§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER,
in rising to call the attention of the House to the present system of patronage in the Church of Scotland; and, to move—That, whereas the presentation of ministers to Churches in Scotland by patrons under the existing Law and practice has been the cause of much division among the people and in the Church of Scotland, it is expedient that Her Majesty's Government should take the whole subject into consideration, with a view of legislating as to the appointment and settlement of Ministers in the Church of Scotland,said, there was hardly one passage of Scottish history which was as interesting as that which he had the honour of introducing. He thought he could show that it was according to the genius of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland that the election of ministers should be in the 1091 hands of the people. He should be obliged to take the House a long way back to show this. The principle was laid down in the First Book of Discipline. It was also found in the Second Book of Discipline of 1578. It was recognized in the various Acts passed in 1592, under which the Presbyterian form of government had been sanctioned by the civil power, in 1638, 1649, 1660, and in 1690, when patronage was abolished as having been greatly abused. This was the Act—that of 1690—on which he mainly relied. The Act of 1690, besides giving the right of tithes to the patrons, gave a payment of 600 merks when the patronage was removed. The Act, as far as he had been able to ascertain, had been made with the desire of giving full compensation to the patrons, and the same wish existed at the present day. They rested a great deal on the settlements of 1690, and he thought he should be able to show to the House that they only desired to return to the settlement then made. The Union of Scotland and England took place in 1707, and he desired to show that when that Union took effect the Act of 1690, chap. 23, on which he relied, was incorporated in the Act of Union, and they were entitled to demand that every subsequent Act which interfered with it should be repealed if it could be shown that it had worked ill. He thought they might reasonably have supposed that the Act under which the Union was passed in the year 1707 might have remained undisturbed. Such, however, was the troublesome state of affairs at that time, that it was only five years after the passing of that Act when the whole of this solemn compact was thrown to the winds. In 1712 an Act was passed which revived patronage, which undid all the good which had been secured to the Church and people of Scotland by the Act of 1690, and by the previous Act of 1649. He did not wish to characterize that Act by any stronger terms than by stating that it was a violation of the Act of Union. Lord Macaulay had said that the British Legislature violated this Act, and from that change had flowed all that Dissent which now existed in Scotland. The Church had petitioned against its violation almost continuously from that time to the present. He thought he did not say too much when he said that every secession which had taken place from 1092 the Church of Scotland had been more or less due to the Act of Anne. He would not assert that was the only cause of secession; but he would say that at its root lay the objections to the unfortunate Act passed in what was known as the Black Parliament of Anne, in 1712. He might come at once to the unfortunate disruption of the Church in 1843. He would say that, in point of fact, that disruption was due to patronage. In 1842 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland passed a resolution as to patronage, to the effect that patronage was a grievance, attended with much injury to the cause of true religion, and ought to be abolished. He knew that the question of spiritual independence was very much involved in the disruption of 1843; but he believed that the root of the evil in 1843 and subsequent periods was patronage. He was extremely unwilling to say too much as to the result of the passing of the Act or its repeal. He would like to say a few words as to the motives which actuated him in bringing the matter forward. He heard from all sides that it was a narrow-minded movement; that the Church cared for no one except herself; and that the movement did not deserve the confidence and support of the House. If that was a true description of the movement, he should not have had a hand in it at all. He trusted that he had more liberality. He had sat in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for seven years, and he undertook to say that that Church had invariably exhibited a spirit of liberality in this matter, and that their desire was not to benefit themselves, but to find a basis of union with Presbyterian bodies. No such basis of union could be conceived or formed until the Act of Anne was abolished. He did not say what was to replace that Act. It was not for him to enter upon so large a question; but the earnest desire of the Church of Scotland, the only desire by which he was actuated, was to find a basis upon which they could re-construct the Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland. As the Primo Minister would ask him for a proposal, he would say his proposal was to repeal the Act of Anne and to fall back on the settlement of 1690, which was thoroughly well known and approved in Scotland, leaving to the Church the responsibility for making regulations for 1093 the election of ministers. This step would remove the great obstacle to the union of the Established with the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church, which were separated by differences that were microscopic; it would enable any former minister of the Established Church to accept office in it; and, as regarded others, a simple resolution of the General Assembly would enable them to do so. That morning he should have made a different statement; for he should not have supposed it, possible that those who had attained freedom by extraordinary sacrifices could wish to prevent others doing so by constitutional means. In the course of the day, however, he had received a resolution of the Free Church Committee, who, far too wise to object to the dealing with the Act of Anne, or to the abolition of patronage, deprecated any Parliamentary action "not adapted to meet the entire ecclesiastical condition of Scotland "—a very vague and ambiguous phrase. What action would be adapted to meet that condition if the repeal of the Act of Anne would not? for it was the one thing to which every section of the Presbyterian Church was opposed. If any member of that Committee sat in this House he would be bound to support this Resolution. The Committee of the Synod of the United Presbyterian Church had drawn up a document of a far more consistent character. It referred to the disestablishment and disendowment of the Established Churches of England and Scotland. The views of United Presbyterians, as consistent voluntaries, were entitled to the highest respect; but he wanted to know whether the Government or the House desired the disestablishment of the Established Churches of England and Scotland. Why, the House, only a very few weeks ago, had decided by an overwhelming majority against any such proposal. The Committee of the Synod of the United Presbyterians went on, however, to say thatThe Established Church of Scotland has done nothing to warrant its being aided by the general citizenship and the members of other Churches to an enlargement of the statutory powers.He knew well the loss which the Established Church of Scotland sustained through the disruption of 1843; but if she had not been rooted deeply in the 1094 affections of the people, if she had not been doing a good, a great, and a glorious work, the throes of that great disruption would have destroyed her. In 1843 that Established Church had 924 original parishes, 42 Parliamentary chapels, and other chapels and preaching places, to the number of 233, making a total of 1,189; and since 1843 she had erected 37 of those chapels into parishes, and endowed new parishes to the number of 182, at a total cost of £673,000. The same Church had built upwards of 200 new chapels, at a cost of from £1,500 to £2,000 apiece. Yet they were told that she was not entitled to be aided, and was not doing her duty in the country. That statement was, he thought, unfounded, and one which it was unworthy of the United Presbyterian Body to make. It was urged that there was no feeling among the people of Scotland against lay patronage; that there had been no public meetings about it; and that all that movement was within the Church herself. He would admit that there had not been a great outside agitation on the question; but it was not the habit of the Church to get up great agitations. Moreover, the system of patronage was practically abolished now. Appointments to all the Crown livings were made at the instance of the Home Secretary. When a Crown living fell vacant the Home Secretary sent down to ask what the people wished, and to say that if they would name an acceptable and proper candidate, he would appoint him. Practically, therefore, the Crown patronage was in the hands of the people, and in a large majority of instances the same was the case with the private patronage. But if the existing system had been found to be so bad and unworkable that it had been already virtually abandoned, why should the rights of the people rest upon the caprice of the Crown or of any individual patron? The principle for which he contended was recognized by Sir James Graham's Act, which was passed in 1843. With these facts before them, he wondered that anybody should suppose that the system would not work well. It would be objected to his Motion that there was nothing in it referring to the Act of Anne; but, on the other hand, if he had proposed any specific action, it would have been said that some other course would be a great 1095 deal better. He had, however, indicated the way in which he wished to proceed, and for his proposal he hoped to have independent support from both sides of the House. If no Liberal Motion could be made by a Churchman, and no liberal Motion could be supported by anybody who sat opposite, he was sorry for it. They had not, he supposed, a monopoly of wisdom on his side of the House. When he found a Motion which he believed to be essentially good, and which ought to be passed in the interest of the Church of Scotland and of Liberal principles within and without that Church, he was not ashamed of receiving support from Gentlemen opposite. His great desire was that the Government should undertake to deal with this subject. He knew his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government would say he was so burdened with work that it was impossible for him to undertake to do so; but he (Sir Robert Anstruther) did not expect the Motion to be accepted in its entirety upon the first occasion of its being presented to Parliament. This was a matter worthy of the consideration of the Government. It was a matter which interested the great mass of the Scotch people. The measure he recommended was a liberal measure, notwithstanding it was supported by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. He believed it to be a measure which would heal ecclesiastical differences in Scotland to a large extent, and the Government which carried such a measure—whether the present or a succeeding Government—would earn the gratitude and esteem of the people of that country. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, whereas the presentation of Ministers to Churches in Scotland by patrons under the existing Law and practice has been the cause of much division among the people and in the Church of Scotland, it is expedient that Her Majesty's Government should take the whole subject into consideration, with a view of legislating as to the appointment and settlement of Ministers in the Church of Scotland."—(Sir Robert Anstruther.)
§ MR. M'LAREN
objected to the Resolution on account of its extreme vagueness. It only said that the Government 1096 should be requested to take the matter into consideration with a view to legislation. It said nothing as to the direction which that legislation should take. It was a mere abstract, unmeaning Resolution. Instead of a Resolution for a plan it was a Resolution fishing for a plan—suggesting that the Government should find what his hon. Friend was unable to find himself. His hon. Friend had said that all would be right if the Act of Anne were abolished; but why did he not ask the House to say so in his Resolution? Again, his hon. Friend quoted the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland as being favourable to his Motion; but their resolutions from year to year showed that they regarded the movement in which he was engaged with horror. In 1869 they resolved that the election of ministers should be by a committee of heritors, elders, and male communicants, giving at the same time some effect to the opinions of the permanent community. It would be observed that the female communicants were excluded from a share in the nomination, whilst in the United Presbyterian Church and in the Free Church female communicants took part in the election of ministers. That resolution was affirmed in the two following years, and last year they resolved that the election of ministers should be held "according to the views of the Church," that was to say, not by popular vote, but by the election of heritors, elders, and male communicants. His hon. Friend had read and communicated a resolution which he said had been that day passed by the Free Church. He would remind his hon. Friend that resolutions communicated by telegraph were not always correct. He (Mr. M'Laren) had received a letter from a leading member of the Free Church written yesterday, telling him what was to be done next day, and the course which would be adopted, and which threw more light on the matter than the telegram did. The correspondent said they would object to this movement as essentially an attempt to alter the existing state of things in the direction of a rehabilitation of the Established Church. They objected to the rehabilitation as a delusive one, and they objected to the authority of Parliament being applied to for any Church purpose, and in particular they would regret it as a serious mistake on the 1097 part of the Government if they lent any countenance to the movement. The correspondent said the effect of the movement, if taken up by Parliament, would be to leave the greater part of the Church to expand, and would expand it in the sense of disestablishment. [Cries of "Name!"] He should be happy to give the name to any hon. Member if he wished it. At the last Assembly there was a great discussion on the subject, and three forms of resolution were submitted, all strongly condemning the Established Church as an establishment. The strongest of the three resolutions was adopted by a large majority. His hon. Friend seemed to represent the United Presbyterian Body as having observed a discourteous attitude towards the Established Church, and he also dilated on the progress achieved by the Church itself. Now, on the last occasion when this subject was discussed, he stated that the Church had advanced greatly, as seen by the fact that in the previous year it had collected £250,000. But in the comparison of the United Presbyterian Body and the Church of Scotland, it was right to remember that the Church of Scotland had 1,200 ministers, while the United Presbyterians had but 500; and that while the Church collected £250,000, the Presbyterian Body collected £100,000 more. The Established Church was not justified, therefore, he thought, in coming to Parliament as par excellence the Church of the people, and as entitled to be put on a more advantageous footing than all the other religious bodies in Scotland. He hoped, therefore, the Resolution would be negatived.
§ MR. C. DALRYMPLE
was anxious at the outset to say that those who were favourable to the Motion were under obligations to his hon. Friend the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) for bringing it forward, and expressed his satisfaction that a subject which was associated in Scotland with so much controversy, and which required a delicate and tender handling had been introduced in a speech which left nothing to be desired. The hon. Member for Edinburgh had charged the Motion with vagueness; but his hon. Friend had, he thought, exercised a wise discretion in not widening too much the field of discussion, and he must on his part complain of the vagueness of the 1098 speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) inasmuch as he devoted his time not to answering the speech of his hon. Friend, but details of a scheme which was not before the House, and that he quoted the letter of some distinguished correspondent, a member of the Free Church, a communication which he expected would have great weight with the House, and then declined to give the name of the writer. He (Mr. Dalrymple) recognized in the tone of the letter, the tone of the printed communication from the Free Church, which had already been quoted. He was not sorry that some delay had occurred in bringing forward the question, because it was well that public opinion with respect to it should have time to ripen in Scotland. It was well that the general assembly of the Church of Scotland should have the opportunity in five successive years of declaring by decisive and deliberate majorities in favour of the change; it was well that the subject should have received something of a rebuff and check. Some years ago on the occasion of a memorable deputation to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, if it had the effect, as he believed it had, of sending back the Committee upon Patronage to Scotland, to reconsider the whole matter to look again into the history of the question, to summarize and condense it for their use in Parliament, and to make quite sure of the state of feeling throughout the country upon the subject. Now, however, the right time had arrived, because public opinion had become matured, and because the Church of Scotland was engaged in busy and successful work. Those who now advocated change were not doing so on behalf of a decrepit institution, but of one which was at once venerable and full of life, and which merely asked for that restoration of her liberty which she deemed to be necessary for the exercise of her natural powers. But there was another reason which at first seemed to tell against their case. Why the time was well selected for his hon. Friend's Motion. There never was, perhaps, a time when patronage was better administered in Scotland than at present, not only by private individuals, but by the Crown; but he did not mention that fact as an argument for retaining patron- 1099 age, because he held that a score of what were called harmonious settlements did not outweigh the evils of one disputed settlement, and a disputed settlement was always possible under the present system. What he wished to urge was that if the change were made, while patronage was being well administered, they might hope that the change would be effected without heart-burnings, that they might pass as by an easy transition from the old system to the new, without that sort of wrench which follows upon exasperation of feeling, and upon a sense of disappointment and injury. After all the demand was natural, for obviously no persons could be so interested in the appointment of a minister as those who were to profit by his ministrations. What he looked for was a popular system, such, for example, as the nomination of a committee in every parish, elected by as wide a body of electors as the people pleased, a committee who, in the event of a vacancy, should have the choice of the minister. By this system the evils of canvassing, cajolery, and the abuses of a popular election would be avoided. With regard to "females," as the hon. Member had called them, he must be a bold man who proposed to exclude them from having a "say" in the election of a minister. Some people thought it a matter for humiliation to have to come to. Parliament in matters of this kind. It was alleged that the members of the Established Church liked to hug their fetters. For his part, he denied there were any fetters. He had always been of opinion that the State benefited more by its alliance with the Church than the Church did by its alliance with the State; but for the present it might suffice to say that the question which was raised to-night was one of such delicacy and difficulty that he would not like to trust its settlement to any body less important than the Imperial Parliament. There might be difficulties in the way of the settlement of the question; but at least it was important now to ask for the opinion of Her Majesty's Government upon it. For his part, he did not know where the opposition to the movement was to come from. It was not likely to come to any great extent from the patrons; already a conspicuous example had been set by a distinguished proprietor and patron, a 1100 noble Duke, who was a Member of the present Government—an example of liberality in connection with this question which he trusted would be widely imitated. Nor would opposition come from many who were outside the Established Church. On many occasions had ministers of the Free Church with whom he was acquainted, urged that they should endeavour to advance the object which they had in view in the Motion of that night. They owed it to themselves to endeavour to advance the question; They owed it also to the memories of those who in past times had worked in the cause, but who were no longer among them. He never could dissociate the subject from the recollection of one who was a prominent member of the deputation which had been referred to—a man who was as superior to all narrow and sectarian views, as he was conspicuous for his stature among men, and possessed of a gifted eloquence to which few could aspire. He referred of course to the late Dr. Norman Macleod. For the sake of the memory of men such as he, as well as in respect of their own principles, they were bound to promote the objects of the Motion. He should give the Motion his cordial support, and he trusted that it would at no distant period form the basis of legislation.
said, he had listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Anstruther), but he felt entirely at a loss to make out in what capacity he had appeared. He looked to the Motion, and he had to confess that he could not find anything in it. In his speech the hon. Baronet certainly gave them some idea of his opinion; but he carefully guarded himself against being supposed to represent anyone but himself. The hon. Member had also been careful not to commit himself to any plan. He had referred to a great member of the Established Church—Dr. Norman Macleod—but he forgot the questions put by the Prime Minister to the rev. Doctor in the memorable deputation as to what the Church proposed. That question put the Church hors de combat, and so far as he was aware it had never been answered—and what were they asked to do now? Not to condemn patronage. They were asked simply to declare that the presentation of ministers had led to great divisions. This was pretty much a truism. The 1101 history of the Church was well known, and the disruption of 1843 was sufficient to show the divisions that were caused by patronage; but the hon. Baronet had not the courage of his opinions. He did not ask them to condemn patronage, and the Resolution as it stood would not make them one whit better than they were now. It did not even ask the House to say that the Government should take it up; but merely that it was expedient it should be dealt with. In all the circumstances, he thought that the question was not ripe for discussion, and that it could not be till some practical scheme were brought forward. He therefore declined to discuss the question at present; and, as he was neither inclined to support the Motion nor to vote for patronage, he thought the best thing for him to do was to move the Previous Question.
§ Previous Question proposed, "That that Question be now put."—(Mr. Craufurd.)
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
gave his cordial support to that part of the Resolution of the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther), which declared the—Presentation of Ministers to Churches in Scotland by patrons under the existing Law and practice has been the cause of much division among the people and in the Church of Scotland.He supported it the more readily because his own people had gone out of the Church of Scotland at the time of the first disruption, in consequence of the exercise of private patronage. The hon. Baronet now came to the House of Commons, and claimed for that Church the right to be freed from a law which oppressed the consciences of the Christian people who adhered to the Established Church of Scotland. This was a right which he showed had existed in former years, and had been guaranteed to the people of Scotland by the Settlement at the time of the Union. It was withdrawn by an unjust law passed in 1712 by an English Parliament against the feelings and wishes of the Scotch people; and the abolition of this patronage would restore the right to choose the ministers of the Church to the people to whom it belonged. There could be no doubt on this head, seeing that the Petition to 1102 Parliament prepared in 1869 under the resolution of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland set forth that—Your Petitioners are further of opinion that the nomination of ministers should be vested in Heritors, Elders, and Communicants.This right to decide on the selection of their ministers by the people belonging to the free Churches of Scotland, had been resolutely contended for and successfully secured by these Churches, and in a way which would ever reflect honour on the spirit and resolution of a Christian people. No doubt other reforms in the Established Church of Scotland must follow on this righteous claim being conceded, and seeing that he (Sir George Balfour) had voted in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) for entire disestablishment of all churches, no doubt could exist as to what his vote ought to be on this Motion. It would be time to express an opinion as to disestablishment of the Church of Scotland when that question was brought directly before the House, but in the meantime the Church of Scotland ought to be relieved of the oppression of which she complained.
§ MR. ORR EWING
said, that the objections of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) seemed to be not so much to the principle of the Resolution as to the fact that the hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Anstruther) did not propose any scheme in place of the one which he wished to do away with. The question, however, was a very difficult one to deal with, and it was almost impossible for a private Member to take it in hand, because at least one-third of the patronage of the Church of Scotland belonged to the Crown. The Resolution was, however, brought forward by the hon. Baronet in the belief that it was the almost unanimous opinion of the laity both of the Established and the Free Churches that the system of patronage ought to be abolished. The hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) had endeavoured to show that the Church of Scotland gave very little in the way of subscriptions in comparison with the other Churches; but it should be recollected that the clergymen of that Church were paid by the heritors and in other ways, and were not dependent on the money given by persons who held seats, as in the case of the Dissenting Churches, this head, seeing that the Petition to and as these amounts all figured as sub- 1103 scriptions in the case of the latter they certainly made a larger show in that respect. They did not, however, wish for a moment to injure any of the other Churches; all they wanted was to benefit their own. He regretted that a question of such importance to Scotland should be discussed in such a thin House. The Scotch were a loyal people, and transacted their business quietly, and therefore few Members took any interest in subjects affecting them; but when any matter was brought forward with reference to the Irish, who were more aliens and enemies than friends, there were generally a large number of Members present. It appeared to him extraordinary that the Free Church of Scotland should appear before that House in opposition to the abolition of patronage, when the people of that country generally were in its favour. The solo motive which he could assign for that opposition was that they feared the Established Church would be strengthened by the change, while she might lose some of her followers; but there was plenty of room for all the religious bodies in Scotland, and there was no good reason why patronage should be maintained contrary to the general wish.
§ MR. MACFIE
said, that the abolition of patronage was one of the traditional cries of the old Whigs of Scotland, and he did not believe that their descendants had changed their opinion on the subject. Nothing would please the Scottish people so much as to know that the House had agreed to the Motion of his hon. Friend (Sir Robert Anstruther). That Motion was a request to the Government to take up this ecclesiastical subject, and to do for Scotland what they had already done for Ireland. They had been told that the Free Church would not come back; but he did not care whether they did or not; the House ought to do justice to the Established Church of Scotland, and if they did that there would be nothing to prevent the whole of the Presbyterian Churches in Scotland from working together, and dividing the endowments between them.
said, the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Orr Ewing) had referred in the course of his speech —he was sure unintentionally—to the people of Ireland in terms which he must regret, when he stated that they were to be viewed rather in the character 1104 of aliens and enemies than of loyal and faithful subjects. He would not, however, dwell on the matter any further, for the hon. Member was too benevolent calmly to adopt any such sentiment. The hon. Member had also called attention to the thin attendance of hon. Members during this important discussion; but he (Mr. Gladstone) thought he could make a good apology for the House in respect to that matter. He agreed that the convictions of the people of Scotland ought to govern the action of the House in reference to it; but it was not easy to ascertain what those convictions wore, and he was quite sure there would have been a much larger attendance of Members if the House felt that the time had arrived when they could discuss this question to a practical issue. He regarded this as a preliminary discussion. He did not complain of the Motion having been brought forward. After this discussion there would be greater maturity of opinion in Scotland than could be said to prevail at present. His hon. Friend (Sir Robert Anstruther) was able to show that for a long series of years back there had been discussions in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and declarations in favour of a great change in the system of presentation to livings, involving the abolition of patronage; and he had also been able to show that a large portion of the patrons themselves were disposed to concur in the change. Those were important facts, and they seemed to warrant his hon. Friend in asking Parliament to adopt some measure to that end; but his hon. Friend had in his candour stated other facts, and they were to the effect that important bodies like the Free Church and the United Presbyterians had expressed their sentiments upon the subject in a way which showed that they were entitled to have their opinions upon it, and that they must be considered in any legislation which might be adopted by Parliament. That was a position which would prevent the House from giving a definitive opinion at present upon the question. This discussion had been an interesting one; but his hon. Friend; in his eloquent speech, had in reality only touched the question—he had passed over the surface of it. His hon. Friend commenced his Motion with a vague declaration, and concluded by saying that the 1105 system of appointment of ministers ought to be greatly altered. That proposition was a very important one, but was a very small portion of the whole subject. It was true there had been in Scotland, from the time of the Reformation onwards, a strong re-action against the system of patronage. He (Mr. Gladstone) remembered the controversy on the veto law. At that time and from that time he had always felt that those who passed that law contended for what was called spiritual independence, and they finally passed a resolution against patronage. But there had been a remarkable diversity of proceeding in Scotland, and there was at this moment the widest difference of opinion as to what ought to be done with regard to a change in the present law. There were several different epochs of Scottish history from 1560 downwards, when the law relating to ministers had been altered, and for scarcely any two of them had the same method been adopted. In 1834 the question was handled by elders of the Scotch Church, who were men of eminence, and who would be an ornament to any communion in Christendom, and a completely new method was adopted. None of the old plans were revived. It was proposed that there should be a right of veto only in the male heads of families, being communicants; but that night there had been quoted the declaration of the General Assembly of the present year, which proposed not to establish popular election in the wide sense, but to give the power of veto to the heritors, elders, and male communicants. [Mr. ORR EWING: Committees to be formed of each of these elements.] That only showed how far it would be from popular election. If they were to take their stand on the ancient system of popular representation, that would not be election by committees, but a right of election claimed by Christian people generally. The General Assembly did not go that length. As to the Motion, while he thought the time had come when it was reasonable that some steps should be taken in this matter, he did not think that the time had come when it would be wise or safe for the Government or the House to bind themselves by a general Resolution which gave no indication of the nature of the measure to be adopted. In repealing the Act of 1690 they would give the nomination to the heritors and elders, 1106 by whom the presentation would be made to the congregation for their assent; but such a proceeding would be a perfect mockery in such counties as Ross and Sutherland; and when they regarded the condition of ecclesiastical matters in portions of Scotland which were not inconsiderable, the question of patronage raised a very large question indeed. How far they were to extend the right of election, and how far it was to be limited to the choice of ministers conforming to the rules of the Established Church, were very great and serious questions, and well deserving of examination. Now, he would state a circumstance that came within his own personal knowledge. Being in Scotland last year he went to church on Sunday. There was the Established Church and the Free Church, and what was the state of things? In the Established Church the minister preached to a mass of empty benches. A few members connected with English families visiting the neighbourhood, the members of the minister's own family, and a few others, numbering about 10 or 12 persons altogether, composed the congregation, hardly entitled to be called one, but the minister was paid by the State. well, a little down the valley was the Free Church, crammed to excess, while those who attended had not means enough to pay a clergyman for their spiritual wants. This was an extraordinary state of things, and one which gave rise to serious questions. The hon. Member for the Ayr Burghs (Mr. Craufurd) had moved the Previous Question. On questions which were premature he (Mr. Gladstone) thought it was a most fair course to take. What he proposed was this, that Parliament should pursue—he could not say during the present Session, because the latter part of the month of June was not a time when practical progress could be made with reference to a subject of this sort—the course which was pursued by Parliament at the time of the last great crisis of the Church of Scotland. At that time a Committee was appointed by the House to make an investigation into the history of the Church of Scotland in relation to the law of patronage, which investigation, although it did not terminate in any legislative action, was, he believed, of great value. Since 1834, Parliament had no examination of the matter and yet very important changes 1107 had been made in the interim. That most remarkable disruption which occurred in 1843, recorded, he was afraid, an instance in which the rulers of this country did not really know the course they ought to have pursued. In conclusion, he would say that viewing the inherent difficulties of this case, and the importance that, before taking definite steps, they should well understand what they were going to do, he proposed that Parliament should be invited at the earliest fitting opportunity to resume these investigations of 1844, so as they might have the opportunity of gathering material and satisfying the House as to the real convictions and wishes of the people of Scotland in regard to the law of patronage. He was persuaded that in pursuing that course his hon. Friend (Sir Robert Anstruther) would be using the greatest diligence and the greatest despatch towards the practical settlement of the question; and if he agreed to such a proposal he would have every assistance on the part of the Government that he could reasonably desire, although undoubtedly it would not be consonant to their duty or their interest, in the face of defective information upon such an important matter, and so vital, to pledge themselves to the course contained in the Motion before the House.
§ MR. GORDON
said, that in the first place, for the sake of the Church of Scotland, they should endeavour to place the matter upon a footing which would be consistent with the feelings of the people of Scotland; and they should also endeavour to do so because they were hopeful that the result of a change in the matter of patronage would bring about a reunion of the Presbyterian Churches which concurred in faith and the rules of Church government, and which would never have been separated had it not been for the unfortunate disputes with reference to the exercise of Church patronage. He trusted that some arrangement would be made by which the matter would be settled in a satisfactory manner.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
replied, in answer to the question which had been asked, as to what was his reason for introducing the Motion, he had only to say that he had introduced it as an independent Member of the House, and had consulted with no one except 1108 his hon. Friend who had seconded the Motion. He agreed that this was the first time the subject had been introduced into the House for many years, and that this Motion could only have the effect of ventilating it. He had been met in the most handsome and conciliatory manner by the Government, and if the Amendment were withdrawn he should be most willing to withdraw the original Motion.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
urged the hon. Member for Ayr not to divide the House by pressing his Amendment.
§ MR. MILLER
expressed his belief that the latter part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech would create great dissatisfaction in Scotland, as it simply meant the prolongation of the discussion from year to year until something was done in the matter.
§ Previous Question and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.