HC Deb 09 May 1871 vol 206 cc474-575

, in rising to move— That it is expedient, at the earliest practicable period to apply the policy initiated by the disestablishment of the Irish Church by the Act of 1869 to the other Churches established by law in the united Kingdom, said: Sir, my hon. Friend the senior Member for the City of Bristol (Mr. Morley), in seconding the Address to the Throne on the first night of the Session, gave expression to his hope that in the event of the Universities Tests Bill and the Burials Bill being assented to by Parliament, no more would be heard of "Dissenters' grievances." Concurring with my hon. Friend in the hope he expressed, I rejoice that the Motion I am about to submit to the House does not rest upon any sectarian or narrow grounds. It involves a matter of high national policy. It concerns the interests of Churchmen quite as much as it does those of Dissenters—and in its range it embraces issues which will affect the condition of numbers of persons who sympathize with neither. I desire to deal with it on the present occasion in the full recognition of those facts—and therefore with no special reference to the benefit of Nonconformity, but simply with a view to the social, moral, and religious advantage of the whole country. As a rule, I am quite aware the House dislikes abstract Resolutions. I am not surprised that it should; but I do not see very clearly how the opinion of the House could have been more conveniently tested in the first instance as to the expediency of giving complete effect to the politico-ecclesiastical policy of 1869. To have introduced a question of this magnitude by a Bill or Bills—for it would have required more than one — would have been an absurd undertaking on the part of any private Member — only a responsible Government could have presumed to initiate the question in that shape. But it is to no idle discussion that I invite the House. The object I have in view is a perfectly practical one—namely, to ascertain how far the House is disposed to apply to other parts of the United Kingdom a policy sanctioned by Parliament in its application to Ireland. In seeking to gain that object I earnestly and honestly disclaim all feelings of hostility to particular Churches, as well as to particular Church parties. I wage no war with religious denominations as such, Episcopalian or Presbyterian. I heartily wish them God-speed in their respective spiritual missions. In this House, I trust, and in my capacity of Member, no one will ever hear from my lips any criticism of the religious faith, or of the mode of worship, of the Church to which he belongs. I shall not assail either the Church of England or the Church of Scotland as a spiritual organization, but I shall attempt to show that the relationship they sustain towards the State, and the position which the State assigns to them, are condemned by experience as well as by reason, and ought to be put an end to as soon as possible. Before proceeding to deal with the substantial merits of the proposition I must ask permission to say a word or two in justification of my having brought it before the House this Session. There is "a time for all things," I shall be told, and the proper time for mooting this question in Parliament is not come. It is much too far in advance of public opinion to allow of its being treated with a view to immediate legislative settlement, and on this ground I may be charged with being premature. Well, Sir, I scarcely need remind the House that the objection has been hurled, I may even say at random, at every change of any moment on its first introduction to the Legislature. Precisely the same charge was urged against certain proposals touching the Irish Church which I submitted to the House in 1856. They were pooh-poohed as premature and unpractical by the front benches on both sides, and in 1869 were adopted by Parliament almost to the letter. I know very well that a Bill for the disestablishment of the Church of England has no chance of being past just yet—perhaps not during the continuance of the present Parliament; but if not, that is no reason for refusing to deliberate seriously on the subject. But I dispute the allegation that public opinion is unprepared to witness initiatory steps towards a settlement of the question. On the contrary, so far, at least, as my observation extends, those who desire and those who repudiate the object of my Motion, alike take for granted that the discussion of it cannot be much longer postponed with advantage. Why, Sir, what are the facts? Can any hon. Member so completely shut his eyes to what is going on, not merely in this country, but in all the Colonies, and in most European States, as not to have descried the rapid approach of what I may call a tidal wave of sentiment, which will presently beat with overwhelming effect upon the union of the temporal authority with the spiritual in the constitution of Governments? To me, I confess, it appears as though the whole force of all the lessons on this subject contained in the history of Christendom were bearing down on public opinion with a pressure it will be wholly unable to withstand. During the 30 years that I have given special attention to the State Church system, all the main arguments by which it rooted itself in the public mind have been rent assunder by facts—all the theories, from that of grand old Hooker downwards, which gave it a hold upon reason, conscience, affection, have been pitilessly exploded. The Anglican Church, qua a State Church, a Church established by law, a Church lifted by the Constitution into political ascendancy, has now its only raison d'être in the past. It continues to stand among us for no other reason than that it has stood so long. Logically speaking, the spring and stay of its life is gone. Well, Sir, an institution of which this may be truly said, lacks the foremost and most indispensible condition of perpetuity. But look at other conditions. The Church is convulsed by internal dissensions. It must needs become more desperately so in proportion as thought becomes more active, and inquiry more searching, and conscience more energetic; and we know, as a matter of fact, that we should have anticipated as a matter of conjecture, that where differing, and even opposed, schools of theology are dominated by the same legal standards of doctrine and discipline, each will denounce the others as unfaithful, and severe conflicts within will exhaust the strength needed to cope with unfriendly elements without. Then look outside the pale of the Establishment. There are first, the various Nonconformist Bodies. I will not estimate their numbers absolutely or relatively, because any estimate of mine would be disputed; but nobody will deny that they reach a very considerable aggregate, and to all of these bodies the State Church, in the very nature of things, presents itself in the light of a monopoly, sometimes barefaced and repulsive, sometimes veiled and unobtrusive, but always unjust. Then glance, for an instant, at the great wage-earning class, both in the large towns and in the rural districts—a goodly proportion, too, of whom possess the elective franchise. It is confessed on all hands that to the great majority of them the Church has ceased to have any attractions — ["Oh, oh!" and "Hear, hear!"] — though, as yet, it may not have called out any very active hostility. Well, Sir, these are conditions which strike me as utterly incompatible with a safe postponement of this question to any distant date. Let it be borne in mind that the problem to be solved is a difficult one; it involves a great number of extremely delicate questions; it is bound up with a variety of social and family interests; and it will need much preliminary investigation by the Government which charges itself with the settlement of it, and a great deal of skill in the handling of it. It seems to me that for the sake of all the parties, and of all the interests concerned, the matter is one which should not be allowed to drift down with the silent stream until it finds itself in troubled waters. It would be nothing short of a national calamity if the changes — the legal changes—which the disestablishment of the Church of England would require, should be set about under the impulse of political terror, or popular passion, or, indeed, under any external conditions except such as would allow of ample leisure, cool deliberation, and quiet interchange of opinions. So much as to this charge of being premature from a general point of view. Now let me ask the House to look at the matter from the point of view of those who are outside the pale of the State Church. Is it possible, I ask, for us to shut our eyes to the fact, that so long as the Church of England remains part of the Constitution of England, her position will necessarily be taken into account in all our ecclesiastical or semi-ecclesiastical legislation. Had we not proof enough of this only last Session? Was not the current of legislation, in more than one or two instances, turned aside—and, as some of us think, very much to the public detriment—by the mere fact that a Church Establishment continues to exist? Nor is this all. Look at the waste of time involved in dealing, year after year, with measures introduced with a view to give freer play to the Establishment principle, or to cure the anomalies and mischiefs it engenders. What lasting good can come of our pottering over an interminable succession of small repairs, when we all know well enough that the foundations of the edifice are being hopelessly undermined by the stream of events? Is it reasonable that we should be asked to join in increasing the difficulties which will have to be surmounted when public opinion shall make the settlement of the question inevitable; or that we should be called upon to create fresh vested interests, every one of which we shall have at last to satisfy to the utmost? These are reasons, Sir, which prevailed with me not to postpone breaking ground on this momentous subject to an indefinite period. As a continuance of the policy of the Irish Church Act of 1869, I might have brought it forward last year, but for my anxious wish to avoid throwing any obstacle in the way of the completion by the Government of its great work of justice to Ireland. I am not sorry that I have let the matter rest until now, but I think I could not have allowed it to remain in abeyance through another Session without exposing it to the chance of increased difficulties and dangers. Let me now submit to the House, as concisely as I can, two or three broad reasons in support of the Resolution I have ventured, Sir, to place in your hands. I take for granted, what I suppose the House will at once admit, that this is a question which beyond most others has a specially religious aspect. I am not going to discuss it in that light. I agree that, however high the qualifications of this House in other respects, they do not constitute it the fittest possible tribunal for testing the worth of religious opinions. And, to do it justice, the House has usually disclaimed not only its own fitness, but its own inclination to meddle with religious problems in its debates. Well, Sir, what the House does not wish to talk about, I am anxious that it should not affect to govern. Elsewhere, assuredly, I should contend that this is a question which not merely has a religious side to it, but that the religious side of it is by far the broadest and the most important. At any rate, it is on this side of the question that I find my chief motive for calling the attention of Parliament to it, and I hope the House will forgive me for saying that it is not because I depreciate this aspect of the question—and far less because I doubt the solidity of the ground it offers me in debate, that I decline resting my present argument upon it. But, Sir, there is one line of observation open to me which I think I may pursue with propriety even in this House. What is the purpose—I will not say the sole, but the main purpose aimed at by giving to the Church a political Establishment? Her Prelates sit in the other House, her clergy claim and enjoy a legal and exclusive status, her parochial and other endowments have been assigned to her by law, and her liturgy and Articles have been made part of an Act of Parliament, for the promotion, I suppose, of the spiritual interests of the people. In theory, at any rate—in that conception of it which fired the imagination and kindled the religious ardour of our forefathers—a State Church was an institution set up for the purpose of Christianizing all the people of the State. And, truly, the object they had in view was so grand, so generous, so Godlike, that even we who most emphatically repudiate the means chosen to carry it into effect, can at least thoroughly understand it, and look back upon it with admiration, if not with sympathy. They meant a really beneficent thing when they allied the Church, their best ideal of human goodness, with the law, their highest ideal of human power. In those days they did not reflect that conscience and faith can no more be restrained within limits drawn around them by the law of man than the dreams of childhood can be preserved under a glass shade. But if they made a mistake in the view they took of the congruity of the two forces—the temporal and the spiritual—and forged fetters for faith and love, that could no more touch them than a bullet could wound a disembodied spirit, they aimed, at any rate, at a complete and intelligible result. The National Church, in their idea of it, expressed a national faith. It aimed at securing a national unity of belief, a national uniformity of worship, and a national identity of religious teaching by the clergy; and hence it claimed an exclusive right to employ national resources. All the souls of the nation were taken in spiritual charge by it. All were baptized into communion with it. All were bound by law to receive its teaching, and were met at every turn of life by its ministrations and offices. That, Sir, was the original conception of the Church of England, and all the legal arrangements devised to give realization to it were of a piece with it; were marked by logical consistency; were based upon the same hypothesis—namely, that there can be no National Church which is not the Church of the whole nation. Well, Sir, in these days we have to do with a state of things wholly incompatible with that ideal. The question left to us for consideration is, whether the meaning, the spirit, the purpose of the old State Church system having evaporated, we do well to tie ourselves to the dead forms of it conserved only by the machinery of the law. The Church of England is not now in fact, whatever she may be in profession, the Church of the whole people of England. She is the largest of the denominations into which the Christian people of this country are divided, comprising, we will say, half the population as her voluntary adherents and members, and that half for the most part the upper, the less dependent, and the better-to-do half of society. She can lay claim, with truth, to the bulk of the wise men, the mighty men, and the noble of this land. She lives in the esteem of the wealthy and the respectable. But it can hardly be said with truth that she has taken a proportionate hold upon the far more numerous classes beneath them. She has never—and probably less than ever in our times— overtaken the work which she arrogates exclusively to herself. She claims the whole ground for cultivation, but at least a moiety of that which comes under cultivation at all is cultivated by Churches which she will not recognize. She is never likely to cover the whole ground now. She is not, therefore, a National Church, for she neither does nor can comprehend within her ministrations, her sacramental and tuitional agency, the entire body of the nation. All the resources, it is true, which the nation as such has given for religion she appropriates to herself. All the worldly honours by which it means to mark its appreciation of religion she keeps in her own hands. But she is not the National Church in the sense of being the accepted or adequate organ of the whole people of England for quickening, nurturing, or giving expression to their religious sentiments. And, after all, this statement of the case falls very far short of the facts. The general impression it leaves upon our minds as to what we gain from the Church Establishment in spiritual results would be far more unfavourable if we could analyse those results. Imagine, for instance, if you can, the aspect which the religious condition of the nation would assume at this moment if it could be seen minus the part contributed to it by the non-established communities? I invite the House to pursue that thought. What, I ask, would be the result if we were able to distinguish and pull out from the spiritual covering provided for the people of this realm every thread which had been woven into it by other hands than those of the Church of England, and could parcel it out among separate denominations in such manner as would enable us to say—"So much belongs to the several sections of the Methodist Body, so much to the Presbyterians, so much to the Independents and Baptists, so much to the Catholics!" If it were possible, I say, thus strictly to follow up and measure off the work of each denomination, and to wipe it out from the sum total of religious life and effort in this kingdom, what an astounding discrepancy would be exhibited between the purpose for which the Church Establishment was set up and the actual results it has achieved. But, in truth, even the net sum of good remaining after this process of elimination is not wholly due to the working of the State Church system. No man can make the admission with more profound satisfaction than I do, that, for something upwards of a generation, the members of the Episcopal Church have been exceedingly active in supplementing the deficient provision made by the law of the land for the spiritual wants of the community. The number of district churches built and endowed by private liberality speaks volumes for the power and the fruitfulness of religious life in the Established Church. But this expansion of her machinery, it should be remembered, is not due—at least to any considerable extent—to the action of the State. All that the State can be truly said to have done in this matter is that it cleared the ground of some of those legal impediments which it had itself thrown in the way of religious zeal. With very small exceptions, that do not materially affect my argument, it did not build these churches. It did not endow them. It does not support them. It has simply absorbed them into the system as "by law established." All the beneficence put forth in achieving these splendid results—for splendid results they are—was put forth by individuals, not by Parliament. The Bishop of London's Fund, for example, owed nothing to the Legislature. The beautiful structures, reared by the munificent donations of the wealthy, both in the Metropolis and in not a few of our provincial towns, would probably have been reared all the same if the Church to which they were made over had been independent of the State. Indeed, the spontaneous liberality of Churchmen, which has thus enormously added to what I may be allowed to call the plant of the Establishment, so far from having been helped by the law, has often been hampered by its restrictive conditions; and sometimes, after a lavish expenditure of money, has been grievously disappointed in its purpose, on account of the ends to which it has been legally perverted. Well, now compare what has been actually done by the Church Establishment system with what it was evidently set up for the purpose of doing, and what is the conclusion at which the comparison points? It was meant to be the Church of the nation; it is the Church of only about half of it. Its nationality is but a fiction of law. The work it took in hand to do—so far as it is done at all—has been largely done by other spiritual communities; and much of what the State Church does by its own agency is done by shunting its own theory, and adopting that of the Churches outside its pale. In all these respects the State Church system as such is proved to have been an egregious failure. It has failed quite as signally in other respects. It was meant to secure unity of belief, uniformity of worship, and identity of religious teaching by the clergy. Well, Sir, I put the question to the knowledge and conscience of the House—"Has it done that?" Do not let me be suspected of over-valuing these objects. They of olden times, it must be confessed, set a high estimate upon them. But there are two kinds of unity—the one is a manufacture, the other is a growth; one is brought about by legal coercion, the other by insight and love. Compulsory unity of religious profession by every subject of the realm was the aim of the law down to the period of the Toleration Act; forced uniformity of clerical teaching is what the law since then has been content with requiring. I know not which of the two is the profounder mistake. This I believe in my soul—that the Acts of Uniformity which stand upon our Statute Book have done more towards lowering the tone of moral and religious sentiment in this country than any other thing for which the State is responsible. Why do I think so? Because I have faith in the old proverbial saying that corruption of the best inevitably leads to production of the worst. Sir, religious profession at command—which is intended to stand for the outward and visible sign of religious belief at command—is an unpardonable affront put upon the intellectual and spiritual nature with which the Creator has endowed us. There are few national calamities more to be dreaded, none which bring with them a more killing moral blight, none which more certainly deprave the higher life of a people, than for the teachers of the nation, clerical or secular, to be placed by the law of the land under strong temptation to be cowards to their own convictions. The evil effects of it may be seen in the lax tone of society, which is, perhaps, its last result—a lax tone, especially in regard to the sacred ends intended to be compassed by an Established Church. Nobody can deny, I think, that there is a striking contrast between the temper and attitude of the British mind in relation to theological propositions and in relation to those which are scientific. In the pursuit of truth commonly classed under the term "scientific" there is an ardour, an independence, a simplicity of purpose, a conscientiousness in ascertaining and stating results, which to witness is with most men to admire and to revere. All of us give credence—perhaps too implicit credence—not merely to the results of scientific inquiry, but even to the speculative inferences drawn from them. We bow to a consensus of scientific men, even when the conclusions it has sanctioned cut right through the core of our preexisting opinions. Now, let us suppose that science had been established by law as theology has been. Let us try to imagine a compromise of scientific opinions, contradictory of one another, made three centuries ago, petrified into an unchangeable standard, and protected by statute against the smallest alteration. Let us suppose national endowments to the tune of millions a-year set apart to maintain it, the Sovereign bound to confess it, the Universities obliged to subscribe to it, and everybody ambitious of being somebody tempted by the prestige thrown around it to profess general concurrence in it. On a supposition of this kind, what would have been the inevitable result? Why, Sir, the authorized, the Parliamentary, the national system of scientific truth, would have had crowds of nominal adherents and very few real ones. Inquiry would have been discountenanced, new discoveries of truth would have been discredited and discouraged, and science would have sunk to the low level of becoming a thing to live by instead of a thing to live for. Well, Sir, does not a compulsory profession of faith in spiritual truth operate in the same manner, and tend to the like disastrous results? Does not common sense, does not common experience show us that this manufactured and artificial unity of profession—this compulsory adherence to legally prescribed, articles of faith—by the authorized exponents of Christianity, tends to anything rather than to a vital unity of conviction? It tends to deaden conscience; it tends to stifle inquiry; it tends to keep up a semblance of what has no corresponding actual existence; but the one thing which it does not do—the one thing which, in all manner of ways, it prevents being done—is precisely that thing which a law-established Church was instituted to see done. Is it not a fact that this unity of clerical profession prescribed by the Act of Uniformity is pierced through and through over its entire surface by living growths of faith which have been formed underneath it? Who does not know that the sects in the Church are almost as numerous, and much more discordant, than those that are outside of it? What candid mind does not feel itself compelled to admit that neither in faith, in worship, nor in teaching, does the exercise of authority of law achieve, or even tend to achieve, the unity which it proposes? In all religious respects the system has failed. Universality and unity were the two leading designs which the union of the Church with the State was meant to subserve—universality of the Church's sway over the consciences and hearts of men—unity of belief, profession, and teaching as it regards the clergy appointed and endowed to teach them. Sir, political ascendancy has not helped the Church towards either of these ends. It gave her authoritative access to the people, but has not helped to win their hearts, nor even to secure that testimony to her efficiency which she would have had if it could have been said of her that "the common people heard her gladly." It placed her clergy under legal definitions and restrictions as to their belief and teaching, but it has not suppressed the individualities and eccentricities of form which religious life, when greatly active among the clergy, was sure to take under unnatural pressure. Considered simply in relation to its own purposes, the union of the State with the Church has been a mistake, a failure, and a wrong. ["Hear, hear," and "No!"] The House, in its patience, will bear with me. I trust, while I glance—for I can do no more than glance—at another main aspect of the question; one that I sometimes fancy is more impressively realized by those of Her Majesty's subjects outside of the Church Establishment, than by those of them who find shelter within it. It is this—the essential and inseparable injustice involved in lifting one Church from among many into political ascend- ency, and endowing it with property belonging to the people in their corporate capacity. Two years have hardly elapsed since the phrase "justice to Ireland" was the watchword of the Liberal party. What was then understood by "justice to Ireland?" —what, but a policy of conciliation of which the disestablishment of the Irish Church was the foremost item! Well, but how was it that disestablishment was justice to Ireland? What made it justice? I venture to put it to the right hon. Gentleman who, to his immortal honour, inscribed this policy on the Imperial Statute Book, whether, when he called upon the people of England to do justice to Ireland, he did not mean by it that the first indispensable step towards paying the sister country the respect due to her was to relieve her of the burden of a State Church. What made it a burden? Wherein consisted the essence of the injustice which the British people were rightly called upon to remove? Was it not in this?—that that which is the common property of the whole nation—such, for example, as the nation's influence, the nation's authority, the nation's honour, the nation's wealth—cannot be exclusively made over to a part of the nation—without inflicting manifold wrong upon the residue? I grant that, in the case of Ireland, there were incidents of aggravation. The disproportion in numbers between the legally-favoured and the legally-discountenanced sections of the community, and the foreign origin of the Church established by law, gave to the Irish Church an appearance of oppressiveness which was apt to throw into the shade the unjust nature, in the abstract, of the State Church policy. But, in truth, the wrong done to Ireland consisted in the policy itself, not in its accidents; for, as a policy, it contravenes men's sense of the respect due to their freedom of conscience and to their individual rights of conviction. But what was unjust in Ireland is unjust here; for neither geographical, nor arithmetical, nor accidental conditions can alter the essential justice or injustice of a policy. They may make it more or less cruel, impolitic, or exasperating, but they cannot change its intrinsic character. Now, Sir, the inmost principle of a Church Establishment is necessarily unjust in its operation—or, to state the truth in a form less likely to be controverted—that man suffers injustice at the hands of the State, whom the State places in a position of exceptional disadvantage on account of his religious faith, or his ecclesiastical associations. Thank Heaven, and under Heaven thank Protestant Nonconformity, this axiom has been engraved indelibly upon the conscience of the British people, that a man's religion is an affair between himself and God; and that the statesmanship which deliberately sanctions his being molested in the profession, or the practice of it rests upon a basis condemned as radically unsound by the most indestructible of human instincts. I shall be asked, no doubt, what there is in the State Church policy as carried out in these days and in this country, which meddles with a man's freedom of conscience, or places him in an exceptional position, on account of his religious profession. I will give the answer, so far as I can, not so much in that form which would best express the sense of wrong felt by those who are not members of the Establishment, as in that form in which it will be most likely to awaken reflection in the mind of sagacious and high-minded statesmen. Take a survey of the operation of this State Church policy in its amplest breadth—what does it show you? It shows you a nation sharply divided by law in regard to their religion into two great sections — the one privileged, the other tolerated. It shows you one-half, or thereabouts, of the people of this kingdom condemned by law to occupy before the law an inferior position as compared with the other half — to be tolerated, endured, humiliated in that which they regard as their most incontestable right, and in the discharge of their most sacred obligations. It shows you the lesser half (we will say) of the community beholden to the greater half for their liberty to worship God as conscience may direct them—and, whilst they do so, witnessing the appropriation of resources common to both, to the exclusive support of the religious institutions of the stronger of the two. Do not imagine that the State can draw such an invidious line of distinction as this across the entire breadth of society without permanently deteriorating national character. Do not believe that the law, which ought above all things to be impartial and Imperial, can treat one large section of those subject to it with exceptional discouragement in their most cherished and most sacred interests, without leaving on both the favoured and the slighted areas of the community deep traces of its injustice. The prejudice of colour which, not many years back, stained the Statute Book of the great American Republic, did not more certainly, even if more perceptibly, give a taint to the tastes, habits, and character of the American people, than the analogous ecclesiastical prejudice sanctioned by law in this country lowers, and, to a considerable extent, vitiates, the tone of society. It is, perhaps, difficult to say which has been most injured in this respect by the law's partiality and injustice — the party on which it lavished the sunshine of its smiles, or the party which it has driven out into the cold shade. The moral damage each has sustained differs in kind, no doubt, from that suffered by the other. But the country is the main loser by this kind of thing. With those who look upon it from a foreign standpoint, it loses in reputation, it loses in influence, it loses in the weight of its counsels, it loses in the force of its example — while it has to lament among its own people the absence of that unity of feeling and spirit which would give the cohesion, force, and verve needed to grapple effectually with the monstrous forms of social evil which are rearing their heads in the present day. What the country has suffered and still suffers from the introduction of caste into our ecclesiastical relationships, it is, perhaps, impossible fully to estimate. But this is not the whole extent of the injustice perpetrated by the Church Establishment system. Its exclusive appropriation of property belonging to the nation as a whole, in providing for the spiritual need of but a part of it, under whatever specious pretexts it may be done, cannot be made consistent with what is due to equity in the employment of national resources. The working men of England and Scotland, for example, what share have they in the proceeds of that large estate which has been appropriated to the religious teaching they decline? It should be borne in mind that when we speak of Church property, we speak of the property set aside by the nation for its ecclesiastical affairs—the Church being the ecclesiastical, as the State is the political, phase of the entire community. Of this community, those who gain their subsistence by manual Indus- try, including "the hewers of wood and drawers of water" for society, form no inconsiderable part. I say you are doing, not merely Dissenters, but the perhaps still larger class which, I am afraid, may be more accurately styled absenters, an enormous injustice when you abstract from the common fund a revenue which, when capitalized, would amount to from £100,000,000 to £200,000,000 sterling, to provide religious means for the upper and the richer half of the community. For, really, it comes to this in the main. Divide society in this country into three sections—the upper, the middle, and the lower—and I think it will be admitted that it is to a far greater extent with reference to the lower section, than to the middle and the upper, that the machinery of the Church Establishment has become of no avail. You will say that the machinery provided by the Nonconformists has also failed in regard to this class. I must admit it. I cannot deny it—although I can except from the force of the allegation, the case of the Nonconformists in Wales, and, to a very considerable extent also, that of the Methodists and Roman Catholics in England. But comparing, as a whole, the Established Church with the non-established churches, as to the spiritual grasp they have upon the poor, neither, I fear, can boast of much superiority over the other. There is this great difference, however, in the position of the two. The non-established communities, in all that they attempt for the evangelization of the lower stratum of society, employ none but their own resources; the State Church—so far at least as it acts as a State Church—employs the resources of the nation. And the chief religious means which are provided from national resources fall to the actual advantage of that half of the community which occupies a higher social position than the other half. I admit this is not an intentional result. But in its effect it is none the less a grievous injustice; because the share which the undermost section of society has in that portion of the national estate which is appropriated by the State Church, does chance to be so employed as to throw nearly the whole benefit of it into the hands of the sections that are better off than itself. From the political injustice inflicted by the system, I pass on to notice the social mischief which it works. The tendency of legislation for some time past has been, slowly, it may be, but progressively, to sweep away class distinctions, and, as far as law can do it, to remove the causes of social divisions and discords. We all profess to lament them. We have reason to do so. An immense work of social amelioration is waiting to be done in this country. The plague-spot of pauperism calls for all our vigilance and skill to check its spread, and the abject and helpless poverty which lies immediately contiguous to pauperism has little chance of resisting its inroads except by the help of a wisely-organized system of beneficence. Outside the action of the law, in this regard, there is almost unbounded scope for the action of voluntary zeal and generosity. One of the great needs of the day is a thorough systematization of the efforts prompted by good-will — and thorough systematization pre-supposes unity of feeling in order to unity of organization. Well, Sir, the one-sided interference of law with the religious relations of the people goes far towards minimizing, if not altogether precluding, this unity of feeling. It too often prevents co-operation in matters in which co-operation would be as easy as it is desirable, and, in other instances, like grit in machinery, hinders its smooth working by the friction which it causes. What a splendid opportunity, for instance, we had last Session when we set about framing the Elementary Education Bill! What was it that forced upon us the necessity of putting up with a dual system—in part denominational, in part common? Mainly, I contend, the existence and political power of the State Church. In America, where law leaves religion to its own resources, no such division of educational agencies has been found necessary, nor will it here for any great length of time after the policy of disestablishment has been carried into effect. This is but a single sample; but everyone must be cognizant of the fact that the spirit of exclusiveness, born of the Establishment system and fed by the encouragement given to it by the sanction of the law, permeates, more or less, the whole framework of society in this country. A dualistic and divided agency characterizes by far the largest proportion of moral, charitable, and philanthropic enterprise amongst us. Almost every village of any size has two distinct sets of apparatus for doing good — the one worked by Churchmen, the other by Dissenters. Every town has its exclusive circles of social intercourse—the one appropriated to Churchmen, the other to Dissenters. Every section of society is thus split up into incoherent parts. Many are the useful schemes that have had to be abandoned owing to the absence of good feeling between the favoured and degraded sects. Still more numerous are those which, from the same cause, are worked inefficiently. Sir, it is a pitiable condition of society, loosening its joints, and weakening its strength. All parties must take their share of blame for permitting it to continue. But the State is really the most responsible party. By its injudicious meddlings with religious opinions it has thrown the torch of discord into every corner of the kingdom, and, to an immense extent, has transmuted differences of belief into personal alienation of feeling. I come now to the last main consideration of the question to which I shall advert — I mean the very serious disadvantage which the system inflicts upon the Church itself. I will touch but cursorily and lightly upon this point, because anything calculated to throw light upon it will come with more authority from my hon. Friend who will second, this Motion. But I can hardly pass it over without some notice. Sir, it must be confessed that the Church of England "as by law established" has reached a troublous stage of her experience. Seldom, if ever, has her discomfort been greater than it is now. "Without are fightings, and within are fears," or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) put it some days ago—"Within are fightings, and without are fears." Nevertheless, her condition at this moment is infinitely preferable to what it was a century ago. Then, in her political security she gave herself to sleep; and spiritual numbness and torpor overspread her frame. She cared nothing for freedom of action; she wanted only to be let alone. She is in a very different state now. She has a fulness of life too great for the narrow conditions which the law has imposed upon her. She yearns for more liberty. The atmosphere she breathes is oppressive to her. It always has been so except when she fell into a trance and forgot her responsibility. But now, and especially within the last few weeks, she bitterly realizes the fact that she is not free—not free enough to do her own work with satisfaction to her conscience. Sir, she cannot be at once free and established. So long as she remains in connection with the State, the people of this country will always, and wisely, insist upon determining in the last resort what she shall teach, and how she shall worship. There cannot be a Church Establishment—at any rate, there is never likely to be—without some distinct dogmatical basis. The dream of comprehending in one national and State-supported Church all religionists of all denominations, and of providing out of national resources for the authorized teaching of all creeds, and perhaps of no creed, is but a vain dream—"the baseless fabric of a vision"—a beautiful, many-tinted bubble, which bursts and disappears as soon as it is touched by the finger of practical statesmanship. As I said before, the Church cannot remain one of our political institutions without acknowledging the doctrinal and ritual conditions which the law imposes on her. Nor can it be forgotten that recent judgments in the highest Court of Appeal have narrowed rather than widened those conditions. I venture to predict, moreover, that as the law defines itself more precisely, the authorized exponents of religion who are subject to the law will necessarily become more and more cramped in their position, and more and more interfered with in their work. The system cannot go on much longer. The relationship of the clergy to the civil power is becoming intolerable to those of them who are most in earnest, and is felt by them to paralyze their spiritual power. It will be real mercy, I think, to do by legislation, and therefore simultaneously for the entire body of the clergy, what will require an immense amount of moral courage in any of them to do individually, or even as Church parties—namely, sever the bond which, even on their own showing, fatally restricts their freedom of action. Another and still heavier disadvantage sustained by the Church in consequence of its connection with the State, may be described in one word, secularization—secularization, first, in appearance, and ultimately, to a very serious extent, in reality. In appearance — and here I speak far more of the system than of the persons who administer it—because the nature as well as the effect of the union between Church and State thrusts under the public eye the secular, rather than the spiritual, element of it. Somehow or other, the law possesses a marvellous power of converting whatever rests upon it into property — not even excepting ecclesiastical functions, privileges, and even duties. Take, for example, the right and responsibility of appointing to a benefice—that is, of choosing the pastor for a parish. It is property; it has a marketable value; it is advertised in the papers, and is bought and sold every day. Take another example, which forces upon the notice of the public in a most profane form the seeming subordination in the State Church of the spiritual to the secular. Can anything be more demoralizing—anything more destructive of the Church's religious influence than the mode of appointment adopted in the case of Bishops? The congé d'élire, the Royal letter, the assured obedience of the dean and chapter, enforced, if necessary, by the penalty of præmunire, associated as it is with solemn prayer for Divine direction—Sir, it is a playing with sacred things for political and secular ends which is perfectly shocking, and which goes far to paralyze the spiritual authority and influence of the Church. Sir, it would be as useless as puerile to try and conceal from ourselves the fact that a very wide public opinion sees, or thinks it sees, behind this semblance of secularism in the legal arrangements of the Church, something of its actual influence upon her dignitaries and chief rulers. It is certainly unfortunate, that however simple and blameless they may be in their personal life, their anxiety for the well-being of the Church is so loudly expressed whenever her temporalities are threatened, and so timidly and hesitatingly evinced when huge inroads are being made upon her doctrine and ritual. Will any of us soon forget what took place in the other House, when the disendowment provisions of the Irish Church Act were being discussed in Committee? No doubt the right rev. Prelates thought they were doing the Church a service. If so, it was a saddening illustration of the effect of the system upon their minds. I do not like to describe it in words, nor need I do the Bishops that unkindness, for there are but few Members of this House who will not remember the sense of pain and shame which it excited in their breasts. Seldom, I think, have the Christian people of this country had to lament a more humiliating manifestation of the secularizing tendencies of the State Church system. Sir, I will not trespass much longer upon the forbearance of the House. I have advisedly restricted myself to three or four selected and salient features of the case, lest by a multiplicity of arguments I should confuse rather than deepen the impression I desire to produce. But I must not sit down without saying something of the rural parishes of the kingdom. In each of these, we are told, the clergyman, maintained by national endowment, is a living link between the highest and the lowliest of his parishioners, is a cultivated gentleman, located just where there is, if not the greatest need, at any rate the best opportunity, for diffusing both "sweetness and light," is the fixed centre in the parish of civilization, of education, of charity, of piety, and I am told that I propose to abolish him and leave the people to fall back again into ignorance and Paganism. Well, Sir, this portrait of the rural clergy may be in the main a true, if somewhat over-coloured picture, in not a few instances, and I do not wish to tarnish it. It exhibits one side of the case certainly, but there is also another, though my argument does not require and my inclination does not prompt me to call attention to it. Why should I find fault with the exquisite polish and beauty of the machinery, when my chief concern is with the kind of work which it turns out. These rural parishes have been in the undisturbed spiritual occupation of the clergy of the Church of England for generations past. Indeed, the clergy have all but undisputed religious sway in them. Ecclesiastically speaking, they can do pretty much as they like. Well, what, on a large scale, has been the result? What are the most conspicuous characteristics of our labouring agricultural population? Do they include "sweetness and light?" Do they include fairly developed intelligence? Do they include a high state of morality? Do they include affectionate veneration for religion? Are these the most prominent features by which the character of our agricultural population is distinguished, and in respect of which they bear away the palm from the in- mates of towns? And the discouraging and painful answers to these queries—are they not to be found in Blue Books, verified as they may be by minute personal observation? When I am asked what will become of the rural parishes if you abolish the endowments which sustain the parsons, I reply, in the first instance, what has become of them under the assumed advantages of those endowments? But is it fair or reasonable to assume that the abolition of the parochial endowments in these rural districts will be tantamount to the abolition of the clergy? Does the House really believe that it would? If so, I must say that its faith is in direct opposition to most of the facts which bear upon the case. Take the Principality of Wales, for instance, where very few persons besides landowners prefer the State Church, where the bulk of the population is poor, and in many cases thinly scattered over the face of the country; surely no one will be bold enough to contend that it is by the endowments possessed by the Church Establishment that the Welsh people are kept from a relapse into heathenism. Look at Canada, look at the Australias, look at New Zealand, look at the United States of America—why, Sir, there is hardly a Protestant Episcopalian Bishop in any of these countries that has not borne unhesitating testimony to the sufficiency of Christian zeal and liberality for furnishing the means of religious instruction, and who has not deprecated all idea of going back to reliance on the State for the temporal maintenance of the Church in which he bears office. I could read to the House scores of quotations from passages uttered or written by colonial Bishops bearing out my allegation. And, Sir, this is a result at which we have no right to be surprised as if it were a strange thing. A religion that is worth anything will always contrive to find the means of its own sustentation and culture and extension. It always has done so, except where its elasticity and vitality have been withered by a system of public endowments. England is reputed to be the richest country in the world. English landowners and occupiers enjoy at least a fair proportion of that wealth. For the most part, they profess devoted attachment to the Church of England. Well, Sir, it seems most extraordinary to me that the right rev. Prelates of that Church should so loudly and so frequently proclaim their distrust of the readiness of those among whom they ordinarily mingle, and to whom they minister, to do what most other people do—namely, make some sacrifice for the maintenance of their religious faith. Sir, I believe this distrust is a libel on the English gentry. If the chief rulers of the Church of England chose to organize, each one for his own diocese, a sustentation fund for spiritually destitute parishes within it, would it not be more in harmony with their sacred functions than taking every occasion that presents itself to persuade the people of this kingdom, that if the State did not make spiritual provision for the rural districts, nobody else would? My conviction, on the contrary, is, that the disappearance of State endowments would be instantly followed by a rush of voluntary efforts to fill up the vacuum. Depend upon it, that faith in Christianity is not yet at so low an ebb in this country as to suffer a single village community to remain destitute of the means of religious instruction and Divine worship. It would not be for lack of means, or of liberality, that a deficiency of spiritual provision could befall our villages—it would be, if at all, merely for want of proper organization. In conclusion, Sir, I implore the House not to look upon the question I have so inadequately brought under its consideration as one of merely speculative interest, and not of serious practical importance. It may appear so to superficial observation just at this moment. But, Sir, it is neither rampant Radicalism nor sectarian fanaticism, but conservative prudence, which counsels us to profit betimes by the lamentable occurrences which we are witnessing abroad. The same causes out of which sprang the political tornado which is devastating unhappy France exist in this country, though in a more latent form. The cloud no bigger than a man's hand is visible on the horizon. It may be some years hence, or it may be sooner than we think, that a stormy conflict of principles relating to social matters will darken and trouble the political atmosphere; but, Sir, it does seem morally certain that through that ordeal which will try the strength of our national institutions to their very foundations we, as well as continental nations, are destined to pass. The worst thing I wish for the Established Churches of Great Britain is, that before that time comes they may be safely moored out of the reach of political billows, and beyond the ordinary sweep of political passions. I would have all branches of the Church, which, after all, are united in the same root, fulfilling in that day those functions which are best adapted to exalt men's motives, moderate their aims, soothe exasperation, and tone down popular clamour. And I fear, Sir, I greatly fear, that no Church will be in a fair position to do society this priceless service, which leans, either for her influence or maintenance, upon political support. The first forked flashes of revolutionary fire are sure to be attracted, and always have been attracted, by political Churches. I would fain see them all rescued from that danger. In their proper and divinely-appointed sphere, they are more likely to be out of the way of man's wrath, and will be better qualified to win man's respect and affection. Sir, it is with a simple view to these great and beneficient results that I now move the Resolution which stands on the Paper in my name.


said, he rose very briefly to second the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall). He did so at the request of his hon. Friend, and he thought he was right in saying that the reason why the request was made to him was because he was not connected with any Nonconformist Body, but was a member of the Church of England. The present question was not one between the Church and the people, but between those who, whether they were Episcopalians or not, were in favour of the voluntary principle. Piles of extracts might be read from the speeches of colonial Bishops, and from the sermons, Charges, and speeches of eminent men in the Church at home, all of which tended to show that there was a large and increasing number of Churchmen who looked upon the severance of Church and State without dismay. He would not trouble the House with a great number of extracts, but he would give them a few lines which a day or two ago he copied from the speech of a Minister of the Crown, the Under Secretary for India (Mr. Grant Duff), who said— There must eventually be a separation between Church and State. The whole stream of opinion had a tendency in that direction. Men were feeling every day more and more that the question of their relations with the Infinite must be settled by their own hearts and consciences, and not by State machinery. The hon. Gentleman who uttered those expressions was with them at heart, however much he might now endeavour to withhold his support from the Motion. His hon. Friend the Member for Bradford had done the House one service, and that was that he had said very much better than he (Mr. Lewis) could hope to do, everything that had ever come into his head on the subject under consideration; but he thought that the one great objection to the Church Establishment was that it was originally based upon a foundation and condition of ideas which had since been entirely swept away. The idea which underlay the foundation of the Church — and they could not be astonished at it, considering the epoch in which it originated—was that the State had a right to dictate to every man his religious views and opinions. But that had now completely passed into exploded fallacy—repeal of tests, the admission of Roman Catholics and Jews into Parliament, and, lastly, the disestablishment of the Irish Church, having tended to that consummation. That idea having been given up was supplemented by another, which was that the State was bound to profess a religion. That, however, was a question which, however ready he might be to do so out of the House, he would not like to argue in the House, but it would be well understood how exhausted the question was. If the idea on which the Church was originally founded had been changed, so also had the condition of the country entirely changed. In the days of the Tudors there were only two great cities—London and Bristol. The consequence was that the revenues of the Church were divided between the Bishops and the parochial clergy, and no provision whatever was made for the rise of the large centres of manufacture such as Sheffield and Leeds, and the town populations, which in Lancashire alone amounted to upwards of 2,000,000. In these places everything had been done by voluntary efforts. The Church, it must be admitted, therefore, had undergone a change such as was certainly not contemplated by its founders. It was reconstituted in the early period of Eliza- beth's reign as a bulwark against Popery. He was sorry even to allude to such a subject in a House in which he believed there were 37 Roman Catholics, including one Minister and one ex-Minister; but the fault was not in him, but in the system which admitted persons of all sects into Parliament, and at the same time pledged the country to one particular creed. He asked whether it was not perfectly clear that the Church had been for a long time not so much a bulwark against Roman Catholicism as a nursery for the Church of Rome? ["No!"] He knew perfectly well that every now and then stray clergymen who went a little beyond the mark in gesture were pulled before the tribunal created to deal with such offences. But how were they to suppose that Bishops would bring clergymen before the tribunal, when they found in existence such publications as The Sunday Friend, which had been extensively circulated in the district in which he resided, and to which the name of the Bishop of Winchester was appended, advocating the real presence in the Eucharist, forgiveness of sins, intercession with the saints, and the confessional? Could it be expected that Protestantism would spread and prosper when men such as the Bishop of Winchester devoted their whole energies for the propagation of a religion which they were paid to controvert? He asked what would have been thought of country magistrates who, though certainly bound to obey the same laws, declined to convict the poachers when brought before them. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor) would say if such an instance came under his cognizance, that much as he detested game laws, it was the duty of the constituted authorities to enforce them. That bore upon the question under consideration in this way, that if the Church were disestablished and disendowed, the people themselves would have a voice in the choice of their Bishops; and he thought the best protection for the laity would be to give them complete control over their funds by which their Church was maintained. We were approaching a time which, if not absolutely troublous, would require the greatest attention. There was a class of people—though he hardly liked to use the word class—who had the awkward, and some would say the ugly, habit of looking after every- thing, and making themseves heard at the polling-booth. With them it did not do to say that an institution was good because it had existed a long time. They would say that was a reason why it should be unacceptable in the present day. They saw a vast organization involving—whatever else it might involve—the special patronage of the law with its spiritual Lords, and enjoying revenues amounting to something like one-tenth of the taxation of the whole country, and yet followed, his hon. Friend (Mr. Miall) said, by about one-half, but he thought about two-fifths of the whole population. It did seem to him that if troublous times ever did come, such enormous institutions might be made, not so much a safeguard for order as an occasion for violence, and he should be only too glad to set religiously to work, and to deal with the matter fairly, in order to remove the possibility of future danger by depriving the Church of its ascendancy, which he maintained was not justified by the altered character of the times.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it is expedient, at the earliest practicable period, to apply the policy initiated by the disestablishment of the Irish Church, by the Act of 1869, to the other Churches established by Law in the United Kingdom."—(Mr. Miall.)


I am sorry to stand between the House and the observations of my hon. and learned Friend (Sir Roundell Palmer); but I could not think that a Motion of so much importance, and which has been submitted to the House with so much ability and moderation, should be allowed to pass without some Member of the Government rising to state in what manner, according to the opinion of that Government, such a Motion should be received by the House. It is at all times a delicate and a difficult question to deal with; but the tone and manner in which it has been dealt with by my hon. Friend (Mr. Miall) has lifted it out of the angry region of party and sectarian warfare into those serener regions where I hope it will be allowed to remain, and discuss the matter, not with respect to sectarian opinions, but with reference to what is believed to be the lasting and permanent interests of the country. The Motion has to be dealt with in two ways—first, with regard to its opportuneness; and, secondly, with reference to its subject-matter. Nothing could be more modest or reasonable than the position taken up by my hon. Friend. He said, in substance—"I do not bring forward this Motion in the hope that it will be carried." He did not say that public opinion was so far advanced upon the subject that the House could deal with it. He put it on lower ground, saying that changes had taken place in public opinion with regard to Church Establishments, and that the peculiar circumstances of the time and country rendered it expedient that Parliament should look to the future, and set the House in order in tranquil times. I do not know whether he means to press for a division, or to be satisfied with the discussion to which his Motion has given rise; but in either case the subject may be looked upon as a perfectly novel one; for I entirely deny his inference that Government, in dealing with the Irish Church, intended to lay down any principle of future action with regard to the Church of England. The Irish Church Establishment was abolished for exceptional and special reasons. Its origin was entirely different to that of the English and Scotch Churches. No one could say with regard to either of them that at the time of their foundation they did not meet the wishes and feelings of the great majority of the people; whereas the Irish Church at its establishment did not reflect the views and opinions of the large majority of the Irish people. The Irish Church was established and maintained by force, and it was looked upon by the great majority of the people of Ireland as a symbol of conquest and a badge of inferiority. It was, therefore, held by Government and by Parliament impossible to make any successful efforts against Irish disaffection, without in the first instance abolishing a Church which was not in accordance with the belief of the great majority of the people. I do not say its disestablishment would not have been justified on reasons altogether different; but for reasons of State policy and other reasons the Government undertook the arduous task, which they carried to successful issue in 1869, but in the other two countries the circumstances were different. There is no feeling of popular indignation, or, so far as I know, of positive anger existing in reference to the continuance of these two Establishments. There are hon. Members in this House from Scotland who are known to belong to a body opposed to the existence of an Established Church in Scotland; but they have never attempted to bring forward a Motion for the disestablishment of the Established Church in Scotland. Not many years since the Church of Scotland was rent in twain, and it might be a question now whether the Established Church in that country belonged to the majority of the population or not. But Scotchmen are prudent people; they are slow to move, but strenuous in action when they do move; and although the continuance of the Established Church in that country is receiving careful consideration in some parts of Scotland, no movement has been made; but they will, no doubt, wait until the wish of the majority in that country is in favour of disestablishment. With respect to England, the subject is still less mature; and although the subject has been mooted by a society containing members of great ability it has not attracted anything like national attention, for it is a subject not in any way connected with the historical associations of Nonconformists, or with any deep-rooted feelings on their part. The Puritans did not oppose an Established Church. We know that they did not. Their objections were limited to certain forms and ceremonies; but they raised no voice against the institution of an Establishment. Nor again, in the times of the Stuarts, when the Constitution of the country was altered, no doubt was entertained by the dominant party of the advantages of a national religion. We all remember Milton's saying—"New Presbyter is but old priest writ large;" and we know that the Presbyterians had as decided an opinion of the duty of the State to interfere with matters of religion, and to control and foster religion as the Anglican Church. All through last Session the great Liberal party joined the Nonconformists in removing many of those grievances of which they justly complained. I know of no cry which was the source of so much strength to the Liberal party as that of civil and religious liberty. They fought together side by side, and no doubt the Liberal party is very much indebted to the Nonconformists for the measures that have been passed to secure that object. But during that time it was never put forward as a principle of civil and religious liberty that the Church should be disestablished. There were certain grievances, certain inequalities to be redressed, and the Liberal party has steadily proceeded in that work. My hon. Friend opened his speech to-day by an allusion to the statement made by an hon. Gentleman who not only has the respect of this House, but who enjoys in the highest degree the confidence and respect of the Nonconformists of the country—I mean the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley)—that there were but two grievances of which the Dissenters complained to be removed, and they had reference to the laws with respect to burials and the laws with respect to the admission of Dissenters to the Universities. Those questions are before Parliament, and as far as the House is concerned the Nonconformists cannot complain of any want of sympathy with their views on those subjects. It does not, of course, follow that because up to this time the Nonconformists have not agitated the present question, it is not worthy of the consideration of Parliament. It is impossible, indeed, for any fair-minded man to deny that there is much truth in a great number of the statements made by the hon. Member for Bradford with regard to the unsatisfactory performance of its duties by the Established Church of this country. He had an easy task when he undertook to show how much the Church in its performance fell short of the theory on which it was founded. It was once in fact as well as in theory the Church of the whole kingdom. In laying down an universal system, and undertaking to guide the people, it did no more than it was entitled to do; but from some cause or other connected, no doubt, with the failings and shortcomings of the Establishment itself, a very large portion of the community have become alienated from the Church, and have formed themselves into Churches of their own. They have no doubt performed a large part of the duty of keeping alive the spirit of religion in the country, and my hon. Friend is justified in saying that if you abstract from the work of religion done in this country the contributions of the Nonconformists and the Roman Catholics, it would appear that the Church has fallen far short of what she undertook to do. That cannot be denied; but the practical question we have to decide is, are we prepared for that reason to pass a Resolution which shall bind the House to undertake legislation in this matter? The acceptance of my hon. Friend's Resolution implies nothing less. I think that no Government would be justified in undertaking such a measure in the present state of public opinion. Just conceive the difficulties. It is impossible to predict how many Governments would succeed one another, and what convulsions would take place before the question could be settled. The calmness with which my hon. Friend has made his statement will find no echo throughout the country. My hon. Friend knows well that the discussion of this question must lead to bitterness and to hostility, and though its ultimate effect might be peace and tranquillity, he knows as well as anyone that that peace and harmony could only be acquired by years of bitter contest. No Government would be justified in entering upon such a contest without the assurance of success. [Ironical cheers.] I speak without reference to this Government or any other; but I say no Government of this country would be justified in entering upon a question of such enormous consequence without the assurance of success. It is the business of private Members of this House to ventilate these questions, to put them before the public to ascertain public opinion—it is the business of the Government to take them up only when the state of public opinion justifies legislation. In my opinion there is no desire on the part of the public that this should be undertaken. They are conscious of many shortcomings on the part of the Church; but they are also conscious of many great works undertaken by the Church, and my conviction is that in the opinion of the majority of the people of England the work would not be as efficiently done were the Church disestablished. Although the Church may be viewed with jealousy and dislike by some, it is deeply rooted in the affections and respect of the great majority of the people of this country, and I believe they have very good reasons for entertaining those feelings towards it. It is not simply that a vast number of pious men full of kindness and prudence are providing a machinery of good, for that voluntary agency would provide, but the Church itself offers securities for free- dom of conscience which at the moment cannot be predicted of any other religious Body whatever. I listened almost with astonishment to the statement of my hon. Friend, who at one moment told us that the Church had failed in her duty because of the dissensions and conflicts within the Church, and at another that she was so cramped and enslaved by the law that the progress of free thought was greatly restricted. My hon. Friend compared the progress of science with the progress of theology, and asked what would have been the progress of science if science had been bound by statutes and Acts of Parliament. The two things are not analogous. Science is essentially progressive. Science is always expanding; and however long the world may last, we may fairly assume that the end of science will never be reached. But theology is, in its very nature and essence, stationary. The relations of man to God remain now as they were 6,000 years ago. Its problems may exercise the ingenuity of men of various degrees of intellect; but the solution of them will probably differ but little from that which has from time to time been delivered by the gifted men of any one particular period. But when my hon. Friend speaks of the Church of England as cramping the free discussion of religious questions, does he mean to say that free thought and the discussion of religious matters are more rare in the Church of England than in other religious Bodies? Does he mean to say that men in any given Christian denomination outside the Church would be allowed to maintain principles so divergent as those maintained by the distinguished leaders of opposite faiths in the Church of England, and yet remain a member of that Body? [Cheers.] I understand that cheer; but I maintain that in a free country like ours, and in an age of speculation such as the present, liberty like that to which I have just adverted is a great advantage. Bossuet, as is well known, came to a conclusion as to the falsehood of the Protestant faith, because of the great variety of views entertained by its members; while Milton, on the other hand, in one of the noblest passages in English prose, took credit for the earnestness and fidelity of that religion as exhibited by the outcome of various sects and denominations manifesting itself in the most terrible times. Why should not that which is true of the whole Christian Church be true of the Established Church? The less narrow and arbitrary your restrictions are the better, and I think it will always be one of the glories and recommendations of the Church of England that she admits within her limits men of such varied intellect and such varied opinions, and exercises her restrictions only in extreme cases. My hon. Friend, while acknowledging that the Church of England has done much good, says there is no proof that that good would not be done were the Church disestablished. It is very difficult to meet an argument of that sort. We cannot say that if the Constitution of this country were changed by substituting a Republic for a Monarchy, that the people would not prosper, that wealth would not be gained, that literature would not be cultivated, and that we should cease to be a great country; but we are not prepared to enter upon such a change as this unless strong reasons can be shown, and great advantage is to be obtained. I am not prepared by abstract arguments to defend establishments. We know that our Colonies, our children wherever they have planted themselves, have contrived to keep their religion without establishment, and throughout Europe and throughout the civilized world the tendency has been to connect less and less closely the State with the Church, though it is difficult to point out any State of Europe of any considerable magnitude in which the Church has been dissociated from the State. Such, however, is undoubtedly the tendency of human thought and progress. I should, therefore, be the last to hold the abstract proposition that the Church of England ought to be maintained because she is the Church of England. She can only be maintained and her existence justified so long as she can point to her own good works. It is because she is doing work that would be difficult to replace, and because there is, on the part of a great majority of the people, a deep-rooted feeling for the Establishment, that I cannot accede to my hon. Friend's Motion. I am far from complaining that he has introduced this important subject to our discussion. It is well that those who take an interest in the Church should be recalled to that which is her sole basis—namely, the opinion in which she is held by the great majority of the people. At the same time, as prudent men, we must decline to make changes the result of which we cannot foresee to be good, or at any rate to undertake changes which may only plunge us into great and profitless controversy.


Mr. Speaker—I am very happy to state my entire agreement with that part of the speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bruce) which did justice to the tone and spirit in which this question was introduced to the House by the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall). I think, from the point of view in which he approached the subject, nothing could be more worthy of the dignity of the question, or of his own convictions, or more consistent with the respect which I have no doubt he entertains for the convictions of others, than the whole temper and manner of his speech. Nor do I deny that such a subject, when we see it canvassed out-of-doors, may properly, by those who hold the opinions of the hon. Member, be brought under the notice of the House. I deeply regret that there should appear to be any cause for its introduction to our consideration. I would far rather have preferred that the general feeling of the country, such as I believe it to be, should be so well understood and acquiesced in, as to make it unnecessary to consider the matter. But when we see considerable bodies connected—I will not call them with agitations, for that is a word that might not be acceptable—but with movements out-of-doors for the purpose of influencing public opinion on this subject, and when we see also within the Church itself some, who, under the influence of what I hope may prove to be temporary irritation and excitement, appear to give some countenance to the same views, I cannot pretend to deny that the time has arrived at which it is natural, and perhaps unavoidable, that the question should be brought under our attention.

There are some points of really great moment, on which I believe myself to be at one with the hon. Member for Bradford. I quite agree with him in thinking that the religious aspect of this matter is the most important, although it is one which, neither on the one side nor on the other, can be directly dwelt upon in this House. I further en- tirely agree with him in some of the main principles which evidently actuated his mind, though I wholly differ from him in their application. I quite agree with the hon. Member that no State authority ought to interfere with any man's religious belief. If in any past time such an opinion was entertained, we are happy to live at a period at which it has long since passed away. If such a principle were really involved in the maintenance of an Established Church, I should probably have been found in company with the hon. Member. But I disclaim utterly the notion of being a member of a mere political Church. I believe, with the hon. Member, that a Church merely created by the State is a thing impossible for this nation. The Church, were it not as truly and really a religious society, held together by religious bonds, depending upon religious faith and religious convictions, as it is a society in possession of certain temporal advantages, neither could stand, nor, in my opinion, would it be worthy to stand. But being, and having always been, truly a religious society, resting upon the basis of religious belief, religious doctrine, and religious worship, and there being in its present relations with the State as really and truly a recognition of the spiritual character of the Church as of the temporal authority of the State—all their mutual relations being embodied in the solemn compacts of Acts of Parliament, or other public acts, on the one hand, and Church formularies on the other — as long as the Church maintains its vitality, as long as it exercises its powers as much for the general public benefit as it now does, and is as acceptable and useful to the people as it is, so long I trust and hope that neither on its own side will it be ready to give up the means of doing good which it possesses through its relations with the State, for the sake of any supposed advantage arising from greater independence in some respects, nor, on the other hand, that the State, for the sake of giving effect to theoretical arguments, and removing discontents founded upon those arguments, will deprive itself of one of the most valuable allies for all purposes of good government and welldoing throughout the country, which, in my belief, ever has existed in any nation of the world.

Now, I will endeavour briefly to follow the course of argument of the hon. Member. The first article of his indictment against the Established Church was that it had failed in the two points, of not attaining to the universality which it professed, and of not accomplishing the unity of belief which it was supposed to require. With regard to the profession of universality, that was evidently founded upon false and impossible principles, arising from ideas entertained in past times. So far from feeling that the Church in that respect, viewed rightly and truly, has failed in its intended mission, I maintain that it could in no other way whatever, than under the influence of those principles of liberty which have put an end to the notion of coercion by the State, have attained to that approximation to universality—and a very high degree of approach to universality I take it to be—in its beneficent operations, to which it really has attained. The hon. Gentleman himself bore testimony to the elasticity and power of expansion which were manifest in the Church, notwithstanding its connection with the State. He said that it would continue to live and be powerful, although it might be deprived of the advantages of State connection; and he pointed to all the great things which had been done by the private liberality and bounty of members of the Church of late years, to the large sums raised to build and endow churches and schools in town and country, and to everything else which showed signs of a vigorous life. By these means the influence of the Church has been maintained and extended from year to year and from day to day. And that influence is being maintained and extended more and more, over a portion of the population, greater beyond all comparison than any other religious Body in the country pretends to reach. I do not pretend, any more than the hon. Member, to give the exact statistics; but we all know we are not very far from the truth, when we say that the professed members of the Church number at least as many as the professed members of all other religious Bodies put together. But does the influence of the Church stop with those who are directly conscious of it? Its influence upon those whom it reaches directly, is far more valuable and real than it ever could have been under the old conception of a church made uni- versal throughout the nation, by laws requiring every citizen to be a member of it: and it extends indirectly to large numbers, whose minds would always have revolted against that system. I say confidently that the Dissenters themselves are affected for good by its influence. The hon. Gentleman has so fair and candid a mind that I am persuaded he thinks so. I am sure he would be ready to admit that the Church, doing so much, with so much zeal and energy, has given a powerful stimulus to the energies of the Dissenters to work side by side with her in the different parts of the country. The high education, tone, and character of the clergy of the Established Church have told not disadvantageously upon all who are endeavouring to supplement the work of the Church. I do not attribute very much to external things, and yet they are indications of what is going on within, and of the action and re-action and influence of different bodies on each other. I go through a town, and I ask—"What is that beautiful church which I see erected there?" It is a work of architecture on which great sums have been expended; it has spires reaching to Heaven. I am told that this church has been erected by the bounty of some eminent Nonconformist. It is a Nonconformist church, the architecture of which is very like ours. I am told that although they do not confine themselves to any liturgy, there are not a few Churches of the Dissenting Bodies in this country that, to a great extent, are indebted to the beautiful liturgy of the Church of England. I believe that there is very much community of feeling between the most enlightened and best men on both sides, for the tendency of time, as it goes on, in spite of all these political agitations, is to bring them more together.

Then, as to the working classes, I cannot at all believe what was said by the hon. Gentleman as to the relation of the working classes to the Church of England. In the first place, he did not appear to me sufficiently to distinguish between the position of the working classes in the towns and the working classes in the country. With regard to the working classes in the country I believe, speaking generally, they are members of the Church, and through the Church they are partakers of benefits of every description, spiritual, moral, and even tem- poral. I think there is much "sweetness and light" even among those labouring poor to whom the hon. Member referred. The best light is that which is the light of life, which makes men contented, virtuous, and happy in the position of life which they occupy, especially if that position be humble, without many superfluities or any excess of comforts. If so, then I venture to say, that those who know the rural districts of this country will bear testimony to the existence of multitudes upon multitudes of poor people, who have in them both sweetness and light. There is among them an abundance of those virtues which I honour, and which I wish were always to be found in an equal degree in the classes above them. I do not wish to speak against any class; but I must say that the class of all others which has attracted my sympathies, according to the opportunities I have had of observing them, is the class of the poor, and not least of the rural poor. I cannot imagine any institution to which this character of the labouring poor, so far as it really prevails among them, is due, more than to that which has placed in the centre of the population of every parish in the country a man educated and intelligent, whose business it is to do them good, whose whole and sole business is to take care of their souls as far, as by God's help he is enabled to do so, and in every other way, in all circumstances of life, to be their friend and counsellor. In proportion as he does that work he does a thing of inestimable value. Of course it is very imperfectly performed, even by the best men: of course there are many among the clergy who do not rise, as nearly as they ought, to the height of such a calling; but it is not the less true of the parochial clergy, taken as a whole, that they do this work, in a degree, and to an extent, which is of inestimable value. There may be other means by which the condition of the poor may be, and ought to be, improved; but nothing is more certain than that, as a class, they will never cease out of the land; and nothing could ever supply to them the want of such benefits as these. It is true, that, if we had not that institution, we could not now create it. But of all the institutions which we have inherited from our ancestors, those may be even the most valuable, which we could not replace with anything equally good if they were destroyed. We are not going to tear society up by the roots, and destroy everything which has grown with our growth, because we could not now create it if we had to begin all afresh. This great institution does a work of inestimable value over the whole land and in every part of society. My hon. Friend—I think I may be at liberty to call him so—wishes for certain theoretical reasons to destroy the whole of the immense machinery by which all this good is done. He says we ought to destroy it, and trust to the future to supply its place. For my own part I am not willing to run any such risk:—not because I suppose that if the Church were disestablished, the means of which it would thereby be deprived would not to a large extent be supplied. But that would be a work of difficulty and time; and in many places, especially the most destitute, it might be very insufficiently done, or not done at all. It is not an encouraging thing to pull down the accumulated results of the liberality of past ages, and then expect private liberality to build up the edifice again, and supply the void.

I have spoken, so far, principally of the working classes in the country. As to the towns, it is perfectly true that from the enormous increase and aggregation of the population in our large towns neither Dissenters nor Churchmen can overtake the want of spiritual instruction: but I do believe this, that the Church is overtaking it much faster than the Dissenters; and that, not through any want of zeal on the part of Dissenters, but through the intrinsic advantages which the Church system possesses. The organization of the Church system gives more means and opportunities of overtaking the very poor, who can do nothing for themselves, than any other system which yet has existed. The Bishop of London's Fund has been doing a great deal, under three successive Prelates, towards overtaking the wants of the Metropolis; and it is so not only in the Metropolis, but everywhere else. On behalf, therefore, of the poor, on behalf of the working classes, both in town and country, I protest against our sacrificing to theoretical arguments so priceless an institution as the Church, which is really their inheritance.

With respect to unity of belief, the hon. Gentleman said that formerly all people in this country, and the clergy still, were required to have one belief; and that this was as unreasonable as to attempt to restrain scientific inquiry by law. And then he founded part of his argument in favour of disestablishment on the differences on religious questions actually prevailing among the members of the Established Church. Now, I believe that the natural tendency, and the general operation, of the system of an Established Church is to widen, rather than to narrow, those standards of doctrine which are indispensable in all churches; and to increase, instead of unduly restraining, liberality of judgment and honest freedom of thought among the clergy. I do not believe that there is any other religious Body in the country which allows to its ministers so much individual liberty as is allowed by the Established Church, or which does not more jealously call them to account in matters of doctrine and worship. Whether such restraints upon liberty of thought among the clergy are good or evil, they would be greater, and not less, than they are at present, if the Church were disestablished: our liberty in this respect is, if anything, somewhat in excess. All Churches recognize and insist upon the principle of unity in what they consider necessary points of belief. To compare religion and its progress with the growth and advance of scientific truth is, to my mind, to use an illustration not at all apposite. Science is a system of inquiry founded upon observation of phenomena, as to which results have been accumulated in the past, and progress is being made continually; but that is not so in regard to religious truth. I am far from saying that in religion advancement and improvement are not possible; but I do say that you cannot make new discoveries in religion—that the tendency of such progress as is actually made will rather be to correct what was in past times supposed to be scientific theology, than to construct new scientific theology for the future. It has been said that religion came from one source, and theology from another; and, though I cannot adopt that statement, I suppose the meaning of it is, that in what is called theology there are many inventions of human science, falsely so called, which are obstacles, and not helps, to the simplicity and purity of religion. That being admitted, is it not the province of the human intellect to seek and find its highest and noblest field of labour in removing from religion the incrustations of false science in past times, rather than in attempting to invent new religions for the future? For another reason the analogy does not hold. You do not found Churches of scientific men; but it is in the nature of religion to form aggregate Churches, with laws and systems of doctrine, which they enforce, upon their members with more rather than less strictness, in the case of Churches which are not established.

Coming now to the argument from justice, I cannot adopt the idea of the hon. Member, who seems to suppose that no State institution intended for the public good can be just, which everybody does not equally participate in. I do not know where that doctrine would land us, and I would rather not inquire; because such views, if adopted, would soon involve other institutions as well as the Church, and inevitably lead us into communism, or some other system of the kind. I have lately seen a serious argument, founded on the latest developments of this levelling idea of justice, which looks forward to the time when there will be no nations, Kings, Parliaments, elections, or anything of the kind, but the men best suited to govern are in some inscrutable manner to find their way to the top of society, and to take their proper place. Such views are, of course, entirely impracticable, and the attempt to put them in force would involve universal confusion, which means universal injustice. In what, after all, does the supposed injustice of the Established Church consist? It is simply that a body, consisting of the largest portion of the community, should remain in possession of property which, for public purposes, it has had possession of for centuries; while those, who do not participate in the benefit derived from the property, fail to do so simply from their own choice. I should be very glad, as a member of the body which is in possession, if those who so decline would make up their minds to become participators; but it is too much that they should wish to deprive others of what they do not want and would not have themselves. It is quite clear that concurrent endowment is not the object of those who do not like to see the Church in possession of this property. But I should be sorry to base the arguments against the proposition solely upon the ground of property; and it is evident to me, that this is not any very real or substantial part of the motives of those who propose it.

My hon. Friend said he did not like to put this question upon a sectarian basis; but, in my opinion, it is undeniable that the rivalry of different denominations is at the bottom of all this movement. It is not that they really feel that injustice is done to them on any point connected with property; the basis of this part of their argument is in what they call ascendency. But the Church has no longer any ascendency in point of civil rights or privileges; and there is no injustice in any pre-eminence over other religious Bodies due to her numbers, her moral influence, and her ancient historical position: all which would remain, and continue—whether in an equal or in a diminished degree—to produce similar effects, although she might be disestablished. Nor can there be any injustice in the continuance, to a Church occupying such a historical and moral position, of the public incidents involved in Establishment for the public good.

I have now to say a few words on the suggestions that have been made in regard to social discords. I suppose the hon. Gentleman thinks there would be less discord if the Church were disestablished; but I cannot think he was happy in his illustration derived from the Parliamentary proceedings of last year. I cannot for a moment imagine that if the Church had been disestablished we should have come more easily to accord upon the education question. Supposing the Church had been disestablished at the time, there would have remained the broad division between that part of the people of the country, who make it a principle to have religion as an element in education, and the Secularists, who would prefer that religion should be eliminated altogether. That distinction would still have remained, for it does not depend upon the existence of an Established Church, and therefore the difficulty in regard to education would have remained as great as ever. Further, let me once more remind hon. Gentlemen who share the opinions of the hon. Member for Bradford, that they would not get rid of the Church of England by disestablishing it. So far from its being less energetic in the assertion of its claims, it would, in my opinion, be more energetic, and, perhaps, more powerful than ever in asserting such claims as it put forward last year when demanding a recognition of the religious element in the Education Bill. I do not mean that the Church would be either more or less zealous in good works; but rather that, being entirely emancipated from the control of the State and enjoying perfect independence of action, the tendency to sharp conflict of opinion between the Church and Dissent would be infinitely greater than under the present system. One effect of the existing state of things, to use a familiar phrase in a manner, I hope, not at all derogatory to religion, is that the Church is bound over to keep the peace; and this I hold to be advantageous; for it is always desirable that asperity of feeling between religious Bodies should be checked as much as possible, consistently with zeal and sincerity in the belief of religious truth by those Bodies. One of the advantages, therefore, of the union which subsists between Church and State is, that it gives to the former inducements to deal with many matters in a more liberal and conciliatory spirit, than could be relied upon if the relations between the two were different.

I must not omit to add a few words upon the internal differences and the growing impatience of legal control, which recent events are said to have shown to exist within the Church. I am sorry that any discord should exist anywhere, and the divisions of opinion now under consideration are certainly not unimportant; but they possess the compensating and preponderating advantage that they are indications, and in part even causes, of increased life and activity, which communicates itself with advantage to the religious life of the whole community—those more extreme forms of opinion to which the hon. Member referred only prevailing, in my opinion, among a small section of the Body; the majority remaining, on the whole, faithful to the general platform of the Church to which they belong. To those who are impatient of legal control, I would take the liberty of saying that it is utterly impossible for any Church, whether established or not, to rid itself entirely of such control. It is somewhat strange, I must say, to hear that pronounced to be intolerable in 1871 which was found necessary even before, and certainly ever since the Reformation. From the Reformation down to the present time the Church has had its laws confirmed by Acts of Parliament, and its tribunals subject to an appeal to Judges nominated by the Crown. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is neither more nor less a secular and civil tribunal than the old Commissions of Delegates. How would it be possible for a Church having its uniformity secured by Act of Parliament, and having the obligations of its ministers sanctioned by Acts of Parliament, to be carried on otherwise than under the supremacy of the law as administered in the Courts of the Crown? It has been so from the time of the Reformation downwards, and if the Church were disestablished now it must be so still. I do not mean in all the circumstances of the case; but in principle it would be exactly the same. As long as Churches have property, you cannot, by any possibility, prevent disputes about the terms on which it shall be held. And it has been my lot to be concerned professionally in settling the differences of a voluntary religious Body—the respectable Body of Congregationalists, commonly called Baptists — upon what one might presume to be a rather critical point of their system—namely, whether or not baptism was necessary to justify a Baptist minister in treating a person as a communicant; and the Court of Chancery decided that it was not. I believe the Court decided in a manner which has been acquiesced in ever since, that baptism is not indispensable among the Baptists. I do not in the least degree mean to imply anything theological; it would be most unbecoming in me to do so; what I meant was that among Nonconformists as in the Church of England, there are different parties, some thinking one thing and some another; they do not agree as to whether a particular thing is necessary or right to be done or held by the minister. And then the question arises, whether the minister, differing from some of his congregation on a given point, has a right to hold the pulpit and continue his ministration in that church; accordingly they come to the Court of Chancery to decide that question; and so should we have to act if we were disestablished now. Let no man de- lude himself with the idea that, as long as men are citizens of the State, and carry on the services of religion by the use of temporal means, they can escape from the obligation of being governed by the laws of the land. The laws of the land cannot impose upon any persons the necessity of believing one doctrine or the other; if the law of the land rules questions, in which they as members of a particular Church are concerned, contrary to their consciences, they, of course, may either acquiesce, or leave that Church; but they never can by any possibility escape from the necessity of submitting to some control on the part of the law. And, with reference to those clergy who have been made uneasy because uniformity of ritual is enforced in a sense in which they did not expect, or in a manner more strict than they expected, I cannot but think that the great majority of them will agree, that the principle of obedience to law is of infinitely greater importance than any disputed form of ritual whatever, and, at all events, they must see that points of that sort when disputed, must go for interpretation to the law. Certainly it ought to be understood, that they cannot obtain absolute independence of the Civil Courts by means of disestablishment; and for my own part I think the effect of disestablishment would be, that most points in controversy would be ruled more strictly against minorities by the Legislative Assembly of a disestablished Church than, as a general rule, they are likely to be by the Courts of Law.

One word as to foreign dangers. I agree that we live in times when difficult and important public controversies are going on; but it seems to me that the circumstances of this country are very different from the circumstances of the foreign countries, to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. I cannot but think that we are still essentially the same people as we have been in former times, and that movements which would convulse some other countries, may, from our freer growth of liberty, be settled by us without the dangers which the hon. Gentleman has foreshadowed. Certainly, as far as the suggestion goes, that if such dangers were to arise the Established Church would be the first institution to be overcome by them, I am not quite sure that anything much worse would be likely to happen to her under those circumstances, than what the hon. Member wishes to do to her now. I cannot refrain from making a quotation from Cowper, which I have made before in this House, embodying some very similar advice— I hold it therefore wisest and most fit That, life to save, we leap into the pit. Certainly, it is a ludicrous suggestion, that, in order to avoid the dangers which may occur if these difficulties arise, we should have a revolution in advance, and, therefore, disestablish the Church. In the view I take of the effect and usefulness of the Established Church, it is one of our great safeguards against all such dangers. I have seen what I believe to be an erroneous report of a speech of an hon. Friend of mine (Mr. Auberon Herbert), in which he is represented to have said that nothing was or ought to be sacred to an English Liberal. I do not suppose there is any Liberal on this side of the House who will adopt that sentiment, nor can I believe that it ever fell from the lips of my hon. Friend; I hope we shall never see the time when such a sentiment will rule any English party. But, in reality, I do not think there would be much difference between the hon. Mover of this question and myself upon this point — that as property is the material, so religion is the moral bond of society. Of course, he thinks that moral bond would be stronger, and not weaker, if the Establishment were put an end to. I cannot see it in that light. One great and most vital means, by which that moral bond operates upon society at the present time in this country, is through the medium of the Established Church. I value the bond much too highly to be willing to run any unnecessary risk with reference to the means; and I cannot but think that, if our country were threatened by those political dangers, the dissociation of religion, represented by so powerful a Body as the Church, from its present connection with the whole of the institutions of the country, would deprive the State of much of the strength it now possesses to withstand that description of danger. I would conclude by using the words of a great man—Wordsworth—who was by no means a bigot, who, from the earliest period of his life was very strongly attached to the principles of Justice and Freedom, a poet of large and liberal mind, and join him in the expression of his patriotic wish— Hail to the State of England! and conjoin With this a salutation as devout, Made to the spiritual fabric of her Church! Founded in truth, by blood of martyrdom Cemented; by the hands of wisdom reared, In beauty of holiness, with ordered pomp, Decent and unreproved. The voice which greets The majesty of both shall pray for both, That, mutually protected and sustained, They may endure, long as the sea surrounds This favoured land or sunshine warms her soil.


Sir, I am anxious to explain to the House a distinction which is drawn by Nonconformists between the Church of England as a religious institution and the Church of England as a political establishment. I can say with a clear conscience and unfaltering lip that I am not conscious of one particle of hostility to the Church in its former capacity. On the contrary, I acknowledge that as a religious institution she has many titles to gratitude and veneration. She has had a long and, in many respects, an illustrious history. Undoubtedly, in times past, she has rendered services of inestimable value to the cause of Christian and Protestant truth—services which, whether established or disestablished, I hope she may continue to render in all times to come, as I think she will if she is faithful to what I believe to be her truest principles and traditions. Her annals are adorned with a long succession of great and good men, who by their learned and eloquent writings have largely enriched our national language and literature, and from whose pages most of us—at least I must admit the obligation—have derived some of the purest nourishment for mind and heart. I honour with my whole heart the noble and devoted life led by many of her working clergy, who in this Metropolis and other large cities and towns have been diving down to the lowest abysses of society, to drag up those who were weltering there in ignorance and misery, into the light of a Divine life. I make these acknowledgments with no pang of sectarian jealousy, but with an open heart and cheerful voice. But what we have to do with to-night is not the merits or demerits of the Church of England as a religious institution, but her relation to the State. In that capacity, it will be admitted, and is in these days admitted by some of her best friends, that there are many shameful and dishonourable passages in her history. But these belong to her not as a branch of the Christian Church, but as a political establishment. In the interests of the Church itself we wish to see it separated from the State, for it seems to me impossible that the earnest friends of the Church can regard with satisfaction the position in which she is placed arising out of that connection. Look, for instance, at the relations she sustains to this House in her capacity as a State Church. My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport stated the other day in his speech on the Lectionary Bill, that last year we had before us 15 or 16 measures connected, more or less, with the Church, and some of them having reference to her most intimate internal arrangements. Let anyone look into the Tables of Lessons Bill. I own I was fairly shocked and scandalized when I examined it. For what do we find there? Why, we find a long list, consisting of many hundreds of passages of Scripture, which we, the Members of this House, if we pass this Bill, are to command the clergy of the Church of England to read on Sundays and holydays through the whole country. I believe, while that Bill is before us, it would be competent for any Member of this House to raise a debate upon any and every one of those lessons, and to discuss its suitableness and unsuitableness for purpose of religious edification. Can we conceive of anything less decent or becoming than a discussion of that nature in a House constituted as this is? It is inexplicable to me how members of the Church of England can bear it. I have tried to imagine how I should feel if the most sacred and spiritual affairs of the Church with which I am connected—questions relating to its doctrines, its discipline, its devotional offices and arrangements—were to be brought on the floor of this House to be tossed about in discussion here, and I feel that I should shrink from it with inexpressible repugnance. And no doubt that some members of the Church feel this. What did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford say to us the other night? And I must say that I always listen to that right hon. Gentleman with the most sincere respect, not only on account of the high position he occupies in this House, and the great ability with which he ad- dresses us, but because there is an accent of sincerity in all his utterances on these questions which I honour, for I like an earnest and consistent Churchman as I like an earnest and consistent Dissenter. It is evident that that right hon. Gentleman feels, as I described I should have felt, in the same circumstances. But what is his remedy? He appealed to considerable sections of this House—to the English Nonconformists, to the Members from Scotland, and the Members from Ireland—to abstain from discussing and voting upon these ecclesiastical questions, and leave them entirely in the hands of those who were members of the Church of England. But cannot the right hon. Gentleman see the absurdity and anomaly of the proposition he makes, that a considerable portion of the representatives of the people should absolutely abdicate their functions as legislators, in reference to a large class of measures, in order to save the Parliamentary Church from the embarrassment which arises from her connection with the State, which she nevertheless insists on maintaining? But I rise principally to present to the House one practical illustration of the working of the State Church, as seen in a part of our own country—I mean the Principality of Wales. What is the object of a Church Establishment? For what purpose is a certain body of men set apart, and have a distinctive official status and exclusive privileges assigned to them by the State, and are put in possession of large national endowments, secured by law, unless it be that they may become the religious instructors and guides of the people among whom they occupy this position? And if they fail in this—fail utterly and continuously and in reference to the overwhelming majority of the people—will the most strenuous defender of Church establishments tell me there is any further reason or justification for their existence? Well, that is the case in Wales. I know what is usually said by the defenders of that Church. It was substantially the argument used last Session by the Prime Minister in answering the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Denbighshire Boroughs. It is said—No doubt about the beginning or middle of the last century, the Church fell into a sad condition in Wales. About that time the British Government began the practice of send- ing Englishmen to fill Welsh bishoprics, and the consequence was a time of religious deadness, neglect, and decay, which offered an occasion, and as some are candid enough to admit, some justification and excuse, for the rise and growth of Nonconformity. But they refer to a golden age preceding this state of things, when the Church in Wales, ruled by native Bishops, who understood the language, and commanded the confidence and veneration of the whole country, comprehended and cared for within her fold the whole population of Wales. But I am afraid this is a purely fancy picture, for at no time has the Church in Wales adequately cared for the religious interests of the people. No doubt the appointment of English Bishops to Welsh sees, and the necessary consequence which ensued—for the Bishops in turn deluged the Principality with English clergymen, to whom were assigned the highest dignities and the richest livings, though they were utterly ignorant of the language of the people among whom they dwelt, or rather among whom many of them did not dwell, but from whom they drew the means of luxurious living elsewhere—this, no doubt, was as monstrous an abuse as ever dishonoured the ecclesiastical administration of any country. In all respects, indeed, the Welsh Church has been scandalously treated for ages. Its revenues have been plundered, unqualified persons have been appointed to its highest offices, there has been a flagrantly corrupt exercise of patronage, native talent has been contemptuously overlooked. But by whom has this injustice been committed? Why, by that very power of the State, without whose patronage and protection some say it is impossible religion can exist in the land. But my contention in reference to the Welsh Church is this—that from the time it first came into existence as a Protestant Establishment until now, it has never fulfilled in anything approaching to a sufficient and satisfactory manner its professed function as the teacher of the Welsh nation. Let me ask the attention of the House to some proofs of this allegation. It will be admitted I suppose by all that the first duty of a Protestant Church is to provide for the people of whom it professes to take charge an adequate supply of the Bible in their own language. But how has the Church in Wales fulfilled its duty in this respect? Dr. Llewellyn, the learned author of the History of the Welsh Bible, says— That for upwards of 70 years, from the settlement of the Reformation by Queen Elizabeth, for nearly 100 years from Britain's separation from the Church of Rome, there were no Bibles in Wales, but only in the cathedral or parish churches or chapels. But how did the ecclesiastical authorities act in reference even to the translation of the Scriptures for use in the Churches? In the year 1563 an Act of Parliament was passed ordering this work to be done, and it was put in charge of the Bishops of St. Asaph, Bangor, St. David's, Llandaff, and Hereford, who were required to see the translation completed by the year 1566, under penalty of £40 each if it were not done. But what happened? Whatever became of the penalty, the Bible was not translated and published in Welsh for 25 years, and it was not then done by the Bishops or at their instigation, but by the piety and patriotism of a private individual, the Rev. W. Morgan, vicar of a small parish in Denbighshire, whose name deserves to be had, and is had, in honourable remembrance throughout the Principality. This edition was only for the churches. The first edition of the Bible for popular use was issued in 1630 by two private persons—Alderman Heylin and Sir Thomas Middleton, who resided in London, but were natives of the Principality. For the next half-century the Church provided only one edition, a large folio for use in the churches; but during the same period there were nine editions, consisting of 30,000 copies of the whole Bible and 40,000 of the New Testament, published by the Nonconformists. Indeed, I cannot find that the Church did anything to supply the people in Wales with Bibles until 1718, when there was an edition of 10,000 copies published by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge; so that for 160 years from the settlement of the Protestant Reformation, and for 145 years from the passing of the Act of Queen Elizabeth, the Church of England in Wales did absolutely nothing to provide the use of the Bible for the common people in the country. Well, Sir, and what did she do in other respects? Let us take the case of the churches she has provided for the instruction in religion of the people. In a pamphlet published some time ago by a clergyman, the Rev. W. Morgan, he states the number of churches and chapels belonging to the Church of England in Bangor and St. Asaph. In 1560 the number was 318; in 1855 it was 366, showing an addition of only 48 churches in 295 years. He further states that during a period of 140 years—from 1715to 1855—there was no increase at all, but a diminution of one church; for in 1715 the number was 367, in 1855 it was 366. But to come down to a later time, let us compare the provision made in Wales between the years 1801 and 1851 by the Church of England and by the various Nonconformist Bodies. In 1801 the number of Church of England sittings in North Wales was 99,216; of all other denominations 32,664. In fifty years the population increased from 252,765 to 412,114 persons, or about 63 per cent. To have kept up the ratio of sittings to population, the Church of England ought to have supplied 62,505 fresh sittings, whereas she did supply only 16,614; and the other denominations ought to have supplied 20,576, whereas they did supply 217,903. In other words, the Church of England fell short of her duty by 73 per cent, and the other denominations exceeded it by 960 per cent. In South Wales, in 1801, the Church of England had 133,514 sittings, the other denominations 82,443. The population increased from 288,892 to 593,607, or 105 per cent. The quota of additional sittings required from the Church was 140,854, but she provided only 15,204; whereas the other denominations, which ought to have provided only 86,275 additional sittings actually did provide 270,510, so that the Church of England fell short of her duty by 89 per cent, and the other denominations exceeded it by 211 per cent. Well, in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Richmond, it was said that if the Church was severed from the State, the rural parishes would be in a state of utter spiritual destitution. But in the case of Wales, I have a completely satisfactory reply to that assertion. There, as I have shown, the country was neglected by the Church; but while the people were abandoned to ignorance, superstition, and vice, there arose a few earnest men who had been themselves, I must admit, members of the Church of England, but who were expelled from her on account of the excess of their zeal for the spiritual good of their fellow-countrymen. They therefore became Nonconformists, and on seeing the position of their countrymen, they set to work to provide the means of spiritual instruction for them; and I will venture to say that there is now a more perfect system for the religious instruction and worship of the poor Welsh people provided by themselves, out of their poverty, than in any other part of the United Kingdom, and perhaps in any other part of the world. Let me give one illustration from the county of Cardigan, represented by my hon. Friend on the left (Mr. Richards), and which is my native county. That is a purely agricultural county. In many parts of it the people are sparse and scattered and very poor. Well, from the religious Census of 1851, I take the registration districts of Cardigan, Newcastle-Emlyn, Lampeter, Aberayron, Aberystwyth, and Tregaron, comprising, I believe, the whole of my native county of Cardiganshire, with an aggregate population of 97,614. In this district, the number of sittings provided was 97.8 per cent on the population, of which the Church of England supplied 27.4, and the Dissenters 70.4 per cent. So that in that county, which is purely agricultural, and where the population in many parts is very sparse, and mostly very poor, you will find that by the operation of the voluntary principle they have provided this ample supply of the means of religious instruction and worship. I may be told that I am referring to evil days that have passed away as respects the Church in Wales, and that since then a great improvement has taken place. I admit it gladly. I admit that the three Bishops who have recently occupied three of the dioceses of Wales, although Englishmen — I omit the appointment recently made by the Prime Minister—have exerted themselves diligently to endeavour to infuse some degree of life into the Welsh Church. But, after all, what has been done? I will take the case of the diocese of Llandaff—it is the most favourable, and where the excellent Bishop has been indefatigable in his endeavours to do good, especially in the way of church-building. This diocese contains Monmouthshire and a large part of Glamorganshire. There has been a more rapid stride of population there than in any other part of the United Kingdom, for the population has more than tripled in half-a-century. The increase in Monmouthshire between the years 1801 and 1851 has been 244, and in Glamorganshire 231 per cent, whereas the average increase in Great Britain was only 93½ per cent. The Bishop, in his last Charge, gives an account of what had been done since the year 1850, and he said that 39 new churches had been built, and 36 old ones had been rebuilt and enlarged—or a total of 75. And how was this done? He says that it was done by the liberality of the landed proprietors and the employers of labour, who have become more conscious of the responsibilities attaching to their position, and that many of them had contributed largely. But what does that prove? It proves, not the necessity for an Established Church, but the efficiency of the voluntary principle; for all these churches were built, apparently, by the free-will offerings of the landed proprietors in that district. But let us compare with it what was done during the same period by the various Nonconformist Bodies. Since 1850 the Congregationalists have built 68 new chapels, and have restored and enlarged 46 of the old ones. The Baptists have built 67 new ones, and have enlarged 40. The Calvinistic Methodists have built 55 new chapels, and have enlarged 40. So that the Nonconformists have in that diocese built 186 new chapels against 39 built by the Church of England, and have restored and enlarged 127, against 36 by the Church. Now, I put it to the House, what would have been the condition of this vast population, which has been growing with vast rapidity in Wales, if it had been left to the tender mercies of the Church of England? It was admitted by one of the Bishops that, but for the exertions of the Nonconformists, Wales would have been in a condition of heathenism. I think this is a state of things which ought not to continue. It is a state of things to which I object. First of all, on account of its absurdity. What can be more absurd than to maintain, as you have done in Wales, a costly and elaborate machinery to do work that it has never done? which it is not doing now—and which there is not the slightet probability that it ever will do, and which work is being done far more effectually by another and totally different agency. Secondly, I object to it on account of its injustice—for when a poor and scattered people so utterly neglected for so long a time by the Church, and when they have made for themselves such ample provision by voluntary efforts, is it not unjust that they should have to bear the burden of another Church, which is of no use whatever to the great bulk of them? I object to it, thirdly, because it tends to disturb and poison social relations between the different classes of the people of that country. I believe there is no people in the world better disposed to live in harmony among themselves than the Welsh people. But the Established Church is the bone of contention. It was my misfortune to be called upon to bring to the attention of this House, two years ago, certain proceedings that had taken place in Wales after the last election. I described to the House how notices to quit had fallen on the tenant-farmers and others, "like a shower of hail," as one of my correspondents said, and although, after that discussion, many of the notices were withdrawn, yet many were carried rigorously into effect. There were more than 100 persons who were turned out of house and home for no offence, except that they had dared to exercise their own understanding and conscience in the giving of their votes. But what was at the bottom of it all? I believe that the Church of England was, for it was proved that, I believe, in every instance the victims were Dissenters, and those who did the injustice were members of the Church. Now, there is hardly a dispute of any importance existing among the various classes in Wales, except what is connected, more or less directly, with the Church. The landowners are generally members of the Church of England, and they have somehow got it in their heads that it affects their honour and reflects upon their character as proprietors of the soil that the tenants should be of a different religion from themselves, and they conceive it to be their duty to attempt to draw or drive them back into the Church. On this account I say that the existence of the Church, so far from being a bond of union, is the cause of dissension between the various classes of the community, and therefore I should rejoice if, in Wales at any rate, it was severed from the State, if only to restore among us the unity and concord which I believe would then be restored. I disclaim the imputations that are sometimes made against us, because we advocate the separation of the Church from the State. We are accused of wishing to destroy the Church of England. I utterly deny the charge. I have no wish to destroy or to injure or to cripple her. On the contrary, my calm conviction is, that the day when the Church of England shakes herself free from these trammels will be to her as life from the dead. Disembarrassed from the restraints now put upon her by her connection with the State—freed from those exclusive and invidious privileges which nourish prejudice and provoke hostility; relying no longer on the precarious and treacherous support of the State, but on the love and liberality of her own children, and on the presence and blessing of her Divine Master, I believe that the Church would rise to a higher position, and would go forth to do her great work clothed with a nobler dignity, conscious of a Diviner power, destined to achieve far more illustrious triumphs than she has ever yet achieved; and none will rejoice more cordially than the Nonconformists of England and Wales in all the triumphs which she may win in the cause of our common Master.


said, he would not have risen to address the House on the present occasion if the hon. Member who had just spoken had not made some special remarks to that part of the country with which he was more immediately connected. The speech of his hon. Friend would have been much more appropriate if it had been delivered last year on the occasion of the Motion in reference to the Welsh Church, but they were discussing the question of the Church of England and Wales in general. Then, again, he had pointed out rather what was deficient in the past than what was deficient now. His argument showed, not that the Church had not been doing good, but that there were other Bodies which had done more. Now, he, for one, was very grateful to hear that other religious Bodies in Wales had been supplementing any deficiency of the Welsh Church. He had no feeling of hostility towards other Bodies. On the contrary, he could assure them that if they would abstain from aggression they would find the proprietors ready to meet them in a more liberal spirit. But when they joined in Motions of this sort, and set themselves in open hostility against the Church, it was impossible to give them that assistance which might otherwise be willingly rendered. His hon. Friend, in speaking of the deficiency of the Welsh Church, had introduced a saving clause in favour of the Bishops of the present time. It was imperative on him (Mr. Scourfield) to mention a fact which was, probably, exclusively within his own knowledge. He was the last surviving trustee under a trust created by the present Bishop of St. David's for the application of his own property to the enlargement of parsonages and the augmentation of livings, and up to the 8th January, 1871, the sum of £21,970 had been distributed for that purpose, and before the trust was completed there would be property to the amount of £28,000 or £29,000 entirely supplied for the object named, through the munificence of the Bishop of St. David's. What was to be gained by the abolition of the Welsh Church he could not understand. In regard to any alleged hostility between the landowners and the Dissenters, he stated that in an archdeaconry in South Wales 109 Dissenting chapels had been leased by the Church of England, and 51 grave-yards had had been supplied to the Dissenters by landowners belonging to the Church. This showed there was no deliberate hostility towards Dissenters. He had himself also subscribed to the augmentation of livings in five different parishes. He confessed he did not see the advantage that would arise from taking away those funds from the Church which were already found insufficient for the supply of her wants. They had heard a great deal about liberty; but that liberty had been entirely approached from one point of view. It had been said that the liberty of the preacher was often the tyranny of the congregation. He had always wished to see some limit placed to the possible abuse of power in the hands of individuals, and his conviction was that individual liberty was safer in the hands of a properly constituted authority than in the hands of a vague majority. He was thoroughly opposed to any measure of the kind now proposed. There was no time when individual liberty was more at stake than in the present day. A great deal in the action of the State had already been taken away, and if the power were less no member of the Church would know when he was going to reside in any parish, but he might be under the influence of High Church practices, or Low Church practices, or Broad Church practices. He did not express his concurrence in the views of any one of these parties exclusively, for he had no doubt they all held some part of the truth. He was sure he was expressing the sentiments of the large majority of Churchmen in this country when he expressed a strong wish to see the present state of things maintained. Many persons complained of the authority of the Queen as head of the Church, and the action of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. With regard to the authority of the Queen, looking at it in a Constitutional light, he regarded it as the authority of law, order, moderation, and common sense; and with regard to the action of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, he had no prejudice in favour of the lawyer, but he could not help feeling that the lawyer was a good interpreting machine. He had been trained from his youth to the habit of constantly looking at what law was, without considering what it ought to be, and that made him a faithful interpreter of the propositions put before him. In the present day there was not the slightest risk of the exercise of any tyranny by Constitutional authority. Believing that the Church of England, as by law established, afforded the best guarantee for individual liberty in religious matters, he should give his decided opposition to the present Motion.


, in supporting the Motion, said, he understood it to involve not merely disestablishment but also disendowment. If it involved disestablishment only he should be decidedly opposed to it, and would prefer that the Church, if it retained its endowment, should remain tied to the State rather than be allowed to be free. He had brought forward last Session a Motion for the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, intending to have proceeded with further arguments upon it this Session, not expecting that it would be followed so soon by the more general Motion for the disestablishment of the Church throughout Great Britain. Although he believed his Motion might have been proceeded with with a greater prospect of success than the present one, he felt that it would be unfair to the House to inflict upon them his Motion in addition to that of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall), and therefore supported the present Motion. He supported it in some respects upon grounds differing from those who brought it forward. There were some arguments in favour of Established Churches, which he admitted the weight of. An Established Church secured for the members a certain amount of liberty and freedom from ecclesiastical tyranny and dogmatism which free Churches did not appear to possess to so great an extent. He knew of no free Church in which so wide a divergence of opinion could be tolerated as was seen in the present day in the Church of England, and he thought that was an advantage. He believed that the Church of England had been established and allied to the State not so much for the benefit of the Church as of the State; and there were some who thought that if the Church were disestablished the injury would be not to the Church, but to the State. If he were convinced that upon the disestablishment of the Church there would arise in the country one great general and united religious Body, full of earnestness and reality, and also monopolizing power and property, he should consider twice, and pause seriously before he consented to dissever the Church from the State. It was considered by some that if the Church were disestablished the result would be for the benefit of the Church; he had considerable doubts whether this would be the case, and thought it far from unlikely that the severance would be attended with injury to the Church in several important respects. If he might venture to prophecy, he thought it would probably be followed by the recurrence of schisms, and the division of the Church into two or three different sections. The Church would also lose something by being deprived of its property and temporal position as an institution and a power in the State. He did not understand why Nonconformists should so constantly disclaim any desire to see the Church less powerful and influential than she was. If they believed that they were right and the Church wrong, why should they not wish to increase their own power and diminish that of the Church? Believing, however, as he did, after mature deliberation, that disestablishment and disendowment was just and politic, he felt that if the result should prove injurious to the position of the Church, that circumstance really was an additional reason for disestablishment. A State establishment for religion could only be justified upon the ground that the Established Church was the accepted religion of the country; and if it were admitted that the Church when placed upon terms of equality with other religious Bodies could not hold its ground, that, in his opinion, was a justification for depriving her of all adventitious aid from the State. The argument that a State Church placed amongst a rural population a number of gentlemen of superior education and cultivation, who elevated the moral tone and feelings of the humbler classes, was, he thought, striking at first sight; but in practice he thought it was not a sound one. Grown up people would not submit in matters of religion to be taught or led by those who are merely socially their superiors. They would be guided only by those whom they felt to be in sympathy with them, who were not too far removed from them, and who, if he might venture to say so, partook to some extent of their own imperfections. Wales was a striking instance of this. The country people listened with reverence to their local ministers, and were beneficially influenced by them, and regarded the more educated of the Church clergy, not indeed with disrespect, but with coldness and indifference. He was in favour of disestablishment and disendowment upon two principal grounds. He thought that in matters of religion there should be absolute equality for everyone. It was a matter upon which every man must answer to his own conscience; and it was intolerable in a free country that the State should give support and aid to some religious creeds which they withheld from others. He thought, also, that it was highly injurious that a religious sect should be permanently endowed with property and supported by the State; it led to consequences injurious to religion itself, and also to the peace and happiness of the people. The tendency of all religions was, from the very nature of the case, to endeavour to fix and stereotype the thoughts and opinions of the times. The idea of having arrived at a real, immutable, and absolute truth, necessarily induced men to endeavour to stereotype and fix for ever that view as the standard of truth for all time. That was the tendency of every religion. This would probably be desirable if there could be any certainty of arriving at absolute truth; but in human nature, and throughout all the operations of nature, there was an invariable and irresistible tendency to change, the inevitable consequence of which was that, sooner or later, the thoughts and opinions and feelings of a former age, if artificially perpetuated, were found to be more or less in opposition to, and in antagonism with, the thoughts and feelings of to-day. Yet the opinions and theories in science were constantly changing, and many settled opinions of the learned of 50 years ago were now smiled at as childish absurdities. Religious feelings and thoughts formed no exception to this general tendency towards change, and he thought it to the interest of religion that there should be full scope and freedom to its development, concurrently with the general thought and intellectual progress of the people. The effect of a permanent endowment was to give ecclesiastics a pecuniary interest in maintaining fixed opinions and dogmas, and in adhering to them and maintaining them without reference to and sometimes in defiance of their own opinion, and the general feeling and opinions of the ago. In all countries this had sooner or later led to one result—revolution and confiscation of property. He denied the policy of permitting persons who accumulated property in the short period of their lives to dictate to future ages the manner in which, and the terms upon which, such property should be enjoyed. He considered it injurious to religion and injurious to the State. The argument of the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) was extraordinary, except, of course, as a mere legal argument. He said that the Dissenters are not deprived of the benefit of the property enjoyed by the Church, as it rested with them to come and accept the benefit of it. That argument would have justified the retention of the ecclesiastical property of the country for the maintenance of the Druidical religion. His ancestors, many centuries ago, through mixed feelings of piety and superstition, had given property for the maintenance of the Druids; and if a few Druids had retained that property down to the present time, they might with equal truth have said that the country was not deprived of that property, as it was open to all to come to their groves and woods, and attend and receive the consolations of their religious ceremonies. That property had, however, long been taken away from them, and quite rightly, as they ceased to represent the religious feelings of the country. He was relieved by one argument of the hon. and learned Member for Richmond, when he pointed out with all his weight and authority that, in the event of the disestablishment, the Church, like other free Churches at present, would still in all its relations to the holding of property be under the control of the law of the land. If hereafter the Church of England, or any other Church, should rise up to great overwhelming influence in the State, through the uncontrolled possession of accumulated property and power, he, for one, should be amongst the first to subjugate it once more to the State. Whilst the religious feelings and aspirations of people had an irresistible tendency to change and progress, the equally certain tendency of Established and Endowed Churches was to remain firmly fixed and attached to dogmas and truths laid down with the idea of resisting all change and development. The effect of this was to bring religion into conflict with the more advanced and enlightened people of every age. For that reason he thought it was contrary to public policy that persons should be allowed to dictate to future generations in perpetuity how property should be applied for the maintenance of religion. Within certain limits it was desirable that the wishes of a testator should be respected and followed. It was important to give encouragement to thriftiness and care, and also to the support of religion and education. He had come to the conclusion that it was for the interest of the State, and of the people of this country, that the Church of England should be severed from the State, and deprived of its permanent endowments, and that it should be put upon a perfect footing of equality with all other religious Bodies, that none of them should be allowed to retain perpetual endowments, but that each generation should support and maintain that religion which had gained its sympathy and confidence.


said, it was doubtful if those who had spoken in the debate understood the Resolution which had been moved. But before voting upon it, it was indispensable that it should be thoroughly understood. The Resolution declared that the policy initiated in Ireland should be applied to other parts of the United Kingdom. Now, the Irish Church was not merely severed from the State and reduced to the same level as every other religious Body, but was deprived of all its property, with the exception of existing life interests. The Motion, therefore, in plain terms, called for the total disestablishment and disendowment of the English Church. Now, could there be submitted to Parliament a proposition of greater magnitude, or one calling for more decided and determined action on the part of the Government? The Established Church in England must be either right or wrong. If right, it should be maintained with the whole power of the Government; if wrong, it should be assailed with the whole power of the Government. But, how was this issue met? The Government put forward the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who met that issue by an apparent negative, though, in truth, it was a real encouragement. "I am not an advocate for an Establishment in the abstract," said the right hon. Gentleman. [Mr. BRUCE: I never used the expression that I was not an advocate.] Then, what was the expression the right hon. Gentleman did use? ["Oh!"] Surely, if one thing was in the right hon. Gentleman's speech more plain than another, it was that he was not, in the abstract, a friend of religious Establishments. If the right hon. Gentleman did not say this in express terms, his words admitted of the construction put upon them. What next did the right hon. Gentleman say? "The Colonies we have sent forth have abandoned Establishments." Call you this backing your friends? The right hon. Gentleman was put up to resist the Motion, and this was the mode in which he resisted it. "The time is not come—not now." It would be a bold Government which would undertake, at this moment, to overturn the Established Church. But "bold" was not an epithet which could be applied to the present Government, for there was no measure which they would not withdraw in order to escape opposition. Therefore, for the present, the Church was safe. The Church would be defended as long as its defence did not imperil the existence of the administration; but it would be abandoned as soon as ever their existence was at stake upon the question. That course had been adopted by the Government in regard to the Budget and the Licensing Bill. The truth was, it was utterly impossible for Gentlemen on the Treasury bench really to advocate the cause of the Established Church in England, because they had conceded in respect of Ireland the very principle on which the English Church rested. What kind of arguments had been put forward by the right hon. Gentleman? Mere arguments of expediency—arguments of the moment—statements that great evil might result if the country were deprived of the energy and the zeal of particular clergymen. Such a mode of defence left the Church at the mercy of temporary exigencies. A war—a civil frenzy—for nations were subject to transient currents of feeling equivalent to frenzy—might demand her destruction. No religious institution ever endured permanently which was founded on these views of expediency. The doctrine of an established religion rested on the duty of the State to make such an acknowledgment to the Supreme Being, from whom all its greatness, prosperity, and grandeur flowed. That doctrine was abandoned in Ireland; and although he did not mean to say that there might not have been arguments and reasons for dealing with the Church in that country, yet there was no good reason why it should be dealt with by means of the total confiscation of its property for secular purposes. It was declared by the Government, in their measure confiscating that property, that nothing should be given for the maintenance of religious teaching, and the result had been that it had been left a derelict without any destination. After such a declaration the Government were incapable of meeting the present question boldly. They contented themselves with saying—"It is not time: we hold the gate; make a vigorous rush, and we will open it." It was, in short, to be treated as a question of pressure and momentary convenience, not as one which had been connected with any considerations of sound policy, or duty, or sacred right. No institution defended, as the Established Church of England had been defended, by the Government could hope to stand. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) did, however, address arguments to the House which really bore on the question at issue. He wished to express his concurrence with the arguments and views developed in that speech. At the same time, he must regret that the hon. Gentleman had nothing to say by way of comment on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had preceded him, as if his mode of meeting the Motion of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) was one which his hon. and learned Friend could possibly approve. But the hon. Member could not have approved the speech of the right hon. Gentleman: his own speech was in startling contrast to it, and did not palter with the present movement. His hon. and learned Friend placed the Establishment on a level with the Crown and the other great institutions of England. It was not his (Dr. Ball's) intention to have spoken on a subject which had better, perhaps, be left to those who were connected with this country; but he could not refrain from entering his protest against the manner in which the Motion had been met by the Government, because, with the experience which he had of the results of their policy in the case of the Church in Ireland, he was fully alive to the real nature and character of the proposal before the House—a nature and character which did not appear to him to have been realized by preceding speakers in its full extent, and which, being clearly understood, its rejection by an overwhelming majority was insured.


*It is, Sir, I think, an evil omen for the cause of Church and State, that we have had to listen this evening to an array of arguments, illustrations, and appeals with which we are perfectly familiar, which have been produced and re-produced any time during the last 40 years, when Church questions have been under discussion, and in defiance and contempt and refutation of which the whole liberal policy of the last 40 years has deliberately proceeded. Not that I censure hon. Gentlemen for having recourse to these ancestral weapons. From this point of view their attitude has been logical throughout. From the very beginning they have foreseen whither this whole controversy inexorably tended, and if we find ourselves in a position in which we are logically bound to do one of two things—either to advance to the great consummation towards which all our legislation points, or repeal the whole of that legislation in a block—it it not because we have not had timely and eloquent warning from the Benches opposite. So long as Englishmen were assumed to be all of one mind—so long as it was possible to speak of the Church of England as the Church of the nation—so long as you refused to recognize as part of the nation those who stood outside the Church—so long as you excluded them for that reason, as upon adequate grounds from every office of emolument of trust, ignoring or proscribing their forms of worship, and treating them as criminals whom the State was bound to punish and suppress—so long was the course which you followed logical and clear; and if that course had been pursued to the present time—monstrous and wicked and perilous though it would have been—the Church of England would not have become what she is now, a paradox in legislation, and an excrescence on our political system. In truth, the nation and the Church are no longer in theory even co-extensive. Half the nation stands outside your Church, denying her authority, declining her ordinances, abstaining altogether from her communion. These men are de jure and de facto as much Englishmen, with all the rights and privileges of full citizenship, as you are. Even the Universities, the last stronghold of the old theory, are being thrown open to men of every creed. The Church, qua Church, is everywhere retiring before the nation, and as a national institution, therefore, she has become an anachronism. Now, I shall be told, I have no doubt, that this is an ungracious argument, and that I ought to be debarred from using it by my gratitude for all which has been done for Dissenters. Not all that you have done can wipe out the memory of the atrocities, by contrast alone with which can your subsequent policy appear generous. And nothing which you have done, is in excess of what you were bound to do by considerations of the commonest and barest justice. The man who has been falsely imprisoned, whipped through the town, and placed in the pillory, feels no grati- tude, at the termination of his punishment, for a free pardon, and all the gratitude which Dissenters are bound to feel is towards those statesmen who, wise and just and enlightened beyond their time, have restored us by slow and very safe degrees to the rights of which we ought never to have been robbed, and who have thus laid down a long series of precedents, each one stronger and more definite than that which went before it, for the final recognition by law of a complete and perpetual equality between every English creed. Nor is the Church herself slow to perceive what is approaching. In every section of that great bundle of sects which calls itself the Church, we find men clear-sighted enough, and honest enough, to tell her to prepare for this inevitable change. At this hour I do not propose to weary the House with quotations. Of all the Churchmen who have spoke or written on this subject I will select three only, one representing each of the great primary groups of opinion into which the Church is notoriously divided. Let me first take what is called the Evangelical party, and as an exponent the Rev. Mr. Ryle. In a recent letter which appeared in The Record he made use of these words— There is a current setting in towards the disestablishment of all national churches, and we are already in it. We shall soon be in the rapids. A few, a very few years, and we shall be over the falls. Passing on to the late Dean Alford, a representative of Broad Church views, I find him, in his essay on the Church of the Future expressing himself thus— Whether years or decades of years be taken for the accomplishment of this (the severance of Church and State), however it may be deprecated, and however opposed, accomplished it certainly will be. History has for ages been preparing its way; in past changes it has been conceded over and over again; God's arm is thrusting it on, and man's power cannot keep it back. Finally, Mr. Wood, as President of the Church Union, and thus representing the views of another large section of opinion within the Church, recognizes the same great fact. "It is impossible," he says, speaking of disestablishment— It is impossible to look round the world and not see that everywhere the tendency of the age is to separate between things temporal and things spiritual. Well, Sir, while the whole course of legislation, the whole current of opinion, the whole tendency of the age—or as Dean Alford puts it—the arm of God is thrusting on this change, what is the class of argument with which its opponents hope to keep these gigantic and converging forces at bay? Let me examine what has been advanced in the course of this debate; but before I do so let me say that I approach this question entirely free from that hatred of the Church, or even that prejudice against the Church, which it is too much the fashion among our opponents to impute to those whom they have nicknamed "political Dissenters." Although my Nonconformity comes down to me from Puritan times, that does not prevent me from uniting, I hope, earnestly and reverently in her services, or from contributing towards the extension of those privileges among the population around me. For the Church herself, as a great religious community, instinct, as I believe her to be, with one of the noblest ambitions which can actuate mankind; engaged everywhere in a holy and arduous work, and teeming with men who realize as amply as it is given to us to realize the Christian ideal, I have no sentiments except those of profound respect and the most cordial regard; and it is because I have this reverence for her services, and this respect for herself, that I resent with a feeling akin to indignation some of the arguments which I have heard to-night. The hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) drew a beautiful picture, in all of which I went along with him, of the beneficent exertions of clergymen in rural parishes, and he inferred that if we disestablished the Church all that beneficence must cease—he inferred that the Church would retire from every position in which it did not pay to preach—and I want to know where it is possible to find a more triumphant illustration of the argument of those who assert that this union of Church and State has gone far to secularize religion, to eat out its vitality, to cripple and paralyze the Church herself? I am astonished that for very shame hon. Members do not refrain from this line of argument, say rather this abject confession of the degree of self-distrust to which centuries of petting and coddling by the State have reduced the Church—at least, in the estimation of her champions. If this be the position of this great religious society, if, with all the advantages which must remain to her, with that complete system of parochial organization of which the hon. and learned Gentleman has spoken, with churches, and schools, and parsonages built everywhere, with vast endowments of private origin and modern growth which no one proposes to touch, with a huge mine of wealth to go to in the pockets of her members, she is unable to maintain, and to maintain in all their efficiency—yes, without silencing a single pulpit—her offices and ministrations throughout the country, then she is rotten to the core, and it is time that she should resign to Churches which are still vigorous, perhaps because they are still free, that work of evangelization to which, it appears, she is no longer equal, except under the stimulus of perpetual pick-me-ups in the shape of State support. But the hon. and learned Gentleman went on to discuss the Dissenters' grievance, and he told us that, in his opinion, we have no grievance whatever, not even a sentimental one. Now, when the hon. and learned Gentleman was dealing with the question of the disestablishment of the Irish Church, he took a very different view of Church ascendancy. He defined the grievance in Ireland in words which I must try to recall to his recollection. He said— The grievance consists in giving, by State Establishment, to the Church of a small minority of the Irish people a superiority of rank and an exclusive right—a right which no other religious body in the country possesses—to have its laws deemed part of the laws of the land, to have courts maintained for the execution of those laws—in the association of the Sovereign with the appointment of its officers, like the great officers of State—and in the introduction of those chief officers into the highest seats in one of the two Houses of the Legislature."—[3 Hansard, cxciv. 1911.] Now, what I would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman is this—"Is this grievance of ours not a grievance because it is only the grievance of half the population of this country?" But the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken (Dr. Ball) tells us that if we disestablish the Church we shall commit an act of national apostasy—that, in fact, we shall divorce the State from the restraints and sanctions of religion. But I never yet heard that that religion upon which every Christian State is based is a thing of Acts of Parliament, a thing of formularies, still less a thing of "purple and fine linen." The religion of a nation is in its conscience and in its heart, and the outward manifestation of it is to be found not in the performance of "pompous rites in domes august," but in its policy, in its care for the poor and suffering, in its Christian forbearance towards foreign nations, in its horror of bloodshed, and in the righteousness and absolute equality of its laws. The right hon. and learned Gentleman speaks of the admirable reply which the hon. and learned Member for Richmond has made to my hon. Friend; but the hon. and learned Gentleman has made a reply at least equally admirable to the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. In the memorable speech from which I have already quoted he says, speaking of this argument about apostasy— It appears to me that such view is founded on an entirely false notion of the vocation of civil government, and of the nature of national religion."—[3 Hansard, cxciv. 1908.] The right hon. and learned Gentleman's imagination ran rhetorical riot in describing the dismal consequences of disestablishment, but I would ask him what dismal consequences have followed disestablishment in those of our Colonies which have pursued this policy? And what dismal consequences are likely to ensue in Ireland, where, for the first time in its melancholy history, the Protestant Episcopal Church seems about to inherit the blessing. Let the right hon. and learned Gentleman look at America. They have no Established Church there, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman contend that the Americans are an irreligious people? An hon. Member says, "They are." Let me remind him, then, of the opinion of one of the shrewdest clergymen of the Church of England who ever lived. Speaking of the Americans, Sydney Smith observes— They are devout without being unjust—the great problem in religion—and a higher proof of civilization than painted teacups, waterproof leather, and broadcloth at two guineas a-yard. And it is this great problem, how to be devout without being unjust, which we have still to solve in this religious and civilized country. But when we ask for justice we are confronted by the spectre of ancient right. We are told that the Church of England is the same Church as the Church before the Reformation, only purified. Purified from what? From Romish error. Yes, but if it had not been for Romish error, where would have been the great bulk of those endowments? It was the Church of Rome, working upon the terrors of guilty men, which caused them to strip their innocent offspring of their rightful inheritance in order to enrich the Church. [An hon. MEMBER: No, no!] The hon. Gentleman says "No, no!" but this is not matter of opinion. This is matter of history, and to such lengths did this ecclesiastical robbery go—such was the danger lest the whole land of England should fall under this process of sacerdotal absorption — that it was found necessary so long ago as the reign of Henry III. to pass the first of those famous statutes of mortmain which arrested the further alienation of the soil. The position of the Church of England, therefore, is this — "I am purified," she says, "from Romish error. I have discarded Romish superstition. I am above making my little game out of the death-bed fears of sinful men. I do not believe that Heaven is to be purchased by legacies. I have no faith whatever in post-mortem religion. But I am not above profiting by the errors which I have discarded. I renounce the superstition, but the proceeds of that superstition I keep." But, Sir, I did not rise with the view of arguing out this question. After the ample and elaborate speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Miall), a speech which seemed to me as though it were the condensation of the thought of a lifetime, it would be a mere work of supererogation if I were to attempt to travel lamely over ground which he has occupied with so much eloquence and skill. I rose rather to give, if possible, still more emphatic expression to the opinions, and not merely the opinions, but the unalterable determination, of the whole Nonconformist Body throughout the country, to support this Motion. And if it be excepted that my hon. and learned Friend who has just taken his seat on the Treasury Bench (Mr. Winterbotham) has made a public declaration of somewhat dissimilar views—I hope that my hon. Friend will not think that I wish to speak disrespectfully of him when I say that I should have felt more im- pressed by the weight of those views if they had proceeded from a different part of the House. [Mr. WINTERBOTHAM said, that he had made the statement before he entered the House.] My hon. and learned Friend protests against the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford on the ground that it must produce discord. I grant it. There is, probably, no question which can be brought before this House, or argued before the country, which will so stir society to its depths. But why? Because there is no question in which the interests of society are so profoundly involved. My hon. Friend goes about, like Lord Falkland, crying "Peace, peace," when there is no peace. Why, Sir, the forces which are to contend upon this battle-ground have been mustering and marshalling for two centuries. The whole air is full of the portents of strife— Gemit ultima pulsu Thraca pedum circumque atræ Formidinis ora, Iræque, Insidiæque, Dei comitatus, aguntur. The clash of conflict must soon drown the voice of those who wander about, amiably, no doubt, but, as I think, feebly, deprecating an encounter the hour of which has struck, and the issue of which is sure. And, Sir, it is the more important that these opinions should be expressed without disguise, because there is, I fear, no slight misconception on this point in the minds of statesmen whose high function it is to erect into a practical policy the claims and convictions of those at whose head they stand. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department thinks that this question does not enlist national attention. I sometimes hear the demand for disestablishment regarded as the crotchet of a few blind enthusiasts—of men who have no weight in this country, and can scarcely command a hearing in this House—and, to borrow the language of one of our critics—"who seem to be quite unconscious of the existence of a world outside their own little circle." Now, the sooner hon. Members disembarrass their candid minds of this assumption the better. He is the blind and unconscious man who can mix freely in Liberal society of any grade, and who has not made the discovery, that before we are many years — perhaps, before we are many months—older, this question of the freedom of the Church, and of the removal of the religious inferiority of Dissenters, must become the test question of Liberal opinion throughout the country. It is therefore not without regret that I have observed on the part of eminent Members of the Cabinet an inclination to take up positions with regard to this question which, if they are to remain the leaders of the party, will sooner or later have to be evacuated, and evacuated possibly not without a heavy loss of artillery. As a supporter of the Government, I hope never to hear the question asked in anger—"How long are we, a party of Dissenters, to be led by a Cabinet of Churchmen?" I say a party of Dissenters, and I speak advisedly—for though I do not for a moment disparage the aid of those enlightened Churchmen who in larger or smaller numbers in every constituency swell our Liberal majorities, and though I do not undervalue the immense moral support which upon every question touching religion we gain from the co-operation of men who are warmly attached to the Church as a religious society, but who resent more than we resent the pressure of the golden fetters with which she is bound; yet I do not hesitate to say—and I say it without fear of contradiction—that it is from the Nonconformists of the United Kingdom that that momentum comes which has carried the party victoriously over so many obstacles, and which, in a future which is not distant, is destined to carry it over obstacles higher and broader, and more obstinate than any of those. I trust, then, that when we advance a little further, and this question looms larger and larger, as it will do, we shall find, as we have so often found before, that there is no real interval of opinion between those who undertake to lead the party and those who provide it with its motive force; for if it should turn out that that interval does exist, we may rest assured of one thing, and that is that an equal interval will divide the Government from that zealous support of Nonconformists, by virtue of which, more than by that of any other force in the kingdom, they are at this moment sitting upon that bench, not that I applaud the extreme resentment which the suspicion of such a discrepancy of opinion appears to have produced in some. There are some Nonconformists who have rubbed the Whig leaders with the oil of praise until they shone again, only to drench them with the vinegar of their discontent, now that they have discovered what they ought to have known from the beginning, that they were only oiled Whigs after all. Now, to the Whig mind I can easily imagine that there is something at the first blush very distressing in the notion of disestablishment; but it is surprising to what the Whig mind will reconcile itself after mature reflection. There is no known political party, not even the great party opposite, the riches of whose understanding are so unsearchable. The fortunes of that party are presided over by a statesman who has excelled all its predecessors in the receptive attitude of his genius, and the success with which he has clothed with authority, and armed with irresistible impulse, the conceptions of other minds. This is an age in which we have all learned to call no question common or unclean. I have not sat many years in this House; but I have sat here long enough to see Household Suffrage pooh-poohed, flouted, proved frightfully dangerous from that bench, and finally embraced with tears of joy. I have heard the Ballot denounced from that bench as un-English, unconstitutional, and immoral, and I have seen the Ballot become a Cabinet question. I have learned to place great reliance upon the force of reason and common sense, upon the prerogative of prudence—upon the noble instinct of self-preservation which prompts many men, perhaps most men, but especially statesmen, to swim so gallantly with the stream; and, Sir, I do not despair of seeing the day when statesmen, who at this moment shrink in holy horror from the bare prospect of Bishops without seats, shall conspire with dignitaries of the Church in full canonicals to bind this great sacrifice with cords at the horns of the altar. The fundamental error of those who are undertaking to lead the Liberal party, is to suppose that anything short of this, any mere remission of the remaining pains and penalties of dissent—any mere removal of the disabilities under which we still labour at the Universities, will satisfy Dissenters now. The time has gone by for ever for these crumbs of toleration. Why is it that we regarded with almost absolute indifference the rejection in "another place" last year of the Uni- versity Tests Bill? Why do we regard with almost absolute indifference what took place yesterday—the refusal of the last little modicum of justice? It is because we have need of greater justice; because we resent as an impertinence the very phrase toleration itself; because we are sick of these doles of compassion flung to us with supercilious hesitation, to us the dogs under the table, to us the strength and marrow of the Liberal party. And, Sir, it is because the question which my hon. Friend has raised to-night, when it is brought to its legitimate issue, will not only tend to revive and re-animate, as we believe, vital religion within the Church, but because it will put an end for ever to this injustice, this toleration, this compassion, these doles, that we regard it, and regard it justly, as the first political problem of our time.


There is one remarkable feature of the Motion of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall); it recommends a policy for which there is no precedent in the history of this country. This is a circumstance which alone should induce us to be cautious and to consider well before we accept his proposition. At no time in the history of this country has there been a period when the State has not recognized and supported some religious expression of the community. Even when power was possessed by the Puritans—whom, I suppose, modified by the circumstances of the age, I may conclude the hon. Member for Bradford, fairly represents—though they abolished bishoprics, though they destroyed liturgies, still they upheld the connection between Church and State, and the appeal to the civil arm to support spiritual predominance was never more earnestly made, and never more enegetically exercised. The connection of Church and State was never more powerful than after the decapitation of Charles I., and even after the Revolution of 1688, though mitigated by the circumstances of advancing times, the principles of that connection were unreservedly asserted and acted on. I say these are circumstances which ought to make us view with, if not suspicion, at least with that caution which should always influence prudent men, the proposition of the hon. Gentleman, because, so far as England is concerned, it is mere theory he is plac- ing before us. And the hon. Gentleman was quite conscious of this; he is too well informed not to be aware of that to which I have just referred. In order to substantiate his theory the hon. Gentleman could appeal to no previous practice of England. He referred to the beneficial results which had followed from the separation of Church and State in other European countries, and he referred also to the precedent of our legislation two years ago with respect to that which he described as the Kingdom of Ireland—not an accurate term. This reference to Continental experience was necessarily vague, and was hardly fair, when we are called upon to give our opinion upon matters of such importance with which we are so intimately acquainted and so intimately connected. But I will take one instance, I think the fairest, of the consequences of this dissolution of the connection of Church and State on the Continent of Europe. I will take it in a great country where the revolution was effected some time ago, so that there has been a fair period for the experiment; and I will ask the hon. Gentleman what he thinks of the condition of France with respect to this matter. France, an old Roman Catholic country, had much analogy with England in this respect; its Church was a national Church. I will not dwell on the great events at the end of last century and the commencement of the present. But we all know that two of the wisest and ablest of the Monarchs of France since the dissolution occurred, the First Emperor and King Louis XVIII., devoted all their energies during their reigns in order, in some degree, to recreate and bring together again the elements of that connection; and, mark you, not merely to give stability to the State—though of course such considerable statesmen were not unmindful of this consideration—but, as was avowed by the great Emperor himself, in order to secure the religious liberty of the laity. Well, you see what the religious liberty of the laity is in France at the present moment. You see, also, what is the condition of the Church in France at the present moment. The great experiment has now been carried out almost to the lees; and you have the Archbishop of Paris—a man of undoubted piety and virtue, and an enlightened man—in the dungeons of the Red Re- public. So far for the Continental illustration of the hon. Gentleman. He brings forward a proposition which, so far as English history is concerned, is a mere theory; he attempts to support it by Continental experience. I have taken a fair and favourable instance as an illustration. And now look at what he calls the Kingdom of Ireland, so far as the precedent of two years ago is concerned. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the precedent is a perfect one if you look at it logically. Logically speaking, if you disestablish the Church in Ireland, I think you are bound to disestablish also the Church in Scotland and in England. But, fortunately, this country is not governed by logic. It has a Parliamentary Government; it is governed by rhetoric and not by logic, or otherwise it would have been erased long ago from the list of leading communities. It is rather premature to draw any consequence from what has occurred so recently in Ireland; and I confess, not wishing to introduce unnecessary elements of controversy in this debate, I would rather that the reference to the Irish Church had not been made. So far as I can form an opinion upon what has occurred in Ireland, and what appear to be the consequences of the disestablishment of the Protestant Church, those consequences are not encouraging. On the one side I see a rampant spirit of Ultramontanism, and on the other the development of a contracted and exclusive Protestantism, which I confess fills me sometimes with dismay. So that while the Archbishop of Paris is immured, in consequence of the adoption of this new policy, in the dungeons of the Red Republic, the learned, intelligent, and amiable Archbishop of Dublin is suffering under the excommunication of a Protestant party.

When we have a proposition of this character brought forward, founded, as I remind the House, entirely on theory, one is inclined to ask who it is that prompts this appeal to the House of Commons. We are told it is the people. In these days everybody is the people, except myself; I never claim to be the people; I am quite satisfied with being Member for Buckinghamshire. We are told that such is the external impulse and general demand that what would be acknowledged to be a very great revolution becomes highly politic, not to say necessary. Who is it that requires the great change? Well, Sir, I will try to state the case fairly. It has been avowed by the last speaker in his lively discourse that those whom he describes as the Dissenters of England demand the change. I apprehend that I am not in error, when I assume that the Dissenters of England may fairly be looked upon as the natural successors of the old Puritan party. No doubt they have been always a national party in the State, and their views are to be considered. We must remember, however, that this is a very old quarrel; it is a quarrel which, as the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us has fairly admitted, is 200 years old; but the great complaints which were the origin of that quarrel, and which for a considerable time sustained it, have no longer any existence. The Dissenters cannot complain, like the old Puritans, of a High Commission Court; they have no longer to encounter Archbishop Laud, or even Archbishop Sheldon. If you come to the great estate of the Church, why, for nearly the last 40 years it has been under the management and direction of a commission of laymen, and they have dealt with that estate solely to a view of general utility; they have succeeded in making a general distribution of the estate of the Church, universally acknowledged as highly beneficial. In their determination that that distribution should be generous and equal, it is possible they may have even too much reduced the means by which the Church of England always was enabled to maintain its position, not only as an orthodox, but also as a learned Church. The Dissenters are also in possession of great political power, which no one envies them. What, then, have the Dissenters to complain of? The causes of complaint which 200 years ago impelled to such violent action — which for some time after were traditionary, which of late years practically have ceased to exist—I can hardly believe that causes of that character would render an assault upon the Church by the descendants of the Puritans, without any additional cause of complaint, one that would be fruitful of any great results. But it must be admitted that the Dissenters of the present day have allies, and powerful allies. Ever since the great Revolution at the end of the last century a considerable and violent party has arisen opposed to any legal recognition or support by the State of the religious sentiment of the community. The adherents of this party are opposed to union between Church and State on grounds totally different from those which influence the Dissenters. And besides this party, which is powerful, no doubt, in many parts of Europe, and which has some influence even in this country, there is, and always has been, a certain amount of discontent among some members of the Church of England, who are influenced by what I will venture to call ultra-sacerdotal objects, and who, for quite a contrary purpose, will, or threaten that they will, combine with others, with whom they do not sympathize, in a common purpose of destruction. I think, however, the experience we have should rather induce us to believe that no serious apprehension is to be feared from these Churchmen. Whatever may be the freak of the moment, when the time comes for action they will pause and reflect before committing themselves to a contest in which they will find for allies those with whom they have no cordial sympathy. What we have to encounter are the descendants of the Puritans supported by that party which denies that there ought to be a recognition by the State of some religious opinion in the community. I will not enter into any argument on that head. I will assume that the majority of the House of Commons—a great majority of the House of Commons, as I believe a great majority of the inhabitants of this country—are of opinion that the State ought to recognize and support some religious expression in the community. That is my answer to what I will call the revolutionary party, and with respect to their ultra-sacerdotal allies I would venture to observe that if that is the opinion of the House of Commons and of the country, it follows, as an inevitable and unanswerable proposition, that the State, if it recognizes and supports some religious opinion of the community, should have the power of guiding and regulating that opinion. The anti-Church party, then, may be described as the descendants of the old Puritans, supported by that set of philosophical revolutionists, or revolutionary philosophers, who of late years have begun to produce some influence on political thought and political action. Now, it does not appear to me that these are forces which the nation, as a great community, should fear. At least, they do not offer such a representation of popular power and opinion as ought to induce the nation suddenly, and with the precipitation expected by the hon. Gentleman opposite, to give up one of the ancient institutions under which this country has so long existed and, as we believe, has so long flourished. They can only do so upon the monstrous assumption, which has prevailed too much in this debate, that the people of England generally are not in favour of their Established Church. I want to know what evidence has been given by any Gentleman who has taken part in this debate—what satisfactory evidence has been given us—in support of such an assumption? It was the point of all others on which we might have expected minute details from the hon. Gentleman who introduced the question. The hon. Gentleman who introduced this question introduced it with an intellectual power and a maturity of thought worthy of the occasion. I listened to his speech with interest. I felt it was an address which maintained the character of the House of Commons. But I noticed the total absence from that speech of evidence upon the vital point, showing that the Church of England was no longer the Church of the people. Take the population of our country districts. It exceeds the population of our towns, and I think no hon. Member will for a moment assert that in the country districts of England the influence of the Church—I am not speaking merely of the clergy, but the influence of the Church—is not very considerable. No one will for a moment pretend that the reverse is the case. The hon. Member for Bradford, indeed, spoke very lightly on this part of the subject. He spoke of the condition of our rural districts; but he seemed to refer for the information on which his opinion was based to Blue Books. I must say I thought this was a remarkable source of information for a Gentleman to go to who is asking the House to make so large a change in the Constitution of the country. I do not underrate the importance of Blue Books; but I think we should form our opinion of the character of a large por- tion of the English nation from personal experience and observation. We must remember that the casual information which we may obtain from Blue Books as to the population of England has reference generally to some particular industry or some exceptional circumstances in a limited portion of the community; and that it is extremely hazardous to form an idea from Blue Books of the character and condition of millions of the English people. I have formed an opinion totally different from that entertained by the hon. Member for Bradford of the feelings of the people of England in reference to this subject. I will not dwell upon this, however, because I listened—as every Member of the House must have listened—with pleasure and admiration to the description given by the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) of the general character of the rural population of this country. My heart and my experience alike respond to the expressions he used, for there was not a single trait marked out by him which was not the result of my own personal observation. I cannot admit that a Gentleman like the hon. Member for Bradford bringing forward a Motion in this style, the propriety of which, after all, must depend on the feelings of the population of this country, should treat in so light and casual a manner the condition and temper of the great body of the country population of England, and refer throughout merely to some Parliamentary Papers with which he has become acquainted in his labours on a Committee. I think hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House will agree in this—that in the country districts, among what is still the larger portion of the population of the country, the influence of the Church of England is predominant. It is as beneficial, I believe, as it is great; but on the present occasion I will speak only of the influence of the Church. I cannot doubt that any Gentleman coming to a conclusion upon this large question can for a moment free himself from the conviction that, in the country districts of England, the influence of the Church of England, of its clergy, and of the congregation of the Church generally, is as influential as probably in a free country any power of any class or corporation can be. When Gentlemen like the hon. Member for Bradford think they are adducing an argument of force against the existence of an institution like the Church of England by alleging that its character is not universal, and that its policy has not produced unity, we must remember that in a country where toleration has existed for nearly two centuries, and where for 40 or 50 years religious equality has practically existed, it is not in the nature of things—it is not possible, perhaps it is not desirable—that there should be this universality and this unity. And yet, because these things are impossible or impracticable, are you prepared to give up the great benefits which may accrue from such an Establishment? Are you prepared to say that, because the Church is not universal, and because it does not produce unity, you will sacrifice the manifold and ineffable advantages which it communicates to the State? Well, Sir, as far as regards the country districts—still the majority of the population of this country—I say without any fear of contradiction, what no impartial man will deny, that amongst this part of the nation the influence of the Church is at this moment paramount. It strikes me that no inconsiderable fallacy pervades the remarks of the hon. Gentleman with respect to the towns. I admit that the influence of the Church of England in the towns is not equal to its influence in the country districts—is, in fact, very different. But we must remember that the population of the towns, who are not in communion with the Church, are not necessarily Dissenters. The late Archbishop of Canterbury, a pious and amiable man, but not a man of great resource and not sanguine about the future of the Church—Archbishop Sumner—did me the honour to confer with me upon some measures then in preparation or in progress, with a view to improve the relations between the Church and the people. They were of a beneficial character, and no doubt well devised; but the Archbishop was not sanguine as to their results, or, at least, he was not sanguine that though they would be beneficial they would effect the entire good which he desired, "for," he remarked, "whatever we do, after all, the nation has outgrown the Church." Now, 50 years ago the nation had outgrown something else—it had outgrown the State. The relations between the State and the nation were then most im- perfect and unsatisfactory. Was that an argument for the abolition of the State? You might have come to this House—and there were some who did—and who gave such a picture of the imperfect relations between the nation and the State, that they might logically have terminated with a Resolution like that of the hon. Member for Bradford. But English statesmen of both parties were too wise to take such a course. They gave their minds up to the immense necessities of the hour; and whether you look to the Parliamentary, the municipal, or the social relations between the nation and the State, which since that time have been fostered, and created, and established, you see what can be done by the determination of wise and patriotic men, so that at last we have established relations between the State and the great body of the nation which, though there may be sometimes grumbling and sometimes wild talk—as always will be with Englishmen—have created a state of things which commands, I believe, the affection and reverence of the great body of the people. Why should you not do the same with the Church? Has it not already partially been done, and have not the clergy and the laity for many years been embarking in a much more difficult task than in the re-construction of the State when a Minister, supported by formidable numbers in Parliament and a sympthetic people, must exercise a power which the clergy and even the laity of the Church cannot be supposed to possess? I say that for years they have been doing it, and, though slow, the results have been considerable. But what is the relation now of the Church to the population of those large towns of which we hear so much, who are not in communion with the Church, but who are not, as it has been erroneously stated in the course of the debate, alienated from the Church? They are not in communion with the Dissenters, and are you prepared to say that millions of Englishmen, though they are without communion with any religious Body, will remain long in that condition? For my own part I have always believed that, organically, the English were a religious people. You have partially educated them; you are now going to educate them completely. Do you believe that educated Englishmen will long remain without a religious profession, or lead that life of religious indifference which we are told prevails in many of these great towns? I do not believe it. But when they are educated they will not fly to the conventicle. They will appreciate a learned clergy, a refined ritual, and the consolation of the beautiful offices of the Church. Therefore, I view the future of the Church in these great towns as one which ought not in our consideration of this great question to be overlooked. When we are asked to analyze this question, and when we are asked to occasion a great revolution in this country, because, forsooth, the people are no longer in communion with the Church, difficult as I know it must be in the absence of accurate statistics to come to a definite conclusion, I must impress upon the House how desultory, how imperfect, and how vague are the statements upon which you are asked to assent to this great change. What evidence have we that the separation of the Church from the State is desired by the great body of the people of this country? I do not believe that anyone can pretend to possess even approximate proof on the subject. Yet, if we take a larger view of the situation of the Church, and the undoubted millions who are in communion with it; if we remember that there exists a body of active and devoted clergy, numbering at least 20,000; if we observe all the leading features of its existence that daily and hourly surround us—all proofs of its life and activity—I ask the House on which side lies the preponderance of evidence? Are the majority of the people of England in favour of the dissolution of this alliance, or does the evidence show the reverse to be true? I think there can be no doubt about it. We hear of plébiscites. I do not wish to propose one on any question. But if a plébiscite were taken, and the people of England were asked, ay or no—"Will you abolish the alliance between State and Church?" I have very little doubt what would be the answer. There is no evidence whatever, then, to warrant the appeal of the hon. Gentleman, and if the Church conducts itself with wisdom and discretion, I believe that every year this Motion, if it be made, will be made under worse auspices and with less prospect of success. Let the Church remain tolerant, temperate, and compre- hensive, and it will then be truly national. Do not let it suppose that every party which rises in its bosom—and parties have risen in the Church from the days of the Church of Jerusalem—is an assembly of heretics. Let it remember that the varying mental types, and the varying passions of mankind, require spiritual interpreters as various; that some minds will take refuge in symbols and ceremony, while others will find support in the inspiration of enthusiasm. If the Church acts in this spirit, appealing, as it will appeal every year more and more to an educated people, I cannot believe that the policy of the hon. Member for Bradford will find increased support in the country. On the contrary, I believe that the sympathies of a cultivated nation will more and more be excited in favour of the Church—the Anglican Church—of this country. The hon. Gentleman who has proposed this Motion does not seem to be unconscious of the difficulties of the task, in case the House accedes to his proposal. Those difficulties are very considerable, and I wish he would himself bear in mind what he is bringing on this country if the House were to sanction the policy he recommends. It appears to me that if he were successful, we might count certainly upon at least a generation of disturbance. Is that a result which the House or the country desire or expect? Both parties in the State have been for the last 40 years busy in dealing with great questions and carrying measures of great importance, the wisdom of some of which have been questioned, and the means by which others have been carried have been doubted—but I think both sides and the country generally have been unanimous in this—that whatever may have been the controversy upon these measures for the moment, now they have been passed both parties in the country have done their best in order to insure their success, and that they should work for the general welfare of the country. Although I am not prepared to wish that the fair progress of this country should for a moment cease, I think the time has come when in matters of great change the country requires repose. It is not desirable that when a Minister rises in the morning he should find that every class in the country is arrayed against him. The time has, I think, arrived when we see the limit of organic change. The God Terminus has been, discovered, and if five-and-twenty years of agitation and re-construction in consequence of the abolition of the Church of England await us, I cannot but believe that the future of this country will assume a darker character than I care to contemplate. I trust, therefore, that the House will act upon this question with decision. I wish we had heard from the Secretary of State for the Home Department a more encouraging tone. I think, although I am sorry to have to say it, that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) was justified in making the remarks he did upon the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that Her Majesty's Government was not prepared to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Bradford, or indeed any Motion, unless they were assured of carrying it. These are considerations which might occur to any prudent Secretary of State who has to consider a Licensing Bill. I do not think you ought to bring forward a Licensing Bill unless you are assured of carrying it; but when it comes to a question of maintaining the union between Church and State, I think your adhesion to the proposal, or your objection to it, should be founded on some principle which cannot be disputed, and guided by some policy which the country can comprehend. I still hope we shall hear from the Prime Minister sounds of a very different character; and I do most earnestly trust that the House will give forth to-night no uncertain sign in the division upon this question, but will meet it with an unbroken front. I shall oppose the Motion in the interest of civil and religious liberty; more for the sake of the State than of the Church; more for the sake of society than of the congregation; because I believe that in resisting this policy we are maintaining the best interests of order, of civilization, and of pure religion.


The subject, Sir, which has been introduced to the notice of the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall), in a tone that has drawn forth the most just eulogiums from every quarter of the House, is one which, undoubtedly, might well occupy us for many evenings, were we to attempt anything like a thorough discussion of its various bearings; but I do not understand it to be the wish of the House that our discussion should be thus prolonged. And that being so, I make no apology for rising to offer a very few—at least, I hope they will be a very few—remarks relatively, at any rate, to the magnitude of this question, without allowing the debate, so far as I am concerned, to pass to an hour inconveniently late. And, Sir, I say a very few remarks, because I am able to follow in many respects, and to a considerable extent, what has been said in various quarters in opposition to the Motion of my hon. Friend. The challenge of the right hon. Gentleman is a fair one, when he desires to know the position of the Government; but I am not prepared to admit that he correctly comprehended, or that, correctly comprehending, he correctly stated the language of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department to have been that we, as a Government, would propose nothing except what we were assured of carrying. The right hon. Gentleman, unconsciously, no doubt, modified a good deal the tone and the terms of my right hon. Friend's expression, having in view the lively contrast which he was about to draw in reference to another measure. What my right hon. Friend said, if I understood him, was this—he referred to the state of public opinion upon this question as one among the reasons why he was not prepared to vote for the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, and, in so referring to the state of public opinion, he is sustained by an authority no less than that of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), who, arguing this question, as I think, generally in a tone moderate and rational, has himself been content, and very properly content, to rest his defence of the Established Church in England, not so much upon adhesion to any abstract theory or principle, as upon the fact that the convictions of the nation are in its favour, or, in other words, that public opinion is adverse to the Motion of my hon. Friend. The Government oppose the Motion of my hon. Friend. I, for my own part, do not at all profess to limit that opposition to the present occasion. We institute no inquisition into the personal opinions of any with whom we are associated in political life; but we are adverse to the Motion of my hon. Friend; and neither my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Bruce), nor myself, nor, so far as I am aware, most other Members of the Government, if not the whole of them, are prepared to treat it as a question of to-day with regard to which our course is to be altered to-morrow. I must say that I think the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball)—I trust I am not taking too great a liberty in saying so—had better not have been delivered. Its ascriptions of language and sentiment to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bruce) were so vehement and so inaccurate, and the whole tone of the speech was so evident—I will not say intended, but calculated to introduce into this discussion considerations of party by which it could only be lowered and debased—that I felt, what I rarely feel, regret that I was listening to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. And I am bound to say, further, that I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is entitled to be very critical upon the manner in which we defend the Established Church. Others may be so; but I own it appeared to me that of all the defenders of the Established Church of England the very worst on this occasion has been the right hon. and learned Gentleman, for he defended it entirely and exclusively by going back among the ancient controversies upon the Church of Ireland, and appeared to think, as he and others thought at the period of that controversy, that the same rules, circumstances, and considerations which governed the mind of Parliament in the case of the Church of Ireland, were those which were likewise applicable to the case of the Church of England. I know very well it is an opinion that may be not unfairly entertained upon the other side of the House, by Gentlemen from their point of view, that those who solicited Parliament to disestablish and disendow the Church of Ireland had given an impulse to the Motion of my hon. Friend; but I hold, further, that it is not unfair for us to maintain that the impulse has rather been aided by what we think the unfortunate error of persons who insisted upon treating the case of the Church of Ireland entirely with reference to the theory of Establishments and not with reference to the broad substantial arguments and facts upon which the Church of England was so strong. The Church of England is not a foreign Church, and by a foreign Church I do not mean to imply that the Church of Ireland is a foreign Church ecclesiastically, but it was a Church imposed upon Ireland and maintained in Ireland by extrinsic power. Whatever the Church of England may be, it is the growth of the history and traditions of the country. I will not refer to other matters connected with the Church of Ireland more than to take exception to that part of the Motion of my hon. Friend in which he asks the House to affirm that it is expedient to apply to the Established Church not a principle of disestablishment, but the policy initiated by the disestablishment of the Irish Church by the Act of 1869. My hon. Friend is perfectly entitled to use that language for himself, and he may express his individual opinion that in the disestablishment of the Irish Church the Government not only recognized the peculiar circumstances and incidents of the case, but likewise gave effect to a general principle of great breadth at the same time. I am now going to quote from my hon. Friend, and am going to quote him without being able to give chapter and verse, which is a thing that ought never to be done without apology; but I take the words from a publication which, unfortunately, does not contain a reference. I find him represented to have used these words— Neither the Establishment of the Church of England, nor the principle of Church Establishment, was at issue now; it was simply a matter of political justice to the people of Ireland. I do not know whether my hon. Friend recognizes the words; but whether he does or does not, I do not in the least degree question his title to insert in his Motion the words he has used; but on the part of the Government, honour as well as prudence requires that we should ask it to be clearly and most emphatically understood that with us the proposal for the disestablishment of the Church in Ireland was not the initiation of a policy. In stating this I stated no more than it was my duty to state, though I am sorry to say without the desired effect, upon the electors of Lancashire in 1868; and not only so, but the very best of my friends, and the best Nonconformists from time to time, as they know very well, gave me explicit warning to make that matter clear to the electors of Lancashire. It was on our part steadily contended from first to last that, whether the principle of Establishment were right or wrong, it was impossible to justify the continued executive of the Establishment in Ireland. We say that it was not the enunciation of a policy, and it is our duty to oppose the Motion which so describes it. We are bound to set aside mere considerations of party on this occasion. I must say that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Miall) has spoken generally in that spirit, and I think we ought to endeavour to look at the question just in the same spirit of historical impartiality in which we may hereafter wish to have it regarded. My hon. Friend must have felt that he was addressing an audience little prepared, except in a special quarter, to comply with his demands; but I cannot wonder that he has been encouraged to make this Motion; and in one sense I must tender him my thanks for introducing it. I think his Motion has absorbed, so far as I can judge from the state of the Notice Paper, other minor Motions, which really involved his Motion as an ulterior consequence, but which did not fully express it or broadly raise the issue. We have been accustomed to vote for the exclusion of the Episcopal Body from the House of Lords. I think those who take an impartial view of that question will see that it is one less intimately connected with the welfare of the Church as a religious society than it is with the constitution of the House of Lords and with the position of the Church as a National Establishment, for if the Church is to continue a National Establishment undoubtedly the exclusion of the Bishops from the House of Lords removes one powerful element of moral control, which, independent of legal control, it is fair and just that public opinion should exercise over the Church. My hon. Friend has a practical advantage in raising the question of the spiritual condition of the Church in Wales, where we are not able to allege that the numerical form or appearance of that Church is such as to entitle it to the position which it occupies if it be separately regarded. He has judged wisely in foregoing the minor and collateral issue, and in raising the question in that clear and comprehensive and manly way which, whatever be the issue of the controversy, will, I think, tend to keep it from all debasing contact, and secure a fair trial of a great national question. My hon. Friend is doubtless encouraged by what has occurred in America and in the Colonies, and partly by what has occurred in Ireland; partly, also, by what is occurring on the Continent — for it is clear that upon the whole the tendency of the public sentiment is towards the relaxation of those bonds which in several countries connect religion with the State. There is another point to which it is more painful, but still necessary, to refer — and that is the internal condition of the Church of England itself. My hon. Friend's remarks upon this point recalled to my mind a passage spoken by Sir Robert Peel in the year 1848, in the course of his speech on the Bill for the removal of Parliamentary disabilities affecting the Jews. He was at that time rebuking the argument of danger to the Church, and, having stated his opinion that no such danger would arise from the admission of Jews to Parliament, he indicated the opinion that danger had arisen from another cause, in these words— Were it not for internal dissensions within the Church itself, the Church would be stronger at this moment, after the successive relaxation of disabling laws, than it was even at the period when you required conformity to the faith of the Church as an essential qualification for Parliament."—[3 Hansard, xcvi. 529.] These words were eminently and profoundly true; but looking at what has happened since the year 1848, although I do not know that the causes of the controversy are more substantial than they were then—I think probably they are less so—yet, undoubtedly, the temper in which they are handled has reached a degree of excitement, and almost of exasperation, which has resulted in constant efforts to bring them to an issue of judicial sentences aiming at the compulsory enforcement of usages or of opinions in a manner, and to an extent, which I must own is calculated greatly to darken the future prospect of the Church. It is from these causes, as I believe, that the hon. Member for Bradford will derive a great accession of strength; but I trust the connection between these exasperated controversies and the proceedings of the present evening will convey a lesson of warning to persons out-of-doors, whether they be those who by extreme and injudicious measures have provoked constant resort to legal tribunals, or whether they be those who seek for these evils a mode of remedy which I am afraid will aggravate them far more. When I come to the objections to the Motion of my hon. Friend, I would contend, as I have always contended, that this Motion is far more readily to be understood and justified as a merely abstract expression of opinion at the head of a literary essay than it is as embodying the terms of a practical proposition to be adopted by such a Legislature as ours. Can there be words more absolute than those of the Motion? What is the time pointed at by it? Is it, as we read this morning in an influential journal, within the century that this is to be? Is that the latitude the hon. Member allows us, or at least the younger Members of this House, who may possibly be responsible for the conduct of public affairs at the close of this century. If so, the justification of his Motion lies simply in the fact of the impracticability of its adoption, because if it were a Motion which the House was likely to pass I should protest against anything so vague or general in its scope, and giving so little in the way of a practical pledge to the country. Has my hon. Friend ever considered the vastness of the operations to which he recommends the House to give in principle its sanction? We have faced the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and I must own that when we were engaged in the operation it appeared to me to be, taking together its principles and its details, among the largest to which a Legislature could well apply itself. But the question of the Irish Church shrinks into insignifiance — I mean material insignificance—beside the question of the English Church. It is not the number of its members or the millions of its revenue; it is the mode in which it has been from a period shortly after the Christian era, and has never for 1,300 years ceased to be, the Church of the country, having been at every period ingrained with the hearts and the feelings of the great mass of the people, and having intertwined itself with the local habits and feelings, so that I do not believe there lives the man who could either divine the amount and character of the work my hon. Friend would have to undertake were he doomed to be responsible for the execution of his own propositions, or who could in the least degree define or anticipate the cones- quences by which it would be attended. I own my inability to look in the face that much more Herculean task which my hon. Friend by his Motion proposes to lay upon us. But, Sir, that is not the only reason why I object to the Motion of my hon. Friend. If that were the only reason, no doubt my hon. Friend would most properly turn to the indications conveyed in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham), who evidently looks with ill-concealed contempt upon the weakness of those by whom it is his unhappy destiny, at least in a political sense, to be led. My hon. Friend revealed in himself the consciousness of strength and force, and superior power to us; and he intimated that by a different composition of the Cabinet the aspirations of genuine Liberals might receive a speedy and satisfactory accomplishment. Then he said—"Are we, a party of Dissenters, to follow a Cabinet of Churchmen?" Now, in the first place, I do not think the Cabinet is a Cabinet of Churchmen. It is certainly not armed at the threshold with any test which it applies to those who undergo the mysterious operation that makes a man a Member either of the Government or of the Cabinet, and I rather believe that the Nonconforming element, whether it be represented in the Roman Catholic Church, or among the Protestants, is at any rate more hopefully represented in the present than in any former Cabinet. But when I hear my hon. Friend challenge the Government broadly, and by so many words, how a party of Dissenters is to follow a Cabinet of Churchmen, I answer not only that I rejoice to reckon among our official body many Gentlemen of great ability and high character who do not belong to the communion of the Church of England, but also that I greatly doubt whether those words used by the hon. Member would entirely suit our purpose to employ in the course of canvassing the different constituencies of the country. No doubt my hon. Friend indicates a course of future campaigns which may relieve us—if he acts consistently with his language—at an early date from the responsibilities of office. He says, and says with great truth, that the Nonconformist Body of this country constitutes a most powerful part—perhaps the most active, vigorous, and vital part—of the whole Liberal party; and I do not conceal from myself for a moment that it is in the power of those who lead the Nonconformist party at any time to break up and shatter, if they think fit, the general fabric of the Liberal party. But my hon. Friend, I am sure, will not be the man to say that such a consideration as that is to be—as his speech really at one time seemed to indicate—the governing motive in our minds in the course that we are to take in regard to great national institutions. Let us strive to rise to somewhat nobler views. Let my hon. Friend by all means pursue the course he thinks best for the interests of liberty and of truth; but let him, at any rate, leave to us the same power and right to act according to the best of our lights and our consciences in the performance of the duties with which, whether worthily or unworthily, we are charged. Sir, it is satisfactory that there has been a general disposition shown in this debate to do justice to the Church of this country in the discharge of its duties; and, as I have ventured to criticize one part of the speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, I must also express the pleasure with which I listened to the early portion of it, and also to the remarks of other speakers to-night in which the way the ministers of the Church devote themselves according to the best of their light and understanding to the duties of their office and the benefit of their fellow-countrymen was not only admitted, but largely and liberally acknowledged. The words which the hon. Member for Bradford quoted—I rather think from some one else—appeared to me to be a perfectly true and unexaggerated description of the position of the clergyman as he is in a very large number of the districts of this country, and especially in the rural districts, when he stated that he was the centre of education, of charity, and of piety. I do not now enter into the question of what would happen were the national recognition of religion to be discontinued. I stand merely upon the fact. Nor is it alone on the discharge of practical duties that the Church of England stands pre-eminent. It is certainly a Church eminently favourable to liberty of thought, while I think my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) is right in repudiating on its behalf the claim of those who wish to construe that liberty as if it meant an unbounded licence. It is favourable to human culture at large—it is favourable to that profound learning which has adorned the clergy of this Church in a degree, speaking historically, inferior, I believe, to that of no Church of Christendom. It has been favourable to national education; and, although it has not been so forward, perhaps, or so energetic in the movements of this country in favour of political liberty, yet those who will go back even to the reign of Charles I., and will consider how many members of the Church there were—and there were then a great number—who were among the champions of political liberty, those who go back to the reign of James II., and consider how civil liberty had then become so strong that its triumph was assured, will not fail to see that, even in that respect, the Church was not altogether wanting. Well, this is the case of the Church as a religious institution, and those who are much attached to her, and who have endeavoured to study her character, may well point likewise to the position she occupies not only in this country, but in Christendom. For, be it recollected, that among the most devoted—nay, among the most active even of the partizans of the Roman Catholic Church there have been those who have found themselves constrained by the force of truth to acknowledge that the Church of England—notwithstanding all her faults and defects, whatever they may be—has filled a position such as was occupied by no other Church in the world with reference to the future of Christendom. It is no slight question, Sir, to consider what are to be hereafter the relations of religion to what is termed science; and I believe that if there be a hope for the continuance of those relations in a healthy state, that hope is chiefly lodged within the bounds of the communion which has been called the Church of England. I say chiefly lodged. Do not let it be supposed I mean that it is to be found nowhere else. I mean that in that antagonism which unfortunately appears at the present moment to be so sharp between ancient belief and modern thought there is no arena in which that controversy seems to me more likely to be conducted to a happy and a favourable issue than the arena of this Church of England itself. Under these circumstances, what is the state of facts with which we have to deal? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) fairly admits that he takes his stand on the state of facts. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, I think, avoided stating that his Motion expressed the prevailing opinion of the people of this country; nor, with all the attention I could give to this debate, have I heard such an assertion made by any of the supporters of the Motion. Sir, I may be entirely wrong; but I would frankly state my own opinion that entire justice has not yet been done on one point to the Church of England. It is with regard to the question of numbers. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond stated that be thought that Church might fairly be taken as having a number of members equal to those of all the other religious Bodies in England and Wales. [An hon. MEMBER: Professed members.] I was going to say I think she has a good many more, because I must own it is my conviction that in professed members the Church of England has a considerable majority of the people of this country. I know that the Returns of public worship show about an equality of numbers as between the Church and the other Bodies; but then I at once admit to my hon. Friend that the Dissenters, as such, represent a higher average of religious observance. There is no doubt at all about that. There are, happily, vast numbers of persons in the Church of England who are deeply attached to their Church as what may be called practising Christians; but there are also vast numbers not so deeply attached to her, who occasionally conform to her communion, not because they belong to any other religious Body, but because they are not in the constant and habitual observance of religious ordinances. What view are we to take with regard to them? Are we to say that because they only rarely appear within the walls of the Church they only come there to be christened, to be married, or to be buried; seeing that this is not the case of the Irish Church, the blunder is scarcely excusable? Are we to say that the case of those persons is to be put out of the account? In my opinion, that is a very serious and important question indeed. There is no doubt whatever of the capability of the Church of England to provide for its members in the same way that the Nonconformist communities provide for theirs. I apprehend that it is insulting to the Church of England to question its power in that respect, and, further, that it is unjust to that community to say that its members, being more cold in religious matters, ought not to be taken into the account. When we look at the relations of the Church of England to those masses who have grown up almost unheeded, but who retain a certain relation to it, and towards whom the Church performs almost a missionary work, it is impossible that I can admit the proposition that we ought to cast those masses out of the account. I cannot help perceiving the great changes that may occur in the religious condition of those persons in relation to the Church. Take the case of Leeds before and after the days of Dr. Hook. Such a man possessing a real sense of his vocation leaves a mark upon the religious character of the population for generations to come. The work to which the Church has been devoting herself from year to year with great energy is so important in both a religious and a social sense that it must affect seriously the deliberations of this House, and must exercise an important effect in checking the impatience of those who may be disposed to jump to rash conclusions in consequence of the view they may take of the defects of the Church of England. I cannot but stand upon the firm conviction that the nation which sent us here does not wish us to adopt the Motion of the hon. Member for Bradford. I was struck, I confess, by the few words which were spoken in the early part of the evening by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. G. Hardy) who, on this occasion, had in some measure to discharge the functions of the chosen Member for Bradford. I understood that right hon. Gentleman to say that he was requested to present a Petition from Bradford, signed by upwards of 21,000 ratepayers of that town, against the Motion of my hon. Friend. I apprehend that the population of Bradford is not very different from the rest of the population of the North, and if the population of the North differs from that of the South in any way it is that the population of the South is upon the whole more generally attached to the National Church. I do not think that it is necessary for us—indeed, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman expects that we should do so—to vote for a Motion which we are firmly convinced is at variance with the established convictions of the country, and I shall venture to say to my hon. Friend what I am sure he will not resent, that if he seeks to convert the majority of the House of Commons to his opinions he must begin by undertaking the preliminary work of converting to those opinions the majority of the people of England.


, in reply, thanked hon. Members for the indulgence with which they had received his opening statement, and expressed his opinion that the House, by listening with so much attention, silence, and good temper to statements which must have been repugnant to the feelings of a large majority on both sides, had raised its character as a deliberative Assembly to the highest pitch. He must remind the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, who had charged him with obtaining his knowledge of the feeling of the country upon this subject from Blue Books, that for upwards of 10 years he had been a Dissenting minister in the rural districts—that he had been among the people and had seen the actual working of the system he had proposed to put an end to, and it was what he had then learnt that had induced him to apply himself to the task of endeavouring to bring about the separation of the Church from the State. On questions of this magnitude, it was always right that those who brought them forward should prove their sincerity by taking it to a vote, and he therefore felt called upon to trouble the House to divide upon his Motion. He and those who thought with him were fully aware that they would be in a minority, and they expected to be in a minority for some little time to come, but that House had seen a great many of the minorities of to-day become the majorities of to-morrow; and, notwithstanding what had been said by the Head of the Government, he felt satisfied that the proposition contained in his Motion would be carried into effect by the Liberal party, if not under the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman, under that of his successor.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 89; Noes 374: Majority 285.

Anderson, G. Loch, G.
Armitstead, G. Lush, Dr.
Bagwell, J. Lusk, A.
Baines, E. M'Arthur, W.
Barry, A. H. S. M'Clure, T.
Beaumont, Capt. F. M'Laren, D.
Beaumont, S. A. Melly, G.
Beaumont, W. B. Miller, J.
Bentall, E. H. Morgan, G. O.
Brewer, Dr. Morley, S.
Bright, J. (Manchester) Morrison, W.
Brown, A. H. Mundella, A. J.
Buckley, N. Muntz, P. H.
Callan, P. Parry, L. Jones-
Campbell, H. Philips, R. N.
Candlish, J. Platt, J.
Carnegie, hon. C. Potter, E.
Carter, Mr. Alderman Potter, T. B.
Clay, J. Price, W. E.
Colman, J. J. Price, W. P.
Cowen, J. Rathbone, W.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Reed, C.
Davies, R. Richard, H.
Delahunty, J. Richards, E. M.
Digby, K. T. Roden, W. S.
Dilke, Sir C. W. Rylands, P.
Dillwyn, L. L. Seely, C. (Lincoln)
Dixon, G. Shaw, R.
Ewing, H. E. C. Shaw, W.
Fawcett, H. Sheridan, H. B.
Fitzmaurice, Lord E. Smith, E.
Fordyce, W. D. Smith, J. B.
Fothergill, R. Stacpoole, W.
Gilpin, C. Stepney, Colonel
Goldsmid, Sir F. Stevenson, J. C.
Gourley, E. T. Taylor, P. A.
Graham, W. Trevelyan, G. O.
Hadfield, G. Whalley, G. H.
Harris, J. D. White, J.
Heron, D. C. Williams, W.
Hoare, Sir H. A. Wingfield, Sir C.
Holland, S. Young, A. W.
Howard, J.
Illingworth, A. TELLERS.
Lawson, Sir W. Miall, E.
Leatham, E. A. Lewis, J. D.
Leeman, G.
Acland, T. D. Baker, R. B. W.
Adair, H. E. Ball, J. T.
Adderley, rt. hon. Sir C. Barclay, A. C.
Agar-Ellis, hon. L. G. F. Baring, T.
Akroyd, E. Barnett, H.
Allen, Major Barrington, Viscount
Amcotts, Col. W. C. Barttelot, Colonel
Amphlett, R. P. Bass, A.
Annesley, hon. Col. H. Bass, M. T.
Anson, hon. A. H. A. Bateson, Sir T.
Anstruther, Sir R. Bathurst, A. A.
Antrobus, Sir E. Bazley, Sir T.
Arbuthnot, Major G. Beach, Sir M. H.
Arkwright, A. P. Beach, W. W. B.
Arkwright, R. Bective, Earl of
Ayrton, rt. hon. A. S. Bentinck, G. C.
Aytoun, R. S. Bentinck, G. W. P.
Baggallay, Sir R. Benyon, R.
Bagge, Sir W. Beresford, Lt.-Col. M.
Bailey, Sir J. R. Biddulph, M.
Bingham, Lord Dimsdale, R.
Birley, H. Disraeli, rt. hon. B.
Blennerhassett, Sir R. Dodson, J. G.
Bolckow, H. W. F. Dowdeswell, W. E.
Bonham-Carter, J. Dowse, R.
Booth, Sir R. G. Duff, M. E. G.
Bourke, hon. R. Duff, R. W.
Bourne, Colonel Duncombe, hon. Col.
Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P. Dyke, W. H.
Bowring, E. A. Dyott, Colonel R.
Brand, rt. hon. H. Eaton, H. W.
Brassey, T. Edwards, H.
Bright, R. Egerton, Capt. hon. F.
Brise, Colonel R. Egerton, hon. A. F.
Bristowe, S. B. Egerton, hon. W.
Broadley, W. H. H. Egerton, Sir P. G.
Brooks, W. C. Elcho, Lord
Bruce, Lord C. Ellice, E.
Bruce, rt. hon. H. A. Elliot, G.
Bruce, Sir H. H. Enfield, Viscount
Bruen, H. Ewing, A. O.
Buckley, Sir E. Feilden, H. M.
Buller, Sir E. M. Fellowes, E.
Bury, Viscount Fielden, J.
Buxton, C. Finch, G. H.
Buxton, Sir R. J. FitzGerald, right hon. Lord O. A.
Cadogan, hon. F. W.
Cameron, D. Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W.
Cardwell, rt. hon. E. Fitzwilliam, hon. H. W.
Carington, hn. Capt. W. Floyer, J.
Cartwright, F. Foljambe, F. J. S.
Castlerosse, Viscount Forde, Colonel
Cave, rt. hon. S. Forester, rt. hon. Gen.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. Forster, rt. hon. W. E.
Cavendish, Lord G. Foster, W. H.
Cawley, C. E. Fortescue, rt. hon. C. P.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G. Fortescue, hon. D. F.
Chaplin, H. Fowler, R. N.
Charley, W. T. Gallwey, Sir W. P.
Child, Sir S. Galway, Viscount
Cholmeley, Sir M. Garlies, Lord
Clive, Col. hon. G. W. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Clowes, S. W. Gladstone, W. H.
Cochrane, A. D. W. R. B. Goldney, G.
Cole, Col. hon. H. A. Gooch, Sir D.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Gordon, E. S.
Collier, Sir R. P. Gore, J. R. O.
Collins, T. Gore, W. R. O.
Colthurst, Sir G. C. Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.
Conolly, T. Gower, hon. E. F. L.
Corbett, Colonel Gower, Lord R.
Corrance, F. S. Grant, Colonel hon. J.
Corry, rt. hon. H. T. L. Graves, S. R.
Cowper, hon. H. F. Gray, Lieut.-Colonel
Cowper-Temple, right hon. W. Greaves, E.
Greene, E.
Crawford, R. W. Gregory, G. B.
Crichton, Viscount Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Croft, Sir H. G. D. Grieve, J. J.
Cross, R. A. Grosvenor, Capt. R. W.
Cubitt, G. Grosvenor, hon. N.
Dalrymple, C. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Dalrymple, D. Grove, T. F.
Damer, Capt. Dawson- Guest, A. E.
Davenport, W. B. Guest, M. J.
Dawson, R. P. Gurney, rt. hon. R.
Denison, C. B. Hambro, C.
Denman, hon. G. Hamilton, Lord C.
Dent, J. D. Hamilton, Lord C. J.
Dick, F. Hamilton, Lord G.
Dickinson, S. S. Hamilton, I. T.
Dickson, Major A. G. Hamilton, Marquess of
Hanmer, Sir J. M'Lagan, P.
Harcourt, W. G. G. V. V. Mahon, Viscount
Hardy, rt. hon. G. Maitland, Sir A. C. R. G.
Hardy, J. Malcolm, J. W.
Hardy, J. S. Manners, rt. hon. Lord J.
Hartington, Marquess of March, Earl of
Hay, Sir J. C. D. Martin, P. W.
Headlam, rt. hon. T. E. Matthews, H.
Henley, rt. hon. J. W. Mellor, T. W.
Henley, Lord Milles, hon. G. W.
Henry, J. S. Mills, C. H.
Herbert, rt. hon. Gen. Sir P. Mitchell, T. A.
Mitford, W. T.
Hermon, E. Monk, C. J.
Hervey, Lord A. H. C. Montgomery, Sir G. G.
Hesketh, Sir T. G. Morgan, hon. Major
Heygate, Sir F. W. Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.
Heygate, W. U. Neville-Grenville, R.
Hibbert, J. T. Newdegate, C. N.
Hick, J. Newport, Viscount
Hill, A. S. Nicol, J. D.
Hodgkinson, G. Noel, hon. G. J.
Hodgson, W. N. North, Colonel
Holford, R. S. Ogilvy, Sir J.
Holms, J. O'Neill, hon. E.
Holmesdale, Viscount Paget, R. H.
Holt, J. M. Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.
Hood, Cap. hn. A. W. A. N. Palk, Sir L.
Hope, A. J. B. B. Palmer, Sir R.
Hornby, E. K. Parker, C. S.
Howard, hon. C. W. G. Parker, Lt.-Col. W.
Hughes, T. Patten, rt. hon. Col. W.
Hughes, W. B. Peek, H. W.
Hunt, rt. hon. G. W. Pelham, Lord
Jackson, R. W. Pell, A.
James, H. Pemberton, E. L.
Jardine, R. Percy, Earl
Jenkinson, Sir G. S. Phipps, C. P.
Johnston, A. Portman, hon. W. H. B.
Johnston, W. Powell, W.
Johnstone, Sir H. Raikes, H. C.
Jones, J. Read, C. S.
Kavanagh, A. Mac M. Ridley, M. W.
Kay-Shuttleworth, U. J. Robertson, D.
Kekewich, S. T. Round, J.
Kennaway, J. H. Royston, Viscount
Keown, W. Russell, A.
Kingscote, Colonel Russell, Sir W.
Knight, F. W. Sackville, S. G. S.
Knightley, Sir R. Salt, T.
Knox, hon. Colonel S. Samuda, J. D.'A.
Lacon, Sir E. H. K. Samuelson, B.
Laird, J. Sandon, Viscount
Lancaster, J. Sclater-Booth, G.
Langton, W. G. Scott, Lord H. J. M. D.
Laslett, W. Scourfield, J. H.
Learmonth, A. Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Lefevre, G. J. S. Sherlock, D.
Lennox, Lord G. G. Sherriff, A. C.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Shirley, S. E.
Liddell, hon. H. G. Simonds, W. B.
Lindsay, hon. Col. C. Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.
Lindsay, Col. R. L. Smith, A.
Lloyd, Sir T. D. Smith, F. C.
Lopes, H. C. Smith, R.
Lopes, Sir M. Smith, S. G.
Lowe, rt. hon. R. Smith, W. H.
Lowther, J. Somerset, Lord H. R. C.
Lowther, W. Stanley, hon. F.
Lyttelton, hon. C. G. Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.
Mackintosh, E. W. Stapleton, J.
M'Combie, W. Starkie, J. P. C.
Steere, L. Walpole, hon. F.
Stone, W. H. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Storks, rt. hon. Sir H. K. Walsh, hon. A.
Straight, D. Walter, J.
Sturt, H. G. Waterhouse, S.
Sturt, Lt.-Colonel N. Welby, W. E.
Sykes, C. Wells, W.
Talbot, C. R. M. West, H. W.
Talbot, J. G. Wethered, T. O.
Talbot, hon. Captain Wharton, J. L.
Taylor, rt. hon. Colonel Whatman, J.
Thynne, Lord H. F. Wheelhouse, W. S. J.
Tipping, W. Whitbread, S.
Tollemache, J. Whitwell, J.
Tollemache, hon. F. J. Williams, Sir F. M.
Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury- Williamson, Sir H.
Wilmot, H.
Trevor, Lord A. E. Hill- Winn, R.
Turner, C. Wise, H. C.
Turnor, E. Wyndham, hon. P.
Vance, J. Wynn, C. W. W.
Verner, E. W. Wynn, Sir W. W.
Verner, Sir W. Yarmouth, Earl of
Verney, Sir H.
Vickers, S. TELLERS.
Vivian, Capt. hn. J. C. W. Adam, W. P.
Walker, Major G. G. Glyn, hon. G. G.

Bill read a second time, and committed.