§ Order for Second Reading read.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said: This Bill refers to a subject which has greatly interested the people of Scotland for a long time. Church patronage has been the cause of much contention, and also the cause of many secessions from the Church of Scotland, and I think that men of different political opinions have now arrived at the conclusion that it is expedient there should be some legislation with regard to the matter. Opposition may be expected to the Bill 1087 from one quarter. I refer to these who are opposed to Church establishments in general, and to the Church establishment in Scotland in particular. But I do not propose to go into that question at present, because the question of the disestablishment of the Churches of England and of Scotland was discussed last year; the result of the hon. Member for Bradford's (Mr. Mall's) Motion being that his proposal for the disestablishment of the Churches of England and Scotland was rejected by 356 to 61. I consider, therefore, that the late House of Commons was clearly opposed to any attempt to disestablish either of these Churches, and I think any question which is raised on the present occasion in hostility to the Bill, founded on the ground of disestablishment, is not likely to be more favourably considered in the present House of Commons. Although the House is composed of so many members of the Church of England and other Churches, I cannot suppose they will dispose of this Bill without having due regard to the interests of the Church of Scotland. I cannot use better words than these of Sir James Graham, who said in 1843:—I think that in discussing this question in the British Parliament we are bound to regard it with peculiar care. We must look at it, not with English feelings, nor with the prejudices of Englishmen, but we are bound to regard it upon the principles of the Union, and to try and settle the question upon Presbyterian principles, as established by the Act of 1090, the Act of Union, and subsequent statutes."—[3 Hansard, lxvii. 379.]I shall very briefly explain this question of Church patronage in Scotland, and I think it will be found that the law in that country differs in many respects from the law of patronage in England; and also that the constitution or Church government and mode of worship in the Churches of the two countries are essentially different; and, therefore, that the same principles will not apply to both countries. In the case of Scotland, we have a system of Church government which is founded upon election—election by bodies composed of clergymen and laymen. First, you have the kirk-session, which is composed of the minister of each parish and certain laymen associated with him. Then there is the provincial court, called the Presbytery, where each minister of the parish attends along with one of the elders. Then there is the 1088 Synod, composed of representatives from the Presbyteries of a large district; and finally there is the General Assembly, composed of about equal numbers of laymen and clergymen—the laymen being elected by the Presbyteries, the Universities, and the Royal Burghs, it being necessary in each case that the person elected should be an elder of the Church. Then, there is a marked distinction between the services or mode of worship of the two countries; for the Liturgy, which prevails in England, does not prevail in Scotland. In Scotland we have ministers performing extemporaneous services throughout, so that there is really more necessity to depend upon the qualifications—the personal qualifications—of the clergymen in Scotland than there is in England, where the ministers have such assistance from the Liturgy. When the change of religion took place in 1560 from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism, there were about 940 benefices in Scotland, only 262 of which belonged to lay patrons. The rest were at the disposal of the Church. The Protestants constituted themselves into a Church, and their First Book of Discipline, which, though never ratified by Parliament, was subscribed by a majority of the members of the Privy Council, and approved by the earlier General Assemblies, thus lays down the principle on which the appointment of ministers should proceed:—It appertaineth to the people and to every several congregation to elect their minister. This liberty with all care must be reserved to every several church, to have their votes and suffrages in the election of their ministers.To the same effect was the direction in the "Book of Common Order," which had been used in Knox's congregation in Geneva, and was received and approved of by the Church of Scotland:—The ministers and elders, at such time as there wanteth a minister, assemble the whole congregation, exhorting them to advise and consider who may best serve in that room and office.In 1567 the new Church was recognized by the State, and the Act passed with this object provided—that the examination and admission of ministers within this realme be only in the power of the Kirk now openlie and publickly professed the samin, the presentation of laick patronages alwaies reserved to the just and auncient patrons.1089 This applied only to lay patronages, numbering no more than 260 at that time. And again—that if the Presbytery refuse to receive the person presented, the patron may appeal to the members of the province where the benefice lyis, and desire the person presented to be admitted, quhilk if they refuse, it shall be lawful to appeal to the General Assemblie of this haill realm by quhome the cause be and decyded sall take end, as they decern and declair.Matters remained in rather a disturbed state until 1592, when the Presbyterian Church was expressly recognized by an Act confirming the Confession of Faith, and making it the established religion. King James had dealt with the property of the Church by granting out large tracts, and connected with these tracts of property, patronages which had been held by the Church, to persons who were ennobled, and who became what is called the lay appropriators of these Church lands and patronages. This Act—ordainis all presentations to benefices to be direct to the particular presbyteries in all time dimming, with full power to give collation thereupon; and to put ordour to all matters and causes ecclesiasticall within their boundes, according to the discipline of the Kirk: Providing the foresaids Presbyteries be bound and astricted to receive and admit quhatsumever qualified minister presented by His Majesty or laick patrones.This last provision in the case of lay patronages interfered with that popular election which had previously received effect. A few years afterwards, the Church was declared to be Episcopalian, and so it remained till 1638. In 1642 King Charles intimated that if six names were submitted to him when a presentation had to be made he would select one from them. The names were chosen by the people, under the guidance of the Church, and the number was at a later date reduced to three. In 1649 patronage was abolished by Act of Parliament, and as a compensation to the patrons they were allowed annually to draw the surplus funds remaining after the payment of the stipends allowed to the acting ministers. It was declared the ministers were to be settled by the General Assembly, who were appointed to frame rules for filling vacant parishes. This continued in force until 1660, when Charles II. was restored, and the Act of 1649 was repealed. I need not refer to the unfortunate proceedings—tending so much to alienate the people, of Scotland from the people of England—which took place 1090 when there was an attempt made to force upon the people of Scotland the Episcopalian form of Church Government. In 1690 the Presbyterian form of government was again restored, and in fact the Act of 1592, the charter of Presbytery, was confirmed, with the exception of the clause providing that the Presbytery should be bound and asstricted to accept qualified ministers, which was reserved for future consideration. The clause in the Act of 1592 which restricted the acceptance of the qualified minister, was in the words already quoted. As I have said, this clause was excepted and not confirmed in 1690, and, further, an Act was passed in the same year by which it was affirmed that rights of patronage had been greatly abused and should be abolished; and it was declared that the heritors and elders should be allowed to name and propose a person for the whole congregation, to be approved or disapproved of by them. If disapproved, the disapprovers must give their reasons for such a decision. Patronage was therefore clearly abolished by this Act. It was not a mere transfer to the heritors and kirk-session. A contemporaneous writer, Mr. Willison, of Dundee, said, if the people expressed their repugnance to the minister proposed, that was considered sufficient to stop the further proceeding, and a new election had to take place. Under this Act, as well as under the Act of 1649, as already stated, the patrons received compensation. They received what was called the surplus teinds of each parish. That was a very valuable gift, because the system is this, that the clergyman is entitled to draw upon the teinds only to the extent of a competent stipend. This varies from time to time according to the cost of living to which the clergyman may be put, and according to the advance of civilization. At this time it is quite clear that the compensation which was given to patrons was a very valuable one. The result was that when this Act of 1690 was repealed the patrons got back patronage and still retained the compensation. This Act remained in operation until 1712, and then came the Act of Queen Anne. When the Treaty of Union was prosecuted, the people of Scotland were jealous, and apprehensive that, as their numbers were so small in comparison with the number 1091 of the English members, the interests of their Church to which they were so much attached, might be injured by the result of legislation after the Union. Accordingly, in the Treaty for the Union, and in the Act of Parliament, called the Act of Security, which was preliminary to the Union, it was set forth that the Acts of 1690 should be ratified and confirmed. This was made an essential condition of the Treaty, and it was so embodied in the Act of the Legislature. The Scotch thought they had, at the time, sufficient stipulations for the security of their Church, but, unfortunately for the interests of Scotland, a Ministry came into power which thought it might take measures to bring back to the Throne the Stuart family; and one of their schemes was to make the Scotch dissatisfied with the Union, as not having secured the interests of their Church. In the Queen's Message of 1711, she expressed her hope that the General Assembly would go on in the same way of planting the churches with learned and pious ministers; and that nothing should be wanting to maintain them in their rights and privileges, as by law established. Before the next Assembly of the Church, in 1712, without any previous notice, a Bill was brought into this House on the 13th March, and carried on the 17th April. It was then sent up to the House of Lords, and very little time was given to the parties interested in it to make their appearance at the Bar of the House of Lords. The course of post at that time between London and Edinburgh was more than 10 days, and it took 12 days to travel to London. The representatives of the Church were unable to reach London until the beginning of April, and they were hoard before the House of Lords on the 12th April, and on the same day the Bill was read a second time, was committed, reported, and read a third time, all in the same day—a degree of expedition which, I am afraid, we cannot imitate now. I am glad to say, six Bishops voted against the Bill, holding that it was not an act of justice to the Scotch Establishment. Bishop Burnet, who had a seat in the House of Lords at the time, described it as a Bill "to weaken and undermine the Church of Scotland," and such have been its results. Lord Macaulay, whose attention to this subject is a marked feature, said— 1092The British Legislature violated the Act of Union and made a change in the constitution of the Church of Scotland. From that change has flowed almost all the dissent now existing in Scotland. From the Act of 1712 undoubtedly flowed every secession and schism that has taken place in the Church of Scotland.It is with a view to redress that grievance on the part of the Scotch people, and to strengthen, as I undoubtedly think it will, the Church—which this House by its vote last year said should not be disestablished—that this Bill for the abolition of patronage has been introduced. I may state—because it shows in what danger the Act of Union between the two countries was—that the next year there was a proposal to repeal the Union made in the House of Lords, but it was rejected—the Members present being equal—by a majority of only four consisting of proxies. The first secession took place in 1733, and it was caused by the operations of the repeal of the Act of 1690, which was effected by Queen Anne's Act. In 1752 there was another large secession owing to the same cause, whilst in several individual parishes, when unpopular settlements took place, the result was that a Dissenting Church was set up in consequence of the dissatisfaction of the people with these who had been appointed as their ministers. Protests were annually entered by the Church against the Act of Queen Anne until 1784. In 1832 or 1833 a Motion on the subject was brought forward in this House by the late Sir George Sinclair; but the Motion was stopped by the ministers intimating that it could not proceed without the Queen's assent, which was withheld. In 1834 the General Assembly met, and considered the question, which they decided to deal with in this way—They resolved that no presentee, however well qualified, should be received into a Church, if he were objected to by a majority of the heads of families in communion with that Church. That was considered by the Assembly to be a sufficient bar to his collation. In 1839 a patron thought proper to challenge the right of the General Assembly in the matter, holding that as the provisions of the Act of 1592 were not abolished, that the Presbytery should be bound and astricted to admit any qualified person, and that the Act of 1690 was repealed by the Act of Queen Anne. The Court of Session decided against the Act of the 1093 General Assembly, as being in contravention of the Act of Parliament, which dealt with a civil right. That decision of the Court of Session was confirmed by the House of Lords, and ultimately such unfortunate proceedings took place, and such differences arose upon points having reference to civil and religious rights, that a large number of parish ministers—I think 290—left the Church. A great many others remained only with the hope and expectation, held out by the Government of the day, that there would be some relief afforded. In accordance with that understanding, an Act which was called Lord Aberdeen's Act was introduced in 1843. That Act was of this character—it provided that representations might be made by the people to the Presbytery against the personal qualifications of the presentee, and also that the Presbytery might take into consideration the circumstances of the parish. That Act has been found to work in a very unsatisfactory manner, and the result has been this—when the people were unfavourably inclined to the presentee, they stated their objections to his appointment, which were often of a very painful character, having reference sometimes to the manner or other peculiarities of the person presented, the result being that if the presentee was unfortunately rejected, it damaged his prospects in life very considerably; and on the other hand, if he was admitted, the people did not receive him with that cordiality which should subsist between a minister and the members of his church. It has therefore been thought better to get rid of a system which gives rise to protracted and expensive litigation. Cases have occurred in which litigation lasted over 20 days, and great expense was thus occasioned. The opinion, therefore, was formed, that it would be better to get rid of patronage altogether; and accordingly, in 1868, the Assembly came to certain resolutions on the subject, to the effect that they would apply to Parliament for the purpose of relieving them from the difficulties in which they were placed. I may say that the Church are unanimously agreed on this subject. There was a majority at first, from time to time, but now they are substantially unanimous. We have not a case of a divided Church applying to Parliament. We have an undivided body agreed 1094 on it. I may state, however, that the result of the experience of popular election in Scotland has tended materially to this opinion being formed by the Church. In the first place, there are about 200 new parishes constituted by the Church since 1843, with popular elections, and it has been found that the elections in these churches were conducted in a regular and orderly manner. In the next place, the Crown patronage, which consists of 320 churches, has been administered in accordance with the provisions of the Bill—that is to say, when a parish became vacant, generally an application was made—I may say, invariably made—to the Home Secretary, who has the administration of the patronage, that he would allow the communicants and members of the congregation to make recommendations, and if a general unanimity prevailed, the appointment was made in conformity with the wishes of the communicants and the congregation. Many private patrons have also administered their patronage on the same footing, and acted with the same generosity towards the members of the parish. There were, however, some cases in which the appointments were placed in the hands of private patrons which have not given satisfaction. The result has been that under Lord Aberdeen's Act we have had many of these cases which have been so unhappy. The Church has, then, come to be of opinion that it would be safe to have a change, and revert back to the original state of matters before the existence of the Union. In 1870 an application was made to the then Prime Minister, and a statement on behalf of the Church of Scotland submitted to him. A deputation, attended by 35 Scotch Members and several Peers, waited on him. On the 17th June, 1873, a Motion was made in each House of Parliament, asking the Ministers to take the matter into consideration with a view to legislation. The Motion in the House of Lords was made by a Peer (the Earl of Airlie), who had represented Her Majesty at two Assemblies—these of 1872 and 1873—and was supported by a former Commissioner named by the late Ministry (Lord Stair), and by other noble Lords upon the then Ministerial side connected with Scotland. The Duke of Richmond stated it was a question which should be disposed of without reference to party views, and in the 1095 form of what was best for the interests of Scotland; and he hoped it would have the salutary result of effecting a union between all the Churches in Scotland. The Duke of Argyll, while expressing opinions favourable to the principle of the Motion said, as it did not embrace any practical plan for disposing of the matter, it would be better that the Motion should be withdrawn, and accordingly it was withdrawn. The same evening a similar Motion was made in this House by the hon. Member for Fife (Sir Robert Anstruther), and having been supported by some hon. Members on the then Ministerial side of the House, it was also suggested that the Motion should be withdrawn. It was proposed by the then Prime Minister, that there should be some investigation in continuation of the Report which was made with regard to patronage in 1834. Well, there has been a change of circumstances since then, and the present Ministry have come to the conclusion that a question which has been so long in agitation ought to be settled, and accordingly this Bill has been brought in. It appears before us under very favourable circumstances, and I wish these interested in Scotland to consider these favourable circumstances. Let hon. Members also remember how they would stand with their constituents in Scotland if they give a vote which will have the effect of throwing out this Bill. The measure has received the unanimous approval of the Established Church. It has received the assent of the Government for dealing with the patronage of the Crown, which was not the case in 1833, and which also in 1843 had been interposed as an obstacle to proceeding with a Bill. It has received the assent of the other branch of the Legislature, where it might have been thought it would have encountered great difficulties, because in that House there are large holders of Church patronage in Scotland. With a generosity and patriotism which do them the highest credit, they have interposed no obstacle to the passing of this Bill, while several have declared they will at once give up their patronage without any compensation. This is the happy combination of circumstances under which I call upon this House to deal with this question now. Who are the parties opposed to the Bill? Some are in favour of postponing it, and the Mo- 1096 tion to be made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Baxter), is in a form which we lawyers should term of a dilatory character, and is not, I think, justified by any information which can be required in order to dispose of the Bill. The persons who are opposed to the measure are avowedly these opposed to establishment, and I think amongst these I may class the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baxter) himself. It is said that the United Presbyterian Church is opposed to the Bill, and that although they approve of the abolition of patronage generally, yet they would in this case refuse it, because it would tend to perpetuate the Establishment. Well, these who voted in favour of establishment last year will not, I think, find this any recommendation for refusing to vote for this Amendment this year. The Free Church people have not petitioned against the Bill. It is true that individuals and men of eminence have expressed opinions opposed to the measure; but the opposition to the Bill has not been supported by the General Assembly of the Free Church. A nobleman, who has great influence in that Church, who, I regret to say, is not in a good state of health at present (the Earl of Dalhousie) said, he would take no part in the Bill, either in opposing or supporting it; and when asked to present a Petition from Arbroath in favour of the Bill he declined to do so, partly because of the resolution he had made, and partly because it contained a proposition that ratepayers should be the electors—a mode of election he held to be quite inconsistent with the principles of the Churches of Scotland. I venture to say the Bill is popular in Scotland. It has turned out far more popular than I could have anticipated. There has been an attempt to create agitation against it, but it has wholly failed, and the single agitation which exists is purely the result of clerical bodies alone. The laymen of the Churches of Scotland, even these who belong to the non-Established Churches, are strongly in favour of the Bill, and Petitions have been presented to the House in favour of the Bill from them, as well as from members of the Establishment. The question arose before the town council of Glasgow, which may be regarded as an assembly containing not only members of the Establishment, but in greater numbers members of the Non- 1097 conforming Churches. The object of the proposal in that body was to get the disapproval of the Bill, because it sought to take away their patronage without compensation; and secondly because it did not give the right of election to the ratepayers. Well, what was the result? Why, that 28 members voted they would not petition against the Bill, and only 12 members voted in support of the motion to oppose it. Now, that was what took place in an assembly which, it will be admitted, is well calculated to show what is the feeling of the laymen of Scotland in reference to this measure. In Edinburgh I see that there has been a meeting of the Presbytery of the United Presbyterian Body, which numbers 60 ministers and 60 elders, making a total of 120 members. There was some difficulty in getting up the meeting, and the result was that several members left before the vote was taken, and when the question was put there were only 16 on one side and 6 on the other—I mention that to show the disinclination of such a body to take any action against the Bill. I may also mention another interesting circumstance in connection with the matter—I received a letter from a parish well known in Ross-shire, where the patron is a Free Churchman, stating that he has signed a Petition in favour of the Bill, and that the elders have also signed a similar document, several of them being Free Churchmen. What has been the actual result of the great agitation against the Bill? It really amounts to this, that there have been 64 Petitions against the measure, signed by 4,694 persons; while 348 Petitions, signed by 48,000, have been sent in favour of it. That, I think, shows what is the feeling of the laity of Scotland on the subject. I make every allowance for these who are connected with other Churches. God forbid I should say anything to produce irritation. My great desire is to produce conciliation. Now, with regard to the Amendment, let me ask what are the further inquiries which are required? The right hon. Gentleman called for Returns; he has got them, and I think he will find that, with the exception of some parishes in the Highlands, these Returns show a very strong body of supporters of the Church of Scotland who are communicants. These communicants amount to 450,000, while the Parliamentary constituency of Scotland is not more than 260,000. Is it with a 1098 view to obtain information of the nature of a religious Census? I can scarcely imagine such to be the object. The Established Church asked for a religious Census in 1871, but Lord Aberdare, then Homo Secretary, while favourable to it, was obliged to refuse it, as he said he was inundated by memorials from United Presbyterians, and even from large numbers of the Free Church, solemnly protesting against the proposal. An Amendment was proposed in the House of Lords, sanctioning such a Census, by Lord Cairns, but it was opposed by the Ministers for the above reasons. Lord Cairns, when arguing for the rejection of the Amendment, said—He only hoped that when any question arose as to the number of adherents of various religions denominations in England, it would not he again suggested, as had been done on former occasions, that these who opposed this Census were able to number themselves by millions in this country."—[3 Hansard, cciii. 1730.]I am at a loss to know what facts are to be ascertained to prevent this House from legislating upon a matter so long before the public of Scotland, and which has been a subject of so much interest. I can see no object except to delay the Bill, and I pray the House to take care what they are about, because, as I have already said, we are standing in a most propitious position, having obtained the assent of the Crown to give up its patronage—having obtained the assent of the House of Lords, which contains so large a body of the patrons of Scotland. I believe it to be essential to get patronage out of the way in order to effect union between the other Churches. I trust that ultimately there may be only one great Church in Scotland. My motives would be misconstrued if I did not say that I desire this Bill should be passed, not only because of the benefit which may result to the Established Church, but also because I believe it will afford the basis of reconciliation between parties who are so much at one in doctrine and government, and that I think it would be of the utmost advantage to the entire Church of Scotland. I therefore beg to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(The Lord Advocate.)
§ MR. BAXTER
in rising to move, as an Amendment—"That this House considers it inexpedient to legislate on 1099 the subject of Patronage in the Church of Scotland, without further inquiry and information," said: I confess it was not without hesitation and reluctance that I placed the Amendment on the Notice Paper, interposing an obstacle with regard to a Bill, which from one point of view, may be regarded as a measure of an advanced Liberal character, and one that might be welcomed with satisfaction by hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal side of the House, especially as emanating from a Conservative Government; and no doubt it is eminently satisfactory to the Liberal party in Scotland to find the great Conservative party in this House, and its allies in the Established Church of Scotland, at last confessing to the evils of a system which they have hitherto laboured to uphold against the continued protests of the Scotch people. We are sincerely glad of the light which has so suddenly dawned upon them; but in this sense only, that the Bill is a confession of wrong and apparently an honest attempt at reform with a view to reparation. There are other hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who go a great deal further, and say that the Bill ought to pass, because it is the first step towards the disestablishment and disendowment of the Scotch Church. That view has been recently expressed to me by an hon. Friend sitting on the same side of the House, who asked me what I meant by opposing the Bill, adding that every man with a head upon his shoulders must see that it would give rise to a state of confusion which would throw all other denominations into the hands of the Liberation Society, and thus bring about the separation of the Church from the State in Scotland. I also know that to be the opinion of one of the most eminent Conservative statesmen of the day, for he has said to a friend of mine, "I cannot understand what the Dissenters are about, as the Bill is a very long step on the road to Disestablishment;" and when the Lord Advocate says that the Edinburgh Presbytery of the United Presbyterian Church was not unanimous in petitioning against the Bill, and that there was a minority in its favour, he forgets that the reason was that it was seen the Bill would bring down the Church, and hence the opposition to petitioning against it. I was perfectly aware of the force of objections of the kind, when I resolved on the course which I have taken, and therefore it was 1100 that, at the beginning, I felt considerable hesitation in putting the Amendment on the Paper. But eventually I came to this conclusion—that we are sent to this House more as politicians than as Churchmen or Dissenters, and it is our duty to ask ourselves the question, is the measure which has come from the House of Lords a wise, well-drawn, and a statesmanlike measure, founded upon accurate information, and likely to bring about the beneficial results mentioned by the Lord Advocate, and desired by its promoters? To that question, I think a negative answer must be given, and with no historical retrospect at all, I will endeavour to show to the House reasons why my Amendment should be adopted. In the first place, I entertain a strong opinion that neither the House of Lords nor the House of Commons, at the present moment, is in possession of sufficient information with regard to the ecclesiastical state of Scotland, or the ecclesiastical feelings of its people, such as to warrant them in legislating at all. Let me remind the House of what took place in former years. I will only go back a few years—about 30 years. Lord Dalhousie, then Mr. Fox Maule, moved, in the House of Commons, for a Committee to consider the ecclesiastical state of Scotland, but the Conservative Government of the day, acting on the benighted advice of the party which was advising them as to the measure under discussion, refused the investigation, and the result was a terrible political blunder, ending in the disastrous legislation which led to the Disruption of 1843. Sir James Graham and Sir Robert Peel both admitted it to be so. Sir James Graham told me on several occasions how bitterly he regretted it. It was thought that not six Ministers would leave the Establishment; but between 400 and 500 left it. It is now thought this Bill will bring back these men, but my opinion is, it will produce a diametrically opposite effect—I appeal to what has happened already. The United Presbyterian Synod on the 18th May, 1874, at once, and unanimously, resolved that the Bill was an additional reason in favour of the disestablishment of the Church of Scotland. But the response of the Free Church is even more striking. It had been everywhere represented that the abolition of patronage would bring part of this body back. The Report laid on the table of 1101 the Assembly treats this as a misrepresentation. It says—As far as the Committee are aware, never once since 1843, never once during all the discussions of recent years, has a single Free Churchman, lay or clerical, thought of asserting that the abolition of patronage would remove the causes of separation.And accordingly, on the 29th May, 1874, the Free Church General Assembly declared—that no Act intended to alter the law of patronage can have the effect of removing the ground of separation," and "protested against legislation professedly in the interest of Scotland generally, which proceeds on the application of the General Assembly of one body of Christians, without inquiring into the conditions, convictions, or wishes of the people generally," by the bill which "deals with the ecclesiastical condition of Scotland on insufficient information.This declaration was carried by a vote of 433 to 66; but even among the small minority who approved of the measure so far as it went, not one, lay or clerical, ventured even to hint that it could bring back a single Free Churchman. Not only so, but what further action has taken place? This very Free Church Assembly, which up to the present moment has always advocated the principle of the Established Church, passed a resolution by a majority of 3 to 1 in favour of disestablishment. When I ventured to predict that something like that would take place to certain hon. Friends of mine on this side of the House, my statements were received with incredulity. I submit to the House that the information, or want of information, which we have at the present moment in regard to the ecclesiastical state and feelings of the people in Scotland is such that if we pass this Bill it will be legislating in the dark. As an instance of the want of knowledge or forethought displayed by the promoters of the Bill, let me call attention for one moment to what took place in the House of Lords. When Lord Aberdare asked the Duke of Richmond what provision was to be made for these parishes in the Highlands were there were no congregations, the Duke of Richmond admitted that there was none, and that the attention of the Government had not been drawn to the subject. The Lord Advocate has not said one word about the Highlands this evening; but I will do so. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen are not aware that in many parishes throughout Scotland, and in whole districts—nay in entire counties in the Highlands—there are no ad- 1102 herents of the Established Church at all. They went out en masse with the Free Church, and hardly a single man has come back again. A well-known gentleman went with two other distinguished men over some of these parishes, and this is his testimony—We recently visited in succession no less than 40 parishes in the district north of the Caledonian Canal, and in not one of the Established churches did I find more than 30 persons of both sexes and of all ages, including tourists, attending public worship on Sunday, and in the majority of cases the audience did not exceed half-a-dozen.In another parish, of which, by the way, the Duke of Richmond is the patron, the incumbent has usually seven hearers, and his neighbour the minister of a parish church is even worse off, for he has to preach to his own family, his precentor, and beadle. Then, again, let me refer to the Island of Lewis. The population of the Presbytery is 23,439, and of these, according to the statistics of the Free Assembly, 22,979 belong to the Free Church, leaving 460 men, women, and children to be divided among the Established and all other Churches. A clergyman of the Established Church was so horrified and scandalized with the state of things, that he recommended the General Assembly of the Established Church to disendow no less than 46 parishes. It has, however, at last, dawned on the Government that in these places exceptional legislation is required, and accordingly this extraordinary Proviso has been introduced at the end of Clause 7—Provided always, That if any communicants or other members of the congregation of a vacant church and parish, qualified in terms of this Act, shall apply to the presbytery of the bounds, and shall state that the number of communicants and other members of the congregation of such church and parish, qualified as aforesaid, is less than twenty-five, it shall be lawful for the said presbytery, if they see fit, to make an appointment tanquam jure devoluto on the expiration of three months after the vacancy has occurred.By the clause, however, such an arrangement can take effect only when an application is made, and, therefore, wherever there are fewer than 25—say the beadle and precentor—these two worthies, if agreed, are to have the appointment of the parish clergyman who is to be paid out of national funds. I ask the House of Commons, is that a Proviso this House will entertain? It will give rise to very great abuse in Scotland. Some of us 1103 are old enough to remember the charges made against the Regium Donum in the North of Ireland. In that case it was the custom to pay men to attend the congregations, to swell the numbers in order to get the grant, and in this Bill you are holding out a direct temptation to do a precisely similar thing. The Lord Advocate has referred to the Returns laid upon the Table of this House on the Motion of my hon. Friend (Mr. Ellice). No sooner were these Returns made, than I received communications from all parts of Scotland, even from ministers of the Established Church, assuring me that the communicants' roll was in such a state that the Returns must be inaccurate, and must mislead the House. I have looked them over with considerable care, and I believe many appear to be perfectly fair, because they are the Returns of parish clergymen who have most carefully kept their communion roll; but in other respects, there are gross errors, unless the congregations have been enormously increased since I was in Scotland last autumn. I have a letter from a friend of mine, in reference to one parish, of which he writes—I perceive by The Scotsman of to-day that the number of communicants is stated to be in my parish upwards of 3,000. If you deduct 2,000 from that number, you will still leave a number far above the mark.["Name, name!"] I decline to give the name. [" Name the parish!"] Oh, I understood that what was wanted was the name of my correspondent. The parish is that of Forfar, one of the boroughs I have the honour to represent. I have seen the congregation assemble there myself, and as to the number of communicants being upwards of 3,000, it strikes me as entirely out of the question. My correspondent also gives a remarkable instance, showing how a large number of the communicants is in some cases made up. He says he met a friend in the street who, in conversation in reference to this matter, said that his name was still on the roll of the Established Church, although he had not communicated since 1833; and this was no doubt the state of the communion roll in many other parishes. But, even if the figures are correctly stated in these Returns, they do not represent the figures of the constituency which it is proposed to enfranchise by this Bill, because it confers the right of voting 1104 only on communicants of full age, whereas in Scotland, especially in the country districts, it is the practice for young people to go to the communion long before they are of age. Now, I maintain that we are not in a position of sufficient information to legislate on this question, and I contend there is no call for this hasty legislation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (the Lord Advocate) has referred to the number of Petitions presented in favour of the Bill; but we all know how these have been obtained. At the last General Election, only throe candidates mentioned this subject at all. What I want the Government to do is to appoint a Royal Commission, or give a Select Committee of this House, or to inquire in some other manner as to what is the real ecclesiastical state of Scotland at this moment, and what are the feelings of its people before proceeding with this measure. But my next point is, that this Bill is based on the assumption that the Established Church of Scotland is the Church of the nation. Not being connected with any of the Presbyterian bodies of that country, I am in a position to estimate and state their relative strength with impartiality; and, after carefully studying all the statistics on the subject, I am satisfied that if I take it at 1,200,000, or rather more than one-third of the population, I exaggerate rather than under-rate the numerical strength of the Established Church in Scotland. ["No, no!"] That is my opinion. I am aware that figures have been placed before the General Assembly professing to show the Established Church to be very much stronger; but they are based on an estimate not of the whole population, but only of particular districts, taken for their own purposes. In the Presbytery of Hamilton, for example, having 156,000 inhabitants, they analyzed parishes containing only about 60,000. I maintain that the Established Church is only the Church of a Presbyterian sect. The whole of its endowments amount to £270,000, and the free-will offerings of its people to about the same sum. On the other hand, the Free Church, with about 800,000 adherents, raises about £500,000 sterling every year for religious purposes; and the United Presbyterians, about 460,000 or 470,000 in number, raised £338,000 last year. Since the great disruption in 1843, the Free Church has raised £10,500,000; 1105 the United Presbyterians since the union of the Belief and Secession Churches, £5,804,000; and, if we add the amount raised by the Relief and Secession Churches before their union, together with the sums raised by the smaller bodies who had been driven out of the Establishment, we shall find that about £20,000,000 have been raised by various bodies of Presbyterian Dissenters. Now, by this Bill it is proposed to sectarianize an institution which, according to the old ideas of the Scotch people, belongs to the people; and my principal objection to it is, that it is so vaguely worded as to be misleading, and that it is likely to be interpreted—as, indeed, it already has been by some of the highest authorities in the land—to convey to the Church Courts of one Presbyterian body in Scotland such powers as have never been given by any Parliament or Government to any Church Courts under the sun. In the Interpretation Clause, for instance, the word "adherent" is so vague, and so utterly unknown among legal terms, that if we pass the Bill, it will bring about such a state of confusion in the Church of Scotland as will again require the interference of Parliament. The Bill has been well described by a conference of gentlemen as ignoring parishioners who have legal rights and are taxed for the support of the Church, and they further said the measure proposed that the minister should be appointed by the section of a section—the most objectionable way that could be adopted. Now, I will ask hon. Gentlemen opposite what is the difference between England and Scotland, which will justify the application of this kind of legislation to the other side of the Tweed? Why not clothe the Church of England with the same tremendous power? Why not abolish patronage in it also? The only answer that can be given to this question is that given by the Duke of Richmond in "another place," and repeated by the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate in this House. It was, that there was a material difference between the two Churches; because in the Church of England there was a Liturgy, whereas in Scotland preaching was the principal thing, and it was very important that these who expected to hear good preachers should not be disappointed. That is rather a left-handed compliment to the Church of England. The fact is, we shall not 1106 be able to draw the line. The Church of England is the Church of the majority, but it is upon the Church of the minority in Scotland that it is proposed to confer these powers. The distinction authorized by this Bill cannot be maintained, and once we set the stone rolling, it will go much faster and further than its promoters suppose. I will quote the opinion tersely what will be one of the results of a gentleman who has expressed very of this Bill. It is to the effect, that in many parishes where there are communicants, one set will appoint the ministers and another set pay them, and before long the heritors will see the necessity of joining in a movement for the abolition of church rates, and afterwards will come to ask for disendowment also. One of the most eminent advocates of the Church of Scotland, Principal Tulloch, has said—The Church of Scotland, I believe, on the whole, will he strengthened by the present Bill, though I see possible elements of evil in it. I would like the question dealt with with more deliberation and inquiry, and other questions dealt with at the same time.The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate referred to the probable union of Presbyterian denominations. No doubt, there is a great and growing feeling in Scotland in favour of the union. The Presbyterian denominations have united in Canada, in Australia, in New Zealand, in the United States, but they can never unite in Scotland by going back to the Established Church, because the majority of the people have declared their determination not to do so. I have no fault to find with these who have introduced this Bill. It is a well-meant attempt to bring back parties who have seceded, and who have contributed to the support of their own Churches £20,000,000; but it comes too late. If the House of Commons will pause and inquire as to the feelings of the people of Scotland, they will discover that the solution of the religious problem in that country is not to be found within the four corners of this Bill. In conclusion, I beg to move the Amendment of which I have given Notice.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House considers it inexpedient to legislate on the subject of Patronage in the Church of Scotland without further inquiry and information,"—(Mr. Baxter,)
§ —instead thereof.1107
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. C. DALRYMPLE
said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had very wisely avoided referring to the subject of disestablishment; had he done so, his Amendment would have met with even less favour than it was likely to receive. The appeal which the right hon. Gentleman had made to English Members would not be very effective. There was no question in England as to the abolition of lay patronage, whereas in Scotland, it was almost a thing of centuries. Nothing could be more untrue than to allege that the question of lay patronage was bound up with the Established Church in Scotland; it was an alien part of the Establishment, which had patronage abolished before, and hoped to have it abolished again, as not consistent with its constitution. The right hon. Gentleman had explained that the vote of the United Presbyterians was not more hostile to the Bill, because they believed the measure would hasten disestablishment. But if that was so, why did they not vote in greater numbers? And with regard to the Glasgow town council, anybody who read their proceedings would know that that body was not actuated by any feelings of tenderness towards the Established Church, but thought the matter none of their business, and that it was for the Established Church itself to decide whether it would abolish lay patronage or not. He was very thankful to Her Majesty's Government for having dealt with the question that Session, though there were many circumstances which might have led them to adopt a different course, such as the shortness of the Session, the antiquity of the question, and the general abhorrence of Scotch questions, which was not peculiar to any Government. There were lions in the path, as it had been well said, not only to the slothful advocates of the motto, "quieta non movere," but also to these who, while they felt the necessity of action, were yet appalled by the complexity of the question, and the extraordinary variety of collateral issues raised by even the simplest enactment. The Government, he thought, had much reason to congratulate itself on the manner in which the Bill had been received, because the opposition 1108 even of the United Presbyterians was not urged against the present measure in particular, for they had decided to oppose every Bill which proposed to deal with patronage. In respect to their opposition there was a very remarkable question, and answer to it, which he observed in the newspapers. The Duke of Argyll put a question to the United Presbyterian Body in these terms—" How can you oppose the rule which proposes the mode of election which you have adopted, and which you say is divinely appointed?" The reply was—"It is a Divine right provided the Church is disestablished; but not a Divine right when the Church is established." Then there was a new association—the Scottish Disestablishment Association—and previous to then-deliberations upon the Bill they partook of breakfast together; and, not only so, but afterwards engaged in what were called religious exercises, and proceeded to pass some resolutions, one of which pledged the members to oppose all measures dealing with patronage, short of disestablishment and disendowment. He thought the Bill had been very much misunderstood, and that no such evil consequences would accrue from it as these depicted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. But the strongest opposition to the Bill, was that it was Erastian. He really must apologize for being the first Member to use that word in that debate; but it was not a word of his, and it was one with which all who had mixed in polemical affairs in Scotland were very familiar. It was said that the Bill was Erastian. Well, but patronage itself was Erastian, and he thought that the Erastianism of patronage might very well pair off with the Erastianism of the Bill. Patronage could not be abolished without coming to Parliament; and the use of a hard name like Erastianism should not deter its promoters from appealing to Parliament to enable them to pursue the only course open to them. He was not surprised that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baxter) was not a direct negative. It would have been impossible for him to oppose that Bill, either on the principle, or on the merits. He could not oppose it on the principle, because it was in that respect in accordance with opinions which he had held for many years. He could not oppose it on the merits, because it was a studiously moderate Bill, and one which offered very few points of attack. 1109 Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman had adopted the mode of attack which was seen in his Amendment. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman himself did not want information on the subject. His speech showed that so far as he was concerned, information was unnecessary. He had a most minute knowledge, drawn from letters of an anonymous correspondent of The North British Daily Mail, of the state of the Church of Scotland, even in the remote Western Islands. It was the clients of the right hon. Gentleman—he meant these whose sympathies were on the side of the opposition to the Established Church—who desired further information. But he begged the House to notice that the right hon. Gentleman's clients outside that House had not held their hand on that subject. They had announced—he could not say wisely and advisedly, but loudly and earnestly—that nothing short of disestablishment would satisfy them. It could not much matter to these whom the right hon. Gentleman represented on that question, whether or not they received information as to the numbers of the different religious bodies in Scotland, for he should like to know who it was that opposed in 1860 and 1870, the religious Census in Scotland. They were all anxious to get at the facts, and no one, he believed, was more anxious than the right hon. Gentleman who then presided over the Home Office; but they were stoutly refused on all occasions, and there was great opposition to anything like a religious Census made on behalf of the Dissenting Bodies in Scotland. It was said, not by the Free Church itself, but on its behalf, that it ought to have been taken into counsel before that Bill was proceeded with. It was alleged, and he was far from denying, that the members of that Church made great sacrifices in 1843. He yielded to no man in admiration of the sacrifices which were then made. He believed that many ministers went out of the National Church literally not knowing what they were about to subsist upon, and nothing could be finer than their conduct in taking such a step without regard to consequences. But he thought they would agree with him that the General Assembly of the Free Church had, on the whole, shown good taste in abstaining from direct opposition to a Bill with which they had, strictly speaking, nothing to do, and anyone who alleged that the Free Church had a just 1110 ground of complaint in not having been consulted on that question, seemed to him (Mr. Dalrymple) to be no friend of the Free Church. As well might the fellows of the Colleges of the English Universities, who resigned their Fellowships before the abolition of University tests, and who at the same time gave up the emoluments, come forward after the abolition of the tests, and either claim the first vacant Fellowships, or claim compensation for their losses during the years which had elapsed since they abandoned their Fellowships. Some remarks had been made by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the constituencies which were proposed in the Bill. In advocating a rate-paying qualification for the electors, the right hon. Gentleman differed from many of these who sat near him. He differed very widely from the noble Duke who was a Member of the late Government (the Duke of Argyll), who, in a speech on the Motion for going into Committee in "another place," said, that if any such Amendment as that of making the ratepayers the constituent body should be adopted, he for one should oppose the Bill at any future stage, and would rather it failed than that it were passed in that shape. The fact was, there was a fallacy involved in the demand that the ratepayers should be the constituent body. He was reminded, in connection with that point, of something which was said last autumn during the discussion at the Church Congress at Bath by a well-known and very eloquent Prelate, the Bishop of Peterborough, in reference to a proposal of Church reform with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple) was connected. The subject under discussion was one which was kindred to that now before the House. The Bishop of Peterborough was provoked to say what he did by the repetition of the expression "National Church," and he (Mr. Dalrymple) was reminded of what the Bishop said by the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman, based on the fact that the Church of Scotland was a National Church, and therefore ought to have a popular elective body. The Bishop denied that the ratepayers as such had anything to do with the internal discipline of the Church. He said it was perfectly monstrous for men to claim the right of interference in the internal affairs of the Church, after they 1111 had separated from it; and that he protested against men calling themselves Churchmen when there was something to be got from the Church, and Dissenters when any harm could be done to it. In a similar spirit, Principal Tulloch, whom the right hon. Gentleman had just quoted, said—All, I think, who have any real interest in the Church, or who are disposed to claim such an interest, should he recognized as entitled to a voice in the election of their parish minister, who is their pastor.He (Mr. Dalrymple) did not feel any prejudices on that subject. Those with whom he was connected, and these with whom he had been connected in times past, were among these who sympathized to a great extent with these who were known as the Non-intrusion party. He sympathized very much with these who were outside the pale of the Established Church. If that change should benefit the Established Church he would be very glad of it; and if it should lead any number of persons to return to the Established Church, its doors should be thrown wide open to receive them. He, for his part, would like to see some such plan adopted as that which was known in Scotland as the "Mutual Eligibility" system, under which, when a vacancy occurred, a Free Church minister might be elected parish minister if the elective body thought fit to choose him. He might say that if, through the removal of the stumbling-block of patronage, greater unity should prevail in Scotland for the time to come, that would be worthy of any sacrifice. Could any man doubt that the change would be generally acceptable to the people of Scotland? Could any one doubt that if patronage were abolished the chief excuse, at all events, for separation would be removed? They were threatened with disestablishment from two quarters. On the one hand, they were threatened with it by these who had opposed in England and Scotland, in times past, legislation on educational and other matters, and who, he regretted to say, had been left behind by the wave of onward progress. They said—"You don't know what you are doing; you will rue the day when you stirred this question." Well, but it was not they—meaning by that these who in Parliament had urged the change—who were urging it on only. Scot- 1112 land itself was bringing the matter forward. It was the Church of Scotland, through its General Assembly, which had been year after year agitating the question, and which he believed was only expressing what was essentially the desire of the people of Scotland. Many of these who were opposed to the Bill said that disestablishment was close at hand. Well, if it was as near as they said it was, they had better know it. He did not fear any such thing; but if the mere stirring up of such a matter as this was likely to produce disestablishment, then all he could say was—let it come. There were others who thought the Bill would benefit the Established Church, and were therefore opposed to it. They were inconsistent, for they I said, on the one hand, that the Church was so weak that nothing could save it, and, on the other hand, they complained that they had not been consulted, and that the Established Church would be greatly benefited. They were afraid of the Bill, in fact. After all, there were worse things than disestablishment, for, bad as that calamity might I be, the spectacle of a dead Established Church was worse; and another thing worse than disestablishment would be a Church which was nothing if not a political propaganda, which combined the utmost degree of theological narrowness with the subtlest arts of political aggressiveness. He valued most highly the connection of Church and State, but he had always considered that the State benefited far more from its alliance with the Church than the Church benefited from its alliance with the State. In his opinion, no Church ought to have the advantage of a connection with the State, unless it was doing good work, and making itself more useful and comprehensive, and more enlightened. It was because he believed the Church of Scotland answered to this description—because he believed its usefulness would be increased by the abolition of patronage, because the desire for the change had not grown weaker, but had become stronger year after year, and because it was a movement which was characterized by deliberation and provident caution, that he supported the second reading of the Bill. He concluded, as he began, by saying that Scotland was under great obligations to Her Majesty's Government for having dealt with this 1113 subject during the first year of its existence
I think, Sir, there can Le no doubt that the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Bute, particularly in the latter portion of his speech, are such as do him individually high honour; but whether, on the other hand, they are equally calculated to recommend this Bill to the support of many of these who are favourably inclined to it may be another question; for the hon. Member, having been, as he says, threatened with disestablishment, does not seem at all disinclined to accept the challenge, his view being that if we are near disestablishment, it is well we should know it, and that after all there are worse things than disestablishment. Sir, these may be very sound opinions, but they are not, I think, the opinions with which this Bill has been introduced; and the hon. Gentleman has rather marked a division which subsists between himself and many of these by whom he is surrounded, than contributed greatly to strengthen the view of the question by which they will probably be governed. For myself, I must say I am exceedingly sorry to find myself involved in a new ecclesiastical controversy. I had hoped that this was a question which might have been dealt with in such a manner, with such a careful regard to preliminary examination, and the removal of difficulties, that when it came before Parliament it would be found consonant with the general opinions and views of the people of Scotland, and would be capable of being considered with reference only to the provisions of the Bill itself. I am not able, for myself, to avoid giving my opinions upon the subject. I was one of a number of Gentlemen—now very small—who watched with much interest the progress of the controversy which began in 1834 and ended in 1843; and I did not at that time scruple to state in print my opinion that so far as the traditions and principles of the original Scotch Reformation were concerned, the Free Church—these who afterwards became the Free Church—whatever might be the incompatibility of their views on national Establishments, were certainly the heirs of the principles of these theological traditions that are connected with the Scotch Reformation. Now I will state very shortly what I think are the rules by which we, the Parliament of 1114 the United Kingdom, should be guided in approaching the consideration of this question. I entirely agree with the right hon. and learned Lord who has introduced the Bill, and with the sentiments which he quoted from Sir James Graham. We must not approach this question as Episcopalians; we must not approach it as Englishmen. We must approach it with reference to the history, the feelings, and the wants of Scotland, and must endeavour to settle it mainly upon what may be called Presbyterian principles, and for Presbyterian ends, inasmuch as the great mass of the people of Scotland are strictly and conscientiously of one or another Presbyterian persuasion. If I could see any clear and general declaration of the views of the people of Scotland upon this question, that would be such a recommendation to me of any particular plan which might be proposed that I should feel the utmost reluctance to offer any opposition to it—certainly, to offer any opposition on English grounds. Episcopalian, though most of us may be, and but few of us Presbyterian, it is above all things our duty to treat this question with perfect good faith in the interest of these Presbyterian Bodies; and any plan which tended to an honourable and fraternal union of these Bodies would in my opinion have the strongest possible claims upon our favour and support. These are the general considerations by which I would endeavour to test the measure which is now before us. Allusion has been made to some of the details of the Bill, and it has been said to me, by one or two hon. Friends on this side of the House, that it is a Bill, the general principle of which may be regarded with great favour, but that the details will require liberal amendment in Committee. I have very great doubt whether it is possible to amend effectually the details of this Bill in that manner, and I am quite sure that it cannot be done by hostile action. If the Bill is to be amended in its details, I think it will have to be done by its promoters and by the Government. I wish to call the attention of the learned Lord to some provisions, one or two of which have been touched by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, and which are certainly, to say the least, of a very extraordinary character—so much so that it is difficult to see how anyone who has been concerned in the drafting 1115 of the Bill can have supposed that he was moving upon these lines which Parliament has been accustomed to observe in all matters of ecclesiastical legislation. It is said that the Bill is in conformity with the prayer of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; but the prayer of the General Assembly was a prayer to proceed upon the principles formerly embodied in Scotch legislation, and to introduce the heritors of the parish into the constituency which was to elect the clergyman. That was the prayer of the General Assembly, but the heritors have entirely disappeared from the Bill. [The LORD ADVOCATE: The General Assembly approves the Bill.] I beg your pardon, I am speaking of the prayer of the General Assembly. The right hon. and learned Lord professed to be proceeding in consonance with the proceedings of the General Assembly itself, and I now point out to him that he has, in an important particular, departed from the views of the General Assembly, who founded themselves on historical precedent, embodying their ideas in a formal resolution that the heritors ought to be among the constituent bodies who are to elect the ministers. [Sir GRAHAM MONTGOMERY made an observation which was inaudible in the gallery.] This interruption proceeds from a particular quarter of the benches behind the right hon. and learned Lord, and I may say that while I desire to avoid falling into any error on the matter, and am grateful for any correction as to matters of fact, I would point out that this is a measure demanding the strictest investigation, in the sense of its being one of profound organic change; and it is a matter of the first consideration for the House as to whether it is altogether right or wise, by excluding the heritors from being among the constituencies that elect the clergy, to break the links which appear to have heretofore connected the Established Church of Scotland with the Crown, with the State, with the landed gentry, and with a large proportion of the Episcopalians of the country, and which have done so much to maintain and foster a very kindly interest in the Established Church of Scotland on the part of many who do not belong to its community. I did not perceive from the speech of the learned Lord that he had looked at the question from this point of view. It is remarkable, I say, 1116 that in this Bill you begin by striking out the heritors, whom the General Assembly prayed should be put among the constituencies that are to elect the ministry. But what do you do then? The General Assembly, having prayed that the elective power shall be given to the elders, heritors, and communicants, you have again departed from the views of the Assembly, and have introduced what you call the congregation. In introducing the congregation you have likewise introduced words totally unknown to the law as laid down by other Acts of Parliament, by saying that the congregation shall consist of such adherents of the Church other than communicants, as under any rules made by the General Assembly or by its Commission may hereafter be laid down. Now, Sir, I must say that if you are going to deliver, as perhaps you are, the disposal of a very considerable mass of public religious endowments to the members of a particular religious body, you ought yourselves, on your own responsibility, to determine, in its main outlines, your plan as to who shall be the persons entitled to the disposal of these endowments; and you ought not to delegate even to the General Assembly, the performance of functions on which the character of your own act will entirely and absolutely depend. The General Assembly may adopt the strictest proceedings for purging the roll of the communicants. It may adopt the closest and most stringent regulations, if it think fit, for the purpose of determining who are these adherents; and if it is in their opinion, a matter of policy to do so, they may commit to any ecclesiastical body whatever, the exercise of the powers on which the whole character of the measure is really to depend. It may be that we shall be told that this can all be amended in Committee; but, in my opinion, it cannot be amended in Committee by any hostile section of the House, or by the action of any independent Members; and the Amendment ought, therefore, to come from the Government themselves. But if it is remarkable that you should commit these powers in a manner so totally different from what the General Assembly asks, it is still more extraordinary to us that we should be asked, as we are by the present Bill, to entrust powers which are enormous, and beyond all precedent, to a committee of the Assembly. The 1117 House ought to be aware that this absolutely is the case. The words of the Bill are that the—congregations shall mean and include communicants and such other adherents of the church as the kirk session (a self-elected body) under any rules and regulations to be issued by the General Assembly or commission thereof.Now, Sir, if it is an extravagant proposal to say that you hand over to the General Assembly the man and the principal part of his legitimate duties, it is certainly a much stronger thing to say that the Commission of the General Assembly, which may simply consist of these members who may find it convenient to be in Edinburgh during the Recess, is to have such powers; for it is idle to tell me that the open constitution is of any value whatever. The members of the Assembly must be in their cures all over the country, and you merely hand over to these who are in Edinburgh and its neighbourhood, the power of determining this great and vital question for the whole of the Church Body. But the Bill goes much further than this; and I want, Sir, to know what is the intention of the Bill in what I am about to mention? The learned Lord says in the Bill, that the sentences of the Church Courts on all questions that may arise in the course of the proceedings connected with the appointment, admission, and settlement of any persons to be the ministers of the parish shall be final and conclusive. Now, what is the meaning, and what is the legal extent, of the words—" Upon all questions connected with the appointment, admission, and settlement in any parish of any person as minister thereof?" Are questions of civil rights which arise in the course of these proceedings to be finally and conclusively dealt with by the sentences of the Ecclesiastical Courts? Does the learned Lord intend to commit to the Courts of the Church of Scotland powers that are not possessed by the Courts of any voluntary religious communion in the country? I apprehend that there is no voluntary religious communion in the country, of which you can assert that the sentences of its Courts upon all matters connected with the adoption, appointment, and settlement of ministers are finally conclusive; and I am astounded that the learned Lord, in expounding to the House the nature of this Bill, has not made the smallest reference to the subject, nor has he told us whether he 1118 is going to give to these persons who are to dispose of the national public endowments, powers that are not possessed at this moment by the Free Church, or by the United Presbyterians, who are liable, and who have been found to be liable, to the interference of the civil Courts on many questions connected with the appointment, adoption, and settlement of their ministers. I am now going to touch on a point on which I will not dwell at any length; but I wish to take objection to the mode in which this Bill deals with property. The Bill adopts the principle of compensating the owners of advowsons in Scotland. I feel the difficulty of dealing with this subject, and I could have understood your saying that you would in the rough give a fixed sum, in order to escape from the embarrassment" of investigating and settling the matter, which, after all, is not of very great pecuniary value. But the learned Lord does not give a fixed sum. He gives a maximum sum. The compensation to be given to patrons may be ever so small, but it is not to exceed one year's endowment. Now, why is it not to exceed one year's endowment? We on this side of the House are supposed to have been guilty of, and have often been charged with, confiscation. That was a very convenient word to apply to us; but it may be thought that in the present case if the learned Lord recognized the proprietary right, he is bound to satisfy the proprietary right. Is he prepared to say that he has investigated the case, and has found that one year, which is his maximum, is the extreme value of the Scotch advowsons? [The LORD ADVOCATE assented.] The learned Lord is prepared to say that he has examined the matter, and has found that such is the case. [The LORD ADVOCATE: The Duke of Argyll said so in the House of Lords.] I hope the opinion of the noble Duke will be accepted on all questions as conclusively as it is on this, in which case, I will venture to say that that will be a very good guarantee for the good conduct of the present Government. But I never heard that the noble Duke—whose warm support of this Bill would, if nothing else had done so, have disposed me to take a favourable view of the subject—had examined these proprietary rights, and the learned Lord must see that his position is very weak when he quotes the Duke of Argyll. The noble Duke was a party to all our 1119 schemes of "confiscation," and he is, of course, a most dangerous man to rely upon in these delicate and difficult matters relating to Church property. As the learned Lord appears to be in a position in which the smallest contributions of information will probably be thankfully received, I will tell him what is represented to me, and although I have no original knowledge of the facts, they are represented in such a manner, and with such details, that he may have a perfect opportunity of investigating them for himself. Early in the present Session, a society was formed in Scotland for the purpose of purchasing advowsons, and I am told that they bought the advowson of the parish of Colinton, near Edinburgh, for £2,000. I do not know in what manner the learned Lord will bring this fact within his doctrine of one year's income. I do not know the income of the parish; but it is a rural parish. Then, I am informed that the advowson of the parish of Fairseat, in Fife, was purchased by the same society for £1,000, which was several years' purchase; and that of the parish of Car-stairs, the income of which is £300 per annum, was bought not many years ago for £600. It is said the purchaser had a splendid bargain. The advowson of the parish of Broughton, in Peebles, was sold for the low price of £300; but that was owing to a surprise on the sale-day, owing to the absence of intending purchasers, who were extremely disappointed at finding they had missed the opportunity. I do not pin myself to this matter as one that will determine the rights of the Bill, but knowing the feelings of the Government on the subject of confiscation, I thought it right to refer to the way they deal with the question of property. If the statements given to me are at all correct, the present Bill does not at all satisfy the proprietary rights on this head. With regard to the cases of parishes with less than 25 communicants, I was surprised when I heard the eager challenges from the opposite benches as to the names of the parishes where there were only half-a-dozen members of the congregation. Name them! Why, the difficulty in the counties of Ross and Sutherland would be to name the parishes where there are larger congregations. It is not very agreeable to the ministers of such parishes that the names of them should be produced; that the nakedness 1120 of the land—which is not owing to their fault—should be made the subject of comment in Parliament; and that they themselves should be exhibited as shepherds who receive the wool, but who do not feed the sheep. But let any hon. Member consult even the imperfect statement which has been already laid upon the Table of the House, and he will find there many ecclesiastical parishes where the minister is supported out of the public taxes, and where there are not more than five or six communicants, including very often the minister himself, his wife, children, and dependants. That is a state of things which, as I have said, is common and not rare or exceptional in the counties of Ross and Sutherland; and it is undoubtedly strange that in the face of a class of cases such as these my right hon. Friend the Member for Montrose should be censured for saying further inquiry is necessary before you prepare to hand over bylaw the disposition and enjoyment of these livings, which are paid out of the general taxes of the people, to the five, or six, or perhaps 12, communicants in the parish who are to have the absolute disposal unless they choose to call in the aid of the Presbytery. I do not know whether the aid of the Presbytery will greatly improve matters. It would be a severe trial of the patience of the inhabitants of these parishes, who belong in the mass to the Free Church, to see these public charges disposed of by the vote of a handful of people among themselves; but I do not see how the case would be mended by its being carried away from the parish to the Presbytery, for, of course, the Presbytery is a body remote from them. The case of these Highland parishes is one of the extremest difficulty, and it has now been stated, on the highest authority, that it met with no consideration whatever in the deliberations of the Cabinet on this question during the present Session. Yet we are now asked to give over to these handfuls of men the absolute disposal, subject to no appeal except the Church Courts, of this national and public property. Why, a member of the municipality of Dingwall, speaking to me some years ago of this state of facts in the county of Ross, not as exulting in but as lamenting them, remarked that one single church would hold all the Established congregations in the county. I appeal to the right hon. and learned Lord to consider in what way 1121 this state of things, this terrible scandal on the face of the Bill, is to be dealt with. Is it hardly politic, prudent, or wise—I may almost say, is it decent?—where the people have been driven out of the Church by measures for which you now express your solemn and sincere repentance, to leave them to their own resources—and they are so poor that it is with the utmost difficulty they can make any provision for themselves—and hand over to two or three favoured individuals who, generally speaking, belong, not to the mass, but to the upper class of the community, the absolute disposal of funds which were intended to provide religious ministrations for the whole of the people of these parishes? Of course, it is not for me to tell the learned Lord how to improve his own measure; but I hope he will consider this great blot on the face of the Bill, because nothing will more contribute to precipitate these consequences which he does not appear to apprehend, but which are quite open to the view of the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and for producing which I, for one, do not wish to be in the slightest degree responsible. I am quite ready to make a large admission to the learned Lord. From the point of view of a member of the present Established Church of Scotland, it is impossible, I think, to object to his efforts to get rid of patronage. He is acting in conformity with the traditions, at least, of the popular party in the Church, and so far I entirely go with the right hon. and learned Lord, and I understand the difficulty which has been felt by the members of the Free Church and other Dissenting Bodies in offering what is called direct opposition to the Bill. The hon. Gentleman who just addressed the House, the Member for Bute, congratulated himself on the paucity of direct opposition to the Bill. Well, I cannot but honour the Free Church and the United Presbyterian communion for having felt it was not becoming in them to do anything which might be construed as a sanction of patronage. Therefore, they have avoided to a great extent direct opposition to this Bill, and have not encouraged Petitions against it. [Laughter.] The hon. Member opposite laughs contemptuously, but I would remind him that there are 800,000 Free Churchmen in Scotland and 400,000 or 500,000 United Presbyterians, and I presume that if 1122 these Bodies had been desirous to promote Petitions they might have sent up a large number. What I contend is, that the Dissenting and Nonconforming Bodies in Scotland are entitled to be considered in this matter. The learned Lord has framed his Bill from a Church point of view, and so far I do not find fault with him; but what I do find fault with is that he has framed his Bill from a Church point of view exclusively. He says his intention is to strengthen the Church. But how? Why, by weakening the other religious bodies, not by an honourable and straightforward offer to them, accompanied by a frank confession of offence, in order to re-unite that which in former years was ruthlessly and unhappily torn asunder, but by investing the present Established Church with such wealth, and such unbounded liberty with respect to the interference of the Civil Courts, that you will confer such a condition of popular privilege on the laymen of the Established Church, that laymen of the Free and United Presbyterian Churches will be tempted to come back into the Established Church, and to leave their ministers to look out for themselves, or to starve. Now, is that a wise or a prudent measure of procedure? What was the state of things before 1843? The national Church of Scotland was so strong in the sense of recollection of service rendered to the country, and in the possession of an overwhelming majority of adherents in every quarter of the land, that if then it had been proposed to invest the people of that Church with the disposal of the endowments of the Church by a mode of popular voting, probably it would have been felt, whatever anomalies there might be in such a proposal, that it was one that would, at all events, have tended to give privileges and purity to the great mass of the people of Scotland. And here I must say, by way of parenthesis, the learned Lord has taken no security whatever in framing the Bill that the boon he proposes to confer on the communicants of the congregation will ever reach them at all; for he says it shall be subject to regulations to be made by a committee of the General Assembly, not only for determining who are the congregation, but also for defining the minister. The General Assembly may require that no person shall be appointed or selected unless he had passed through the preliminary ordeal of the 1123 committee, and the Assembly can provide for the constitution of that committee. Well, if that he so, I would point out that the learned Lord takes no security whatever for giving even to these comparatively limited bodies the great privilege he intends for them. But in 1843 a very different state of things came about. A vast secession took place. What was the effect of that secession? Why, in the first place, it had the effect of earning for Scotland throughout the Christian world a degree of notice, a degree of celebrity, and a degree of honour that no such limited country ever enjoyed before. The doings, not of these who resisted the movement of 1843; not of these who continued to constitute the Established Church; but of these who went forth from their churches, their homes, their schools, and their manses to fling themselves upon the bounty of the poorest parts of the population, strong only in the consolation they derived from having obeyed their consciences, drew a universal burst of applause and congratulation from all Christendom irrespective of religious persuasion, that noble and great was the country, however bounded were its limits, that could produce such men, ready in this 19th century of ours to offer such sacrifices to their consciences and to God. That was the proceeding of the Free Church. Did they upon withdrawing from the Church do that which they must have been strongly tempted to do, and what they might very easily have been led to do—throw themselves into a violent movement for disestablishment? Did they then become the enemies of the Established Church of Scotland? The answer is plain and undeniable, and it is to he found in the comparative absence of the disestablishment controversy during the last 30 years from the annals of Scotland. In England we have heard much of it. Here we have a Liberation Society established, not very large in numbers, it is true, but at the same time not inconsiderable, and distinguished by much activity and tenacity of purpose, whose object is disestablishment, although I believe that the Church of England is still the Church of a very considerable majority of the people. But, in Scotland, where the Established Church has ceased to be the Church of the majority—["No, no!"]—there has been no such 1124 movement. Really, Sir, if hon. Gentlemen are determined to interrupt me, let them prepare what they say. An hon. Member, by his interruption, shows his belief that in Scotland the Established Church is the Church of the majority, and I should like to know what evidence he would accept on the point—perhaps he thinks he knows better than all the world beside, and will accept no evidence which is not drawn from the depths of his inner consciousness. Has the hon. Gentleman read the Papers—not the newspapers, but Papers which contain information; and has he referred to the figures published by either one or the other of the parties ranged on different sides of this question? I will quote to the hon. Member who interrupted me a few figures from a pamphlet recently published, entirely in the interest of this Bill and of the Established Church, by Dr. Edgar dimming. Those figures will, I think, easily dispose of the question of numbers. My right hon. Friend near me—the Member for Montrose—represents the views held by the Voluntary Bodies, who contend that the Established Church has only a little more than one-third of the entire population of Scotland. I may here remark, in passing, that I agree with the hon. Member opposite in thinking that the Voluntary Bodies, or some of them, in England and Scotland, put themselves in a position of great weakness by declining to give their countenance to any proposal for a religious Census, which would give us very useful and, indeed, valuable knowledge, on an occasion like the present. I find, however, from the figures contained in Dr. Cumming's pamphlet, that he estimates the communicants at 451,500, and the adherents at 1,448,000, and that the percentage of communicants and adherents of the Established Church to the entire population is 42.66—but, perhaps the hon. Gentleman is of opinion that 42.66 is a larger percentage than 57.34?
§ MR. ORR-EWING
If the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to refer to the foot of the column, he will find that among these returned as not belonging to the Established Church, there is a large proportion of the population who cannot be said to belong to the Nonconformists.
I have looked at the foot of the column, and I can find 1125 no figures there which are relevant to the case. We find, then, that since 1843 there has been an Established Church of Scotland, which has been considerably stronger in point of numbers than any other single denomination; and a Free Church, which has retired from the Establishment under circumstances entitling it to peculiar consideration; in addition to which, there is an United Presbyterian Church, whose deeds we may have forgotten, for the reason that they were performed a century earlier, and were not so conspicuous because the numbers were smaller, but which were deeds as honourable, as conscientious, and as praiseworthy—and, perhaps, even more conformable to the large principles of reform and religious independence in Scotland—as were the deeds of the Free Church in later times. The Establishment has rendered very valuable services to numbers of people. I do not stint that acknowledgment in the slightest degree; but it cannot be denied that it is an Establishment in a minority, for in Ross and Sutherland, for instance, it has been so destitute of adherents that, without exaggeration, these districts relating to the Established Church of Scotland might be compared with Con-naught and Munster as they existed under the Established Church in Ireland; and yet, with all this, while you had hardly any controversy on disestablishment, what was your condition as to patronage? The right hon. and learned Lord had dwelt in the barest generalities on this subject. What amount of disturbance, or confusion, or religious feud has there been in Scotland during the last 30 years on the subject? There has not been more than a single case here and there; and the patrons, much to their honour—beginning with the Crown, and going almost through the list—have always shown the most exemplary regard for the feelings of the people. The working of the system of patronage in Scotland has been thoroughly harmonious, although the Established Church has been the Church of the minority, and in some parts of the country has been almost totally without adherents. In addition to this you have had Dissenters, some of them approaching the Establishment in strength, and, conjointly, far exceeding it, but you are not satisfied with that state of things. Under these circumstances, it is that you 1126 come out and say you will cast down a challenge to the Dissenters, and defy them to raise a cry for disestablishment, while you endeavour to win back, not entire bodies, but single members, adherents of these Bodies here and there; for this last may, perhaps, be done on the occasion of a vacancy in a parish, when there will arise a disposition to qualify as members of the Establishment for the sake of taking part in an election or having a voice in the expenditure of the public money. And all this it is proposed to do in a manner totally out of consistency with wisdom or prudence, and in a manner which—if it be not presumption in me to give an opinion on such a subject—I should venture to describe as not well in harmony with what are called Conservative principles. The right hon. and learned Lord and the hon. Member opposite object to the Motion of my light hon. Friend the Member for Montrose by asking—"What information do you want which you have not got?" and adding—"You will not be able to get any information if you postpone the Bill." I am very sorry if that should be the case; but if there is any further information to be got, it ought to be forthcoming, because what I wish to point out is that the Bill proceeds upon the basis of a principle which is both dangerous and unfair. The question really is—are we to consider this as a Bill for the Establishment only, or is it to include all Dissenting Bodies also, in order, as the learned Lord says, to increase and strengthen the Established Church? The obvious complement of the learned Lord's sentence was, that he desired to strengthen the Established Church by inducing adherents of the Dissenting Bodies to come over man by man, and I ask the question fairly and publicly, is that a fair or a generous course? How did they become Dissenters, if not by the action taken by these who were now the Established Church? The learned Lord himself stated last year that it was patronage made the Scotch Dissenters, and his speech to-night has been a repetition in substance of the pamphlets I read in 1842, and which were written by these who afterwards formed the Free Church in Scotland. At the time of which I am speaking, proposals such as these now made by the learned Lord were con- 1127 temptuously spurned and cast aside. The Bill now before the House amounts to a cry of Peccavi; but if it is also an admission of wrong and a confession of penitence, let me say that restitution is an absolutely indispensable means of testing its sincerity. What are you going to do for these people whom you drove out of the Established Church and compelled to find ministers for themselves, to build churches, manses, and schools, and, in fact, to organize and pay for the establishment of a complete system of Church Government? You compelled them to do all this, and now you say, "We are going to adopt the same principles for which you contended," but you do not offer to take these people back. If you did, I should entirely approve of this Bill. If the Assemblies were to meet together on terms of fraternal equality, in order to see what should be done to bring about the reunion of the Churches, I would do everything in my power to forward it; but to force these Churches to go out and depend upon voluntary support and then say—"We will now bring in a state of things, and with such placing of public funds at your disposal, that individual members may be expected to return to the Church "—I repeat that it is neither generous nor fair, neither is it one to which I can give my support; and if asked what information I want, in the sense of the Motion of my right hon. Friend, I would say the information I want is to know what the General Assembly has done towards arranging for a return of these Bodies whom it threw out because patronage was right, when it now declares patronage to have been wrong. I have detained the House for some time; but I hope I have not said of the Lord Advocate, nor of anybody connected with this movement, anything offensive as far as motives are concerned. I hope I am not illiberal in my admission—an admission made more than 30 years ago by me in print—that the principles applicable to patronage are more or less these that represent the interior mind, so to call it, of the Scottish Reformation. But I do not think that the Dissenting Bodies in Scotland are so weak that they will suffer injustice at the hands of the learned Lord Advocate. In my opinion he is taking steps which, unless we interpose preparatory measures, and liberal 1128 measures such as I have prescribed towards fraternal union, he may have reason to repent. The hon. Member for Bute said he was not afraid of disestablishment; but the right hon. and learned Lord did not say he was not afraid of disestablishment. I have pointed out to him that there was scarcely any disestablishment movement in Scotland until the date of the introduction of this, I do not call it bad, but crude, premature, and insufficiently considered Bill. But is it true that there is no promise of a disestablishment movement in Scotland now? What has happened since the announcement of this Bill? The representatives of 1,200,000 of the Scottish people have in their General Assembly declared for disestablishment. The hon. Member is glad that there is little direct opposition. Does the learned Lord like that kind of indirect opposition? Does he think it really desirable to force these 1,200,000 or these 800,000 persons, men, women, and children—and they appear to have quite as fair a chance under his Bill as anybody else—does he think it well to force that great Free Church into the attitude of disestablishment and disendowment? As I have said, it no longer rests on speculation. Those men have met in their Assembly, and by a very large majority for the first time in their history declared in favour of disestablishment. There were 295, as I understand the number, against 98, these 98 not voting in favour of establishment, but for the previous question. I do not wish myself to be responsible for raising the question of disestablishment in Scotland. I am not an idolater of disestablishment. [Cheers.] Neither am I one of these who would wish to raise a controversy of that kind, excepting under very strong justifying circumstances, and excepting with a perfect preparedness to abide the issue of that contest. If the cheer we have just heard—and it was perhaps a very natural, fair, and legitimate cheer—was intended to imply that I am a great enemy, of Establishments, because I used every effort in my power to put an end to an Establishment in Ireland, I must say, in answer to that cheer, that I do not repent the part that I took. So far from repenting it, if I am to have a character with posterity at all—supposing posterity is ever to know that such a person as myself existed in this 1129 country—I am perfectly willing that my character should be tried simply and solely by the proceedings to which I was a party with regard to the Irish Church Establishment. I would, however, in this case recognize distinctions that are founded in the nature of things. In Scotland there has been no general movement of principle towards disestablishment; and although an Established Church in a minority is an anomaly, it is an anomaly which I was well content to tolerate, and which the masses of the people of Scotland were justly and wisely content to tolerate, and not to be guided by abstract principles, but by a careful regard to the state of facts. But when in that state of things the Government throws down the challenge before them; proposes to invest this ecclesiastical body, or even the committee or commission of it, with powers never before intrusted to an ecclesiastical body, but which will infallibly be quoted in support of high clerical pretensions in other quarters; and when in doing that it does it, as the right hon. and learned Lord says, in the sense of strengthening the Established Church, but declining to recognize, for every practical purpose, the existence of these great Presbyterian communities whom you drove out and compelled to become Dissenters; entirely declining to recognize them, excepting as Bodies from whom you may make a certain profit by withdrawing one adherent from them here and another from them there—that is a challenge, I think, to them to take up a question of the public and national endowment of religion such as was never before issued by a Government under any circumstances, and such as, in my opinion, it is to tally inconsistent with prudence and wisdom to issue. If we have been rash—which I do not admit—our rashness will certainty fade into utter insignificance by the side of the gratuitous hardihood of the Government, which, as it appears to me, determines to initiate a religious war in Scotland under the influence of the best motives, but under circumstances the most slippery and dangerous. As I have said, I see, Sir, no mode of materially interfering with the provisions of this Bill in Committee; but as I think it unwise to provoke this war, unwise to throw nearly a moiety of the population of Scotland into the ranks of disestablishment, and thus excite a fierce and probably a prolonged 1130 and bitter controversy, I must, while admitting a hostility to the principle of patronage to lie at the root of Scottish Presbyterianism, support the Amendment of my right hon. Friend, which I interpret as meaning that other steps ought to be taken, steps of justice, of propriety, of prudence—I might even say, of decency—towards the non-Established Bodies before we proceed to constitute the singular and unexampled condition of privilege which is the immediate object of this measure.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had alleged that the Bill was not in consonance with the prayer of the General Assembly; but in 1869 or 1870 the prayer of the General Assembly set forth that patronage was a grievance, an injury to true religion, a main cause of the difficulties which beset the Church, and that it ought to be abolished. The right hon. Gentleman had also dwelt on the difference between the General Assembly itself and the Commission appointed by it; but before separating in May last, the General Assembly issued a Commission and gave it full power and authority to act; and the Commission was not therefore to be put aside in the manner the right hon. Gentleman had adopted. It had been urged that every ratepayer in the parish ought to be admitted to the electing body; but that would let in not only both the large and small heritors, but hundreds and thousands of persons who had nothing to do with the Church. That would lead to great confusion, and it would be impossible to say what sort of a minister you would get under such a system. The right hon. Gentleman criticized very severely the compensation which was to be given in cases where patronage was abolished, but he must bear in mind that livings such as that to which he had referred were no longer so valuable as they were previous to 1843, and it might be doubted if some were even marketable. His argument, moreover, in a great measure was founded on ignorance of the wants and wishes of the people. Lord Aberdeen's Act, to which reference had been made, really aggravated these evils which it was designed to remedy, and its intricacies and ambiguities were a constant source of difficulty to every presentee, while it raised points of law which an 1131 impartial Judge had difficulty in deciding wisely or well. There was, he was prepared to admit, great difficulty with respect to the case of the Highland parishes, because there existed in these parishes for several years, a system which kept back from being communicants, many hundreds, and even thousands of people, who were retained by these who guided them in a sort of allegiance which it was difficult to understand; and beyond that, it should be borne in mind that there were no statistics of the number of communicants in the more remote parts of the country on which they could rely. The right hon. Gentleman said—and in doing so, he had made one of the gravest charges against the Bill—that the Lord Advocate represented it as one which would do everything for the Established Church. He (Mr. Stewart) was satisfied, however, that the Bill would not benefit the Established Church alone, but would confer advantages upon all other sects in the country. It was absurd to deny that the majority of the Presbyterians in Scotland were in favour of the Bill. Many members of the Free Church and of the United Presbyterian Church approved of its provisions, because they recognized in it a step in the direction of civil and religious liberty, apart from any sectarian motive, and the same remark applied to the Original Seceders and the Reformed Presbyterians, from the former of whom he had that day presented a Petition favourable to the measure. The right hon. Gentleman further dwelt at great length on the constitution which the Bill proposed to give, but there were not a few who thought the right hon. Gentleman himself had erred in the contrary direction in the case of the Irish Church, and he would remind him—when he spoke of the appointment of the clergyman resting with the General Assembly—that each Church was amenable to the civil law, and that there was redress open to the parishioners should any clergyman misconduct himself. The right hon. Gentleman referred to 1843, and said the members of the Established Church were now crying out Peccavi, but the right hon. Gentleman himself was at the Colonial Office at that time.
dissented from the accuracy of the statement. 1132 Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present. House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. MARK STEWART
proceeded to say that, though not a Member of the Cabinet at that time, the right hon. Gentleman was a Member of the Government; and that it was notorious, notwithstanding what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech, that for some years past there had been a very active part taken by some of the leading Presbyterian denominations and the Liberation Society, in stirring up the question of disestablishment, and that had it not been for the short period over which the late General Election ranged, the cry of disestablishment would have sounded throughout the length and breadth of the land. That being so, the Government were right, he contended, in introducing the present Bill; for the question of patronage had been a sore in the side of the Church ever since 1560; and if that union, of which the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate spoke so emphatically, could be secured, he should be glad to take any step for the purpose of having one strong Presbyterian Church in Scotland. Before the schism of 1843, that country did not know what it was to have a poor law, and, in fact, patronage had in several ways been the cause of the greatest possible mischief. Again, it was not denied for a moment, that most of their ecclesiastical divisions had arisen from the same source. Divisions had arisen where there were none previously, and he contended that the present Bill, if passed, was capable of putting an end to all such strife in future. They had no desire to proselytize, but they would be glad to hear that the causes of disunion in the Presbyterian Church were removed. Indeed, they had a good instance in Scotland of the quoad sacra parishes comprising no less than 198, where patronage had not existed. In the election of a minister for these parishes there had been none of these feuds. Besides, it must not be forgotten that in many instances patronage had been voluntarily given up. If they were to listen to the right hon. Member for Greenwich, it might be supposed that this was a totally new policy. But patronage had been given 1133 up for years and years. The Crown had for a long period virtually ceded its right to appoint; town councils, and in many instances private patrons, had also given up their rights. There had, however, been difficulties and heartburning in more than one instance, and it was this cause which induced the Government to bring in the Bill. The fact was, that the concession in regard to patronage had not been universal. The people had had no machinery to guide them, and so it was that they had failed to know what to do, or what to get. This patronage was allowed to be a thing of little pecuniary value, and on that ground it differed very materially from the patronage of the Church of England. There was another large difference. In Scotland all the communicants were stated on the rolls, while in England there was no roll of communicants at all. In Scotland there also was a different class of ministers, taken more directly from the people than these of England, and in consequence the difference in the status of the Churches was very great. It had been said, by way of objection to the Bill, that it would only help the Establishment, but surely it would help other Churches also if it tended to put a stop to discord? It was also said that it was a bad Bill, because it gave up £75,000 a-year to the Established Church in the value of the Crown patronage, and that it did not give up a similar sum to the Free Churches. Now, these denominations never had that sum, and it was not really giving up anything, because it had always been confined to the one particular Church—the Established Church of Scotland. Then, again, it was said that it confiscated the property of the corporations. That also had been done already by the action of the town councils themselves. Neither the Free Church Assembly nor the United Presbyterian Church had petitioned against the Bill, and if they had, he firmly believed that the parishioners would not have gone with them. Such a movement would be far from popular in Scotland; for although it was not actually upon the question of patronage that the Free Churches went out, he was very much mistaken if he could be induced to suppose that they would come to Parliament to petition against the abolition of patronage. Now, why, he asked, should they part at the church 1134 door, when in these days they were trying to bring about a spirit of conciliation not only in religion, but in all the affairs of life? What was the position of the parish minister at present? He did not depend upon an annual appointment, but he did depend on the relations between Church and uctor. He was the public religious instrn Sta He was accessible to all parties ithete. parish, and it was a great satisfaction, even in some of these benighted Highland parishes, to know that, far separated as they were, there was one man who would watch over them, and administer to them spiritual consolation when on a sick bed. A great deal had been said about these Highland towns and their condition. Why was it that the Highland parishes were so full of dissent? It was because this question of patronage had been at the bottom of it. The Government hoped, by the present Bill, to mitigate the evil, and to remove the stumbling-block. The average attendance in the Scotch Established Churches in the Highlands was 150, and the average number of communicants was 35. The Established Church in Scotland could not be looked upon as a mere sect, because, when compared with the Presbyterian Churches, it had a large majority of members. It had been urged that the Established Church in Scotland was dwindling away, but what were the facts? The subscriptions to the Establishment were larger than these obtained by any other Church, and consequently its power of doing good was greater, and surely that was not a sign of a dying Church? The aggregate sums that had been expended upon building its various churches amounted to nearly £750,000, and the munificent gift of Mr. Baird proved that the interest of the laity in the welfare of the Church was undiminished. He thought that he had replied to the statements of the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), and that he had conclusively answered these put forward by the right hon. Member for Montrose district (Mr. Baxter). He had been rather amused at the contradictions in which the latter right hon. Member had involved himself in speaking on the question. At the commencement of his speech the right hon. Gentleman had said that the Church of Scotland was 1135 premature in bringing forward the question; that they ought to have asked for a Royal Commission, and have allowed time for investigation and inquiry before taking any steps in the matter, and certainly before introducing this measure; but he ended his speech by declaring that the Established Church of Scotland was too late in attempting to carry out this policy. The Scotch Established Church, however, intended to do their best to get justice done in this matter, and to endeavour to promote uniformity of management throughout the length and breadth of the land. He would conclude by saying that he could see no ground for the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, and he hoped it would not receive the sanction of the House.
§ MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH
said, it could hardly be questioned that a great wrong was committed against the Church of Scotland in 1843, and as the Bill would help to repair that wrong, it would have his hearty support. On the subject he should like to quote some words of that very eminent Scotsman, Lord Cockburn. He said—The Star Chamber never made greater encroachments on the common law of England than the Court of Session made on the ecclesiastical law of Scotland.It had always appeared to him to be totally inconsistent with the theory of Protestantism, as exemplified in the Presbyterian form of Church Government, that the right to select the minister should not be exercised by the members of the Church. The Church of Scotland had for a long time after the Reformation no such yoke resting upon it as that of patronage. It went through a period of 150 years after that event before the law of patronage was imposed upon it, and, as a Member of that Church, he asked that the Act of 1712 should be repealed. It seemed rather inconsistent in these who opposed the present Bill that, while they themselves were free in ecclesiastical matters, they objected to the members of the Church of Scotland ridding themselves of that yoke. Considering that the law of patronage was for very many years not a fundamental part of the constitution of the Church, the argument on the other side appeared to him to fall entirely to the ground. They had heard that evening a great deal about the state of feel- 1136 ing in the Highlands of Scotland in reference to the Free Church and the Established Church. It was impossible for him to remain silent on that subject, knowing, as he did, something about the real state of feeling in the Highlands, and especially among the Gaelic-speaking population of the Highlands, with regard to the Bill. The chief grievance of the Highlanders was connected with the law of patronage. There had been some other causes of dissatisfaction; but the great body of the people had only this tangible grievance—that the law of patronage had in many cases been exercised most oppressively. It had been remarked that night, that there had been no great agitation against the Church of Scotland during the last 30 years. There certainly had not; but the reason was this—that while many people, particularly these who joined the Free Church in 1843, went out of the Established Church under circumstances of great difficulty and trial, they had adhered most carefully to most of the principles of the Established Church. There could be no doubt that for a long time among the most thinly-populated parts of the Highlands of Scotland the Established Church had been weak; but, on the other hand, the principles of the Established Church strongly prevailed among the Gaelic-speaking population for the last 30 years, and were now as strong as they were at the time of the great secession. The recent protracted struggle in the Free Church for the purpose of securing a union with Voluntaryism was carried on with great vigour and pertinacity by a great and influential party in that Church, and would probably have been successful but for the counterbalancing Highland element. Now, what did the Free Church think—he was now alluding to the Gaelic-speaking population—of the abolition of patronage? So far as he was able to judge—and he had had good means of ascertaining—the opinions which prevailed were entirely in favour of the Bill and of the abolition of patronage. He did not mean to say that the people to whom he alluded were prepared instantly to join the Established Church. That was a matter which was not quite ripe for settlement; but he was quite safe in saying that, so far as the Bill was concerned, the feeling of the people in the Highlands was altogether in favour of the Bill. When patronage had been 1137 done away, a great deal of ground would have been cleared for the future action of the Church. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple), who had expressed himself in favour of the adoption, on the part of the Church of Scotland, of a Mutual Eligibility Scheme, under which, when a vacancy occurred, a minister of the Free Church might be elected to a parish; and he saw no reason why, if such scheme were carried out, they should not in the course of time see in Scotland a United Presbyterian Body, that would make its influence felt both at home and abroad. There was one point to which many persons in the Highlands seemed to attach great importance, and that was that there should be embodied in the Bill a few words declaring the complete spiritual independence of the Church. He did not for a moment suppose that the House would question the propriety of that, and he was prepared to propose in Committee a clause which would remove the objections which some excellent people in the Free Church of Scotland felt with regard to the Bill in connection with this matter. The question of the mode of selecting the clergyman remained still to be determined in Committee also, and he quite agreed that in some parishes, as matters stood at present, the right of nominating the clergyman was of a rather too limited character, as respected the number of electors, and he thought that in such counties as Ross and Sutherland, it would be well to provide that the number of electors should not be less than 25. The importance of the Bill could not be over-rated, and if the changes he proposed were carried out, there would be such an accession of adherents to the Church that there would be no difficulty in getting a sufficient number to nominate a minister even in the remotest parishes. The question was of deep interest, and had very much occupied the minds of the people of whom he had been speaking, and he thought that, considering how very small were the differences between the Free Church and the Established Church, and considering what a great burden it was to I the Highlanders to be supporting such a large ecclesiastical body, they themselves being very poor, it was but right that every effort should be made to unite in one great body the different Presbyterian bodies of Scotland. The Amend- 1138 ment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose declared that further information was necessary; but he (Mr. Mackintosh), on the contrary, thought it was unnecessary and uncalled for. They had before them all the information that could be got, and the longer the question remained unsettled the greater opportunity would there be for that small but persevering body who were opposed to the objects of the Bill to do mischief. He wished to add, as a member of the Church of Scotland, that while the grievance of patronage was one which that Church had long protested against, patronage had in many cases been exercised in a manner which was highly beneficial to the Church. The Crown had for many years left the appointments to its livings to the people, and many of the patrons had exercised their rights in a very proper manner. In conclusion, he congratulated his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate on having had an opportunity of bringing that Bill before Parliament. He was quite sure that, if it passed, his name would remain honourably connected with it, and that it would be hailed with satisfaction in Scotland; and he trusted that when it became law, with such modifications as would be introduced in Committee, it would have a most beneficial effect, not only upon the Church of Scotland, but upon Scotland generally.
§ SIR GRAHAM MONTGOMERY
congratulated the Government on having obtained the support of the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) had denied that Lord Aberdeen's Act had not worked satisfactorily. The right hon. Gentleman forgot the famous Queensferry case, which was a scandal and a disgrace to the Law of Scotland. That took place under Lord Aberdeen's Act, and there were other cases besides, from which there could be no doubt that it was the unsatisfactory working of that Act which induced the General Assembly to take up the question before the House. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the fact; that the General Assembly had petitioned Parliament to give the election of the ministers to the communicants and the heritors. It was quite true that the General Assembly in the year 1860 appointed a committee, and in 1867 they were still undecided on the subject; but 1139 in 1869 they petitioned Parliament to legislate in the direction indicated. Now their opinion was changed, because the General Assembly unanimously approved of and supported the Bill of the Government, which did not give the election of ministers to the heritors. In 1869 a memorable deputation waited on the right hon. Member for Greenwich, and their reception was confined to courteous-ness more than to anything else, for he was not very cordial in reference to the matter. After that the General Assembly put forward a statement showing what their ideas were on the question, and they appointed a committee to keep the matter open. He had mentioned these facts with the object of showing the origin of the movement, and the question now was—whether the Government had done right in bringing forward this measure. For his own part, he had no hesitation in saying that they had acted in a right spirit towards the Scotch people. He had some experience of patronage, and he must say he thanked the Government most heartily for relieving him from the responsibility of saying who should be the spiritual pastor of a parish of which he was patron. They had heard much of the evils attending the popular election of ministers, and no doubt there were some; but he believed that these evils had been greatly exaggerated. There were plenty of instances in which parishes had made most excellent and most harmonious appointments. At that very moment there was a vacancy in a parish near his residence, and under the jus devolutum, the male heads of families had selected four men for the patrons to choose from, any one of whom would be acceptable. He did not, therefore, think there was much to be feared from popular elections in the matter. He quite agreed with the remark that the time was opportune for bringing in the Bill, because the Government was strong and had a united party at its back, and could do things which a Government not so fortunately situated could not attempt. He was quite sure the measure would lead to the good of the people and the efficiency of the Established Church, to the strength of which it would add enormously. This question of patronage had agitated Scotland for many years, and from 1784 down to 1848, Scotland had protested against it. A great deal had been said 1140 of the Act of Queen Anne, which from the days of his boyhood he had always heard spoken of as an act of injustice to the people of Scotland. It appeared to him in his maturer years one of the greatest blots on the Statute Book. He should like to know what the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) would say to it if it related to Ireland. No doubt he would make political capital out of it to an enormous extent. It was this Act of Queen Anne's which was the cause of the secession of 1843, and of all the Dissent in Scotland for many years past. The Act of 1712 was passed by a Government which wished to restore the Stewarts, and the manner and the speed with which it was galloped through both Houses of Parliament made it a standing disgrace to our statesmen that it was so long unrepealed. No doubt, previous to the disruption, there was a gross abuse of patronage. In these days there were no public schools to which the sons of gentlemen could be sent, and the practice was to have a licentiate of the Church of Scotland as a tutor in the House, with the promise of the family living when it became vacant. Thus these licentiates obtained the livings, not because of their fitness, but because they had filled the post of tutor to the patron's children. No doubt many excellent men obtained parishes in that way, but it frequently happened that they had attained considerable age before they obtained a living, and, of course, were not so active in their parishes as they ought to have been. That abuse of patronage led to the Veto Act, though he was amused to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose make that a charge against a former Conservative Government. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, if he had been Sir James Graham, he would have given any other answer on that subject than that which was given? The right hon. Gentleman knew very well that no Government in this country could have given any other answer. Popular election had, however, been well tried, and had worked well; for there had been no cases worth mentioning of disputes arising out of it. Another reason why the Bill ought to pass was, that for many years in parishes where the patronage had been in the hands of the Crown, they had chosen their own ministers, and it was unfair to other pa- 1141 rishes that they should not have the privilege of choice. Exception had been take to the communicants having in their hands the election of the clergy. For his own part he should have no objection to see the heritors take the initiative on the committee; but he himself thought the party to elect the minister ought to be the communicants. If others were admitted all the old disputes between heritors and ratepayers, and with the Court of Session, would be revived—all of which were civil questions. It was quite in accordance with the opinions of these who had studied ecclesiastical affairs in Scotland that the communicants were the only persons who ought to have the choice of the clergyman. That, at least, was the opinion of Mr. Dunlop, who would be admitted on all hands to speak with authority on the subject. He wished to say a word on the attitude of the United Presbyterian Church, which he contended ought not to be received with the same degree of weight as the attitude of the Free Church; because its representatives plainly stated that they were of opinion that the Church of Scotland ought to be disestablished. "Disestablishment" was their cry, and they had got up an association lately for that purpose. With reference to the Free Church, he had received a circular—which had been distributed to every hon. Member of the House and he must say he sympathized with the Church as to the treatment they had received in 1843; but did it not seem extraordinary that while they elected their ministers as the Bill proposed for the Established Church, they should object to the latter doing what they did? He would not enter into any controversy as to the details of the Return obtained on the Motion of the hon. Member for St. Andrew's Burghs (Mr. Ellice), as to the comparative numbers of the churches in Scotland, but he was quite sure that if the United Presbyterians and other Dissenting Bodies would agree to have a religious Census, the Church of Scotland would be found to have more members than all of them put together. He thanked Her Majesty's Government for bringing in the Bill in their first year of office, and he thought in the end it would tend to bring about a reconciliation between the sects and parties in Scotland. He had been told, only a day or two ago, by a Peer who had large 1142 estates in the North, that it would be productive of a great "approach" between the Free Church and the Established Church of Scotland. It was true the Free Church leaders did not profess to anticipate that the Bill would draw the two together; but he was confident that in course of time there would be ecclesiastical fusion in Scotland, and that the Bill would, at least, prepare the way for that happy solution. For that reason he should give it his hearty support.
§ MR. LAING
said, he rose to support the Amendment of his right hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, because it would have been only fair and decent that the people of Scotland should have full opportunity of declaring their opinion on the important issues raised by the Bill. It raised a far larger question than that of patronage—the question indicated by the right hon. Member for Greenwich, whether, if they were to disturb the existing state of things by working a great and fundamental change in the constitution of the Church of Scotland, the time had not come when the whole arrangements of the Established Church ought to have a deliberate revision? The Lord Advocate said that that was a favourable period to consider the Bill. No doubt it was favourable, for the Body which was in the minority—namely, the Established Church. This measure was brought in by a surprise. The question of patronage was never raised, much less discussed, at the General Election. On the contrary, they were told that the people were weary of startling and sensational legislation, and that there was to be a period of repose. From the point of a surprise, therefore, the present was a favourable time for the Bill. It stood to reason that the United Presbyterian Synod and the other Bodies, committed as they were to oppose patronage should feel a difficulty in opposing the Bill, lest they should be thought to act like the dog in the manger, in saying that the Established Church should not now enjoy a freedom for which they themselves had sacrificed so much. But it was a larger measure. The question was, should the re-union of the three Presbyterian Bodies, which in doctrine, discipline, and all essential respects were upon a footing of perfect equality, be effected on the only possible basis of disestablishment, or whether it was to be 1143 effected by giving a peculiar privilege to one sect, so as to enable it to draw the adherents of the others to itself? The mere fact that when a measure of this kind was brought forward, with all the weight and influence which an Establishment could bring to bear in its favour, there were only to be found 48,000 petitioners in its favour, was a sufficient condemnation of the attempt to bring forward such a question at this period of the Session. He asked the House, whether 48,000 signatures in its favour, formed a sufficient basis for a system of legislation which was averse to the feelings of the people of Scotland? The right hon. and learned Lord made another quite incorrect assumption when he said that these who opposed this measure opposed it on principles averse to Church establishments altogether. He begged to differ from that statement entirely. For himself, he approached this question in anything but a spirit adverse to the Church of Scotland. On the contrary, as a member of the Church of England, he had opposed the hon. Member for Bradford's (Mr. Miall's) Motion on the subject, and he could honestly say that he hoped the day might be far distant when the question of the disestablishment of the Church of England should be seriously raised in Parliament. He thought that while the condition of the Church of Scotland was anomalous, yet if they came to examine it carefully, it was a useful and venerable institution, and did a certain amount of good, and no great harm; therefore, it was a great pity to re-open all the animosities that must arise from the great contest on the question of Establishment. Being re-opened, however, they were obliged to look fairly in the face the issues that were wantonly and unwisely provoked. What was the advice of the Duke of Argyll? Speaking, with all the weight of his official position and long experience, to the Church, he said—"Whatever you do, keep it out of Parliament." He thought that if that noble Duke could have listened to the debate in the House to-night and had heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, his opinion would be strongly confirmed, and he would have reiterated his advice to Established Churches to keep out of Parliament. What reason did the noble Duke give them for keeping out of Parliament? Because, he said, the mind 1144 of Parliament and public opinion upon these matters was in a complete state of chaos. The reason was, they were drifting away from the original foundation of establishment, the supposed infallibility of the Church, and whether they should maintain an Established Church in any country was now as much a question of expediency as to whether they should make a telegraph or a railway. ["No, no!"] Tried by that test-which he believed was the true one, whatever hon. Gentlemen below the gangway might say—was there in this country any principle upon which an Established Church could be maintained? Then he asked, what was the position of the Church of Scotland? He took it to be a somewhat intermediate between that of the Church of England and the Church of Ireland. In the new communities across the Atlantic and in Australia, nobody thought of undoing the Established Church, but that was because no establishment existed. Although a strong argument, it was not quite definable. Yet so long as it did exist, and represented a tolerable majority, that majority being one not only in numbers but in intelligence, wealth, and influence, and all the elements that went to represent a country, while it existed and worked tolerably well they would let it alone. On the other hand, when they found that an Established Church was clearly doing more harm than good, and clearly in a minority, not only of the people, but that the majority of the people were greatly opposed to it—that it only excited angry feeling, and only injured the cause that it professed to support—then they would assist to do what they did in the case of Ireland—make a clean sweep of it, and abolish it. One of the great arguments that were used in favour of an Established Church was, that under the system of patronage you obtained clergymen who were scholars and gentlemen, who were tolerant and large-minded. But there was considerable danger that the members of a congregation who kept up the appointment of their minister by payment would intensify each other's religious prejudices. Could it be said that Church would not degenerate into a narrow and fanatical Church? These were not his own views, nor anything like them, but they were the views of enlightened and influential members of 1145 the Church of Scotland itself. They were the views not of the majority in that Church, but of men who were very celebrated, from the time of Robertson till now, who belonged to the moderate party in that Church, and who protested strongly against the popular election of ministers. If the Church of Scotland were disendowed there would be no disturbance as a consequence of such disendowment, and that Church would go on precisely as the Free Church did now. And as this question was opened which related to the excessive privileges enjoyed by that Church, had not the majority of the people of Scotland who did not belong to that Church a right to say "Put us all on an equality; do not give all the loaves and fishes to the Established Church and none to us?" The Church of Scotland would have been better, unquestionably, if there had never been a disruption, and the Free Church had never been in existence; but if they came to take the actual existence of the Church of Scotland into consideration, he wanted to know on what principle could a Parliament of a country which disestablished the Church of Ireland advocate the continuance of endowments in the Church of Scotland? Why, there was no claim on the part of the Church of Scotland to have a majority of the population for its adherents; whether they had one-third or two-fifths, it was equally clear that they had not got a majority of the people. Nobody pretended that they had. These communicants' returns, fallacious as everybody knew they were, did not pretend to say they had. Granted that two-fifths belonged to the Established Church, and two-fifths to identical Presbyterian denominations, how could they maintain their claim for endowment, looking at the unequal way in which the two-fifths of the Established Church was distributed over Scotland? The question was, whether when they were going to re-organize the Established Church upon Dissenting principles, it should retain all its endowments? There were whole districts of Scotland were the Established Church was in a miserable minority, and other places where it had no members at all. In the county of Orkney the Established Church had about one-fourth of the population and the whole of the endowments. The institution of patronage was also closely 1146 mixed up with Church endowment. There might be more religious life and vitality in a Church where the minister was elected by the congregation, but in the other case the appointment of the minister made him to a considerable extent independent of his congregation. If, in the Church of England they were to do what was now proposed to be done in the case of the Church of Scotland, how long did the House think they could maintain the Establishment of the Church of England? Yet, that was precisely what the Bill proposed to do in regard to the Church of Scotland. ["No, no!"] He challenged the right hon. and learned Lord, or any one on the opposite side, to show him in what respect the Church of Scotland, under the Bill, would differ from any other Dissenting denomination in Scotland, unless it might be that by the measure they were going to make them, if possible, more independent of the civil power, and more subject to the caprices of popular influence and popular election. As far as he was concerned, he said truly that if he looked at these things from a party point of view, he should be only too glad to see the Bill passed. He thought the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had, without knowing it, dealt a trump card into the hands of the adversary, which, before the game was over, would win the odd trick; for from what he knew of his native country of Scotland, he felt certain that if the House passed this measure it would be the commencement of a great agitation for disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of Scotland. That agitation could have but one issue. The majority of the people of that country would say to the Government—" Deal with the Established Church of Scotland on the same principles on which you dealt with the Irish Church." But he would deprecate such an agitation, because he should be sorry to see a measure passed by a majority in that House, which would tend to create in Scotland feelings at all like these which prevailed in Ireland. He called upon the English Members not to use their majority by carrying in the Dog-days, and in what it might be hoped was the last month of the Session, a measure of that description, so vital to the feelings and interests of the people of Scotland, without giving them, at any rate, an opportunity of fully pronouncing their opinion upon it. 1147 If the people of Scotland were favourable to the Bill, the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate would only fortify his case by postponing the Bill until their opinion was pronounced; but if the majority of the people of Scotland were against the Bill, it ought to be the desire of the House to endeavour to unite the various religious denominations of Scotland by removing the obstacles to that union—namely the patronage and endowments connected with the Established Church of that country.
SIR WILLIAM STIRLING-MAX-WELL
tendered his thanks to the right hon. and learned Gentleman below him, the Lord Advocate, for having introduced this Bill. He had been struck in the course of the discussion with the very anxious concern shown by hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House to avert disestablishment in Scotland, which they had so loudly proclaimed and so largely applied elsewhere. It was very kind and considerate on the part of the opponents of establishment to take that course; but he would venture to say the General Assembly of the Church, which had long advocated this or a similar measure, knew more of its own feelings, position, prospects, and duties, than the hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney. That hon. Gentleman, following the lead of the right hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment, had told the House that this was a subject which did not occupy much attention at the General Election. He (Sir William Stirling-Maxwell) was quite willing to admit that to have been the case, but he thought he could give a pretty good reason why it was so. They must all remember a certain manifesto of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), in which he mentioned a great many exciting topics, but said nothing about this particular question. It would be a great mistake to suppose that, though not a prominent topic, it was not in the minds of men at the time. The subject was not one which commended itself to these electors, who occupied the distinguished position of catechists, of whom he would speak with all respect, but who nevertheless were not always the leaders and guides of opinion in their districts. But although these catechists refrained from putting any question on the subject, 1148 questions were put in private by friends of the Church, which showed that the subject was very near their hearts. Indeed, that was not the first time that a desire to take up the question was felt by a Conservative statesman. The late Lord Eglinton, who was still affectionately remembered by many hon. Members of the House, and was known not only as a patriotic Scotchman, but as one of the largest holders of Church patronage in Scotland, 20 years ago expressed to him a desire that the question might be taken up, and even a hope that he might be able to deal with it himself. If that noble Earl had been spared, the noble Duke, the late Colleague of the right hon. Member for Greenwich, would have had an able Seconder in another place. It could not be expected that a great institution like the Church of Scotland would accept the rôle suggested by the hon. Member for Orkney—to sit still and wait patiently until the time was ripe for disestablishment. The Church of Scotland had known by bitter experience how much that question had weighed upon her fortunes. She had been for many years endeavouring to deal with it, and when the right hon. Member for Greenwich was a powerful Minister at the head of an united party, they all remembered what a dexterous damper he threw upon her hopes. Under more fortunate circumstances, the Church of Scotland had come to the right hon. Gentleman now in power, supported by a Lord Advocate well acquainted with the subject; and he would like to know, how could the Government do otherwise than listen to the prayer of the Church? The Church of Scotland had come before Parliament, by a large majority of her General Assembly, asking to have this Bill passed; and he hoped it would be passed not only by the assistance of an English majority, but of a fair majority of the Representatives from Scotland. If ever there was an occasion when a Government could not be accused of having taken a premature step, it was that occasion. There had been reforms which had been called "leaps in the dark;" but this reform Church, so far from being "a leap in the dark," was a very short step taken in broad daylight on a very firm road. The popular election which was proposed by the Bill had existed for many years in the Church of Scotland; either by the 1149 action of the Crown, in giving the of nomination to the people, or by the counsel taken by private patrons with these among whom they lived; and the ministers so appointed were in no way inferior to their predecessors. It was also known that the same mode of election obtained among the Dissenting Bodies, and that the persons so appointed were, as a rule, men well fitted for office in the Church. He would ask them where the danger could be in following a plan which already existed and worked satisfactorily? He hoped, therefore, subject to certain modifications in Committee, the Bill would pass into law. The Church of Scotland not only from its connection with the State, but socially, intellectually, and morally, occupied a pre-eminent position in that country. It might not be the Church of an absolute majority, but it was the most important organization that Scotland possessed for religious purposes. It conveyed religious instruction to the people in a tolerant and enlightened spirit, and there was nothing in the Bill which would in any respect alter or mar that spirit. There was one point, however, upon which he hoped his right hon. Friend would reconsider his proposals, and that was with regard to compensation to patrons. The mode of compensation proposed was not such as the patrons of Scotland deserved at the hands of the Government. The proposal was, that such patrons as desired compensation should give notice to the sheriff, and then upon the election of a new minister, the patron was to have a right under that notice to take from that minister, a quarter of his stipend for the first four years. That was a proposal which, coming from the other side of the House, would have met with little mercy from this side. The patrons of Scotland, in discharging the important duties conferred on them by law, had in the main acted conscientiously and even generously. He, for one, was glad to be released from the onerous and thankless duty of a patron, and he was aware that much might be said for the view that for such relief no compensation need be made. But if compensation was due at all, let it be offered in some shape which a Gentleman might accept—and not in the shape of a right to inflict a severe pecuniary fine on the person whom a popular election was to make 1150 his near neighbour. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich had insinuated that the proposed compensation was very small, and told the House that in 1801 or 1802, a Scotch advowson was worth four years' purchase. When the right hon. Gentleman was obliged to go back so far, there seemed fair reason for believing that four years' purchase had long ceased to be obtained, or obtainable. The fact was the value of a Scotch advowson was not much more than that of "a castle in Spain." There was, however, great truth in much that had been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The friends of the Church were, in a great measure, retracing their steps and giving up the opinions of their forefathers. They were admitting that these who left the Church on this question of patronage were far-seeing men. The Bill was, to a certain extent, a retractation of past errors, and it was calculated to remove a stumbling-block from the path of the Church. That being so, why should they not throw the door wide open for the admission of all Presbyterians to that Church of Scotland which truly represented the religious feelings of the great bulk of its people? He knew that that was a difficult point to touch upon, and his right hon. and learned Friend below him would doubtless say that it was one to be dealt with rather by the General Assembly than by the House of Commons. But though they might again be exposed to the imputation conveyed by that wonderful word—which he would not presume to mention, had it not been used already—Erastianism, still in spite of all its terrors, he hoped his right hon. and learned Friend might be able in the Preamble, or in some other part of the Bill, to express Her Majesty's gracious desire that, placing her patronage at the disposal of Parliament, an important step might be made towards the union of the Presbyterian churches. The first possible result of the Bill would be to bring about a reconciliation between sects in Scotland now divided, but between which there existed no real difference. He therefore recommended the suggestion to the favourable consideration of his right hon. Friend the First Minister, believing that, if he saw his way to make the measure a measure of conciliation, he would add 1151 one more to the many claims he possessed to the gratitude of his country.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
This Bill must be viewed in different lights, even on this side of the House, according as hon. Members are favourable or hostile to State Churches. It is with a desire to promote the interests of the Church of Scotland that I approach the consideration of the Bill. I was brought up within that Church, and my forefathers were among its ministers. It has a strong claim upon the sympathies of all Scotchmen. By its agency the character of the Scotch people has been moulded, and they owe to it a deep debt of gratitude for the care which it has bestowed upon their temporal, as well as upon their eternal interests. It is as a Church of the people, from among whom its ministers have sprung, that the Church of Scotland has exercised its great influence on the development of the country. And it is only as a Church of the people that its influence can continue. Its doctrines do not differ from these of the Protestant Dissenting Bodies around it. In the eyes of Liberals, at least, no Church in this country possesses inherent rights of Ecclesiasticism or of Catholic pretension. A Church either exists as a Church for the people, or it should cease to exist as a Church of the State. The genius of the Scotch Church has always been democratic, and the Bill legislates in the direction of popular election; but it halts in its course. Formerly each church belonged to and included all the people of a parish. And even now the competing Churches profess the same standards as the Church of Scotland, and only differ from it in not possessing State endowments. The Bill, which abolishes patronage, converts a National Church into one of several self-contained religious communities. From the most primitive times of the Church, the whole body of believers was invited to aid in the election of ministers. It was "the whole multitude" that chose Stephen and the six other deacons, as described in the sixth chapter of the Acts. It was not a more Congregationalism which was in the mind of John Knox, when he laid down as a rule of the Church in the First Book of Discipline, that "it appertained unto the people, and to every several congregation, to elect their minister." What could be his object in introducing the 1152 word people in addition to congregation, unless it were to give a democratic constitution to the Church? And only four years ago, one of the most respected elders of the Church advocated the same sentiment within the walls of the General Assembly. That elder, who justly spoke with authority, said—We propose that the trust should be devolved on the proper beneficiaries—the people of the parish—these who have the main interest in the selection of the minister.The elder of the Church who spoke thus wisely is my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate (Mr. Gordon), the reputed author of the Bill. Had my right hon. and learned Friend viewed each church as the church of the parish, and trusted to the people of the parish the choice of the minister, as he recommended in his speech, I would have been an earnest supporter of his Bill. But he has clone no such thing. He distrusts the people, and I fear that the people will soon learn to distrust his Church. No doubt, the Church hopes by throwing open its door more widely than in the past, to tempt the sheep which have strayed to re-enter into their ancient fold. But the Bill has not commended itself to the clergy of the Dissenting Churches, and they are the shepherds who have gathered the sheep securely into other folds. Nor is that to be wondered at, for the Bill is far too narrow in its conceptions to attain the end which it has in view. The Church, when it resolved to throw off the incubus of patronage, had a glorious chance for promoting union among the Protestant Churches of Scotland; but by timid counsels it has lost this chance. With few exceptions, Scotchmen have a common faith, and even a common form of worship. The Church of a nation, with inhabitants still clinging to its history and believing in its standards, might have thrown itself with confidence on the whole body of the people; but it has preferred to consider itself the Church of a sect. For the Bill limits the election of the ministers of the Church to its own communicants, and, in some way to be hereafter defined, to its immediate adherents under the vague term of congregation. Yet, there is not a minister of that Church who would deny that the communicants of the Free Church or of the United Presbyterians receive the communion in the same es- 1153 sential purity of faith as the members of the Established Church. Notwithstanding this identity of belief, the Church of the nation prefers to consider itself a self-contained religious community, and jealously guards itself from contact with the people for whose benefit the Church was established. No doubt, one object of the Bill is to confirm that establishment, by knitting more closely together the adherents of the Church; but in doing so, it the more effectually shuts out all the other Presbyterian sects around it. And this in a Bill which has for its main purpose comprehension! It is the old story of the Bill of Comprehension, which was introduced into the English Parliament in 1689, in order to reconcile Nonconformists with the English Church. That Bill was, however, too narrow to secure comprehension, and yet it was ultimately defeated by the clergy in Convocation because they thought it too wide. The result upon the Dissenters of the day was precisely the same as that now seen in the attitude of Free Churchmen and United Presbyterians in regard to this Bill. I cannot better describe this than in the words of Macaulay in describing the events of two centuries ago—Concessions therefore which would once have extinguished Nonconformists would not now satisfy even one-half of the Nonconformists; and it was the obvious interest of every Nonconformist, whom no concession would satisfy, that none of his brethren should he satisfied.This is the general history of all tardy concessions. If this Bill be one of comprehension, it ought to be comprehensive enough to induce Dissenters to adopt it. For the primary fact must not be lost sight of, that the minister of a parish is paid by taxation to give the benefits of his Church to the whole parish, and not merely to one particular congregation in that parish. The essential principle of the Church of Scotland, when it was established by the Revolution Settlement, was that it was founded "in accordance with the mind of the Scottish nation." Consequently, the General Assembly was constituted so as to represent the nation. Seventy Royal Burghs and the Universities send elected Representatives to the supreme Legislature of the Church. In their election there is no limitation to communicants. The whole body of 1154 the people are the ultimate electors, who send members to the Assembly from the Burghs to protect the interests of the Church, and they have never betrayed the trust reposed in them. "Why then does the Bill show such jealousy, by excluding the people from the election of the minister of a parish?—[The LORD ADVOCATE: In burgh elections for the General Assembly the elder must be a communicant.]—My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, interrupts me with the remark that these representatives must be communicants. If he means by that, to state that this gives security in the election, I reply that you would have a greater security in the election of a minister by the people, because in every case he must not only be a communicant, but he must be a licentiate of the Church. To have entrusted the election to the people would not have been a novelty in the Church. Town councils, elected by ratepayers, exorcise, or have the power of exercising, patronage in the case of 44 ministers. In the church of North Leith, the election of ministers has long been vested in the ratepayers, who have uniformly chosen members of eminence. The Duke of Argyll, in "another place," has pointed to this instance as a warning, because the electors have frequently been dilatory in the election. But the Bill provides for such cases by giving to the Presbytery a jus devolutum in default. On the other hand, it is not a little remarkable that the General Assembly, in a recent Report, pointed to that very church as an example of active religious life, indicated by the large numbers of its communicants. And they were right, for the Return just issued shows that it is, with three or four other churches, at the head of the communion rolls. Another church, with a freeman franchise exists at Newton-on-Ayr, and it is quite remarkable as a nursery for eminent ministers. Among these who may be instanced at present are Caird, Burns, Boyd, Stewart, Wallace, and M'Leod. These instances of popular election, though limited, are remarkable in their results, and in no way justify the fears of these who look upon such a proposal as wild and frantic. But I readily admit that public opinion in Scotland is not in favour of a ratepaying franchise for the election of ministers. And that is sufficient justification to the Government for 1155 not including it in their Bill; but it is no justification for preferring a narrow sectarian franchise to a wide religious one. If the Bill had even confined itself to the large interpretation of the Scotch Kirk given by early Reformers, I would have been satisfied. In one of the statutes of 1567, which laid the basis of the Reformed Church, the subjects of the true and holy Kirk are defined to be—the people of this realm that profess Christ as He is now offered in the Evangel, and do communicate with the Holy Sacraments, as in the Reformed Kirks of this realm they are publicly administered according to the Confession of Faith.The Bill might have been made a true Bill of Comprehension had it followed these large views of the early fathers of the Church. But now it rejects both tradition and experience. It at first limited the franchise to male communicants in the parish church, though in its amended form it admits female communicants and the undefined congregation. But it strictly limits the franchise to declared adherents. The communicants still form the main ground-work of the system of election. That would seem to indicate a belief that the communion roll is the most stable and regular expression of the action of the Church. At present, it no doubt is so; but in the history of the Church, it is far otherwise. I need quote only two cases to prove that. The Articles of Perth, in 1618, enjoined the practice of kneeling at the Sacrament. The people contended that that was wrong, because Christ and his disciples took the Last Supper while sitting. Accordingly, they refused to obey the Articles of Perth. Even nine years after, on Easter Sunday, then a high festival, only seven persons in all Edinburgh could be induced to receive the Communion. The ministers soon after petitioned the King, and told him that, while they counted their congregations by thousands, there were few or no communicants in the churches. The same disappearance of communicants took place in the period from the Revolution to the Restoration owing to the conflicts between the Resolutionists and Protestors. For though the latter professed to give the sacramental feasts more frequently than before, they cut off more than half of the candidates as unworthy. But even in our time, it has occurred in many Highland parishes 1156 owing to the action of the Free Church. We are, therefore, asked to take as the basis of the electoral system, that constituent part of the Church which has been subject to the greatest fluctuations in its history. The communicants in the Scotch Church are not a body constituted by their own conscientious convictions merely. In the English Church there is no bar between the conscience of the communicant and the altar, unless he is a notorious evil-doer. But in Scotland the minister and elders must approve, and the communicants must take up with them their tokens of approval. Now, I do not intend to insinuate that the elders would manipulate the communion roll, as agents do an ordinary electoral roll for a Member of Parliament. But as soon as you convert the sacred institution of the Sacrament into a political engine of the Church, you create temptations and open up the possibility of an abuse. That is not a wild idea. Lord Moncreiff, in giving evidence before the Committee on Patronage, stated that when a parish was likely to become vacant, and the patron intimated that he was to give the election to the communicants, the communion roll was increased from two-fold to three-fold. That is not a state of things to be desired, for it clearly indicates that a love of political power and not a love of God swelled the communion roll on these occasions. I think the Government were right in assenting to the introduction of female communicants, for the equality of both sexes at the communion table is absolute, while the earnestness of religious sentiments and convictions is probably greater among women than among men. Nevertheless, the admission of female communicants is not an unmixed advantage, for they considerably outnumber the male communicants. Over the female mind, the clergy always exercise great influence, and this fact increases the strange anomaly of the electoral body proposed by the Bill. For, as the communicants are in a certain sense elected by the ministers and elders, you constitute an electoral body to elect these by whom it is itself elected. I am glad, therefore, that the Duke of Argyll, who has an historical right to interest himself in the Church of Scotland, has persuaded the Government to include the congregation. Undefined as that is, and 1157 strange as it is for this House to legislate for a body which it declines to define, I heartily support the addition, because I am glad of anything that broadens the basis of the electoral body. With that view also, I would welcome the addition of heritors in the broadest sense which could be done, but even in the narrow restriction, to stipend-paying heritors. The Act of 1690, which abolished patronage, vested it in the heritors of the parish and the elders. But this Bill ignores heritors altogether, and thus severs the Church from the owners of property, although it still draws its resources from them. That is a very dangerous proceeding for a State Church. Many of the largest heritors in Scotland do not belong to its Church; but that circumstance has never stood in the way of their lively interest in that Church. Even in the Revolution Settlement of 1690, when Episcopalians still smarted from their loss of power, the heritors heartily co-operated with the elders in the election of ministers. But this Bill does not proceed with the wise confidence of our forefathers. You still compel the heritors to keep up the Church by a tax upon their land; but you disfranchise all dissenting and all non-resident heritors, and yet expect them to retain their interest in the Established Church. But when they are cut off from its patronage and from its management, what object will it be to them to act as a barrier against the wave of disestablishment? There is some experience in point. The heritors had the fee and management of the parish school; but when that was removed from them by a relief in taxation, they readily loosened their hold. Is it not obvious that they will not be very careful in insisting on their rights to pay for the support of a Church, in regard to which they have ceased to possess either responsibilities or interest? Of course, it may be contended that the heritors, when they are Presbyterians, may still retain their interest in the Church, either as communicants or seat-holders. But this personal or theological connection does not strengthen the case. As a communicant a heritor may vote, though he does not pay a farthing of stipend; but if he be not a communicant, he has no vote, though he may pay all the stipend. His right to share in the election should be directly through his property which is 1158 taxed. His exclusion from the affairs of the Church by a theological barrier weakens the Church exceedingly, and removes from the election of its ministers a calm and impartial body of men who have hitherto exercised a most important and salutary influence on the affairs of the Church. I quite see the difficulty which the Government are in. No doubt, the Lord Advocate would willingly consent to include the old Church heritors. But then he has to face two difficulties. First, by doing so, he admits persons who may neither communicate nor belong to the congregation, and these are the principles of his Bill. Then, by doing so, he gives a powerful argument to the Liberal party, who demand a broader and more liberal basis for the electoral body. If the door be opened, even by a chink, to admit heritors of the old scale of valuation, the heritors of the new scale may force themselves in. I agree, that result must sooner or later follow in the case of a national Church. The Free and the United Presbyterian Churches may do what they like in the election of their ministers, for they are sects self-contained; but a national Church, professing to be a Church of the people, is only coterminous with the nation, and has no right to be exclusive. I press that view because I am firmly convinced that the Church of Scotland, as a State Church, cannot long survive such a narrow conception of its relations to the people as this Bill implies. By the abolition of patronage, all the Presbyterian Churches stand on a common platform. The other Churches separated from it chiefly on the question of patronage, and when that is removed, it requires a strong ecclesiastical microscope to understand the differences between them, except the patent fact that one Church is paid by the State, and the others are not. As regards principles, the State and Dissenting Churches will henceforth be identical. But the principle of popular election of ministers is that for which the Dissenting Churches suffered and laboured; and the State Church now asks by this Bill, that the Free Church and the United Presbyterians should retain all the effects of that suffering, while the State Church should reap all the fruits of their labour. The one difference of endowment will now protrude itself in greater proportion than 1159 before. The other Churches declare that they will not coalesce with a State-endowed Church. Are they likely to remain passive spectators? On the contrary, is it not certain that religious strife will increase—that Israel will continue to envy Judah, and Judah to vex Ephraim. I believe that the Church of Scotland might have strengthened itself mightily against these attacks, had it boldly trusted the people and made it their interest to defend it. For every parishioner has a legal right to the parish church and to its privileges if he be willing to avail himself of them. To shut out the parishioners, and to draw a narrow circle around communicants and adherents, is to make the confession that the Church is no longer of the people, and is content to remain an endowed sect. In the present progress of political feeling in regard to religion, how long will such an endowed sect last? I confess that I do not understand why the Dissenting Presbyterian Churches dislike this Bill. If I were like them, an enemy to an Established Church in Scotland, I should rejoice to see the Bill pass into law. What, under such circumstances, is to induce the State to continue its connection with the Church? At present, the Government has a strong inducement to support the Church, because it is ultimately responsible for the election of one-third of its ministers. That responsibility ends with this Bill, when it becomes law. In like manner, the town councils and the Universities were interested in the Church, through their responsible patronage. The interest of the former at least ends with this Bill. I do not dispute the propriety of taking away patronage from these bodies, and I admit that it may strengthen the Church as a religious community; but it is obvious that you are removing strong buttresses which supported it as a national Church. The hon. Baronet who has just spoken (Sir William Stirling-Maxwell) says he sees no danger in all this, for he does not find any marked hostility in the nation. But the danger does not consist in any desire of the nation to rid itself of the Church, but in this deliberate attempt of the Church to rid itself of the nation. This Bill is no doubt conceived in a Conservative spirit; but it is Conservatism dealing with democratic tools, to which 1160 it is not accustomed, and which it is too timid to handle with efficiency. The Church of Scotland, like all the other institutions of the country, experiences a pressure from the democratic spirit of the age, and feels itself obliged to move onwards. My hon. Friend the Member for Perthshire (Sir Graham Montgomery) admits this necessity for movement, but says it is a mere step forward on an even road. The real cause of the movement is, that it is the reply of the Church to the contemplated union of the Free Church and the United Presbyterians. The Church of Scotland knew that patronage had been a great disruptive force within it. That force has produced great yawning chasms, which have been consolidated by time, and are not likely to be re-united into solid ground by this puny effort. The Church, finding that it cannot stand still, tries to leap over these chasms by a bound; but it lacks the courage, stands shivering on the brink, and ends by jumping backwards, instead of forwards. The authors of this Bill think they can use democracy for the purposes of Conservatism by putting upon the former a sacerdotal drag. In my view, no error could be more fatal to the Church. For what does the Bill do? It lessens the connection of the Church with the State, cuts it off from the land, and severs it from the great body of the people. Not a few Scotch Members—in fact, almost all on this side who may record their votes for the Bill—vote in the belief that it is a bad Bill. Some openly declare that they give it their vote, because they think it will altogether undermine the Church of Scotland as a State Church. Others will vote for it, because they approve the principle involved—the abolition or quasi-abolition of patronage, though they admit the application of that principle to be thoroughly bad. I do not understand this. I may approve of the principle of capital punishment, but it does not follow that I am bound to vote for a Bill to draw and quarter a criminal. I, too, approve of the abolition of patronage as a principle; but I cannot vote for a Bill which I believe is at least injurious, if not destructive, to the Church of Scotland as a State Church. My convictions may be foolishness to many, but to my own conscience they are clear and strong. They have not been formed lightly, for I have tried to 1161 distrust them, when I saw that it was the Church itself, through its Assembly, which was deliberately knocking away the buttresses which I view as the chief support in its connection with the State. It will be a small matter for an individual like myself to have been wrong in his estimate of the future; but I cannot, with these convictions strong upon me, help to open the wind-gates, so that the wild blasts may beat against that Church which I have venerated from my boyhood.
§ COLONEL ALEXANDER
Sir, both as a Representative of a Scotch county, and as taking an intense interest in the subject under discussion, I may perhaps ask the indulgence of the House in making a few observations, and in offering my humble but nevertheless hearty congratulations to Her Majesty's Government on the introduction of a Bill which I think will do much to promote the prosperity as well as conduce to the stability of the Church Established in Scotland. Sir, I am unwilling to introduce party politics into a question of the kind, but as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) has taunted, to-night, the Tory party with having done nothing on this question in 1843, I must ask him, what the Whigs did in 1833? Sir, this was not a question of a year only; it was called "the ten years' conflict." When Dr. Chalmers proposed the Veto Act in 1833, the Whigs were in office, but they did nothing; and in the following year, when Dr. Chalmers again proposed and carried the same Act, they still did nothing. Then followed the decision of the Court of Session, when the Judges, by a majority of eight to five pronounced the Veto Act illegal, but the Whigs made no sign. Finally, when the House of Lords affirmed the judgment of the Court of Session, they acted as before and were not in the least alarmed, thus justifying the saying of that excellent Whig (Lord Cockburn) that "the Whigs were quite as bad as the Tories." Sir, let bygones be bygones, and let neither party throw stones, for both live in glass houses. Nominally, Sir, this is a Bill for the abolition of patronage, but in reality, as has been well stated in "another place," it is rather a Bill for the transference of patronage, for, in fact, placing it on a broader and more popular basis. For I may be permitted to remind hon. 1162 Gentlemen not conversant with Scotch ecclesiastical affairs, that patronage in Scotland is not, and never has been, in the same position, as it has occupied, and still occupies, in England. As Lord Cockburn well says—The case in its truth is not pervious at all to the English understanding. Hostility to patronage has never been a popular feeling indigenous in their Established Church. The independence of Ecclesiastical Courts is an idea that cannot arise in a Church which acknowledges the Crown as its head. The mere claim of a right to reject a Presentee without giving good reasons is incomprehensible to an Englishman.and a noble Duke, to whom Her Majesty's Government owe a deep debt of gratitude for the assistance he has afforded them in their endeavour to pass this Bill, declared three years ago, when the subject was incidentally discussed—In Scotland, ever since the Reformation, there has been no absolute patronage. During the whole of this period, by the law of the Church, and during a great portion of it by the law of the State, the communicants and parishioners bad an almost co-equal right with the patron to the appointment of the ministers. At all times they had been largely consulted, and at no time had it been possible, without serious danger to the interests of the Church, for the patron to exercise an arbitrary choice as he could have done in England."—[3 Hansard, ccvi. 458–9.]But, Sir, as on the one hand, there has never been absolute patronage, so neither, on the other, has there been unrestricted popular election. I think it is only fair to Her Majesty's Government to bear this fact in mind while appraising the value of the concessions they propose to make in this Bill. Sir, I am not going to weary the House with any historical disquisition on patronage; but this, I hope, I may be allowed to show, that even in the two periods between 1649, and 1662, and again between 1690 and 1712, which have been termed the golden eras of the Church, patronage existed, though certainly in a very modified form. We have been warned, Sir, against reference to musty old documents, but evidence taken before a Select Committee appointed by a House of Commons, of which certainly the right hon. and gallant General the Member for Wenlock (General Forester), and I think also the noble Lord the Member for Marlborough (Lord Ernest Bruce) were Members, can, I would fain hope, scarcely be considered musty. Sir James W. Moncrieff, acknowledged to be one 1163 of the highest authorities on this subject, said before the Select Committee of 1834—That the law of 1649 did not abolish patronage properly speaking, but vested it in the Kirk Session, through the General Assembly.And again speaking of 1690, the same witness said—The law of 1690, which gave the right not to the Church, not to the people, but to the heritors and elders, was nothing else than a species of laic patronage.And the main point uniformly insisted on by the Church was from the beginning, and at all times, this, that no person should be intruded as a minister contrary to the will and consent of the people. The only document of weight which claims for the people the right of absolute presentation is the First Book of Discipline, to Which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh has alluded, but which, as he well knows, was never the law of the Church, and never received the sanction of Parliament, and which was, in fact, on this point superseded by the Second Book of Discipline, which vested the right of patronage in the Presbytery. And, I may add, that Dr. Lee, another witness before the same Committee, confirmed Sir James W. Moncrieff in almost every particular. Well, Sir, no doubt the Act of 1712, created great discontent in Scotland. It was a Jacobite, or if you like the term better, a Tory plot; but let not hon. Gentlemen opposite be too much elated by this admission, because I must remind them, Lord Stanhope says the Whigs of these days corresponded to the Tories of these. I really must, however, protest against an assertion made last year by a noble Earl (the Earl of Rosebery) in "another place" who stated that the consequence of the passing of the Act of 1712—Was, that a year afterwards, a measure for the repeal of the Union was brought forward in the Upper House when the numbers were equal, and the Union was only saved by a majority of four proxies."—[3 Hansard, ccxvi, 1043.]Now, Sir, this is really arguing on the post hoc ergo propter hoc principle, for Burnet, who is an unimpeachable authority, says that—Because a duty was imposed on malt all the Scots of both Houses met together and agreed to move for an Act dissolving the Union, and it was stated in the House of Lords, that 'the imposition which was to be laid on their malt 1164 would prove an intolerable burden for the poor of that country and force them to drink water.'How the hon. Member for the Eastern Division of the West Biding (Mr. Fielden) would have delighted in these days, and how degenerate he must think the Scots of one House, at least—not one of whom, I believe, was found to support him in his effort to repeal the duty on malt. But, Sir, not to be further tedious, from that time to the great Disruption of 1843, with the exception of an interval of about 40 years, when the land had rest, the people never ceased to protest against lay patronage, and gave, moreover, evidence of the sincerity of their protest by abandoning the Church in considerable numbers, on two occasions, in the course of the last century. But it has been said, and said, too, in influential quarters, that whatever may have been the case some time ago, there is now no demand for this measure, that it was scarcely mentioned during the progress of the late General Election—that Scotland is perfectly quiescent under the yoke of patronage; and that ministers would have done well not to revive animosities dormant, if, indeed, they were not happily buried 30 years ago. Well, Sir, there may have been no out-door agitation on this subject, but I have always understood that it is the part of true Statesmanship to anticipate and forestal out-door agitation, and so nullify, or at least render innocuous the action of mob orators and demagogues. But I am prepared to show, and it cannot, indeed, be denied, that the mind of the Church of Scotland has been appropriately and unmistakably expressed through its legitimate channels—namely, the Church Courts of the country, which have given forth no uncertain sound, and have declared by constantly increasing majorities that lay patronage ought to be abolished. But more than this—only last year a noble Earl (the Earl of Airlie) late Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly, in "another place," and my hon. Friend the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) in this House, almost simultaneously brought forward Resolutions on this subject, couched, I believe, in identical language. My hon. Friend said, on that occasion, he thought he could show, and I am bound to say I think he successfully showed— 1165That it was according to the genius of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland that the election of ministers should be in the hands of the people."—[3 Hansard, ccxvi. 1090–91.]Well, Sir, how did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, then the First Minister of the Crown, meet the Resolutions of my hon. Friend? The right hon. Gentleman said then, what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) repeats to-night, that very important changes have occurred since 1834, and that further inquiry is expedient. Doubtless, a good deal has happened in the interval, but in my humble judgment, very little which can affect the discussion of the subject now before the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich proposed last year—That Parliament should he invited at the earliest fitting opportunity to resume these investigations of 1834, 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."—[3 Hansard, ccxvi. 1107.]But, Sir, when I look at the exhaustive Report in the Library on this subject, I am wholly at a loss to understand what further material there can be to gather, or what remains to be elicited, unless it be the question of the exact numbers appertaining to the Established Church. Well, Sir, as a matter of curiosity, that may be an interesting question to solve, but I cannot see how its solution can affect the question of the maintenance or the abolition of patronage. But, Sir, to these who can read between the lines, there is in the wording of the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Baxter) a thinly-veiled attack on the Church established in Scotland. It certainly appears to me extraordinary that we cannot deal with a matter which, after all, is one of purely internal organization, without raising, as the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing) has done to-night, the question of disestablishment and disendowment. If hon. Gentlemen opposite are so enamoured of the subject, why not repeat the highly successful experiment of last year, and move a direct Resolution in favour of disestablishment? Only let me remind them that on that occasion they received cold comfort from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, who even hinted a doubt whether the disestablishment of the Irish Church had 1166 been perfectly and in all respects successful, and who, in reply to a direct Question put by an hon. Gentleman no longer a Member of this House, said he was of opinion, thought had become less free in the Irish Church since its disestablishment. Sir, it is contended that if the abolition of patronage had been conceded in 1843, such a concession would have been a wise and statesmanlike measure, but that a similar concession in 1874 involves an injustice to the Free Church. But, Sir, these who so contend forget, or at any rate ignore, the fact that the secession of 1843, although the largest, was not the first secession on the ground of the maintenance of patronage. You must begin ab ovo, and you must go back, not to 1843, but to 1733, when the first Secession Church was formed. Therefore, Sir, if this argument be sound, the abolition of patronage in 1843 would have involved an act of injustice to the Secession and Relief Churches, united in 1847 under the name of United Presbyterians. And, Sir, we have it on the indisputable authority of Lord Cockburn that the Secession and Belief Churches did, 35 years ago, protest, as they and the Free Church are protesting now, against the abolition of patronage. They stated distinctly—and I particularly invite the attention of the House to the statement—that there was only one way in which they could permit the Church to be assisted in seeking deliverance from patronage, intrusion, and civil interference with their ecclesiastical proceedings, and that was—by joining them in an application to Parliament to demand, as the certain, safe, and complete remedy for these evils, the immediate and entire abolition of the connection between Church and State.That is—become Dissenters, and we shall help you; if not, we shall help your enemies to keep you subject to what we think an intolerable and un-scriptural grievance; and one of the leaders went so far as to say that—the Dissenters having invested money in churches and endowments on the faith of abuses in the Church, it was unfair in Government or in any Liberal man to do anything towards the correction of these abuses.But, Sir, I may be asked—Do you think that, if the Bill becomes law, it will have the effect of re-uniting with the Church airy considerable number of the Dissenting Bodies? Well, Sir, I may state that 1167 a great deal of misconception prevails on this point. A writer in The Times, subscribing himself "Anglicanus," and professing great admiration for Scotch Presbyterians, sees no reason, considering the almost absolute identity of doctrine and form in all the Presbyterian Bodies, why, if patronage be abolished, a happy re-union should not be effected between all the Dissenters and the Establishment. Sir, you might as well attempt to mix oil with water as effect an amalgamation between the Establishment and the United Presbyterians. I hold in my hand the statement of the United Presbyterian Synods' Committee on Disestablishment regarding the Church Patronage Bill, which states that—The Bill is directly antagonistic to the position which the Synod firmly holds—that the legislation immediately demanded, and which alone can meet the circumstances of the case, is disestablishment and disendowment. There is nothing in the Bill for which these should spare it who know the more excellent way. The strongest reasons exist why both patronage and endowment, as parts of one system, should be at once abolished.So much for the United Presbyterian Church; but, although the Free Church recognizes that it is the duty of the civil magistrate to maintain an establishment, I do not think many of that Body will return to the Church, because the only establishment they are prepared to acknowledge is one which I am sure the Legislature will never be disposed to concede. Hero, Sir, is the Report of the Committee of the Free Church of Scotland on legislation respecting patronage, in which is stated a fact with, which, indeed, I was previously well acquainted—That the existence of patronage was not the ground of the disruption. The Church was called upon to obey the law—that is to say, to take the decisions of the civil courts as authentic declarations of the limit of her jurisdiction, and as authoritative declarations of the limit of her jurisdiction, and as authoritative directions with respect to particular acts of it.In the words of Lord Cockburn—" as a separate and independent power, the Church was wholly superseded." Yes, Sir, and I apprehend, never to be restored. The day is past when the civil will tolerate the co-existence of an independent ecclesiastical authority. And yet, Sir, in the face of these avowedly hostile proclamations from the two chief Dissenting Presbyterian Bodies in Scotland, it is gravely proposed—and the proposal is endorsed by many hon. and 1168 right hon. Gentlemen in this House—to commit the patronage of the Church to these who thus unblushingly declare it to be their mission, on the first favourable opportunity, to destroy it and raze it to the ground. When I think, Sir, of the noble conduct of the secessionists in 1843, who, as the same eminent authority says—cast off the establishment from no political motive, but purely from dictates of conscience, the sincerity of which is attested by the sacrifice, not merely of professional station and emoluments, but of all worldly interests."Conduct to which," he adds, "he knows no parallel." I regret that their descendants should have adopted their present policy, and I regret also that the United Presbyterians do not make their own the language of that eminent secessionist, Dr. McCrie, who stated before the Committee of 1834 that, although the abolition of patronage would not induce him to re-enter the Established Church, he thought it would operate in the most salutary manner for the Church herself. Sir, the Synod of the United Presbyterian Church says, to abolish patronage is to throw off the legitimate control of the State over its beneficiaries, but, what control does the State exercise over the rights of private patrons, who generally know nothing of their benefices, and who may be of any or of no religion at all? What control does the State exercise over the patronage of town councils? Doubtless, these bodies generally make excellent appointments, but sometimes also they make great mistakes, as in the notorious Queensferry case, where the town council appointed a gentleman who had contested Kilmarnock with Mr. Bouverie, and who, although he might very possibly have made an excellent Member of this House, was scarcely a person suited in all respects to become the spiritual director of the people of Queens-ferry—at least, they thought not, for they protested strenuously against the appointment. The State, it is true, possesses about one-third of the patronages; but it has for some time practically coded to the people its rights, and it is desirable to establish formally what has been already conceded virtually. Then, Sir, the Act known as Lord Aberdeen's Act has now been in operation 30 years, and has not operated successfully. Lord Cock-burn mentions some objections made under it to presentees, which, perhaps, 1169 the House will allow me to quote. The presentee to Banff was—reported to be subject to an occasional exuberance of animal spirits, and is considered to be destitute of a musical ear, which prevents the correct modulation of his voice. The presentee to Kirkholm had an unnatural conformation of one of his feet, which made him halt in his gait, and assume grotesque and unnatural attitudes and action in the pulpit. The presentee to Kilbrandon not only read every word of his sermon, but his reading was uniformly bad, stuttering, often ungrammatical, always without emphasis, measure, or pathos, retaining the same heavy, unnatural intonation of voice in every stage of the discourse, whether argumentation, illustration, application, or exhortation; and all this without one redeeming look, attitude, or gesture to attract the interest or command the attention of his audience.In one word, his ministerial gifts and qualities appeared to be of the most stinted and cramped character. The great objection was, that neither the man, nor his sermons, nor his general ministry, were "soul-searching." I think the House will be of opinion that it is not desirable to perpetuate this state of things. I am glad, Sir, that the town council of the great City of Glasgow are in favour of the measure, and ready to abandon their patronage. There was, it is true, a minority against the measure, one of whom stated that he opposed the Bill in the interests of the Church, which, however, turned out to be the pecuniary interest of the Corporation, because he moved a resolution—a resolution adopted, I believe, by the town council of Dundee—that compensation should be awarded to town councils for the loss of their patronage. But, Sir, in abolishing patronage this House should distinctly fix who the electors are to be, and not throw an apple of discord on the floor of the General Assembly. Above all things, in escaping from the Scylla of patronage we must not fall into the Charybdis of unrestricted popular election. Sir. if the vultus instantis tyranni is terrible, the civium ardor prava jubentium is infinitely more to be dreaded. I am acquainted with a case, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire has some knowledge, in which the guardians of an infant patron gave to the people the right of presentation. The majority selected the assistant of the former minister, but a large minority, comprising many of the most intelligent residents in the parish, considered the presentee unfit for the appointment, and protested so 1170 strongly that the guardians, after a great deal of unseemly squabbling, were obliged to resume the right of appointment. They accordingly nominated a minister, who gives universal satisfaction. To obviate these and similar difficulties, I think a sort of electoral college or standing committee should be formed in every parish, ready to act on the occurrence of a vacancy. Sir, 32 years ago Lord Cockburn said—"I think I see the Church nodding, not to its sleep, but to its fall." Sir, if I saw the Church lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I should indeed be apprehensive of such a catastrophe, but because, on the contrary, the ministers of the Church are able, earnest, and devoted men, because the Church itself is doing a great and important work at homo and abroad, I believe the hour of its dissolution to be yet far distant. The Church is, and I hope long will be, affectionately cherished by the people of Scotland, even by these who differ from it most, the more so because it is about to rid itself of the incubus of patronage, and because within its precincts will no more be heard the humiliating cry—" Put me, I pray thee, into the priest's office, that I may eat a piece of bread."
§ MR. LEATHAM
Sir—Whenever a Scotch question is before the House, I feel as though I ought to apologize to my hon. Friends from the other side of the Tweed for attempting to take part in the debate, so ample is the mastery which they invariably display over all questions affecting Scotland, and so profound is my ignorance of the rich Doric nomenclature, without which it would seem to be impossible adequately to discuss these questions. But, Sir, the subject which is now under discussion touches upon principles which are of wider application, and that is why I venture to ask the indulgence of the House while I make a few remarks upon a Scotch Bill. The Lord Advocate and hon. Members who have supported the second reading of this Bill, have laboured hard to show that if it should become law, it will tend to strengthen the Establishment in Scotland. I am unable to follow hon. Gentlemen to that conclusion. Scotland is a very practical country, but it is a highly contentious country, and there is no subject upon which there exists quite the same power of contention in the Scottish mind, as upon all that relates to the 1171 Gospel of Peace. Everybody in Scotland would seem to be religious—even Dukes; and to approach the discussion of all questions relating to religion with a zeal which is always vehement and sometimes overbearing. There is no corner of the earth which is capable of accumulating quite the same fund of Christian hatred, quite the same magazine of jealousy and resentment against ecclesiastical usurpation. Well, Sir, such being the well-known character of the Scottish people, how long do hon. Gentlemen suppose that public opinion in Scotland will tolerate the existence of a State Church defined and limited as you propose to define it under this Bill?—a State Church in all that belongs to the vital and cardinal question of the appointment of ministers, divorced from the Crown and the land, from everything which is fixed and stable, from the wide area of the parish, shut up within the four walls of the kirk, and deprived of all the influence belonging to tradition and usage and acting as a sedative upon that logic of the Scotsman, which, when it is once fairly upon its feet, is remorseless and implacable, and almost as imperious as a ducal devotee. The moment that the Church ceases to be the Church of the parish, the question arises with irresistible force—Then why is the parish bound to maintain it? Pass this Bill, and upon what will that claim rest? Upon ancient usage? You are overturning ancient usage. Upon the presumption of a purer creed, or a superior system of Church government? In Scotland everybody believes the same thing, and all Preysbyterian systems of Church government are identical. But will it rest on a superiority of numbers? Even accepting the unintelligible statistics of the Church, she is the Church of the minority. A noble Duke who, although he is not the father of this Bill, has exhibited a vivacity of affection for it which would do honour to any parent, is reported to have said in "another place," that even after this Bill had passed, he would base the claim of the Scotch Church to be considered national upon three facts—on the fact that her creed is embodied in Acts of Parliament; that her Courts are maintained by the Civil Power; and that the nation is represented in her councils by a wide infusion of the laity into the Assembly. But the creed which is embodied in Acts of Parliament is no more 1172 her creed than that of every rival community of Presbyterians. No one contends that the infusion of the laity into the Assembly has ever given the nation an effective control over its deliberations; and as regards the plea that her Courts are sustained by the Civil Power, the very existence of these Courts is a grievance in the eyes of the rest of the population. Sir, when the Irish Church question was under discussion in this House, I well remember Lord Selborne—then Sir Roundell Palmer—defining what he termed the Irish grievance. Speaking in favour of disestablishment, he said—The grievance consists in giving, by State establishment, to the Church of a small minority of the Irish people, a superiority of rank, and an exclusive right—a right which no other religious body in the country possesses—to have its laws deemed part of the laws of the land, and to have Courts maintained for the execution of these laws."—[3 Hansard, cxciv. 1911.]Now, if the existence of these Courts constituted a grievance in Ireland, because the Church was the Church of the minority, it constitutes a grievance in Scotland where the Church is also the Church of the minority. But by this Bill, the Church is still further narrowed and limited, until it will consist of perhaps one fourth of the population—a Church of season-ticket holders—yet upon that fourth you still propose to accumulate all which the State has to bestow of wealth and consideration upon religion. Sir, there is only one plausible definition of a National Church—namely, that in theory, at all events, it-is co-extensive with the nation; that the whole public sustains it; the whole public belongs to it; and the whole public controls it. But the advocates of the Bill have been compelled to renounce the time-honoured theory of a National Church. They tell us that "it involves a gross confusion of thought." What they really mean is that the notion of a National Church at all under existing conditions involves a gross confusion of thought. They explain that—A Bishop or minister is not the Bishop or minister of every man in a diocese or parish, but only of these who choose to come to him.Sir, the friends of established churches have no cause to be grateful to the friends of this Bill, for in their anxiety to clutch all the advantages and forego all the disadvantages of their connection, they strike at the very root of the prin- 1173 ciple of a National Church; and the indignation which they lavish upon any proposal to give the public the patronage of their own Church ought to have been expended upon the close and intimate union between the public and the Church, which demands and requires that, failing the ancient rights of patrons, the public itself should exercise them. Now, I put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are warm and conscientious supporters of a State Church, whether they think that this new-fangled theory, if adopted upon this side of the Border, would strengthen the Church of England? Do they realty think that the provisions of this Bill, if applied to the Church of England, would tend to the lengthening of her prosperity? Yet the Church of England is a far more robust institution than her sister over the Border. I sometimes hear that even the Church of England is growing cold at the extremities; but if you feel the extremities of the Church of Scotland, the pulse has absolutely gone. Believe me, it is not only the British Constitution which is "fearfully and wonderfully made." The constitution of all State Churches is so. You cannot play these tricks and experiments with them. You cannot lop off this, and pare down that. You cannot carry your knives and your probes all over the body ecclesiastical with impunity. Even if your knife do not slip, the patient—and this patient in particular—has not strength for the operation. Now, do not let hon. Gentlemen suppose that the Bill, if passed, is intended to have no bearing upon the future of the Church of England. I believe that but for the Church of England we should never have heard of this Bill at all. The Church has been freely assailed, and a certain class of her defenders are filled with a feeble and feverish anxiety to do something, as they say, to strengthen her. They have made up their minds that the first practicable breach in her defences will be upon the side of patronage. So there is a prodigious bustle about patching up the defences upon that side. This Bill is part of this great patching scheme. Another part was the Bill introduced into "another place," one object of which was to prevent the sale of next presentations. By a singular coincidence, this Scotch Bill was no sooner introduced than the other Bill was suffered to drop. This Scotch Bill, bear in 1174 mind, was never asked for in Scotland. There was no agitation for it. It is a perfectly gratuitous measure. It springs from the spontaneous benevolence of the Government. Now, I distrust spontaneous benevolence almost wherever I find it, but especially do I distrust it when it proceeds from the costive bosom of a Conservative Administration. It is easier, no doubt, to abolish patronage in Scotland than in England; but the precedent once fairly established, will be found very useful when we come to discuss the English question. And what a precedent it is! Such as are the rights of Scotch patrons, it amounts to almost simple confiscation. Sir, the country is really very unfortunate. Not long ago we had an Administration which "harassed trades, worried the professions, and assailed or menaced property." We thought that we had got rid of that Administration and its revolutionary principles for ever. But, Sir, here we have an Administration, with this awful warning before its eyes, treading in the same steps. Here we have an Administration which—looking to recent legislation, and looking to this Bill, and looking to another great harassing and worrying Church Bill, which has received the sidelong support of the Government—has achieved in four short months, in these three great fields of revolutionary enterprise, a success which it took its plodding predecessors as many years of patient blundering to attain. No doubt, we shall be told that the incidents of patronage in Scotland differ so widely from these of patronage in England, that no English precedent can be drawn from the Bill. That is precisely what we were told when we were dealing with the Irish Church Bill. The circumstances of the Irish Church differed so materially from these of the English Church, that no English precedent could be drawn from the Irish Bill. This theory was contested by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and rightly—for no one will now contend that the Irish Church Act has not strengthened the hands of these who demand an English Church Act. Precisely in the same way, if you pass this Bill, you will have precipitated the question, what is to be done with the rights of English patrons? But, I may very fairly be asked, if the tendency of this measure be in the direction of disestablishment and disendowment, why do I hesitate to support it? I once 1175 read, Sir, that while an unfortunate Jew was being carried through the streets of Madrid to be burned by the Inquisition, the whole populace exclaimed—"Stand firm, Moses!" The Glasgow Corporation cries—"Stand firm, Moses!" now; the Free Kirk cries—"Stand firm, Moses!" too. But it is not because they admire his principles, or sympathize with his fate, but, like the good people of Madrid, because they wish to witness his immolation. Sir, this is not the line which I desire to follow. I object to the re-endowment, at this time of day, of any Church; but most emphatically do I object to it when, by the very same statute, the Church, so re-endowed, is robbed of its public and national character. For whatever may be the theory of private patronage, the Crown patronage and that of the Royal Burghs constitutes, to all intents and purposes, public property, and with public property, for the first time, you endow the Church of Scotland. Under these circumstances, it need not excite surprise that the promoters of this Bill hesitated to face the last Parliament—a Parliament the atmosphere of which was not favourable to endowed Churches. It would, indeed, have been a strange paradox if the same Parliament had with one hand disendowed a national Church on the ground that it was sectarian, and the Church of the minority, but, with the other, had re-endowed another national Church, also the Church of the minority, and in the very act of re-endowment made it more sectarian. But, Sir, no doubt I shall be told that since that Parliament sat "much has happened." So it has; but until this Bill shall have become law, I have yet to learn that among the things which have happened is a total reflux of that current of national opinion which has been setting steadily only in one direction for 50 years.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, this Bill, which in another House of Parliament was supported and blessed by more than one Colleague of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, has, I am sorry to say, been banned by that right hon. Gentleman in this House. If that were the only consideration for his re-appearance among us, I would endure it, though with regret, because I must express the general feeling of the House that we have all missed him, and 1176 I not the least. I have found the conduct of debate much more difficult in his absence, and as there appears to be for the remainder of the Session some preponderance of these peculiar subjects in which he is so remarkably interested, I trust his appearance to night will not be a solitary one. Before I venture to make a few remarks upon the observations of the right hon. Gentleman in particular, I would press upon my Friends to remember that there is, notwithstanding what they may have heard, a very great distinction between Scotch and English ecclesiastical patronage. The great difference between them is that the Scotch patron does not, in fact, patronize, and that Scotch patronage does not exact anything from the patron. It is not patronage in the English sense. That is about an accurate summary of his peculiar position, although we are obliged to use the word patronage, because it is a word commonly accepted when we speak on the subject, and a word which enables us to understand what we are talking about. Therefore, the fact is, that the Bill is not about patronage at all in the English sense, but refers to a question whether there should or should not be a new rule for selecting ministers in Scotland, and whether the selection should be made by every portion and class of the congregation agreeing in the change which is proposed. When we are told that this is a revolutionary measure, and that we are divorcing the Church, first from the Crown, and then from the land, I would remind hon. Members who use that language, that Her Majesty is not the head of the Scotch Kirk. Her connection with the Scotch Kirk, though a gracious and generous one, is not one similar to that which exists in England; and I believe that connection will continue, represented, as Her Majesty will be, by her Lord High Commissioner on that interesting occasion which is allowed to the Established Church of Scotland to express their unanimous approval of the proposition of Her Majesty's Ministers. Again, I want to know how the fact of a patron by law renouncing the exercise of an act of patronage which he had never exercised, can terminate the connection of the Kirk with the land. It terminates the connection of the Kirk with an individual who is called a patron, but the connection of the Kirk of Scot- 1177 land with, the land is exactly the same. How inconsistent, then, it is to say, the Kirk of Scotland is to continue to enjoy her endowments, and at the same time, by this revolutionary Act, we are divorcing her from the land she has been so long connected with, and from which her income is produced. One of the great objections of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich to the Bill is, that in terminating the patronage, of which he did not complain, we have not offered an adequate or proper substitute. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the power of appointing ministers being entrusted to the congregations, and he argued, if, indeed, he did not directly state it as his opinion, that the privilege should be extended to these who were not in communion with the Church, or who were not even nominally part of the congregation. I can only say that in acting as we have done, we have acted according to the precedents which are furnished by all previous legislation. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that in the Aberdeen Act, which was passed by a Government of which he was a Member, the privilege of objection to a presentee was accorded to the congregation. It was brought forward and passed after the Secession. Therefore the Secession, which produced the Free Church, cannot be alleged as a reason for upsetting the principle, that selection is the peculiar privilege of the congregation. Although the Aberdeen Act gave the congregation the power of objecting, it has never been admitted for a moment that the appointment of a minister should be vested in these who are outside the congregation. That was a principle which was not attempted to be supported by it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Play-fair), arguing as he did against the Bill, confessed that the idea of entrusting this power to the ratepayers would be intolerable in Scotland, and would receive no sanction from any Church, school, or body of men. To whom should we entrust it but to communicants and the members of the congregation? The communicants, I see, are not a small body. Judging from a Paper moved for by the hon. Member for St. Andrew's (Mr. Ellice), they appear to number 464,000. To my great surprise some doubts have been thrown on 1178 the Returns by the right hon. Member for Montrose; but, so far as I can form an opinion—and I have made enquiries from good authorities on both sides of the House—there is no foundation for his scepticism. In the case that was referred to, one which attracted my attention, and one in which the number of the communicants was considerable, going even, I think, but I am not quite sure, to the extent of being the largest number given, I made enquiries, and found that the pastor was the Rev. Dr. Stevenson, a gentleman of repute, and it is impossible that he could have returned anything that was not authentic. The right hon. Member for Greenwich, pursuing the same tone as to the inexpediency of entrusting the appointment of the minister to the congregation and communicants, though no one has proposed any more reasonable plan or made any proposition which the House has for a moment accepted, dwelt very much upon the Highland parishes, which he said were in a position, since the great Secession, to render our scheme of entrusting the election to communicants utterly futile. He described these Highland parishes as another Munster and Con-naught, conveying the idea to this House of large tracts of land and innumerable parishes, in which it was impossible to rally anything like a congregation, and that a few individuals would have this power entrusted to them. But when I examine into the matter, I find that the number of these parishes is extremely limited. I have not arrived at more than 25 parishes in which under the provisions of the Bill there would be such an insufficiency that the appointment would be referred to the General Assembly. But what are 25 out of 1,200! What did the right hon. Gentleman say when it was proposed to disestablish the Church in Wales? He said that so great a question as that of national establishment could not be decided on isolated eases. "We must," he said, "take general views." The right hon. Gentleman took a very general view, indeed, when he magnified a few Highland parishes into the dimensions of Munster and Connaught. Then we come to figures, a branch of the subject in which the right hon. Gentleman may be said to be more effective generally than any other. They are comprised in another ground on which the right hon. Gentle- 1179 man objects to the Bill, that of compensation, a subject of which he is always master. It seems to be generally agreed that compensation, even if it is not accepted, at least should be offered. We have made a proposal which, after due investigation and consideration, we think a fair one; and if a better or happier can be suggested, that may be done in Committee; but the principle being assumed, we thought one year's income would not be an inadequate compensation to the patron for the loss of the power of appointment. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be alarmed at such a proposition on our side, and he vindicated himself as a defender of the rights of property, though he is certainly asserted by opponents to have a weakness for confiscation. The Lord Advocate upon that rose, and wishing to clinch the right hon. Gentleman, brought forward the great authority of the Duke of Argyll upon the subject. The right hon. Gentleman seemed staggered, more by his affection for the individual, than from any want of confidence in himself, and he fixed us instantly with the Duke of Argyll having been our actuary for the occasion. I listened to the interlude with some surprise. My recollection of the means by which we arrived at the result was very different from the impression the House would acquire from what passed between the right hon. Gentleman and the Lord Advocate. I believe the right hon. Gentleman entirely misunderstood the interference of the Lord Advocate, who did not for a moment intend to convey that we acted in this matter upon the authority of the Duke of Argyll. We acted in the way most Governments do on subjects of difficulty, consulting the most experienced men of business on the matter, and we had arrived at this conclusion. According to my recollection, the Duke of Argyll, instead of being our authority for one year's revenue being the proper compensation, expressed an opinion directly the contrary; and in consequence of that recollection I refer to a speech published by the authority of his Grace, in which he says—Patronage had probably the same origin in England as in Scotland. Since the Reformation, however, the history of the institution is wholly different in the two countries. The only complaint I make is, that in assigning one year's stipend as the amount of compensation my noble Friend has given the patrons very 1180 much more than they ever could get in the market.That shows that we did not act upon the opinion of the Duke of Argyll, and that he is not our actuarial authority for one year's stipend. The right hon. Gentleman then gave us his own information on the subject; he took us to the beginning of the century. He mentioned four purchases of advowsons, one of which was made in 1801; that was sold for £2,000. In another instance the price was £1,000—the value seemed to be sinking; in the third it was £600; and the last, many years ago, was sold for £300. The question is, not what has happened since the beginning of the century, but what price advowsons have fetched since 1843, since the passing of an Act by the Ministry of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member, which Act provided that the congregations should have the privilege of objecting to the presentee of a patron, and when he was objected to, the matter must be tried in the Church Courts. Of course, the consequence was the value of an advowson was reduced to nothing. That is proved by the fact that, under the Edinburgh Act, a few years later, the Edinburgh advowsons were sold, and realized under the average of one year's stipend. I place before the House the two points upon which the right hon. Gentleman has objected to the Bill. The first is, that, while in unison with Lord Aberdeen's Act, we are proposing to substitute for patron the communicants and congregations, we do not recognize the opinion of these who are outside of the congregation in an Act which does not interest in any degree these who are outside, and which greatly interests these who are inside. I have not heard in the course of this debate any substitute of a practical nature suggested which any considerable party can support. With regard to the second, I think I have shown that the right hon. Gentleman was not well-founded, when he charged us with making the proposition respecting compensation, without due inquiry, and merely on the ipse dixit of the Duke of Argyll. And now I wish to make some remarks on the objection raised by the right hon. Gentleman that we have referred everything to the Church Courts, and that we have not in any way appealed to the Civil Courts. At the same 1181 time, the right hon. Gentleman objects that we make no offer whatever to the United Presbyterian Body or to the Free Church; but the right hon. Gentleman must know that if we referred any of these matters to the Civil Courts, that alone would be at once an obstacle to the United Presbyterians entering into any negotiation, or holding out any chance of acting with the Established Church of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman will find in a very remarkable document on The Claims, Principles, and Policy of the Free Church, being a speech by Dr. Buchanan, a statement to the effect that nothing could meet the requirements of that Church, but an Act of the Legislature setting aside the whole view of the relations between Church and State upon which the Courts before the Disruption proceeded. The protest and claim, also, of the Free Church is absolutely opposed to any recognition of the authority of the Civil Courts, and therefore nothing could be more inconsistent than to upbraid us for having neglected to introduce their functions into the Bill, and, at the same time, to say that our policy was to hold out the olive-branch to the Free Church and the United Presbyterians. The right hon. Gentleman takes credit to himself for having written something in the year 1843, which is entirely consistent with the view he has expressed to-night—namely, that patronage ought to be abolished in the Scotch Church. I should like to know where, and when, and what it was that was written. It seems to me impossible that the right hon. Gentleman could have written in such a strain at the very time he was supporting the Act of Lord Aberdeen, which, in effect, denied the very policy he now says he wrote in support of. According to the right hon. Gentleman's account, he voted against the very remedial measures which now we are told ought to be passed, and the inconsistency of the right hon. Gentleman in that respect seems to be greater, because he had been consistent, according to his own account, in the present year, when, since 30 years ago, he had urged the principle that patronage should be abolished. Yet, with extraordinary inconsistency, now that we have given him an opportunity of obtaining his views, the consistency of maintaining which he says he is so proud of, he votes against the 1182 very Bill that would carry into effect the very principle which, for 30 years, he says he has supported. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Established Church drove out the Free Church. That, however, is not my view of the great Scotch religious movement. I think the Free Church resigned. They were not driven out, and that places the Established Church in a very different position from what it would have occupied if it had driven the Free Church out. The right hon. Gentleman opposite might as well say that we drove him out of office. I say we did not drive him out of office. He resigned office; and, having resigned, I say we are not at all bound to invite him to return. But if we drove him out, and a touch of remorse influenced us, we might then have been morally bound to do so. There is that distinction also between the Established Church and the Free Church. It never entered into their heads to drive the Free Church out. That was a most voluntary and unexpected act. It might seem an unreasonable one, but that it was an heroic one we all agree. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), who has moved one of the oddest Amendments ever moved in this House, must allow me to make one remark. He says he requires more time. We bring forward a Bill, the principle of which he is opposed to; but he says—"It is too late;" and, therefore, let it be a little later. This is the result of the whole proposition of the right hon. Gentleman—"What you are doing may be admirable; but I oppose it, because it is too late; therefore put it off for another year, and we will consider it." I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will induce the House to adopt that Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich has told us that if there is one thing that he is prouder of than another, it is that of abolishing the Irish Church; that he is more proud of abolishing the Irish Church than of any other deed in his illustrious career. He says that he would desire nothing more, than that upon his tombstone should be inscribed the destruction of the Irish Church. ["No, no!"] If I have stated anything that is unfair, I will recall it; but I thought I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that he should wish that to be upon his tombstone, or that there 1183 should be some memorial of that sort. I would say myself that, in the anthology of memorable epitaphs, I doubt whether that will be handed down to posterity. One thing, at all events, I hope—that upon that tombstone we shall not see inscribed the destruction of another Church.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Edward Jenkins.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
thought it was scarcely a reasonable proposition. He would not say it had been an exhaustive debate; but there would be other opportunities of speaking on the subject, and considering the time of the year, he could not consent to the adjournment.
§ MR. M'LAREN
appealed to the right hon. Gentleman not to oppose the Motion for the Adjournment. Only two Scotchmen had spoken in the debate, and no Members of the large towns had yet spoken upon the question.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
appealed to the Prime Minister to consent to the adjournment. It was his intention to support the Bill, and his wish to speak in favour of it, and so many Scotch Members wished to do so likewise, that he thought they should have the opportunity of doing so presented to them.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, there would be great difficulties in adjourning the debate; but if the second reading of the Bill were carried, another opportunity would be given for discussing on going into Committee.
said, if the hon. Members from Scotland were generally of opinion that the subject had been sufficiently discussed, he would not press for an adjournment; but if they were of a different opinion, then their wishes ought to be consulted. There would be no saving of time if the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman who had last spoken was adopted, and the principle of the Bill were discussed over again on going into Committee. For his own part, he was not in the least disposed to offer opposition on the details of the Bill.
§ MR. HORSMAN
considered the Motion for Adjournment only reasonable, for, in his opinion, the Prime Minister had risen early in the evening for the purpose of closing the discussion.
said, that not one of the Members representing large constituencies in Scotland had had an opportunity of speaking on the Bill.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 166; Noes 223: Majority 57.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Anderson.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
saw no reason why they should not go on and conclude the debate to-night. He had simply opposed the adjournment because it would not be in his power to offer a day, except at such an interval as would be very inconvenient to these who would follow in the debate. The next day (Tuesday) was occupied with important Government Business, and he had given Thursday for another Bill. The House had better sit two or three hours longer, and finish the debate to-night. If it were adjourned he could not name a day for resuming the debate earlier than Monday next. As he had been charged with rising early in the debate, he wished to say that he rose because it did not appear to him that any hon. Gentleman on either side of the House cared to rise, and not because he wished to prevent the debate from going on.
§ MR. HORSMAN
thought there would be no difficulty in adjourning the debate. The right hon. Gentleman would find himself mistaken if he imitated the policy of the late Government in riding over the House with what, last Session, was called a mechanical majority. That was by far the most important measure of the Session, and there was no reason why it should not be proceeded with to-morrow. He hoped therefore that the right hon. Gentleman would not put the House and Government in a false position by postponing the discussion of the Bill for a whole week.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, he would suggest another alternative. He would 1185 recommend the right hon. Gentleman to drop the Bill for the present Session.
§ MR. MONK
hoped that the Government would not give way. It was not usual on matters of the kind to close the debate before 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. If this debate were adjourned, another night would be asked for the debate on the Public Worship Regulation Bill, and, if so, what hope was there that this Session would ever come to an end?
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, there were 13 Scotch Members who had not spoken. He had risen nine times before he had been successful.
said, that if the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had made his arrangements for the conduct of the Business of the House during the remainder of the week, he could not be expected to accomplish impossibilities. He (Mr. Gladstone) hoped, therefore, that the House would accept the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to Monday.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 151; Noes 215: Majority 64.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, a great many Scotch Members wished to address the House, and they would willingly accept the offer of the Prime Minister, that the debate should be continued on Monday next.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he had opposed the adjournment because he could not give another day this week. He had only two clays, and he had promised the first day at his disposal. He did not understand why they had had the last division.
§ MAJOR O'GORMAN
said, he should certainly vote for the second reading of the Bill; but he thought the Scotch Members should be heard, and he did not see what objection there was to proceed with the debate without any adjournment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned till Monday next."—(Dr. Cameron.)
§ Question put, and agreed to. Debate adjourned till Monday next.