HC Deb 16 May 1873 vol 216 cc16-53

in rising to move the following Amendment— That the Establishment by law of the Churches of England and Scotland involves a violation of religious equality, deprives those Churches of the right of self-government, imposes upon Parliament duties which it is not qualified to discharge, and is hurtful to the religious and political interests of the community, and, therefore, ought no longer to be maintained. said, * Sir, I am quite aware, that in moving the Amendment of which I have given Notice, I am taking a step not very likely to secure the concurrence of a majority of this House. But my experience of the kindness of the House in times past warrants my confidence that in discharging a duty I would gladly escape, but which my sense of what is due to the trust reposed in me by others will not permit me to evade, I may count upon that forbearance which this House always shows to any of its Members who have a specially difficult task to perform, and who but seldom, and then most unwillingly, trespass upon its patience. I am going to submit to its consideration an abstract Resolution—abstract, that is to say, in its verbal form, but not in its bearing upon ulterior legislative results. Happily for the country, I lack an advantage which the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government had when he brought forward—with what practical effect we all know—his abstract Resolution on the question of the Irish Church. No crime of violence, no atrocious outrage, such as the attack, in broad daylight, upon the prison van at Manchester, or the blowing in by gunpowder of the walls of Clerkenwell gaol, has been perpetrated by the friends of Disestablishment in England—or has stimulated Parliament, whether consciously or unconsciously, to that high degree of susceptibility to the claims of justice which, in 1868, after many years of persistent negligence, spontaneously recognized a clear political obligation. There is no dark background of Nonconformist sedition—and I am devoutly thankful for it—to set off, with artificial vividness, the practical meaning of my Resolution. Perhaps, Sir, this is one main reason why the prospect of religious equality in England appears a far-off thing, or, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman— So remote from the wishes of the people of England… as to deprive it of much of that interest and reality which we recognize when we arc dealing with questions that have relation to results, and are within our power and faculty of calculation."—[3 Hansard, ccxii. 576.] Still, the House, and the right hon. Gentleman who leads it with such well-deserved authority, will forgive me, I trust, if I suggest the propriety of a division of labour, to this extent at least—that whilst it is the special duty of statesmen in office to deal with questions made ready to their hands whether by their own work, or by the work of other men, it may also be the duty of hon. Members occupying, like myself, a private and unofficial position in this House, to spend their days in preparing for official statesmen the materials which, when opportunity serves, or necessity impels, are required for building up a great national policy. It is true, Sir, that I do but ask the assent of the House on the present occasion to sundry propositions of a theoretical description; but it does not necessarily follow that I am, on that account, as "one that beats the air." That is a low view of the functions of Parliament which assigns to it the framing of new laws or the passing of annual Estimates as its sole or even its chief business. I am fortunate in being able to plead the high sanction of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire in claiming for the deliberations of this House a wider sphere. It is the supreme Council of the State. No small portion of its work consists in the discussion of those principles by which the policy of the nation should be guided. To a very considerable extent the debates of this and the other House of Parliament serve to enlighten the judgment and sway the will of the constituent bodies. It savours of pedantry to assume that because a question is placed before the House in an abstract form, it must necessarily be a sheer waste of time for the House to consider it in a practical spirit. No doubt the natural—I was going to say the inevitable—bent of this House—for we are all more or less sensible of it—is to underrate any Motion which does not lead on forthwith to legislative action. Yet, Sir, some of the grandest passages in our national history took their rise in the Parliamentary discussion of abstract principles. It is my hope, Sir—a hope which I trust we shall all strive to realize—that every word contributed to the present debate will help on action hereafter, and that the speeches of hon. Members will do not a little to ripen public opinion on the greatest question of the ago. That question, Sir, is one the immense importance of which, I presume to believe, is fully aapreciated by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. He does not do himself justice, he does not fairly represent the feeling with which he has long been wont to look upon this subject, when, as was the case last year, he resorts to banter, good-humoured though it be, to push it aside from his path. I am confident he concurs with me in thinking that the relation in which the civil power should stand towards the organizations of Christian life in this country, presents a political problem the solution of which will demand the highest efforts of modern statesmanship. To harmonize the constitutional and legal expression of that relationship with the sentiment of justice, and with the irrepressible instincts of spiritual manhood, is an enterprise worthy of the loftiest, the purest, and the most patriotic ambition. The right hon. Gentleman will not deny, I imagine, that there is something anomalous, startling to one's reason, and manifestly out of keeping not less with the spirit of the age than with the genius of the Christian faith, in the existing forms of contact between the secular and the ecclesiastical authority in this country. He will hardly base his support of the English and Scotch Churches upon the intrinsic merits of the Establishment system. He may say that there is no obvious necessity for disturbing the relative position of these ancient institutions to the State, merely because they are incapable of a logical defence. But, Sir, does the right hon. Gentleman hope—does the House hope—do either of the Established Churches hope—to wall out by any such plea the pressure of opinion which is rapidly closing in upon this question? Why, Sir, what is it which so steadily and so irresistibly moves it to the front? Not hostility, nor even indifference to religion on the part of either of the contending bodies. On the contrary, it is their deep interest in religion. It is their wish to do it homage. It is no spasmodic outburst of political restlessness which may be expected to exhaust its strength, and then pass away. If it were, the right hon. Gentleman might be justified in encouraging the House to pooh-pooh the whole question, to evade it, to dismiss it with banter and raillery, as abstract, visionary, and beyond the domain of practical politics. But a question of such inherent importance, of such ever-increasing and all-pervasive moral pressure, and which is certain to change, more or less, the mutual position of parties at the next General Election, will not, I trust, be refused serious discussion on the pretext that it is an abstract proposition, fit only in its present stage to enlist the functions of a debating society.

Well, Sir, the position I am going to ask the House to recognize is that the establishment by law of the English and Scotch Churches is unjust, impolitic, and practically injurious, both in regard to the temporal and spiritual interests of the nation. I pledge myself to the House that in endeavouring to substantiate the propositions affirmed in my Motion, I will keep a keen look out both in regard to its time and its patience. When, towards the close of last Session, I gave Notice of the Resolution which you, Sir, will presently put from the Chair, as an Amendment on the Order of the Day, the first question that was levelled at me from every loophole of Church Defence Associations was—"What is religious equality, and in what respect is it violated by our State establishments of religion?" I frankly confess, Sir, I was wholly taken aback by the question. I had not expected to have been assailed by it. It seemed to me very much like a sudden return to the use of bows and arrows after the adoption by the nation of rifled musketry and cannon. Sir, I do not mean, by attempting a logical analysis of the phrase, to lay myself open to the thrust of so obsolete a weapon. After the time spent by Parliament in putting on the Statute Book, in a grandly elaborate and practical form, the nation's reply to this question, why should I be catechized with regard to it? Religious equality has precisely the same meaning in relation to the English and Scotch Churches, as it had in the first Session of the present Parliament to the Irish Church. The best answer I can give to the question, "What is religious equality?" and, to all practical purposes, the sufficing answer is, "Vide the Irish Church Act passim." I do not say that it may not be plausibly contended that it is possible to connect the religious institutions of a people with the supreme authority of the State in such wise as not to raise the question of religious equality at all. The possibility I do not admit, but I have no need whatever to contest it. It lies outside the scope of my Motion. My contention is that, as a matter of fact, the two Church Establishments against which my Motion is directed, and more emphatically the Church of England, do violate the principle of religious equality. Surely, the allegation will not be denied in this House. The clerical mouthpieces of Church Defence Associations may challenge the assertion; but very few men who care to look back to the General Election of 1868 will do so. No Dissenter, for instance, is equal in the eye of the law, in respect of his religious aspirations and sympathies—I speak now not by way of complaint, but of illustration—with, say, the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope). The ecclesiastical community to which the hon. Member is attached is represented by upwards of a score of Church dignitaries. The creeds of his Church are stamped with the authority of the nation. In every parish of the kingdom a minister of his Church is maintained, out of national resources, and speaks to his parishioners on religious topics in the name of the State. The Dissenter, on behalf of whose Church the State has done nothing, but which in every parish it has set and supports a man pledged to oppose, and lacking for his religious convictions, beliefs and interests the prestige which is given by law to the Churchman—is he to be told that he is on an equal footing with all others in this matter? Sir, our so-called national churches may plead that they satisfy the demands of piety, of charity, of policy, but it can hardly be pretended that they embody the sentiment of religious equality. So far as law is concerned, they may perhaps be as tolerant as law can make them. Even in regard to religious liberty, some people may say that our State Churches trespass across the frontier only here and there, and then merely in pursuit of comparative trifles. But, Sir, these ecclesiastical establishments, in their conception, in their structure, in the spirit and modes of their working, ignore, and in ignoring trample upon, the more recently developed sentiment of equality. Do not let the House make light of the sentiment, because it is only of late that it has been fully developed. It has alway existed as an aspiration of conscience, even when prevented by the unripe condition of society from asserting itself. There have been times, it should be borne in mind, reaching down to a late period in the world's history, when the natural right of a man, even to personal freedom, was commonly regarded as too flimsy an abstraction to claim serious recognition at the hands of ruling statesmen. Our forefathers not only held slaves, but subjected them to the lash, without any compunction, not because they were more cruel in their disposition or despotic in their temper than we, but because they had not passed under the refining operation of the same civilizing agencies Religious equality, it is true, is the last discovered of human birthrights, but it is not, on that account, the least valuable of them. Very probably, Sir, I shall be told that religious equality amounts to nothing more than a mere sentiment, and that the violation of it by the law of the land is but the enactment of a policy to which that sentiment is hostile. In which of their material and tangible interests, I may be asked, are any of Her Majesty's subjects injured by the existence of State Churches such as that of England or of Scotland? Even admitting that the system is not without theoretical offence, what does it hurt but the fancy of those who object to it? What practical grievance can they allege against it? In what respect does it cripple their religious freedom? What motive can prompt them to demand what they are pleased to call "religious equality," but what in reality means the disestablishment and disendowment of the established Churches, but jealousy, or envy of their superior position? What do they want but to drag down those Churches to a level with their own? Sir, it is easy enough to impute mean and despicable motives to opponents; but it is not always logically safe. There is only one way in which Parliament can drag down the Churches established by law to a level with the sects not established by law. Their piety, their learning, their spiritual zeal, their religious aptitude to do their work—why, inasmuch as State favour never gave them these qualifications, so the withdrawal of State favour cannot take them away. No Legislature can deprive them of any superiority over the non-established Churches which in regard to such things they may really possess. No, Sir, but the protest which is urged by State Churches against being dragged down to the level of the sects, represents, in its vehemence, the tenacity with which they cling to their exceptional privileges. It is nothing less than an unguarded confession by the members of the Establishments that, in respect of their religious affairs, the laws of the Realm have placed them in a position of assumed advantage above that conceded to the members of any other religious community. Well, now, is our grievance a whit more sentimental or fanciful than their privilege? Does not the one correspond with the other in that respect, as the obverse and reverse faces of the same coin? But, Sir, even if I were to admit that in upholding its present ecclesiastical policy, Parliament abets nothing worse than a sentimental grievance, there might be, and, as I contend, there would be ample ground for sustaining the Resolution which I am about to submit to the House. Sir, the violation of religious equality by the Constitution of the Realm, inflicts a double injury. It wraps up in itself the germ of a twofold cause of discord. It worsens those whom it favours; it depresses and angers those whom it wrongs; and it does both in the name of Christianity. As to its deteriorating effect upon the class lifted by it into ecclesiastical ascendancy, the House, perhaps, will permit me to avail myself of an illustration pictured by the vivid insight into the workings of human nature of our unrivalled and immortal dramatist. The character of Antonio, "The Merchant of Venice," as drawn by Shakespeare, is conspicuous for its eminently noble generosity, its disinterestedness, and tenderness of affection. And yet it is to him that, in response to a request for a loan of money, Shylock replies— Shall I bend low, and in a bondsman's key, With' bated breath and whispering humbleness, Say this— Fair sir, you spat on me on Wednesday last; You spurned me such a day; another time You called me dog; and for these courtesies I'll lend you thus much monies. The reply of the Venetian merchant shows him to have been utterly unaware that his whole demeanour and bearing towards the Jew had been one of impertinent, intolerant, and intolerable assumption. Nevertheless this is one of the most natural results of State favouritism in religion. It breeds in those who are patronized by it—even in the kindliest of them, and, often too, without awakening their consciousness—the spirit of caste, than which nothing ought to be more steadily frowned upon by statesmen—because nothing more surely saps the moral vigour of a State. "Only a sentimental wrong," forsooth, in the case of those whom the system casts into the shade and ignores! Sir, let me give greater exactness to the phrase. The truer way of putting it would be—"Only an affront offered by law to religious sentiment," and felt to be such by one-half of Her Majesty's subjects in Great Britain. Well but, Sir, are we to infer that it is not worth our while to protest against and resent any inequality inflicted by law but such as may affect us in a matter of bread-and-cheese, or of taxation, or of commerce, or of our physical interests? Surely, Sir, history must have taught every one of us that the policy—whatever may be its other recommendations—which tramples upon the religious sentiment of any large portion of the people, is the most dangerous which a Cabinet can favour. It drives the iron into the soul. If it be a mistake, it is a mistake in that region in which thought is most in earnest, and feeling is most sensitive. "Sentimental wrongs," indeed! Why, Sir, what wrongs of a grosser and more material kind have ever evoked so passionate a resentment? Sir, I will go one step further. I will venture to ask what wrongs are there which men in general are so disposed to resent with a spirit regardless of personal consequences? At any rate, it does not behove prudent and farseeing statesmen to deal with them as if they were merely the ignes fatui of a disordered imagination. The sense of religious equality, having been once recognized and responded to by Parliament, cannot now be outraged, whether sportively or in earnest, without kindling a resentment, which, at no very distant time hereafter, will be extremely embarrassing to the ruling power of the State.

One word more, Sir, before I quit this part of the question. What religious equality means, and how it is disregarded in the maintenance of State Establishments of religion, are matters pretty clearly comprehended by the constituencies, and, in the course of a year or two, will be thoroughly understood. Hon. Members on the other side of the House may fairly do their utmost to obstruct the further development of this principle; but to those who sit on this side I may be permitted—I hope without offence—to suggest that religious equality is in strict keeping with the entire framework of Liberal policy which they have helped by past legislation to construct, and that, unready as they may be just now to give it the sanction of their vote, they will find themselves obliged before very long, either to fight against the natural and logical outcome of their own political principles, or man- fully go with them to their ultimate issues.

I pass on to another topic. Once more I crave your forbearance—not so much on account of the time I shall feel it necessary to occupy, as on account of the delicacy of the subject to which I shall invite your consideration. As I have said, the establishment by law of the Churches in question carries with it State favouritism to one section of the community, and injustice to the rest. Well, from the wrong done to the people at large in their political capacity, I go on to make a remark or two upon the helplessness inflicted upon the Churches themselves, as spiritual organizations. For the time being, and for convenience' sake, I shall confine my observations to the Church of England. Not a word will pass my lips disrespectful to that Church, as a Church—not a word disparaging any of the parties or "schools of thought," as I believe they are now called, which remain within her pale. In certain points of doctrine, as well as discipline, and by shades of belief more or less marked, it is true, I dissent from her standards. But the area of belief, worship, and practice, over which I sympathize with her members, is much broader than that over which our differences extend. It is for the sake of her own future, for the sake of religion in the land, I would call upon the House to help her out of a position which neutralizes her proper authority, and cripples her powers of usefulness. Am I alone, Sir, in cherishing this desire on her behalf? Are there not large numbers of her own devoted members—High Church, Low Church, and Broad Church—who deem it impossible for her to do, as she would, the work she is especially qualified to do, so long as she is tongue-tied and hand-bound by legal restraints? Why, what is the meaning of the cry-for Church Reform, as against Disestablishment—in which Episcopal voices may be heard mingling with those of the clergy and laity—but a confession that the law of the land prevents her from doing the things that she would? She resembles, in fact, a body to which life is returning after a long swoon, whose powers are not yet free to act, and whose sensations of vitality have not yet got beyond the stage vulgarly designated as "pins and needles." Her groans are as continuous as they are distressing. Motions in this and the other House of Parliament—speeches in both Houses of Convocation—papers read before Church Congresses, general and diocesan—visitation charges—electioneering addresses, and pamphlets innumerable—all reiterate the complaint that the Church is hampered and shackled by the State in the prosecution of her spiritual enterprise. She cannot organize her own machinery; she cannot increase the number of her episcopate; she cannot select her own chief rulers; she cannot put in force any system of self-regulative discipline; she cannot revise her own formularies; she cannot adopt a new lectionary; she cannot shorten her occasional services; she cannot even utter a prayer for Royalty in anguish; she cannot remove the scandals of patronage, nor prohibit the open sale of advowsons in the market, nor adapt her methods to the ever-varying needs of the population, without having recourse to a secular authority or a secular legislature in which all shades of religious belief and no-belief are represented. Sir, I might enliven my strain of remark by striking illustrations of every allegation which I have made; but, mindful of your time, I advisedly refrain from doing so. I take it to be unnecessary. There are but few members of the Church of England, I imagine, who will not admit that she is prosecuting her spiritual mission under legal restraints, the removal of which would largely conduce to the main objects for which a Church Establishment is supposed to exist. But, Sir, I am likely enough to be told during the course of this debate, and emphatically, perhaps, by my hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mr. T. Hughes), that the Church Establishment, deprived of the right of self-government, or, at any rate, greatly restricted in its exercise, by the closeness of its relation to the State, secures a wider freedom of religious thought than would be enjoyed under any other arrangement. Well, I ought to be, and I trust I am, one of the last men to undervalue freedom of religious thought in its utmost breadth—and not of religious thought only, but of religious profession and action. But let us rid our minds of all cant in this matter. In what sense am I, or any other subject of the Realm, more free to think, speak, and act in regard to spiritual affairs, in consequence of the patronage and support given by law to the clergy of the Church of England, even if they should be chartered by judicial decisions to teach anything they please? Is there no other way by which we can obtain freedom of thought, than by first pinning down the professional exponents of that thought to ancient creeds, formularies, and Articles of religion, and then loosening the pin by strained interpretations of their purport. Suppose this nation, convinced of the futility of all its attempts to regulate spiritual thought by means of law, were to resolve, as resolve I feel sure it one day will—to leave religious thought and action to run their own course without aid or interference from the State, wherein would religious thought be less free than now? Is it less free in our Colonies than here at home? Is it less free with us than in the great Republic of America? Is it less free in Ireland since Disestablishment than it was prior to it? Think, for a moment, of the recent controversy, not yet concluded, on the retention of the Athanasian creed in the public service of the Church. On the merits or demerits of that creed I have nothing to say in this House. The memorial subscribed in response to the invitation of the Earl of Shaftesbury proves that a very considerable proportion of the more highly cultivated laity of the Church of England—whether a majority or not I do not presume even to surmise—are anxious to relegate it to a more retired position among the standards of the Church. But, Sir, even if they were ten times as numerous as they are, they could not gain their object but through an alteration of the law. Fancy their coming for such a purpose to this House! What the House would do in the case I will not take upon myself to say. But of this I am sure, that, constituted as it is, and representing what it does, this House is not competent to legislate on any such matter. "In fact," as the Marquess of Salisbury—with whom I do not always agree—told a public meeting at St. James's Hall some time since, "the thing might be set aside as being that which, in the present condition of the English Government, and with the present relations of Church and State, it would be wholly impossible to carry out." Practically considered, the Church "as by law established," whether we have regard to her teaching or her Government, is what the Legislature may choose to make her. The Legislature, at least in this branch of it, is what the constituencies may choose to make it. The constituencies are more or less divided into Conformists and Nonconformists, with a very liberal admixture of such as stand outside the pale of all religious organizations. But it is with the constituencies, in the last resort, that judgment rests as to what the Church shall be legally authorized to say or do—her subordination to the State has reduced her to a condition of hopeless helplessness in regard to the management of her own affairs. Sir, the work which she has in hand, in common with the non-established Churches, is one of such stupendous and growing magnitude, and is so largely dependent for its success upon the kind of influences she must needs employ in the doing of it, as to require that all such influences should be practically, visibly, and beyond all possibility of suspicion, of her own will, and under her own control. Compelled to come to Parliament for almost every adaptation of her machinery to the changed and changing social condition of the times, she loses by every repetition of the process something of that mingled dignity and persuasiveness which tells most powerfully upon those whom she undertakes to direct in spiritual things. To have her most trivial as well as her most momentous concerns bandied about in both Houses of Parliament by differing ecclesiastical sections and political parties would, one would think, be as wounding to her self-respect, as to not a few who are outside her pale as a religious community, it seems to be humiliating. The result most to be deplored, however, is that to large sections of the population the exalted and beneficent purpose of the Church herself is lost sight of in the notion that she is the creature of State policy, that she is a branch of the Civil Service, and that "her thinkings are below the moon."

And now, Sir, a word or two as to the qualification of Parliament to perform those duties which the incorporation of the English and Scotch Churches with the State implicitly and actually imposes upon it. Sir, I am not one of those who are inclined to detract from either the dignity or the wisdom of Parliament. Of course, nothing human is faultless. No arrangement devised by the wit of man is without its drawback of disadvan- tages. Within its proper sphere, there is no institution in the world, I believe, that secures a larger amount of good government—or, in other words of order combined with freedom—than this Imperial Legislature. But, Sir, the true dignity of Parliament lies in its fitness to do its own work, and not in the height or the breadth, or the universality of its pretensions. The swan, which is the most exquisitely graceful of aquatic birds when floating on the surface of the pool, is also the awkwardest, the most helpless, and the most ridiculous in its movements upon dry land. Sir, Parliament has never excelled in ecclesiastical legislation. No one can be moved to contemplate with patriotic pride, the fruit of its wisdom in that department of work. How should it be otherwise? It belongs to the State to command and to coerce—it belongs to the Church to convince and to persuade. The spirit, the methods, the machinery of the one differ toto cœlo from those of the other. Why is it that this House exhibits such a strong distaste for religious discussions? Not because its Members are devoid of religious sympathies, but because it feels that religious discussion is outside the range of its proper business. It was not elected for any such purpose. It is not representative of any such purpose. It is not specially qualified to pursue any such purpose, and in attempting to further any such purpose, it is aware that in all likelihood it would do more harm than good. It therefore wisely abstains—at least to a large extent—from taking active part in engagements which would lower it in its own self-respect. But, Sir, the theory of the constitution imposes upon this and the other House of Parliament, the responsibility of making such laws as may be required for the well-being of the Church. And what is the practical outcome of that theory? Why, that in regard to all serious matters affecting her welfare statesmen have wisely judged it to be expedient—at least for along time past—to avoid making any appeal to Parliament at all. In these days, changes of vital moment, such as the state of parties in the Established Church, appears from time to time to demand, are legalized, not by the declared will the Legislature, but by the interpretations of the Judicial Committee. We shirk the duties which we claim to be ours, and we devolve them upon a virtually irresponsible tribunal. We do well, Sir. Silence best becomes us in respect of these transcendental questions. But might we not do still better by giving up pretensions which we do not, and cannot, sustain? It is only in petty affairs—affairs which might be much more suitably transacted by vestries—that Parliament is called upon to intervene in consequence of the connection of Church and State. Little Bills there have been in plenty to clog the Orders of the Day, to waste our time, and to try our tempers. It will be unnecessary to run over, even in the most cursory manner, the several objects of these proposed measures. Some of these may be good, others of them may be doubtful, but none of them do more than touch the skirts of our ecclesiastical policy, the darning and mending of which where they are frayed, seems to be thought a suitable occupation for the Imperial Parliament. Sir, the broad effect of the policy of Church Establishments upon the community, civil and religious, can only be roughly estimated. I do not deny that as a spiritual organization the Church has done much work for which the country has to be thankful; but I do say that the incorporation of the Church with the State, and the exclusive civil privileges conferred upon her by law, would be unfairly credited with those beneficial results by which even an imperfect inculcation of Christian truth is sure to be followed. On the other hand, it is not to the Church, but to the invidious and exclusive position in which her Establishment places her, that her opposition to almost every movement for the extension of popular freedom may, I think, be distinctly traced. In the efforts of Sir Samuel Romilly to soften the severities of the criminal code; in the denunciation of the slave trade by Wilberforce; in the first attempts made by Lancaster to provide education for the poorer classes; in the abolition of the Test and Corporation Acts; in the concession of Catholic emancipation; in the almost revolutionary struggle which culminated in the Reform Act of 1832; in the repeal of the corn laws; in the promotion of free trade; in the admission of Jews to this House; and in the measures deemed necessary for the pacification of Ireland, the influence of the Established Church, as a whole, was uniformly hostile—and if it could have prevailed over the sounder judgment of the public would have largely obstructed the progress of the kingdom in civilization and material prosperity. No doubt, within the last half-century the clergy have made great sacrifices in the work of popular education, thereby more than making up, perhaps, for that attitude of distrust which they originally displayed. But even now the Establishment stands in the way of a complete system of national education. One might be disposed to condone these untoward facts if the Church had been successful in compassing the primary object which it should have had in view. But, Sir, there is no concealing from ourselves the fact that the vast mass of the lower stratum of our population has been, and is, estranged from the public ministrations of religion, both in towns and in the country, to an extent which casts an ominous shadow over the future. Sir, with the best of intentions we have gone the wrong way to work. We have tried to substitute manufacture for growth. We have laid our main stress upon the perfection of our machinery, and have depended too little upon the spirit, the life, and the energy with which it should have been worked. We must reverse our policy if we would really gain our end. Not all of a sudden, indeed. That is not the meaning of my Resolution. But it is not too early for us to know our own mind, nor too precipitate for us to express it with decision. Let us determine upon the principle upon which to base our policy for the future, and wise statesmanship will, of course, choose the most fitting opportunity and means for carrying it into effect.

And now, if the House will kindly bear with me for a moment or two longer, I shall thankfully relieve it from the strain I have most reluctantly put upon its patience. This House, Sir, if I may so say, is the foremost representative of the State; and in temper, in spirit, in law, is designed to express its matured judgment and will, in all matters which involve justice between class and class, or between man and man, and therefore to guarantee all that protection for freedom— intellectual, moral, and religious—which it is qualified to secure. Sir, in matters of religion, justice to all is equivalent to freedom for every individual. To see justice done to all, is the primary duty of the State. No institution, however good its purpose, however consecrated by its age and its historical associations, which does not rest upon an ultimate basis of justice, can, at least in these days, hope to achieve the ends which it is the duty of the State to contemplate. Above and beyond all, that institution whose mission it is to dispel ignorance and prejudice in regard to the truths of the Christian revelation, parts with the most potent arm of its strength when it ceases to exhibit a sensitive regard to justice. Failing in this, whether in its structural basis, its method of support, or its bearing towards such as are outside its pale, it will necessarily fail in getting or keeping hold upon the deepest sympathy of the nation—for where the claims of justice are considered, human perceptions are all but intuitive. Well, Sir, in advocating Disestablishment, we look to the law, and, consequently, to the Legislature, for nothing more than justice. Tell us that the State ought to recognize religion, when you have first done homage to that justice which has its source and its home in the bosom of the Supreme. Justice, in the name and for the sake of our common Christianity, is the foundation on which I rest my demand. You may postpone it for a while; but in the end, here, as in Ireland, you will yield to its force. With unfeigned thanks to the House for having borne with me so indulgently, I beg to move, Sir, the Resolution which stands on the Notice Paper in my name.


in seconding the Motion, said, the principle of disestablishment had been so clearly laid down, and its advantages shown by the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall), that ho should say nothing on that part of the question. The feeling in Scotland was very strong respecting disestablishment and disendowment. That feeling was held by nearly all the Dissenting Bodies, and many lay members of the Established Church were equally in favour of it. The Free Church, which was the most important Body in Scotland, was divided on the subject, the minority supporting the theory of a State Church, coupled with entire independence. The next largest body, the United Presbyterians, had been for many years in favour of disestablishment. The matter was put in the very shortest possible compass respecting their views in a Petition which he presented a few days ago from the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and which he read to the House— That it is not the province of civil government to provide for the religious instruction of the subject, but that religion should be maintained by the voluntary liberality and exertions of religious men: That Established Churches are unjust and oppressive, adverse to civil freedom and an equitable distribution of political power; that they are a fruitful source of uneasiness, jealousy, and strife among subjects, and prejudicial to the best interests of religion. The other Dissenting Bodies generally held very similar views. For the Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches he did not profess to speak; but seeing that their creed refused to believe that the ministers of the Scotch Church were a properly constituted ministry, or that their Church was a true Church of Christ, it might be inferred that they would not be grieved by its abolition. The disestablishment and disendowment question began to be vigorously advocated in Scotland 40 years ago, and was continued up to the Free Church disruption in 1843. It had permeated nearly every Dissenting congregation. At that time, a strong feeling of sympathy for the seceding Free Church ministers who had taken the opposite side in the controversy induced the Dissenters to proclaim a truce as soon as they had seceded. But the agitation had commenced again in right earnest, and he was persuaded that it would never cease till the Church of Scotland was placed in the same position as the Church of Ireland. He would now, with the leave of the House, state some facts respecting the relative strength of the different religious Bodies in Scotland; and he did so because mere general assertions were always less valuable than facts. The Established Church of Scotland, at present, numbered 1,290 ministers; and he preferred to state the number of ministers, because the number of churches would not give the Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches the fair position to which they were entitled, because in some of them there were two, three, and even four ministers. The Free Church had 957 ministers; the United Presbyterians had 510, exclusive of their English congregations; the Episcopalians, 193; the Roman Catholics, 172; Congregationalists, 82; other Presbyterian Bodies, 76; Baptists, 75; Evangelical Union, 68; and smaller Bodies, 50; making a total of 2,183, or 893 more than the Established Church. There was thus a difference of 70 per cent in favour of the non-Established ministers. It seemed to him that the whole argument rested on the question as to what progress was being made by the Established Church, and what progress was being made by the non-Established, for it was only in that way that the facts of the case could be seen, and in that view he thought that the figures would be interesting to hon. Members. In 1836 a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the religious instruction of Scotland; and in 1839 they reported that the number of ministers in the Established Church was 1,072; hence the increase since 1839 had been only 218: but the Free Church was altogether an increase, and even since the disruption, there had been a great addition. It began with fewer than 500 ministers, and had now 959. Taking an average, he estimated that the increase in other Bodies since 1843 had been one-fourth part, or 543. There was thus a total increase of 1,500 Dissenting ministers since 1839. Comparing that with the increase of 218 in the Established Church, he thought nothing could show more clearly the direction in which the current was running, and he contended that it was merely a question of time when that Church should be disestablished. It might be interesting to know that these congregations were not merely small bodies of people who could do nothing for themselves. He was prepared to show that the amount contributed by them for religious purposes was so great that it would probably astonish the House. Since 1843 the Free Church had raised, by voluntary contributions, the incredible sum of nearly £10,250,000. It might be supposed that, at the commencement, great efforts were made, and large sums of money raised, which it had not been possible to keep up after the excitement of the disruption was over. The very opposite was the case. During the last 12 years, with the exception of one year, the annual contributions had steadily increased. Last year that Church raised £432,000. That was not far short of half a million of money, a sum which, even as regarded national taxation for the whole of the United Kingdom, was considered important. Of its ministers, 897 received an average stipend of £234, and most of them had houses in addition. That Church supported hundreds of schools, and a large number of missionaries on foreign stations, all over the globe. ["Divide."] Hon. Gentlemen who were impatient might as well cease to cry "divide," for he should tell his story to the end. The next largest Body in Scotland as regarded its ministers was the United Presbyterians, and that Church was equally liberal in proportion to its numbers. Last year, with the aid of its English congregations, it raised £330,000 for home and missionary objects. It had missionaries in all quarters of the globe, and during the last 20 years it had raised £659,009 for missionary purposes alone. Adding the contributions of the Free and United Presbyterian Churches together, it appeared that during the last year, they amounted to upwards £750,000. That, he thought, must inspire great confidence in the friends of the Voluntary principle, and it showed they were actuated by principle. The other non-Established Churches—he would not go into detail—but, generally speaking, he might say, that they had raised large sums for similar objects, as had also the Established Church. But it was a remarkable fact, that the richest body, the Episcopal Church, which included most of the large landowners in Scotland, contributed proportionally much less for these purposes than the Free and United Presbyterian Churches. To show how easily the Established Church in Scotland could become self-supporting, he might state that it appeared from the Report of the Royal Commission to which he had referred, that the whole of the legal stipends of the 1,072 ministers in 1839 was only £231,451, exclusive of manses and glebes. Now, if the congregations of two Dissenting Bodies could raise three-quarters of a million of money yearly, it could be no hardship for the Established Church to raise sufficient to pay the stipends of their own ministers, as the other denominations did. As regarded the voluntary collections of the Established Church for religious and benevolent objects, it might be stated that the Royal Commission, in 1839, ascertained that during the preceding year the ordinary collections made for the poor, together with the extraordinary collections for other religious and benevolent objects, amounted only to £58,120. Since that period the amount of their stipends had been increased in many cases by legal decisions, but no certain record of the aggregate results existed. Probably they might now amount to £50,000 more than in 1839. One thing, however, was certain, that, stimulated by the zeal of other religious Bodies, the Established Church had very largely increased its voluntary contributions for religious and benevolent objects and for Church extension. In these circumstances every argument formerly used against the Irish Church would most forcibly apply to the Scotch Church; and there was one additional argument of great force applicable to the Church of Scotland which could not be applied to the Established Church of Ireland. Hon. Members would recollect that persons of strong Protestant feelings urged against the disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish Church, that its churches and ministers were like detached forts in the regions of Popery, from which what they considered the true faith could be best defended, and that if they were removed, Protestantism would be greatly injured if not entirely destroyed. Such an opinion was held by thousands of serious men. That argument, however, would not apply to Scotland, where the same religious faith, creed, and form of worship prevailed in the great majority of the un-Established Churches as in the Established Church. It therefore followed that if the Scotch Church were disestablished and disendowed, none of the evils which were predicted as to Ireland could possibly happen in Scotland. He would now give a summary of the different Bodies holding the same faith to prove this, and then conclude. There were 1,290 ministers on the one side; on the other there were 957 Free Church ministers, 510 United Presbyterians, and 301 of the smaller Presbyterian Bodies, and others holding similar views, making a total of 1,768, all of whom adopted substantially the same creed and the same form of worship as the 1,290 endowed ministers; and their ministrations were, to say the least, as acceptable to the people as those of their Established brethren. Their congregations were generally as large, and in many cases much larger, and he ap- prehended no disturbance or other evil could arise from the Scotch Church being placed on the same footing as the Irish Church. Having believed and publicly advocated these views for more than 30 years, he had great pleasure in seconding the Motion, and he hoped to live to see the day when the Scotch Church would be disestablished.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the establishment by Law of the Churches of England and Scotland involves a violation of religious equality, deprives those churches of the right of self-government, imposes on Parliament duties which it is not qualified to discharge, and is hurtful to the religious and political interests of the community, and, therefore, ought no longer to be maintained,"—(Mr. Miall,) —instead thereof.


Sir, I rise at this early period of the debate to claim the attention of the House for a short time, not because I have ventured to take into my own hands the decision how long the House shall think proper to discuss a question which is, undoubtedly, of the greatest importance, and which presents a most copious supply of matter for consideration, but because I do not desire that there should be even the slightest appearance of delay or hesitation on the part of the Government in declaring the course they mean to take with respect to the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall)—a Motion on which, abandoning the indirect method of approach, he has spoken out with the utmost plainness the purposes which he has in view; indeed, with so much plainness, that I think he leaves us nothing to regret, except the fact that, as his Motion happens to be made, by no fault of his, as an Amendment to an original Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," we have not, therefore, an opportunity of giving it that direct Aye or No which we should have been able to do, if he had happened to move it upon a day allotted to independent Members. As a prefatory statement, I may be allowed to state, that I am very sensible of the great interest which attaches to the facts which have been stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M`Laren.) No man has more laboriously considered the statistics of the religious condition of Scotland than he has, and I hope he will not think I undervalue them, if I forbear to notice them upon the present occasion; but I pass them by for a reason of which I think he will feel the force—that we all know very well this question will not be decided upon a reference to the specialities of the case of Scotland, but rather upon that far larger interest before us in the case of the Church of England, and by a reference to those general conditions on which my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford founded himself in the course of his argument. With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford himself, I have often had the pleasure of hearing him; and must admit that whether on occasions on which I could cordially agree with him, or on occasions when I could not, I found, and am always certain to find in his speeches great ability, careful examination and research, transparent sincerity, and evident and palpable goodwill towards all men. That is an assemblage of qualities which we must all appreciate, and which this House appreciates. I do not, therefore, find fault with the Resolution, which, although an abstract one, is yet of so drastic a character that, if my hon. Friend could persuade the House to take the prescription which he recommends to us, undoubtedly there would be no room for the objection, that the prescription would be likely to remain without effect upon the patient. Let us consider what the Motion of my hon. Friend is. He invites us to assert five propositions. The first is—that the establishment by law of the Churches of England and Scotland involves a violation of religious equality; the second is—that it deprives those Churches of the right of self-government; the third is—that it imposes on Parliament duties which it is not qualified to discharge; the fourth is—that it is hurtful to the religious and political interests of the community; and the fifth is—that, therefore, they ought no longer to be maintained. I am not prepared to adopt these propositions; I feel it impossible to discuss them in the manner in which they ought to be discussed. They are propositions with an enormous sweep and volume, on which he has entered at some length, but not at a length nearly sufficient to do justice to the vast importance and immense complications of the matters involved. They have been, and may be again, the subject of lengthy and comprehensive treatises. They may occupy for months and years, at some period or other, the attention of this House; but I do not think that we are qualified at this moment, any more than we are disposed, to attempt to deal with them in the manner which their importance and difficulty would demand. My hon. Friend has stated one side of the case. He has founded himself, for the most part, not on the violation of religious equality, but upon the sufferings of the Church of England itself, upon the difficulties that it undergoes, upon the "hopeless helplessness" of its condition, and upon the proposition which he asserts, that there are but few members of the Church of England who are not convinced that the purposes for which she exists are now pursued by her under many disadvantages, from which she would be relieved if she were dissociated from the State. Well, the members of the Church of England are perfectly sensible of the many difficulties in the prosecution of her work in the condition in which she now stands; but my hon. Friend must not overlook the fact that these difficulties are not to be got rid of by the simple fact of dissociation from the State, even if the dissociation were as agreeable to the wishes of the people, and as easy in itself, as I believe it to be opposed to the wishes of the people—if not almost impossible. I can only slightly illustrate one or two points upon the subject. My hon. Friend says it is sometimes argued that the established condition of the Church is highly favourable to freedom of thought, and he points triumphantly to Ireland, and says "Will you assert that thought is less free in Ireland now than it was before disestablishment?" Well, I am not going to recant anything I have said heretofore on the subject of the disestablishment of the Irish Church; but I am bound to say with reference to the present moment and the present circumstances, if my hon. Friend asks me, from what I read in the newspapers, that thought is now less free in religious matters in Ireland than it was before disestablishment, that I accept the challenge, and tell him that I think it is. I earnestly hope that the dangers, if there be dangers, which the Irish Church is encountering or provoking may pass away; but I must honestly confess that if, as an individual member of the Church of England, more than as a Minister, my hon. Friend thinks to lure me or whistle me out of the position in which I find myself in the Established Church, by pointing out the felicity or tranquillity which our brethren in Ireland are now at this moment enjoying under schemes which they have taken in hand, I am entirely deaf to lures of that character or kind, and would rather remain whore I am. I do not treat this question as one that can be disposed of by banter; it is one which goes deep down into the religious convictions of men. Neither do I treat my hon. Friend as a visionary enthusiast in the doctrines which he urges, although I think those doctrines are not adapted to the country or the present time. I do not deny that there is much to provoke and encourage and facilitate a movement like this of my hon. Friend. In the first place, he represents a large body of opinions in the country. In former times the differences of the Nonconformists, in their separation from the Church of England, turned mainly upon specific differences, either of doctrine of discipline between the two. They have now, I think, gone deeper. My hon. Friend is accustomed to represent—I believe with truth—the position of the Nonconformists as one resting upon the conviction that establishment itself is essentially injurious to religion, and that, therefore, the establishment of their own religion, were it to be taken as it is, would be just as objectionable and as offensive in their eyes as is the establishment of the Church of England. The fact that the opinion of Nonconformity in this country is gradually verging in this direction is of considerable, weight and importance. In the next place I do not deny that the disturbances and distractions of the Church of England greatly incite discussions of this kind. They are disturbances and distractions which probably we all view with deep regret. Not, however, on account of those disturbances and distractions must we be led to precipitate conclusions, for those differences are not confined to the Church of England, but affect Christianity generally. We see other churches passing through the most fiery trials; we see the intellect and conscience of man awakened, or, at any rate, agitated, with regard to the question of religion, in a manner which, perhaps, has no example for several centuries past. But before concluding that, on account of these differences which we feel exist among ourselves, we are to adopt the remedy offered by my hon. Friend, we must require much more careful, much more searching proofs that such differences could be composed by the method he propounds. We have in this country a number of Nonconforming Bodies which, although considerable in themselves, are yet of limited extent as religious communities, and I must say that most of these Nonconforming Bodies appear to me to exercise the principles and powers of self-government with very considerable success. They have, I admit, avoided many controversies which in larger churches in the world are rife, and they appear to attain, in no inconsiderable measure, the great ends of religious activity and religious peace. But it will not do for my hon. Friend, even if that admission is made, at once to attempt to draw from it the conclusion that the same state of things would prevail were you to take a great historical and National Church like the Church of England and place it in the condition of a private religious community. I would illustrate what I mean by a reference to the forms of Government in Europe. You take the case of Switzerland, a small isolated country, and you find that there has been no difficulty whatever in discharging almost all important purposes of government for centuries under a Republican form of Government. When, however, you go into the great countries of Europe and there supplant and overthrow the ancient forms of Government the effect is altogether different, and I think it is a moderate assertion, if I confine myself to this—that it requires caution and recommends circumspection. My hon. Friend has, I admit, other allies. He has allies in the sense of religious indifference, which, at any rate, upon the Continent of Europe, greatly tends to widen the chasm existing between religious and civil affairs, and he has yet one more ally more powerful than all, in what I must call the violent assertions of ecclesiastical prerogative, which have been so singularly and painfully characteristic of the present age, which have produced and will produce vehement re-action on the part of the human mind and intellect, and which are undoubtedly tending on a large scale, in the opinion of the civilized world, to sever religious and civil affairs. However, questions of this historical character we should not discuss in a cowardly manner, or even in a narrow sense, but rather endeavour to lay fairly the grounds for the conclusion at which we should arrive. Having made these admissions, and in no niggardly spirit, I still must contend that the proposition of my hon. Friend is a proposition which we are not prepared to adopt; and that, if we were prepared to adopt it, it would be attended by results from which the courage even of my hon. Friend himself would shrink. If my hon. Friend were to induce the House of Commons to adopt his Motion, what does he think would be the sentiment of the country to-morrow morning? What would be the condition of the Parliament which had affirmed his proposal? As my hon. Friend says, it is undoubtedly the constituencies which have to decide whether the Church of England is to remain an Established Church or not. But what does my hon. Friend think would be their decision? Some time ago, when he made a somewhat similar Motion to this, I ventured to point out to him that there were no signs of public concurrence in the views which he recommended, and that statement of mine has frequently been described as a challenge. My hon. Friend has given no sanguine account of what he himself believes to be the state of feeling in the country. When he has asked the judgment of the House, upon a division, he has found himself supported by limited numbers; and equally, when the views he has urged have been urged with attention in different parts of the country, the mode of their acceptance has, to say the least of it, been very equivocal. If we are to look at the local indications which from time to time and from year to year are afforded by popular feeling as evidenced by elections, can we say that they tend to inspire us with the conviction that the opinions advocated by my hon. Friend are spreading? And if we are to suppose that an Election were to occur upon this question, I can but say that for my own part I believe that the people of England, not of one party or of another, but the people of England in the broadest sense of the word, would return to Parliament a still smaller number of Members inclined to entertain the question of the disestablishment of the English Church than is even to be found in the Parliament addressed by my hon. Friend to-night. I think my hon. Friend, like many of us, has been misled by what happened in the case of the Irish Church. I venture to say now, as I ventured to say then, that the two cases were distinguished broadly, vitally, and essentially upon every point without exception upon which they could be brought into comparison. My hon. Friend has not spoken to-night of the numbers composing the Church of England. That subject has been one of much dispute, and I am extremely sorry that we have not been able to agree among ourselves upon a mode of ascertaining the truth upon this matter by a certain test. We have had an account taken of the attendances on a certain day, and that account, though a very important one, yet it is very far from supplying a conclusive test. For my hon. Friend must recollect that it is part of the case of the Church of England that she must, as an Established and National Church, draw in her train a number of persons attached to her by ties far less binding and far loss effective than are those which unite the members of the voluntary and unestablished communities; and, therefore, it is obvious that an Established Church, as such, suffers grievously if she is brought into comparison simply as to the number of members, if the measure of her following is to be determined only by the number of persons who may at any given moment be worshipping within her walls. Those who argue the case of Disestablishment tell you constantly, and with force and truth, that it is the great duty of the Establishment to look after those, as far as possible, who do not look after themselves, and that; if she does her duty, she must always have a vast mass of effort in reclaiming the waste places of the nation. The immediate fruit of her labours must necessarily be small there; because it is admitted that she has, along with many intelligent, zealous, and devoted members— and, perhaps, the number of these were never larger than they are now—a multitude of other members less easily defined in the feelings they entertain, gradually descending towards absolute indifference and neglect of all religion. Is it to be at once asserted that that condition of affairs is to be overlooked, and that no account at all is to be taken of that which is essentially a portion of her work? For my own part, in the great defect in which we stand as to authentic means of judging what is the real, numerical state of the Church of England, I will not go the length of saying that the register of marriages is an accurate and absolute test, any more than attendances on public worship are an accurate and absolute test; but I will say that the one may be taken as a useful corrective of the other, and that if it be more than the truth to say that 78 per cent of the population, as shown by the register of marriages, belong to the Church of England, it is as far from the truth to say that the Church has but one-half or less than one-half within her fold. My conviction is, that a very considerable majority of the population belong to the Church of England. Although I know the state of things in Wales, and in particular parts of the country where her hold is comparatively feeble, yet I think it can hardly be denied by rational and candid observers, that of the masses of the people a very considerable majority are still by some tie or other attached to the communion of the Church. Therefore, as regards that first and necessary test, though it is an insufficient test of the work of an Established Church, I must contend that the Church of England stands in a position as broadly, and, I might almost say, as immeasurably, severed from that of the Church of Ireland as it is possible to conceive. As to the case of the Church of Ireland, my hon. Friend has been misled by a variety of opinions, and for one of the causes by which he has been misled hon. Gentlemen opposite are responsible. When the case of the Church of Ireland was discussed, many who sat in this House, and certainly many persons outside this House, of great dignity and importance—many Bishops upon the bench, many great authorities—insisted upon it, in order to save the Church of Ireland, that the cases of the two Churches were the same, and that it was perfectly impossible to destroy the Irish Church without, in common consistency and propriety, proceeding to destroy the Church of England also. My hon. Friend was no doubt to a certain extent taken in by those assurances. He naturally interpreted them as promises on the part of the Gentlemen who used them that they would be his allies in destroying the English Church. But he finds now that there is no one of those persons, Commoner or Peer, layman or clergyman, who used that argument in the controversy with respect to the Irish Church, who is not a most resolute opponent of my hon. Friend with regard to his proposition respecting the English Church. Besides that, I admit that in the very fact of the external resemblance of the two Churches, there was something in the destruction of the one likely, at any rate, to induce attack upon the other. That I admit; but here again my hon. Friend has been misled. The apparent similarity of the cases could not long conceal their essential differences, and I believe that, as factitious and momentary causes have given the movement so well represented by my hon. Friend something of a temporary character, he will find himself in no inconsiderable degree deserted—a desertion of which we shall see increasing evidence from time to time. Sir, my hon. Friend does not deny that it is only a small minority in this House that he represents, and, with the fairness of mind which he possesses, and from which nothing, I believe, could possibly draw him aside, I do not think he would urge that that minority in this House would be increased in number, if it were in our power to take the judgment of the country upon this great subject. And that judgment of the country he himself must admit to be the final standard of action. Not thinking that it is possible for me to travel over all the ground that has been trodden by my hon. Friend, and knowing that it would be totally impossible to give in the course of any speech delivered in this House, within a moderate time, any sort of even tolerable picture of the case, yet I must resort to one authority for the purpose of entering my protest against the general character of the representation of my hon. Friend when he speaks of the hopelessness and helplessness of the Church of England. I shall not adopt the language of exaggeration. I do not mean to say that the Church of England is not seriously hampered in her work. Her connection with the State, which is a part of her lot, and which has brought her many advantages in former times, and has been an almost vital incident of her condition, must necessarily bring its disadvantages too. But my hon. Friend has represented the dark side of the picture, and the dark side alone. If the speech of my hon. Friend contained, upon the whole, a just or true description of the Church of England, what a lamentable picture she would present to the eyes of impartial observers! Where, Sir, are we to find impartial observers? Not easily, perhaps, among ourselves, because feeling and affection profoundly enter into the discussion of the question, and prevent us from judging with that perfectly dispassionate calmness which we should ourselves desire. But abroad we may sometimes find those who, with accurate knowledge of the condition of this country, and especially of its religious condition, unite discrimination and perfect impartiality of feeling. Now, the House is usually alarmed at the production of a printed book, but there is no occasion for such alarm now. I am about to read some passages from the work of a very eminent man—Dr. Döllinger—whom for many years I have had the privilege of calling my friend—one who is thoroughly acquainted with the religious condition of this country, and than whom no one has a deeper sympathy with English institutions in general. I shall read from a work published by his authority in this country, entitled Lectures on the Reunion of the Churches. I shall not read all he says about the Church of England, first, because it is too long, and next because my hon. Friend has supplied us with most of what could be said about her calamities and wounds and sores; but I will read what he says on the other side—not garbled passages, but such as convey a fair and just impression of his views. Dr. Döllinger says— It may still be said with truth that no Church is so national, so deeply rooted in popular affection, so bound up with the institutions and manners of the country, or so powerful in its influence on national character. During the last 40 years it has extended its range, besides strengthening itself internally, by the foundation of numerous colonial bishoprics in all parts of the globe. It possesses a rich theological literature, inferior only to the German in extent and depth, and an excellent translation of the Bible—a masterpiece of style and more accurate than the Lutheran.… But what I should estimate most highly is the fact that the cold, dull indifferentism, which on the Continent has spread like a deadly mildew over all degrees of society, has no place in the British Isles. To whatever extent scepticism may have advanced among the younger generation, on the whole the Englishman takes an active part in Church interests and questions, and that unnatural hostility and division between laity and clergy produced by Ultramontanism in Catholic countries is quite unknown there.… What has been accomplished during the last 30 years by the energy and generosity of religious Englishmen, set in motion and guided by the Church, in the way of popular education and Church building, far exceeds what has been done in any other country. Attendance at religious worship on Sundays is not, as in France, the exception, but the rule with the higher and middle classes. The Church Congress at Nottingham in October last (1871), in which 16 Bishops and some 3,000 clergymen and laymen of the most various ranks and classes took part, presented an enviable spectacle to other nations. The weightiest religious questions of the day, and the special events and difficulties of the Anglican Church were discussed with a dignity and thoroughness which suggests to every German the tacit inquiry whether anything of the kind would be possible with us? Now, Sir, whatever maybe said of "hopeless helplessness," whatever may be said of the loss of self-government, whatever may be said of the difficulty of obtaining from Parliament the measures necessary for the religious development and expansion of the Church, yet I think that those who know how to estimate moral as well as legal forces—those who remember how much the people of this country are governed through voluntary, and not through merely coercive and authoritative agencies—those who can measure the real worth that has been described by Dr. Döllinger will be disposed to think that even if upon all the propositions of my hon. Friend some admissions may be made to him, yet they will also think that his candour, if with candour he could unite a perfect impartiality of view, would compel him also to allow that from every one of these propositions he was bound to make the largest deductions. Sir, my hon. Friend will not deny the great part the Church of England has played in the past history of this country. It is all very well to complain of the Church—and I might, perhaps, complain of the particular course that some of its leading members may have taken upon this question or upon that—but the Church of England has not only been a part of the history of this country, but a part so vital, entering so profoundly into the entire life and action of the country, that the severing of the two would leave nothing behind but a bleeding and lacerated mass. Take the Church of England out of the history of England, and the history of England becomes a chaos, without order, without life, and without meaning. My hon. Friend will not say that the question he proposes to us is a question of the past. If it is not a question of the past, it is certainly not a question of the present. Whether it be a question of the future I will not say; but this I do say, that if it be a question of the future, it is a question of a future which to us is indefinitely remote. If I considered simply the question of the practicability of what is proposed by my hon. Friend—if I adopted the conclusions of my hon. Friend, which I do not adopt—and asked myself in what way I, as one not wholly unpractised in the framing of measures in this House, should endeavour to give them effect by an Act of Parliament, I believe I should not have the courage to face the question. I once made a computation of what sort of allowance of property should be made to the Church of England if we were to disestablish her upon the same rules of equity and liberality with respect to property which we adopted in the case of the Irish Church, and I made out that, between life incomes, private endowments, and the value of fabrics and advowsons, something like £90,000,000 sterling would have to be given in this process of disestablishment to the ministers, members, and patrons of the Church of England. That is a very staggering kind of arrangement to make in supplying the young lady with a fortune and turning her out in life to begin the world. And undoubtedly the spectacle of a voluntary society in the position of the Church of England, altogether independent of the State, and with money available for her purposes that can be only roughly described, or even possibly estimated, by figures like these, does present to the mind rather puzzling problems, so that prudent men, moderate men, and, on my own behalf, Sir, I will say elderly men, may venture to doubt whether they are called upon by any imperative sense of duty to join in such a crusade, even though led by my hon. Friend filling the part of Peter the Hermit. Sir, I invite the House distinctly and decisively to refuse their assent to the Motion of my hon. Friend, because it is a Motion the conclusions of which are alike at variance with the practical wishes and desires, the intelligent opinions, and the religious convictions of a large majority of the people of England.


said, he wished to state why some, at all events, amongst the Liberal Members not occupying the responsible position of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government could not accept the conclusions of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall). There were considerations upon this subject which seemed to him to involve difficulties of far larger character than those to with which the right hon. Gentleman had dealt. He (Mr. Harcourt) did not complain that the hon. Member for Bradford had brought forward propositions of a comprehensive character; but the House had some reason to complain, that he had not explained the whole extent of his propositions, or the consequences to which they would lead. The hon. Member was proposing a Motion not to alter, but to overthrow the whole framework of the Constitution. The fabric of their political and Parliamentary system rested on the Act of Settlement of the Crown, and before the hon. Member for Bradford asked their assent to his proposition, he ought to tell them what he intended to do with the Act upon which the Monarchy was founded. The Act of Settlement contained these words— Whereas it is requisite and necessary that some further provision be made for securing our religion, laws, and liberties….whoever shall hereafter come to possession of this Crown shall join in communion with the Church of England as by law established. His hon. Friend was quite entitled to propose to repeal the Act of Settlement; but it was right that Parliament and the country should know that the necessary consequence of his proposition was the immediate abrogation of what was called the Protestant Settlement. If they abolished that Settlement, were they to introduce some substitute in place of that which the Parliament of William and Mary established; and he thought that they had a right to know what plan for the Settlement of the Crown had been adopted in the conclave of the Liberation Society? If the hon. Gentleman intended to maintain the Protestant Settlement of the Crown, he (Mr. Harcourt) wanted to know, how he reconciled that Protestant Settlement with the doctrines of religious equality and justice, on which he had enlarged, because to confine the Crown to one particular form of religious opinion was as great a violation of the principles of right as any of those which the hon. Member had brought under consideration? Was the hon. Member prepared to go to the hustings, the penumbra of which was already projecting over that House, and to tell the electors that the policy of the English Nonconformists and of the Liberation Society required as its first and necessary step the abolition of the Protestant Settlement? Was the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) prepared to recommend as Imperial policy that the Protestant Settlement should be changed or abolished? Nor did the difficulties end there. There was an Act which settled the Coronation. It had been thought necessary that the great compact between the Sovereign and the people should be placed on a certain footing. Did the hon. Member for Bradford intend to alter the terms on which the Sovereign succeeded to the headship of the community? At any rate, he ought to let people understand that these things were involved, and to place before them so definite a statement as to the measure in which he proposed to deal with them. If the House thought the time had arrived for coming to a decision by a vote, rather than by a more protracted discussion, he was unwilling to force arguments on their attention. He had never entertained any doubt on the question, and should vote, as heretofore, against the proposal.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 356; Noes 61: Majority 295.

Adair, H. E. Assheton, R.
Adderley, rt. hon. Sir C. Aytoun, R. S.
Akroyd, E. Baggallay, Sir R.
Amcotts, Col. W. C. Bagge, Sir W.
Amory, J. H. Bailey, Sir J. R.
Amphlett, R. P. Ball, rt. hon. J. T.
Annesley, hon. Col. H. Barclay, A. C.
Anstruther, Sir R. Barnett, H.
Arbuthnot, Major G. Barrington, Viscount
Arkwright, A. P. Barttelot, Colonel
Arkwright, R. Bass, A.
Bass, M. T. Dickinson, S. S.
Bates, E. Disraeli, rt. hon. B.
Bateson, Sir T. Dodson, rt. hon. J. G.
Bathurst, A. A. Dowdeswell, W. E.
Beach, Sir M. Hicks- Duff, M. E. G.
Beach, W. W. B. Duncombe, hon. Col.
Bective, Earl of Du Pre, C. G.
Bentinck, G. C. Dyke, W. H.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Dyott, Col. R.
Benyon, R. Eastwick, E. B.
Beresford, Colonel M. Eaton, H. W.
Bolckow, H. W. F. Edwards, H.
Bonham-Carter, J. Egerton, Adml. hn. F.
Bourne, Colonel Egerton, Sir P. G.
Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P. Egerton, hon. W.
Bowmont, Marquess of Ellice, E.
Brassey, T. Elliot, G.
Brise, Colonel R. Elphinstone, Sir J.D.H.
Bristowe, S. B. Enfield, Viscount
Broadley, W. H. H. Ennis, J. J.
Brooks, W. C. Erskine, Admiral J. E.
Bruce, rt. hon. Lord E. Ewing, A. Orr-
Bruce, rt. hon. H. A. Feilden, H. M.
Bruce, Sir H. H. Fellowes, E.
Buckley, Sir E. Figgins, J.
Butler-Johnstone, H.A. Finch, G. H.
Butt, I. Fitzwilliam, hon. C. W. W.
Buxton, Sir R. J.
Cadogan, hon. F. W. Fletcher, I.
Cameron, D. Floyer, J.
Campbell-Bannerman, H. Foljambe, F. J. S.
Forde, Colonel
Cardwell, rt. hon. E. Forester, rt. hon. Gen.
Carington, hn. Cap. W. Forster, rt. hon. W. E.
Cartwright, F. Fortescue, rt. hn. C. P.
Cartwright, W. C. Fortescue, hon. D. F.
Cave, rt. hon. S. Foster, W. H.
Cave, T. Fowler, R. N.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. Gallwey, Sir W. P.
Cavendish, Lord G. Galway, Viscount
Cawley, C. E. Gilpin, Colonel
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Chambers, M. Gladstone, W. H.
Chaplin, H. Goldney, G.
Chelsea, Viscount Gordon, E. S.
Childers, rt. hon. H. Gore, J. R. O.
Cholmeley, Sir M. Gore, W. R. O.
Clive, Col. hon. G. W. Gower, hon. E. F. L.
Clowes, S. W. Gower, Lord R.
Cochrane, A.D.W.R.B. Grant, Col. hon. J.
Cole, Col. hon. H. A. Gray, Colonel
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Greaves, E.
Coleridge, Sir J. D. Greene, E.
Collins, T. Gregory, G. B.
Corrance, F. S. Greville, hon. Captain
Corry, hon. H. W. L. Greville-Nugent, hon. G. F.
Cowper, hon. H. F.
Cowper-Temple, right hon. W. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Grieve, J. J.
Crawford, R. W. Grosvenor, hon. N.
Crichton, Viscount Grosvenor, Lord R.
Croft, Sir H. G. D. Guest, A. E.
Cross, R. A. Hambro, C.
Cubitt, G. Hamilton, Lord C.
Dalrymple, C. Hamilton, Lord C. J.
Dalrymple, D. Hamilton, Lord G.
Dalway, M. R. Hamilton, Marquess of
Damer, Capt. Dawson- Hamilton, J. G. C.
Davenport, W. B. Hanbury, R. W.
Dawson, Col. R. P. Harcourt, W.G.G.V.V.
Denison, C. B. Hardcastle, J. A.
Dent, J. D. Hardy, rt. hon. G.
Dick, F. Hardy, J.
Hardy, J. S. Malcolm, J. W.
Hartington, Marq. of Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.
Hay, Sir J. C. D. Manners, Lord G. J.
Headlam, rt. hon. T. E. March, Earl of
Henley, rt. hon. J. W. Martin, P. W.
Henley, Lord Matthews, H.
Henry, M. Maxwell, W. H.
Hermon, E. Mellor, T. W.
Hervey, Lord A. H. C. Merry, J.
Heygate, Sir F. W. Milbank, F. A.
Heygate, W. U. Milles, hon. G. W.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Mills, Sir C. H.
Hill, A. S. Monckton, F.
Hodgkinson, G. Monckton, hon. G.
Hodgson, K. D. Monk, C. J.
Hodgson, W. N. Morgan, C. O.
Hogg, J. M. Morgan, hon. Major
Holford, J. P. G. Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.
Holker, J. Muncaster, Lord
Holms, J. Neville-Grenville, R.
Holmesdale, Viscount Newdegate, C. N.
Holt, J. M. Newport, Viscount
Hood, Captain hon. A. W. A. N. Nicholson, W.
North, Colonel
Hope, A. J. B. B. Northcote rt. hon. Sir S. H.
Hornby, E. K.
Hoskyns, C. Wren- Ogilvy, Sir J.
Howard, hon. C. W. G. O'Neill, hon. E.
Hughes, T. O'Reilly-Dease, M.
Hughes, W. B. Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.
Hunt, rt. hon. G. W. Palk, Sir L.
Hutton, J. Parker, Lt.-Col. W.
Jackson, R. W. Patten, rt. hon. Col. W.
Jardine, R. Peek, H. W.
Jenkinson, Sir G. S. Peel, A. W.
Jervis, Colonel Pelham, Lord
Johnston, W. Pell, A.
Johnstone, Sir H. Pemberton, E. L.
Jones, J. Pender, J.
Kavanagh, A. MacM. Percy, Earl
Kay-Shuttleworth, U. J. Phipps, C. P.
Pim, J.
Kennaway, Sir J. H. Play-fair, L.
Keown, W. Plunket, hon. D. R.
Kingscote, Colonel Powell, F. S.
Knatchbull-Hugessen, rt. hon. E. H. Powell, W.
Raikes, H. C.
Knight, F. W. Read, C. S.
Knightley, Sir R. Round, J.
Lacon, Sir E. H. K. Royston, Viscount
Laird, J. Russell, Lord A.
Langton, W. G. Sackville, S. G. S.
Laslett, W. Salt, T.
Learmonth, A. Samuda, J. D'A.
Legh, W. J. Samuelson, B.
Leigh, Lt.-Col. E. Samuelson, H. B.
Lennox, Lord G. G. Sandon, Viscount
Lennox, Lord H. G. Sclater-Booth, G.
Leslie, J. Scott, Lord H. J. M. D.
Lewis, C. E. Scourfield, J. H.
Liddell, hon. H. G. Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir. H. J.
Lindsay, hon. Col. C.
Lindsay, Col. R. L. Shirley, S. E.
Lopes, H. C. Simonds, W. B.
Lopes, Sir M. Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.
Lowe, rt. hon. R. Smith, A.
Lowther, hon. W. Smith, F. C.
Lyttelton, hon. C. G. Smith, R.
Mackintosh, E. W. Smith, S. G.
M'Combie, W. Smith, W. H.
M'Lagan, P. Somerset, Lord H. R. C.
Mahon, Viscount Stanhope, W. T. W. S.
Maitland, Sir A. C. R. G. Stanley, hon. F.
Stanley, hon. W. O. Walpole, hon. F.
Stapleton, J. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Starkie, J. P. C. Walter, J.
Storks, rt. hon. Sir H. K. Waterhouse, S.
Straight, D. Watney, J.
Sturt, H. G. Welby, W. E.
Sturt, Lt.-Col. N. Wells, 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. Col. Whatman, J.
Thynne, Lord H. F. Wheelhouse, W. S. J.
Tipping, W. Whitbread, S.
Tollemache, hon. F. J. Whitwell, J.
Tollemache, Maj. W. F. Williams, Sir F. M.
Torr, J. Wilmot, Sir H.
Torrens, W. T. M'C. Winn, R.
Trelawny, Sir J. S. Wyndham, hon. P.
Treneh, hn. Maj. W. le P. Wynn, C. W. W.
Trevor, Lord A. E. Hill- Wynn, Sir W. W.
Turner, C. Yorke, J. R.
Tumor, E. Young, rt. hon. G.
Vandeleur, Colonel
Verner, E. W. TELLERS.
Verney, Sir. H. Adam, W. P.
Wait, W. K. Glyn, hon. G. G.
Walker, Lt.-Col. G. G.
Allen, W. S. Lush, Dr.
Anderson, G. Lusk, A.
Armitstead, G. Melly, G.
Baines, E. Miller, J.
Balfour, Sir G. Morrison, W.
Beaumont, W. B. Palmer, J. H.
Bentall, E. H. Philips, R. N.
Brewer, Dr. Potter, E.
Bright, rt. hon. J. Potter, T. B.
Bright, J. (Manchester) Price, W. E.
Candlish, J. Rathbone, W.
Clifford, C. C. Reed, C.
Cowen, Sir J. Richard, H.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Richards, E. M.
Davies, R. Rylands, P.
Digby, K. T. Sartoris, E. J.
Dilke, Sir C. W. Saunderson, E.
Dillwyn, L. L. Sheridan, H. B.
Dixon, G. Smith, E.
Ewing, H. E. Crum- Smyth, P. J.
Fawcett, H. Stacpoole, W.
Fothergill, R. Stepney, Sir J.
Gourley, E. T. Taylor, P. A.
Graham, W. Trevelyan, G. O.
Hadfield, G. Vivian, H. H.
Herbert, hon. A. E. W. White, J.
Holland, S. Williams, W.
Howard, J. Young, A. W.
Illingworth, A.
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. TELLERS.
Lawson, Sir W. M'Laren, D.
Leatham, E. A. Miall, E.
Lewis, J. D.
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