon the occupier, the other half being chargeable on the landowner. Now will it be contended that on account of the difference of machinery used in collecting the poor rate, it does not form, as complete a burden on the land in England as in Scotland? On the contrary, it has been often argued that the poor rate in England is one of those gigantic burdens on the laud which ought to be lightened; and I quite agree with those who hold that the incidence of all local rates in agricultural districts rests upon land in the long run, no matter by whom they may be paid in the first instance. The main objection urged against this Bill is, that by abolishing the rate in question, you would, in effect, be giving to the landowner a large amount of national property; because the church assessment or rate is a burden which has existed from the period of the Reformation; and, therefore, that if you relieve the land from that burden you ought to take possession of the fund arising from that relief and apply it to education or some other national object, instead of allowing it to go into the pockets of the landlords. I deny that it is a burden of that nature; and, therefore, I deny that it can be dealt with in that way. This is not a fixed assessment like the minister's stipend or the schoolmaster's salary, which form an annual burden on property, and is taken into account in the sale and purchase of estates. I never saw an advertisement for the sale of a large estate in which all the burdens were not mentioned; but I think it would be a very extraordinary advertisement that included any burden connected with the repairing of churches or manses. I doubt whether such an advertisement as that ever appeared. Such a tiling would he quite contrary to ordinary usage. It is therefore impossible to deal with these rates as an ordinary burden on land. An hon. Friend near me has been assessed in the parish in which his property is at the rate of 6s. in the £1 upon his rental last year, for the rebuilding of the churches and manses; but, as he said to me the other day in discussing this question, nobody can ever call that a burden upon the land to be calculated for the future, because everything is now done so completely that for another sixty years in all probability there will never be an other halfpenny required to be raised for any of these purposes. There may be during: that time three different owners of the estate; and, if so, all these throe would escape any liability; on account of the re-building of the church and manse; but, supposing a fourth owner comes in, and another assessment for a similar purpose is required, that assessment would strike him, while the three previous proprietors had escaped altogether. It is therefore quite impossible to deal with this as an ordinary tax. There is another question to which I wish to draw the special attention of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Glasgow—who has given notice that he will move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months. I have carefully consulted the best legal authority extant on this subject—Mr. Duncan's work—on the Parochial and Ecclesiastical Law of Scotland. Mr. Duncan says that these rates do not form a burden on land like tithes and teinds; for, if an heritor dies after the assessment is laid on, and before he has paid it, the debt is decided to affect the personalty and not I the land—in other words, these rates are, according to Mr. Duncan, a burden on personal property. That being laid down as the law by the best authority extant. I should like to know what becomes of the argument respecting the burden on land? But the Bill does not abolish the rate. It merely copies the English Act of last Session, by preventing any legal process for recovery. Every heritor in Scotland would, after the Bill is passed, have just the same moans of paying as he has now. He has only to draw a cheque for the money and forward it; his conscience will then be at rest. The question is exciting great interest in Scotland, though it is launched for the first time. During the present year there have been only, so far as I know, two Petitions presented against the Bill, and some fifty in its favour. I would call the attention of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Glasgow to the fact that in the Glasgow newspapers which arrived this morning he will find a report of a very influential meeting held in Glasgow, and attended by some of the ablest and best men in that great city, at which they unanimously agreed to petition in favour of this Bill. The Town Councils of Edinburgh and Dundee also petitioned in favour of the measure, while in the county of Forfar the sensation has been very great in consequence of the frequent occurrence of these assessments. With regard to the assertion that this alleged burden on land has existed from time immemorial, I should like, with the permission of the House, to refer to the history of the law connected with this subject. The first Act to which it is necessary to refer with respect to the obligation to provide manses or parsonages was passed in 1612, when Episcopacy was the law of the land. It is important to notice this, because it shows that the burden was not then laid on the land, but on the clergy who occupied the manses. The Act requires Bishops and other ecclesiastical persons— To build, repair, and maintain their houses and manses in sik case as may serve for their dwelling and the dwelling of their successors. It then authorizes them, where extensive repairs or rebuilding have taken place, to charge their successors with a proportion of the outlay, as was the case in Ireland, till the Established Church there was abolished; but the Act went on to provide that this postponed charge should not exceed £1,000 Scots for a Bishop, and 500 merks for "other inferior ministers," which is £83 6s. 8d. in the one case, and £27 15s. 6d. in the other. This Act completely destroys the plea that these rates were always a burden on land, the same as tithes. The next Act requiring to be noticed was passed in 1644, when Cromwell's power prevailed and Episcopacy was abolished. It is well known that Cromwell had no liking for the great landowners of Scotland, and the law was no doubt changed in accordance with his wishes. That Act required manses to be provided by the heritors; but the enactment does not appear to have been effectual, for in 1649 another Act was passed, also in Cromwell's time, which may be said to be the first germ of the law as now enforced. It required the heritors of parishes, "at the sight of three ministers and three ruling elders to be appointed by the Presbytery," to build "competent manses," the cost and expenses thereof not exceeding £1,000 Scots, and not being beneath 500 merks—that is, £83 6s. 8d. and £27 15s. 6d. It will be observed that these are the same sums which the Episcopal clergy might recover from their successors under the Act of 1612. On the Restoration of Charles H. a general Act was passed rescinding all the Acts passed during the Cromwellian period, which was described as "the Usurpation." The two Acts already mentioned were in this manner repealed; but in 1663, when Episcopacy was restored, another Act was passed in nearly the same terms as the Act of 1649, laying the burden of providing "competent" manses on the heritors, and again with the limitations of £83 6s. 8d. and £27 15s. 6d. as before. Mr. Duncan, in his book on Ecclesiastical Law, says, with reference to this limitation— As the obligation on the heritors to build a manse at all is entirely the creation of a statute, it is difficult to avoid the result that the extent of their liability cannot exceed that stated in the Act. This must be clear, logically, to every unprejudiced mind. But the courts of law drove their coach and four through the Act, and in effect declared that as Parliament had not granted enough of money to provide comfortable manses for the ministers, they would override Parliament, repeal the limitation, and give abundance—in some cases exceeding the Parliamentary limit more than twenty-fold. So much for our Judge-made law virtually repealing Acts of Parliament, under which, alone we now suffer. It is important to notice that this ruling Act (1663) did not confer on the Presbyteries the powers which those bodies have gradually assumed to themselves, to order the erection of manses and churches. It required the heritors to build manses At the sight of the Bishop of the diocese, or such ministers as he shall appoint, with two or throe of the most knowing and discreet men of the parish. The Presbyteries for a long course of years have assumed the whole powers thus conferred on the Bishops, but without any direct statutory authority. These bodies consist of assemblages of ministers of neighbouring parishes. The largest Presbytery has twenty-seven ministers, and the smallest four. There is a ruling elder appointed along with each minister; but, practically, they leave the whole of these matters to be dealt with by the clergy. These Presbyteries frequently act in the most imperious way, entailing large expenses on the parish. The requirements of the Act of 1663, to appoint two or three "discreet" men along with the ministers, is never acted upon; and the courts of law, as a general rule, sustain the actings of these ecclesiastical bodies. With respect to the obligations to build and repair churches, they are so nearly the same as in the ease of manses that I need not go into any details on the subject. Mr. Duncan says— On the principle which has been so often expressed, that the laws in reference to churches and manses is similar, the rules applicable to the course of procedure in connection with building, repairing, or enlarging these two classes of buildings are substantially the same. Now, having stated what is the case with respect to manses, and having given my authority for saying that the rules as to churches are substantially the same, I shall not take tip the time of the House on that part of the subject. It remains for me to prove by facts, which I shall narrate, that a serious grievance now exists in Scotland. I may state that the grievance extends over the whole kingdom. It exists in the Shetland Islands even more oppressively than anywhere else. It is also intensely felt in the Orkney Islands and extends from thence to the most Southern districts of Scotland. I have received a great number of letters showing the hardships which are suffered. If I were not to give the names of the parishes, the facts being so extraordinary, I might be suspected of gross exaggeration. Let me, therefore, give, on the authority of a resident in Shetland, two or three cases by name. In Delting parish a now manse was ordered. The cost was 12s. 5d. in the pound on the real rent. A Free Church minister writes that he had to pay £9 9s. 4d. on his house and garden, valued at £15 5s. A new church was built about the same time, but it was assessed wholly on the large heritors. In Northmaven parish a new church was ordered, and is building. It will cost nearly one year's rental of the entire parish. The parish has four parochial district churches, all of which the Presbytery ordered to be renovated, and this was done at a large expense. In the parish of Walls a manse was ordered to be built, which is the largest and most expensive house in the parish. One of the district churches (the Isle of Fould) cost more than a year's rent. Is it possible, I would ask, for such a state of things to be allowed to continue? The same state of things prevails in Orkney. In the parish of South Ronaldshay since 1850 the sum of £967 has been expended upon the churches and manse. The parishes of Firth and Stennes since 1846 have been mulcted to the tune of £1,100 for repairing the manse in the parishes of Birsay and Harray the ecclesiastical buildings have since 1856 cost the heritors £2,060. In the parish of Sanday the manse was condemned by the Presbytery in 1833; instead of building a new one, the heritors agreed to pay the minister £25 per annum of manse rent. The minister is still living in the old manse comfortably, but always drawing the £25 of rent; and it is believed that no repairs have been made on it since 1833. In the parish of Holm, since 1862, £900 has been expended in repairing the church and nianse, being the greater portion of a year's net rental of the parish. It seems to me that it would be impossible to imagine anything more oppressive than such a state of things; for I may remark that the inhabitants of Shetland are, as a rule, known to be in the lowest state of poverty and distress. I will not go much into the Lowland districts, because hon. Members are familiar with their condition. A threatening letter, issued in Forfarshire, to enforce the assessment, has been sent to me as a specimen. It was addressed to an old lady, ninety years of age, the widow of a Dissenting minister. The letter states that unless she would pay £4 7s. 6d., legal proceedings would be taken against her. In a parish near Glasgow a friend of mine was charged £47 on a paper mill. I could multiply instances to a largo extent, but I will not, in order not to take up the time of the House. I beg to call the special attention of my learned Friend the Lord Advocate to the subject, and would read a brief account of a public meeting from the Wigton newspaper—the burgh which the learned Lord Advocate represents in Parliament. The report was to the effect that if his Lordship did not support this Bill his views would be disapproved of by a large majority of the people who had supported him. I think it would be wrong in me at this late hour to detain the House by any general observations. In addressing this House, I always prefer to state facts rather than enter into general arguments, believing that in such cases the facts are the best arguments, and I shall adopt that course on the present occasion. This Bill is the "beginning of the end." It cannot be carried this year; but carried it will be, and that not long hence, as certainty as any measure ever introduced into this House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. M'Laren.)


, in moving that the Bill be read a second time this day six months, said, that the title of the Bill was unquestionably calculated to produce an erroneous impression in the minds of English Members, there being no such burden known in Scotland as a church rate: there being a very material distinction between what was the church, assessment in Scotland and the church rates as they existed prior to 1868 in England. In England, in order to constitute a legal church rate, it was necessary that the parishioners themselves should vote that the church rate should be imposed—the rate was in that sense a voluntary burden. Now the change effected by the Act of 1868 was this—Instead of leaving it in the power of the majority to place the burden on all who were legally liable, it enacted that no burden should be placed on any one unless he personally and voluntarily undertook it. Therefore, the rate was now merely a voluntary rate. But in Scotland the burden was of a totally different character. The assessment was made for the construction and repairs of ecclesiastical buildings—that was to say, for the building of a church as a church, and the manse as the residence of the minister. That burden was imposed, not as in England, upon the occupiers, but upon the owners of land, or, as they were called in Scotland, the heritors. The heritors were solely liable and held their land subject to the condition that when it was needful that the ecclesiastical buildings should be repaired, they should defray the necessary expense. This charge, therefore, was imposed on the proprietors or heritors, and not on mere occupiers. The burden, which was called "the church assessment." was not dependant on the will of the majority of parishioners. The courts could direct the buildings to be placed in repair, and it must be done at the expense of the heritors, quite irrespective of the consent of the occupiers. It was a burden established as custom, and afterwards recognized by the State, imposing the obligation on the proprietors of land. The origin of this burden was this—Before the Catholic had ceased to be the Established religion of Scotland the clergy were in possession of large estates and of tithes, and the burden of the repair of ecclesiastical buildings fell upon them, and they were well able to bear it. After the Reformation the great territorial possessions of the Roman Catholic Church were granted away to various persons by the King's favour, and the tithes were taken possession of by the Crown, and all that was allowed the clergy of the Reformed Church was about one-third of the tithes—or "the thirds," as they were called. Under these circumstances, it was quite impossible for the clergy to bear the burden of repairing the ecclesiastical edifices, and it became necessary that some provision should be made by Act of Parliament for the purpose. In 1572, and again in 1663, Acts of Parliament were passed, which imposed upon the heritors within each parish the burden of maintaining and repairing the buildings. The burden attached to every heritor in a parish; and it was an undoubted fact that property fetched a higher price if the parish church and manse were in good repair, and a lower if they were likely to require expenditure. As the heritors alone paid the assessment they were, of course, entitled to the occupation of the parish church, which they held on behalf of their tenants, and accordingly each heritor had a proportion, of pews allocated to him, which he assigned among his tenantry. He wished to be understood as referring to the landward parishes only, and not to those situated in the boroughs. By this means provision was made for free attendance in church, without the payment of any pew-rents. So strictly was this a burden on the property that it was not in the power of the proprietor to sell his interest in the church, which always followed the land. In like manner, the possession of the church pews was a right or privilege which could not be dissevered from the property. This burden, therefore, was very materially different from the church rate in England. His hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) had said that this burden entailed heavy expense on the proprietors. All he (Mr. Gordon) had to say in answer was that the proprietors had taken their property subject to it. He was not aware that the hon. Member represented any extensive body of persons who were liable to the payment of the rate. He believed the landlords of Scotland were not unwilling to discharge the duties attaching to their position, and it was very much to their credit that such should be the case, when it was remembered that a large number of the landlords were not members of the Established Church. The case of the borough parishes was altogether different from that of the landward parishes. In the boroughs the churches were maintained and repaired out of the "common good." It was a burden attaching to the property of the borough, and the boroughs were enabled to recoup themselves by the rent of the church seats or pews. He submitted, therefore, that there was some distinction between the church rate and the church assessment of Scotland. Another point of difference between the church rate and the church assessment was that in Scotland the expenses of Divine worship were paid, not out of the assessment, but by the voluntary contributions of the persons who attended the church. This assessment had never been called a church rate be- fore, and he must say that the latters term was calculated to mislead. He observed, that his hon. Friend had adopted the language of the Preamble of the Compulsory Church Rates Abolition Act, passed in 1868. Now, this Preamble recited that church rates had ceased to be made in many parishes by reason of the opposition offered to them, and that in other places they had given rise to much litigation and ill-feeling. But there had practically been no opposition to the church assessment, and if there had occasionally been some litigation he should like any hon. Gentleman to tell him of any matter involving rights of property in regard to which recourse was not sometimes had to courts of law. The improper interference of the Presbytery, to which allusion was made by his hon. Friend, had been put an end to by an Act passed in 1868 to amend the procedure in regard to ecclesiastical buildings and glebes in Scotland. In some of his clauses his hon. Friend, had closely followed the Act; but many of; these provisions were quite inapplicable to Scotland. Again, his hon. Friend had omitted the just provision of the English Act, which exempted from its operation any custom or tithes which had theretofore been devoted by law to ecclesiastical purposes. He thought the Bill proposed a very improper mode of dealing with the subject, and he should therefore move its rejection.


said, that inasmuch as the Preamble of the Bill had been shown to contain a false assumption, the hon. Gentleman opposite deserved the condolence of the House upon his discovery of a mare's nest. The landowners did not desire the relief which the hon. Gentleman sought to procure for them, and he therefore cordially seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Gordon.)


said, he had heard no arguments in favour of maintaining a compulsory system of rates for the maintenance of ecclesiastical buildings in Scotland after they had been abolished in England, and he thought the hon. and learned Member for the University of Glasgow (Mr. Gordon) had completely failed in making out a case. He had expected that the Bill would be allowed to pass a second reading without opposition; but since this was not to be the ease, he was happy to be able to give it his warmest support. There was nothing in the peculiar condition of Scotland as compared to England which justified the continuance of such a burden; and if the Church of England could do without church rates, the Church of Scotland ought to be able to do likewise. So far as his knowledge went, there was no such unanimity in regard to the payment of the tax as had been alleged. So far from that being the case, he had repeatedly heard grumbling and murmuring on the part of the heritors whenever a church or manse was required to be rebuilt or repaired. Practically, the burden had enormously increased, for in one way or another the clergy, fortified by decisions in the Court of Session, had become much more exacting than in former days. He trusted the House would agree to the second reading.


said, that as far as he knew the feelings and wishes of the Episcopalian landowners in Scotland, they were quite prepared to bear their share of this burden. In Scotland he was a Dissenter from the Established Church, being a member of the Episcopalian Church, which had been pillaged, disestablished, disendowed, and persecuted by the Established Church, in favour of which this tax was levied: nevertheless, he, in common with the great majority of the Episcopalian heritors and feuars, did not, in the slightest degree, grudge the Establishment its lawful due. So far from the Act for the abolition of compulsory church rates in England having settled the question, there was, at this moment, on the table a proposal from Liberal Members to unsettle the whole question again, and to substitute for the Act of 1868 a plan for throwing the expense of maintaining the churchyards upon the poor rates. All through the Irish Church debates last year the House was constantly told—and the Solicitor General for Ireland referred to the same subject last evening—that the people of Scotland rose in a mass in 1688 and disestablished the Episcopalian Church. This, however, was not the fact. The true reason why the Episcopalian Church was disestablished in 1688 was simply because when William III. proposed to acknowledge the Scotch Bishops if they would take the Oath of Allegiance to him they, with great loyalty to the fallen dynasty, refused to give the pledge; and it actually required an armed force from Holland and England to disestablish the Episcopalian Church in many parts of the Highlands of Scotland. This tax was only one of the necessary accidents and accompaniments of an Established Church; and if hon. Gentlemen opposite thought the Established Church of Scotland ought to be no longer maintained, why did they not plainly say so, instead of bringing forward measures like the present? Though he was not a member of it, he, for one, was not prepared to subvert that ancient and venerable institution, which could well bear a comparison with many other institutions of the country.


thought that, with the exception of the noble Lord, there were very few hon. Members who would stand tip for the principle of compulsory church rates. He was himself a Scotch Dissenter; but he was made of sterner stuff than the noble Lord, and was not prepared to submit to a wrong in such a spirit of humility. The principle of this assessment or church rate was never just; but it might have been excusable at one time when the religious belief of the country was uniform, and when religious feeling was dead or indifferent, but that time had long gone by, and no excuse could be alleged in its favour at the present time. Those hon. Members who opposed the Bill were unable to stand up in defence of the principle of church rates. He could not conceive it right to levy such a rate for ecclesiastical purposes; and he believed that the charge was more oppressively felt in Scotland than it was in England. In this country the rates were, in many instances, voluntary; but in Scotland the case was very different. He utterly denied the assertion that the tax was the property of the Church of Scotland, and could not admit the principle that people who lived 200 years ago had the right of levying a continuing tax on all future generations. The property which he possessed had not been given to him by the Church, but was the result of his own exertions, and he denied that the Church had the right to establish a permanent tax upon that property. If this tax was really a charge upon property, he was willing it should be continued and credited to the poor rates, or expended for some purpose of public utility; but to continue it as an impost for ecclesiastical purposes was unjust. It had been said that it was unfair to attack the Established Church in small ways, and that those who desired to effect a change ought to go in for its disestablishment altogether; but he advocated reform not in a spirit of hostility to the Church, but only on grounds of justice to those outside its bounds. This was the more necessary now, inasmuch as the position of Established Churches was very different from that which they occupied ten, or even five years ago. It was much less secure, and the practical result might be that it became a matter of importance to them, more with a view to future contingencies, to rebuild churches and manses, to get as much as they could out of these taxes, so as to increase the value of their property as much as possible. Believing that a great injustice was inflicted by levying compulsory payments for religious purposes, he gave his hearty support to the Bill.


thought the House ought to consider whether the grievance complained of could not be redressed without resorting to any extreme measure. In England, no step was taken in the removal of church rates until after full inquiry, and the House had the facts before them, and he thought it desirable for the House to inquire into the nature and amount of the present tax, without inquiring into abstract principles. The tax had always been regarded in the light of a tax on property, and not as a religious grievance, and ought not to be lightly disturbed; but, at the same time, it was the interest of those who were subject to the tax, that its present uncertain and irregular incidence should be commuted to a fixed and regular charge. He therefore proposed that the Bill should be read a second time and referred to a Select Committee.


said, he considered church rates a great grievance in Scotland; and having assisted the people of England in getting rid of that grievance, it was only natural that he should endeavour to relieve his fellow-subjects in Scotland from an analogous grievance; and he trusted the House would do the same justice to the people of Scotland which, it had done to the people of England. He believed that, in point of fact, the Scottish impost was more objectionable, onerous, and difficult to be borne than the English one had been. The same arguments were used in its favour as had been employed to defend the English rate, and they seemed to him equally untenable. If he bought a house or land subject to a particular burden or impost, was he thereby precluded from endeavouring to obtain its removal? If he occupied premises within any municipal jurisdiction, was he not at liberty to deal with the rates and assessments imposed on that municipality, and to struggle for their improvement when they were unjust or oppressive? On every ground of principle, policy, and analogy, he thought the arguments in favour of the Bill were unanswerable, and hoped that they might speedily see it become law.


said, the rate was an assessment on the holders of property, and the purchasers had bought it subject to all the conditions attached to it. No doubt the relief from the assessment would be so much gain to the proprietors of land; but it would bear very harshly upon the Established clergy who had been appointed with the distinct understanding that they were to have the churches and the manses kept in good order and repair, and if a change took place, unless some provision was made for them, they would find themselves in a very unfortunate position. He had no doubt that some changes were desirable; but he did not think they could be effected beneficially by the measure now before the House. No doubt a great number of petitions had been presented in favour of the Bill; but he believed they originated with those who entertained no very good feeling towards the Church of Scotland, and that the object which they had in view was the injury of that Church.


said, he could not quietly hear it said that those who were in favour of this Bill wished to commit some injury upon the Church of Scotland. He wished no injury whatever to that Church; he said—let it prosper and do all the good it could; but, at the same time, he wanted justice for those who differed from that Church, and never entered its doors. He knew something by experience of the operation of the law with regard to churches and manses not only in the South of Scotland but in the North; and in both these districts the grievance was found to be severe. He had had to suffer personally from it for years, and although all the churches and manses with which he had to do were now in such a state of repair as in all probability to relieve him from any further call, yet he could feel for others who were not in the position in which he was. It was said that the landowners of Scotland do not object to this tax. If they did not object, they might pay the tax after the Bill had passed just the same as they did now—the Bill only applied to those who were unwilling to pay. The injustice fell not so much upon the large proprietors, they being, by a large majority, Churchmen, as upon the thousands of smaller proprietors who were called upon to pay towards a church, the doors of which they never entered. It was also said that those who paid for the church got recompense in having seats allotted to them—it was obvious that must be a poor return to those who could not use them. It was termed a small tax, probably it was; but, small though it be, it was very irritating. He hoped the House would give some relief to the grievance complained of.


said, the title of the Bill, which was stated to be "a Bill for the Abolition of Compulsory Church Rates in Scotland," was calculated to deceive a large number as to its character; and, accordingly, the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish), as a consistent Dissenter, had rushed to support it. Anyone would suppose that the measure was analogous to the one which was passed for the abolition of church rates in England and Wales; but, as had been conclusively shown, there was really no analogy between the church assessment of Scotland and the church rate of England. The Bill, so far from being a liberal measure, was altogether a reactionary proposal, and he was astonished to see the name of three Liberal Members at its back. Its object was to put the whole of the Church endowment into the pockets of the heritors; and, considering that the assessment had been imposed by Parliament for national purposes, he did not see why it should be dealt with in the manner proposed. If the purpose for which the money was required was a bad one, Par- liament ought to declare that it was bad, and then apply the money, not by paying it into the pockets of the heritors, but to some other national purpose. No doubt there was a fair grievance on the part of the feuars, as they had only recently, for the first time, been brought under the burden of assessment, and it was only fair that the grievance should be remedied; but the present measure was wholly unnecessary and unjust, and most dangerous in principle, and he should, therefore, vote against the second reading.


congratulated the hon. Member for Fifeshire on having at last thrown a little spirit and life into the discussion. He (Mr. Craufurd) thought the hon. Member should have informed the House that he was not only a member of the Established Church, but that he was a leading member of that Church, and took a leading part in the General Assembly which had petitioned against the Bill.


said, perhaps the hon. Member would allow him to say that he did mention it.


said, whether the hon. Member mentioned it or not, he only confirmed what he (Mr. Craufurd) had stated, that he had an object in resisting the Bill. The hon. Member felt that the law did create a grievance, as did his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Mr. Graham). He felt that the Dissenting interest were visited with an infliction for which there was neither rhyme nor reason. His hon. Friend went a little further, and said that the feuars were oppressed because they had had the rate imposed on them only a few years ago. Did he mean to say that the present feuars were not in exactly the same position in relation to other proprietors; that they had not bought their land subject to it? And why, in heaven's name, were they to exempt the feuars and not the other proprietors? For the life of him he could not see the shadow of a reason for the argument of the hon. Member, or for the course that he, took. He had expressed his great joy that the Dissenting grievance had not been raised here. But it laid at the whole root of the question—it laid at the root of the abolition of compulsory church rates in England, it laid at the root of the abolition of this impost. And though the hon. Baronet might at this time, with the assistance of his Friends opposite, retard this measure, he could only retard it for a few years. The time must come when this impost would be swept away. They were told, as far as the Bill went, it went in the direction of the disestablishment of the Scotch Church, and they were asked why they did not bring in a measure for the disestablishment of the Scotch Church? They were prepared, to support any man who would bring in a measure like that of the Irish Bill of last year and apply it to Scotland and to England. But these questions were met in this way at once. If they were to bring in such a measure as that they would be told that the measure was too large, and if they endeavoured to break down the outworks they were told that the measure was too small. So that between the two they could not progress at all.


said, that the question, whether the Established Church of Scotland should or should not be disendowed was altogether foreign to this debate. He presumed comprehensive provisions would be made for all legitimate interests, and the whole matter would be dealt with in such a manner as might at least be fitting the occasion. He would not indicate any opinion, or make any prediction as to the tenure by which the Church of Scotland held its endowments as an Establishment; these considerations were altogether foreign to the question with which they had to deal in considering this Bill. In point of fact, the Church of Scotland now existed as an Establishment, and was endowed as an Establishment, and there was no question before the House about disendowing altogether or partially. But he thought he should make it clear to demonstration that the Bill now before the House, if it were passed into an Act, would disendow the Church of Scotland to a very material extent. There was an analogy for some purposes, undoubtedly, between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland; but there was no great resemblance between the provisions in the one Establishment and in the other for the maintenance of the clergy. It was very important, in order to take a just view of the measure now before the House, that some little attention should be paid to the provision which in Scotland now existed, and had existed since the Reformation, for the maintenance of the clergy of the Established Church. The clergymen were provided with money stipends. They were also provided by the law, as part of the provision for their maintenance, with houses, which were called manses, and with glebes; and he believed he was speaking the truth, with respect to the great majority of the parishes of Scotland, when he said that the money provision which was made in the name of stipend would be altogether insufficient for the respectable maintenance of the minister if he were not also provided with a house and glebe. This Bill proposed to deprive him of both; and one of the consequences of that would be this—as it was in the discretion of the Court of Appeal, which was composed of the Judges of the Supreme Court, to modify from time to time the money stipend of the parish minister, they must in consideration of any clergyman being deprived of his house, or of his glebe, or the grass upon which he fed his horse, or cow, or grew his corn—they must, in consideration of this deprivation, increase his money stipend to such an amount that he would be able to procure—he would not call them conveniences, but necessaries for himself. To deprive the clergyman of his manse, which it was the object of this Bill to do—to deprive him of his glebe, which it was the purpose of this Bill to do, was simply to transfer to that extent the incidence of the burden of making provision for the maintenance of the Established clergy from one quarter to another. Whatever happened, the clergymen would not be the losers. The hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) had said that he expected objections to be urged against his Bill upon the ground that the title was inaccurate, and as he said that the expression "rates" was just English for what in Scotland they called "assessment." the objection to the title was only a verbal nicety; but what he (the Lord Advocate) wanted to know was this—What was the purpose of calling a burden upon land in Scotland by a name by which Scotchmen do not recognize it? He could not conceive it could be for a good purpose. It must have been by a similarity of name, to produce, in the first instance, an impression that there was a resemblance between the things. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Glasgow (Mr. Gordon) had shown that there was no resemblance between the things at all. He repeated, he could find no good reason for calling a Scotch burden—that which this Bill professed to deal with—by a name it was never known by, and by which no Scotchman would recognize it. But among the many differences which existed on the burden in question and church rates in Scotland, there was this difference—that the English church rate was a rate merely for the necessary repairs, cleaning, &c. of the parish church; while this Bill professed to deal with that which never had anything to do with church rates—namely, the parsonage houses of the ministers. The law required that the clergymen should be provided with manses by the heritors of their respective parishes, contributed according to the value of their estates. It was a tax upon land, because the income from which it was taken was derived from the land. It was a tax upon land, standing upon statute law, and continued for centuries until the present day. It had been said that it was not a burden upon land at all, but that it was a personal tax; and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) referred with great approbation—almost triumphant approbation—to an illustration, which he said conclusively showed that such was the case. Now, when he heard the hon. Member for Edinburgh, who was not a lawyer, quote his illustrations, he was not surprised; but when he heard his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ayr, who was a lawyer, repeat his illustrations, he confessed he was surprised. Their illustration was this—that if an assessment be imposed upon the heritor, in respect of his estate, for the repair of the church or manse, so that it became a money debt, due by a man in his lifetime, and he died without paying it, then the liability did not transfer to his heir, but went against the executor who succeeded to the money. That was the illustration; and would anybody tell him that there was anything now or strange in that? Why, if a man died without paying a debt, his executor, who took the money, was liable for the debt; and that was the law of Scotland. It was the law of England as much as it was the law of Scotland. The illustration, as far as the purposes of this Bill were concerned, was simply and absolutely nonsense. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, had alluded to advertisements. He (the Lord Advocate) had seen advertisements of property over and over again, in which it was stated, as an inducement to the purchaser to give a higher price, that the church had been built the year before, and that the parochial buildings, the manse and the schoolmaster's house, were all in good order. This tax was precisely in the same category as any other burden upon land, and which the purchaser took into account in consideration of what he ought to pay. Let it not for a moment be supposed that he contended that it was beyond the competency of Parliament to deal with this: what he objected to was that, while retaining and endowing the, Established Church, they interposed with a measure which would do away with arrangements which, on the whole, worked satisfactorily. The parish churches of England were upon a quite different footing from the parish churches of Scotland. In Scotland the parish churches were the property of the heritors, who built them, and were under legal obligation to maintain them. In England there was the provision for repairing the body of the parish churches, which was entrusted to the vestries, who had the power of withholding their consent; so that it could not be said that, so far as the churches were concerned, there was any analogy between the requirements of the one Church and the requirements of the other. Then he would ask, in whose behalf was this appeal made to that House? In the vast majority of cases this burden was imposed only upon large landowners, and therefore he was at a loss to realize the grievances which the hon. Member for Edinburgh stated were inflicted in the cases which he referred to. The hon. Member for Forfar (Mr. Carnegie) said you never found a body of landlords who did not speak about the hardship of their local taxation, He (the Lord Advocate) should like to know where they would find a body of any taxpayers who did not make pitiable complaints? There was no resemblance in this Bill to the case of the Church of England, and yet it was called a "Church Rate Bill." He quite admitted; that there might be grievances in exceptional cases, but they were comparatively few, if they were to take the whole of Scotland into consideration. If he saw any grounds for supposing that they had a church rate in Scotland like that of England, he would oppose it. The operation of the existing law was entirely satisfactory. There, was an assessment upon small proprietors in respect of their houses and gardens, and sometimes even upon clergymen of other denominations for the support of the Established Church. He would like to see the law limited in that respect. It was only in that way that the law had any operation which might be considered analogous to the church rate of England. If a Bill were introduced for the purpose of removing that—and it was the only grievance which, in his opinion, existed—he would be very happy to give it a most favourable consideration. Nay, in order to put this House in possession of full and satisfactory information upon the subject, he would not object to any inquiry to ascertain the incidence of the tax; but he must certainly decline to support this measure, which proposed at once to disendow the Church, and to place its ministers in a position for which they were not prepared.


, in reply, referring to the statement of the hon. Member for the University of Glasgow, that the Act of 1868 had altogether removed the jurisdiction of those cases to the Sheriff, said that was a complete mistake They were not removed from the jurisdiction of the Church courts until they had first pronounced a decision on the merits, thereafter they might be appealed to be Sheriff and afterwards to the Lord Ordinary. All the difference was that you low go to the Sheriff of the county, and from him to the Court of Session; but here was no provision in the Act of 1868 or taking these cases entirely out of the lands of the Church courts.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 108; Noes 225: Majority 117.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and greed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.