HC Deb 24 July 1874 vol 221 cc651-78

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(The Lord Advocate.)


, in rising to move an Amendment, said: Sir, I rise with much reluctance at this period of the Session, to interfere between the House and going into Committee on the Bill; and it is known to Her Majesty's Government that I should have been willing to withdraw my opposition to the Bill in consideration of the position of Public Business, had it not been that I knew that a number of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, Representatives of Scotland, desire to have an opportunity of entering their protest against the Bill. Intending, therefore, for a brief period to interpose between the House and its business, I may be allowed to crave indulgence whilst entering the protest which I also propose to enter against the Bill. I feel that the Bill is so bad that it could not possibly be made worse, and we cannot make it any better, and therefore I shall take no part whatever in the discussion in Committee on it. But I think it is better that there should be an opportunity afforded to those who hold the views that I do on this question—I mean the views entertained by a large number of Scotchmen—that an opportunity should be afforded us of entering our protest against the dangerous precedents created by it. I trust the discussion on the point, which may occupy a short time, may in the long run save time in Committee. I wish first to point out the difference between the Motion I have put on the Paper and that put on by my right hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter). For his was a Motion for delay, and on details; mine is a Motion which asserts a principle—a principle which ought to be asserted on this side of the House in reference to future legislation. His was a Motion which called for inquiry; but mine is totally irrespective of it. I beg to move— That, in the opinion of this House, it is not expedient, in abolishing the existing rights of Patronage in Scotland, to ignore the other Presbyterian bodies, and to legislate for the exclusive benefit of the Established Church. Now, Sir, I venture to say that I conscientiously believe—and the House may accept my opinion for what it is worth—that this expresses the opinion of the vast majority of the people of Scotland, if we take those tests of public opinion which are open to us. Whether we take the Press of Scotland, with respect to its ability, or with respect to its circulation; or whether we take the Resolutions of the Free Church Assembly, I think I am practically justified in saying that in making that Motion I am expressing the opinion of the majority of the people of Scotland. In whose interests is the Bill proposed? Is it proposed in the interests of the Church of Scotland? Then it is in the interests of the minority of the Scotch people. Is it proposed in the interests of the Scotch people? Sir, Her Majesty's Ministers have had their mouths full of the Scotch Church, but never in all the time have they spoken of the Scotch people. The people's interests have not been consulted. From first to last, I venture to say, that this is a Church Bill, and is against the popular will. If it were in the interests of the Scotch people, then it is too narrow and too weak, and too exclusive altogether, to be accepted as a boon by the people of Scotland. We have asked upon what principle this Bill is based, and I have endeavoured to ascertain whether there is any great moral or political principle in it, and I have come to the conclusion that it is utterly unprincipled. But when I say that, let me say that I do not for a moment say that the right hon. and learned Lord does not see and feel a principle at the bottom of the Bill. I believe the right hon. and learned Lord is really sincere and earnest when he says this Bill will conduce to the progress of Christian principles in Scotland. He thinks it is a good Bill; but I think if he will allow me to say so, that that is simply an amiable delusion, and that in this case he is acting as the cat's paw of certain very clever people in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. We are entitled to ask on what principle the Bill is based. Is it introduced for the purpose of correcting admitted blunders in the Act of 1843? If it is, it will be at the expense of persons who were injured by the blunders of 1843. It is a Bill introduced to strengthen the Church, and to spite the people of Scotland. When we examine the antecedent circumstances of the Bill what does it show to us? Was the Free Church consulted? Was there any attempt to establish those friendly relations between the Free Church and the Established Church which the right hon. and learned Lord says he is desirous of promoting? Because, if we are going to establish friendly relations between two ecclesiastical Bodies, surely the way to do it is not to come to Parliament to ask for an Act assented to and promoted by only one side. If the right hon. and learned Lord had received assurances by the Free Church and by the Established Church, then it would have been proper for him to come here and ask that this measure should be passed. But instead of instituting attempts at conciliation, what have we? We have first of all a deliberate attempt to injure the Voluntary Churches by attracting adherents from them, for the object of the Bill is to create a State Church in Scotland, and to hold out inducements to members of other Churches to come into that Church. I say such a policy as that may be only an insidious policy for a Church to adopt; but, and I say it not offensively, it is a fatal course for a national Government to adopt. Then the object is to unite the right of presentation with the enjoyment, and I cannot help thinking that the object in the minds of those in Scotland promoting this Bill is, that by uniting these two rights under this Act of Parliament, it may be impossible for us easily to upset the arrangement; and when it is proposed, as it inevitably will be, to disestablish the Church of Scotland, we shall be told that we have united the right of presentation and the right of enjoyment, and that we cannot expect Scotland to restore the national endowments. I cannot help feeling that that is really the principle, if there is any principle, which has been at the bottom of the agitation which has resulted in this measure. I think it is right, therefore, that a protest should be entered on this side of the House, on behalf of the Free Church of Scotland, against this being accepted as a finality measure. We enter our protest here to-day that this is not to be accepted as a finality measure, and we say that we hold ourselves free to open the question in future, whether the endowments of the Church of Scotland shall be enjoyed by one Church alone. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen on the other side have gone into every issue involved in this case. It involves some of the most important issues ever raised, with respect to ecclesiastical subjects, in this House; and in that respect, it is really the most important Bill that was ever brought before the consideration of the House. And I say this—I cannot help feeling that if hon. Gentlemen opposite had gone into the question, and seen what all its relations are, they would have hesitated a long time before they supported Her Majesty's Government on the Bill. We do think that we see a little deeper into the future of the Bill than hon. Gentlemen opposite, with regard to taking advantage at some future time of the precedents which are afforded by it. There have been, in the discussions which have taken place on the Bill, his- torical references, researches, and disquisitions; but I venture to tell the House that this is not a matter for historical research. It is a matter of the immediate present. When such a question is brought before the House of Commons, what are the issues involved? What are the immediate circumstances of the case? Is the proposition with respect to those circumstances, considering the duty of the Church and its relation to the country, its numbers, and all other circumstances—is it a righteous proposal that is put before us? It is not a matter of history. The history of the Church of Scotland is a thing of the past, if I may be pardoned the expression. I moan it is a thing with respect to which we have little concern in reference to this discussion. Now that Her Majesty's Government have raised the question, we are bound to take heed of the present circumstances, and to ask ourselves whether this is a righteous or an unrighteous proposal. If you did look into the history of the question, history would give you examples of but one conclusion, and that conclusion is that that which would have been right to do in 1843, when the Church of Scotland embraced the vast majority of the Scottish people, it is unrighteous and improper to do in 1874, when the Church of Scotland includes only a portion of the Scotch nation. This is to unite ancient wrongs with modern institutions. We ask—What are the claims which the Church has for this measure to be brought forward? They have neither a superior majority, a superior spirituality, nor superior munificence to the Churches of the majority of the Scotch people. Efforts have been made on that side of the House to show that the Scotch Church really does constitute the ecclesiastical back-bone—if I may say so, of the Scotch people. What are the facts? Look on their munificence. Out of £1,000,000 contributed, the contributions of the Established Church were only £270,000. What are the conclusions to be drawn from that? Either that the Established Church does not embrace the majority of the Scotch people, or else that the nippings and fightings in the Establishment are so great that, although they may be in a majority, the amount of their religious sacrifices amounts only to one-third of those of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church. During the last two weeks this House has been engaged in ecclesiastical debates. There was an old woman, who was asked by a clergyman whether she had got religion, and she replied—"Yes, I have a slight touch of it now and then." That seems to be the position of this House. We are able to go on, for a considerable period, without any touches of religious discord; but now we find ourselves suddenly immersed in ecclesiastical and religious debates. Two remarkable Bills relating to the only two State Churches which now survive in the Imperial dominions have been brought before this House during the last two or three weeks, one of them introduced by Her Majesty's Government, and the other introduced by a right rev. Prelate in the other House of Parliament, both raising questions of the extremest gravity and extremest peril to the relations between Church and State. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Buckinghamshire, at the close of his speech upon this question, taunted my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich with reference to the part which he had taken in the disestablishment of the Irish Church, by saying that he hoped that upon his tombstone, at all events, he would not be enabled to have inscribed the epitaph that he has disestablished any other Church. Sir, I say it with all meekness and submission to the opposite side, that it seems to me that between right rev. Prelates and Her Majesty's Government, if things go on as they are going now, there will be no Church left for my right hon. Friend to disestablish. I introduce these questions only because they form part of the conscientious protests which I am entering at this moment against the Bill. I know and feel how painful some of the things which I am saying may appear to hon. Gentlemen opposite; but I can assure them that but for a sense of duty I would not utter one word that I thought would in any way wound their feelings. But I cannot help feeling that the Bill does raise questions which the friends of Establishment might very well have allowed to rest—questions which once raised amongst Scotchmen, we may depend upon it they will never allow to sleep. With the exception of a very small party in the Free Church, who have very peculiar views upon State endowments, this Bill has converted every Free Churchman from this time forth into a disestablishment man; and I ask the right hon. and learned Lord opposite, with his amiable desire to promote the union of the Free and Established Churches, and his extreme anxiety to see that there should be religious progress in Scotland, whether in raising the question, he has not raised other issues of the most perilous character to those very institutions which he desires to strengthen? The hon. and gallant Member for South Ayrshire (Colonel Alexander) put this question—whether we could not discuss a matter like this without introducing the question of disestablishment and disendowment? My answer is "No," and that is why I got up to speak this evening. We cannot discuss the question without raising those issues. The Bill itself introduces them to our notice, and if they are raised at all, they have been raised by Her Majesty's Government. It is idle to say that this is a mere matter of internal arrangement. The proposal touches the very terms and conditions of the relations between Church and State, and I would put two points very briefly in proof of that. It proposes to transfer the patronage, which is legally vested in a body of national trustees, to another body who are not national, but who are sectarian trustees. Does not that touch very deeply the question of Establishment? And therefore, with hon. Members on this side of the House who agree with me in reference to Establishment, does it not fairly raise the question whether or not it is more righteous than to accept the proposals of the Bill, to sever the patronage and the property altogether from the Church? The second point which I put with reference to that is this—that the Bill creates as managers and administrators of Church property, a body of constituents selected, not with reference to their faith, because their faith is the same as that of the majority of the people of Scotland, but with reference to their adhesion to a narrow ecclesiastical body; and it excludes a large number of citizens of the same belief equally entitled to the benefits of the national endowments. Sir, it appears to me, with all submission to Her Majesty's Government, that these two positions are irrefutable—that they can-not be answered, and that no attempt has been made to answer them on the other side. And those two positions, taken as we take them to-day, will be positions which will have a very powerful effect on discussions which must inevitably ensue in regard to this measure. The arguments in favour of the Bill have been based almost entirely on fictions. Perhaps that is not to be wondered at. English statesmen, perhaps, are not very intimately acquainted with Scotch ecclesiasticism. One of the most brilliant of modern novelists, and one of the most able and practical of modern statesmen, in a novel which he wrote not long since, put into the mouth of a Cardinal of the Romish Church a sort of description of ecclesiastical affairs in the Church of Scotland. In this conversation, a lady says to the Cardinal— You were telling me about Scotland, that you yourself thought it ripe. The answer is— Unquestionably—the original plan was to have established our hierarchy when the Kirk split up; but that would have been a mistake. It was not then ripe. There would have been a fanatical reaction. There is always a tendency that way in Scotland, As it is, at this moment the Establishment and the Free Kirk are mutually sighing for some compromise which may bring them together again, and if the proprietors would give up their petty patronage, some flatter themselves it might be arranged. But we are thoroughly well-informed, and have provided for all this. We sent two of our best men into Scotland some time ago, and they have invented a new Church, called the United Presbyterians. John Knox himself was never more vigilant or more mischievous. The United Presbyterians will do the business; they will render Scotland simply impossible to live in; and then, when the crisis arrives, the distracted and despairing millions will find refuge in the bosom of their only mother. That is why, at home, we wanted delay in the publication of the bull and the establishment of the hierarchy. Sir, the author of that passage is the right hon. Gentleman who has defended this Bill in the House, and brought it forward at the head of Her Majesty's Government. I am sure that of all men in this House who would be inclined to resent such references as these on the part of young Members, the right hon. Gentleman would be the last; and he will surely not be angry with me for saying that if he were great in political fictions, he has now apparently become great in fictitious politics. ["Oh, oh!"] I maintain that there never was a greater fiction than the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to the relations of the Established Church in Scotland to the Free Church. What did he say? He said that this is an Act which does not interest in any degree those who are outside, and which greatly interests those who are inside. Now, I ask hon. Members opposite who represent Scotland, whether such a statement as that is not almost an insult to the intelligence of the people of Scotland, and whether it is not almost in fact a contradiction of the circumstances of the case of the history of the relation of the Scotch Church to the people? From first to last, the Scotch people have been bound up with this ecclesiasticism. Those who have left it did so reluctantly and under protest, and nobody can doubt that the natural position of every Scotchman is under the wing of the Scotch Presbyterian Church, whether it be established or whether it be not. Why—if what the right hon. Gentleman had said were true—call this a national Establishment? If it is a matter which concerns only the people inside of the Church, why should it be brought into Parliament and discussed here? The right hon. Gentleman very candidly, the other night, when matters were rather pressing upon the Public Worship Regulation Bill, accepted the assurance from one of my hon. Friends behind me, who is a Nonconformist, that he took an interest in the Established Church; and the right hon. Gentleman admitted that every Nonconformist ought to take an interest in the purity of worship in the Establishment. Is that to be good for England and bad for Scotland? Are the Nonconformists of Scotland, who really have the same creed, the same faith, and the same doctrines and formularies, not to take an interest in the condition of the Established Church in that country, while the Nonconformists in England, who are opposed on many points of doctrine to the Established Church, are permitted, and even invited by the right hon. Gentleman to aid him in purifying and regulating the worship of the Church of England? It is true that those inside the Scotch Church have an interest in this matter, because it combines for them the disposal with the enjoyment of the benefit of these endowments; but has the Scotch nation, to whom the property belongs, no right to come here and protest that this is a proceeding which is invidious, inequitable, and unjust, and against which they strongly protest? Again, the right hon. Gentleman, referring to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich, that the Established Church drove out the Free Church, said—"That, however, is not my view of the great struggle. I think the Free Church resigned, and abandoned her rights and claims in the Established Church, and that, therefore, those rights and claims ought not now to be acknowledged;" although upon the principal questions upon which the Free Church seceded, we are now about to concede to the Established Church those rights. One of the most remarkable things that ever happened was the great sacrifices made by these great Scotchmen when they withdrew from the Church. They sacrificed all the benefits of her endowments, and went out for the purpose of asserting what many men in this House would no doubt be inclined to regard as merely theoretical principles. But when that took place the word "Ichabod" was written on the walls of the Established Church, and the right hon. Gentleman, by introducing a Patronage Bill, thinks he can entirely obliterate it. It is upon such fictions as these that the Bill is founded, and is being carried through the House. Let me, at risk of detaining the House for a moment or two, read one or two passages from the Claim, Declaration, and Protest of the General Assembly of 1842. They say, with reference to the Courts, that— not confining themselves to the determination of civil actions, they have stepped beyond the province allotted to them by the constitution, deciding not only actions civil but causes spiritual and ecclesiastical, and that too even when they had no connection with the exercise of the right of patronage; and have united the jurisdiction, and encroached upon the spiritual privileges, of the Courts of this Church. Then they proceeded to give several instances: and then in 1843, in the last protest they made before they went out of the Assembly, they say— And we further protest that any Assembly constituted in submission to the conditions now declared to be law, is not, and shall not be, deemed a free and lawful Assembly of the Church of Scotland according to the original and fundamental principles thereof, and that the Claim, Declaration, and Protest shall be holden as setting forth the true constitution of the Church, and that the said Claim, along with the laws of the Church now subsisting, shall in no wise be affected by whatsoever acts and proceedings of any Assembly constituted under the conditions now declared to be law, and in submission to the coercion now imposed on the Establishment. In the face of such a protest and declaration as that, how is it that the right hon. Gentleman can say that the Free Church resigned; that it was not driven out of the Established Church; and that it did not, in going out, assert that it was the Church of Scotland, and that the Established Church remained simply in connection with the State, and was really not entitled to the endowments which it enjoyed? There was but one ground of recommendation, and that was a ground which for some time occupied my attention, and rather drew me in the direction of the Bill. It was that the Bill was likely to be a conciliatory measure, and lead to a reconciliation between the diverse elements of Presbyterianism in Scotland. But, Sir, the noble Lords who in "another place" supported the Bill, and some hon. Members opposite, have admitted that there is no hope whatever, as the result of the Bill, of union with the other Churches in Scotland; and thus the only ground which at all could recommend it to me is cut from under my feet by the supporters of Her Majesty's Government. There is one other matter which I desire to point out. An attempt has been made from the opposite side—and the right hon. Gentleman himself was a party to that attempt—to draw a distinction between patronage in Scotland and patronage in England. The right hon. Gentleman said practically, that patronage in Scotland and patronage in England was not an identical article. I beg to protest against any such assumption as that. I would point out to hon. Members opposite, that in so far as concerns their legal and constitutional relations, patronage in Scotland and patronage in England are precisely the same; and that what is professed to be done by the Bill will be creating a precedent hereafter with reference to patronage in England. Why, Sir, we already see the signs of this in the action taken in the English Church. If anyone reads the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Lords upon Church Patronage, they will find that to a certain extent, they actually propound views which are in the direction of Lord Aberdeen's Act, and which are intended to give the congregations a certain right of resistance to the appointment by the patrons of their ministers. And the thing will go on, and if this precedent is established for patronage in Scotland, we may depend upon it, that the time will come when it will be carried out with refer- ence to patronage in England. There is only one other point which I feel it necessary to touch upon, and it is this—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, who spoke the other night, and the noble Duke who in the House of Lords supported the measure, are at direct variance with reference to the principles of an Establishment. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that an Establishment should be a universal comprehension of opinions, doctrines, and customs. The noble Duke, on the other hand, said that if they were to make the Church as comprehensive as that, he for one would go in for disestablishment. So we see that the two issues are raised upon which alone Establishments can be defended or supported in the country. Either an Establishment must be as comprehensive as the right hon. Gentleman says, in order to make it a national Establishment; or a fixed and definite creed, to which you will insist that every person who enters it shall subscribe. And what is the natural consequence of such a position as that? It is that when the Church is made to include what it does not comprehend, you form a secularized and divided ecclesiasticism; and, on the other hand, if you deny to it the comprehension of every phase of Christian religion, you make it an impracticable civil institution. On either side, with reference to it, you must fall into the ditch, and my object has been to point the moral of the Bill. It seems already that, even with many hon. Members opposite, the only hope of maintaining a national Church in these days, is that you should emasculate the religion of it, or anything like creed. There is an epigrammatic saying that perplexed Churches were made by Act of Parliament, and not by God. There never was a truer epigram than that, for two perplexed Churches have come to this House during the last few weeks to ask us to patch and mend them. We feel, and have felt in dealing with these questions, how incompetent we were to do that which they ask of us, and what I venture to say in conclusion, without the least desire to create any ill-feeling, is this—perplexed Churches, when they come to Parliament, should be sent away from Parliament to the source whence they derive their inspiration. Let them be cut loose, and let them be guided and protected by God Himself. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is not expedient, in abolishing the existing rights of Patronage in Scotland, to ignore the other Presbyterian bodies, and to legislate for the exclusive benefit of the Established Church,"—(Mr. Edward Jenkins,)

—instead thereof.

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


I rise to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee. I do so, because it appears to me that the proposals of the Bill are most ungenerous and unjust to the non-Established Churches in Scotland, and I crave the indulgence of the House while I endeavour as briefly as possible to state my reasons for saying so. I quite agree with my hon. Friend in thinking that the historical aspect of patronage does not help us much in the consideration of this question, because, however interesting it may be to know the law and practice of 150 years ago, they can scarcely be of service in guiding us to a conclusion now, when circumstances are so entirely different. Neither do I think it of very great importance what was the precise attitude of the Free Church in 1843, because the Free Church as well as the Established Church of Scotland have of necessity progressed with the public mind, and are not now what they were in 1843. The real question is—what is the relation between the different religious parties in Scotland, and what will be the effect of the Bill on the public mind in Scotland in the present day? Now, there was no doubt a time when this measure would have been cordially accepted by the Liberal party in the Church of Scotland, and that it would have prevented the great Disruption which took place in 1843. But many things have happened since then. The ministers of the Free Church have had 30 years' experience of practical Voluntaryism, and the controversy which has been going on more or less since has carried the public mind far beyond patronage, which few now defend; and the great Church question of the day is not the question of patronage, but of the disestablishment and disendowment of the State Church. There has been growing of late years, not only among the non-Established Churches, but even in minds of thoughtful adherents of the Established Church itself, a conviction that disestablishment is only a question of time, and that only on the basis of a common religious equality, can any hope be entertained of a union of the various Presbyterian Bodies of Scotland. There has been a hope that public opinion might so mature towards disestablishment, that the very force and strength of that opinion would bring about the disestablishment; if not with the consent, at least without any bitter hostility on the part of the Established Church of Scotland. These are the reasons which explain to my mind, the forbearance of the non-Established Churches in refraining, as they have done, from political agitation to accomplish what has been, with many, a strong conviction and leading principle, and why Scotch constituencies have not pressed more strongly than they have done on their Representatives the disestablishment of the Church. But this Bill changes the whole position—it closely and directly changes the relations of parties. The non-Established Churches must see in it an attempt to re-establish the Church, and to obstruct the fair course of public opinion; and it will consequently be accepted as the challenge to a conflict on the justice and expediency of State Churches, the result of which will involve more than the fate of the Church of Scotland. There has been nothing more surprising to me in the course of this debate than to hear this measure described as a measure of conciliation for Scotland. If that means that it is a measure for the conciliation of the members of the Established Church, I am not aware that they needed conciliation; but if it means that it is a measure of conciliation to the non-Established Churches, I shall be glad to hear in what it is conciliatory? A noble Duke, who has taken a very active interest in supporting the Bill, has admitted that the Free Church was right in 1843, and has stated his willingness to support and acknowledge that right; but has there been any attempt by the General Assembly or by the Government to open overtures with either of the non-Established Churches for conciliation? It appears to me inconsistent of the noble Duke to express his willingness to acknowledge the claim, when it is he and his ecclesiastical allies who have done what they could to urge this Bill through Parliament, thereby preventing the consideration of any claim the Free Church might make. To me, the Bill indicates no desire for conciliation, unless it be by terminating the existence of the other Churches. Something has been said about welcoming back those who have left the Church of Scotland. But on what terms are they to be welcomed back? What inducements are to be offered to ministers and congregations returning to the Establishment? Do the ministers of the Establishment propose to share the emoluments of the Church with their returning brethren? I am fully persuaded that there is no hope and no basis of union of the various Churches in Scotland other than Voluntaryism; and it is idle to talk of the Bill facilitating a union of the Churches, when that cannot come about without the Free and United Presbyterian Churches abjuring the principles to which they only very recently re-affirmed their adherence. I have endeavoured to state to the House what is my view of religious parties and of public opinion in Scotland regarding the subject of the Bill, and I think I can refer to various circumstances which support my conclusions. In the first place, there has not been of late years any demand in Scotland for the abolition of patronage, and no hon. Member has informed the House that in his experience, the subject has occupied public attention at the recent General Election or at previous side elections. But, from what has fallen from hon. Members opposite, it may be inferred that the measure is part of a compact which secured for the Conservative party in Scotland the support and influence of the Established Church at the last Election. We have heard that candidates were privately dealt with on this question. Now, this Bill is recommended to us as a popular measure in Scotland; but to my mind, there is no stronger proof that it is not popular, than that though the attention of candidates was drawn to this subject, they did not venture to allude to it in their public addresses. Some of them at least had ample opportunities, and I should have thought would have welcomed any topic that would have relieved them from harping with tiresome iteration on the political delinquencies of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. In my own experience of three elections within the last two years, I have not found that the abolition of patronage was considered a practical question, but I have found myself called upon frequently to express my views in favour of disestablishment and disendowment, when the proper time should arrive for carrying such a measure into effect. I say there has been no demand by the people of Scotland for the Bill. The proposal, as is well known in Scotland, is the result of an agitation of a section of the Established Church clergy, some of whom were the most strenuous supporters of patronage in 1843, and I think it not at all unlikely they will regret their newborn hostility, as much as they ought to regret their support of patronage during Disruption times. But there is reason to believe—and in support of that I may refer to the speech of a highly-respected member of the General Assembley, Dr. Cook—that this measure is regarded by a large body of the clergy of the Established Church of Scotland with considerable anxiety and apprehension; and, so far as I have been able to form an opinion, the laity of the Church of Scotland are very in-different to it. No doubt, Petitions have been presented to the House in favour of it; but we all know the value that is to be put on Petitions which are got up and paid for by a central organization. But what is the aspect which this Bill presents to the non-Established Churches and their congregations? The Bill completely ignores all the sacrifices which those Churches have made in support and vindication of that very principle which the Bill now declares to be the just and proper arrangement for the election of ministers; and not only does the Bill ignore all their sacrifices, but it is avowedly recommended to Parliament as a measure which is likely to contribute strongly to the ruin of those very Churches which have been built with so much effort, and care, and self-denial. Can it be expected that the non-endowed Churches will submit to treatment so one-sided, ungenerous, and unjust? I am fully persuaded that the passing of this measure cannot fail to evoke a religious strife in Scotland, which, stimulated by a sense of injustice and the duty of vindicating a principle for which so much has been sacrificed, will only be extinguished by the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church, leaving a residue of angry passions that will prevent for many years any approach to a union of the various Churches into what might be one great national voluntary Church. I do not view with apprehension the disestablishment of the Church of Scotland, either as regards the Church or the nation, but I view with great apprehension the impending religious strife; and I am sure that the people of Scotland deprecate in the strongest manner, any re-petition of that unhappy strife and social discord which followed for many years the Disruption of 1843. Sir, the responsibility of such an unhappy state of matters will rest with the Established Churchmen, who provoke a contest by endeavouring to secure for themselves an advantage over Churches they consider rivals, partly at the expense of those very Churches they seek to undermine. I might refer to certain objectionable details of the Bill; but it is not on mere matters of detail that I oppose the measure, but on account of the policy and principle it embodies. The avowed object of the measure is the aggrandizement of the Established Church, not by a measure aiding it to reclaim the lapsed masses, but by granting facilities to entice away members of Churches of precisely the same faith, and as pure and Christian as itself, with the mistaken notion that the aggrandizement of the Established Church of Scotland will strengthen a political party in the State. Is that a policy which the friends of the Church can approve, or in which she can embark with honour? The principle that congregations should have the right to elect their ministers is no doubt a sound principle; but it pre-supposes a duty precedent to the right—the duty of congregations maintaining their ministers. Now, this Bill confers the right without imposing the corresponding duty. Under these circumstances, the right ceases to be a right and becomes a privilege, and the principle really embodied in the Bill is, that it is the right of a section of the nation to elect ministers to a national Church, without undertaking the responsibility of maintaining that Church; and because that is unjust, and will create a new class privilege, the Bill ought to meet with the opposition of the Liberal party, and is justly condemned by the non-Established Churches in Scotland. And now, in conclusion, I wish to call attention to the mode in which the Bill proposes to deal with what has hitherto been considered a valid right of property, and which was formerly guarded in the most jealous manner. No doubt, Lord Aberdeen's Act removed one of the props of patronage; but the present Bill demolishes the edifice. Compensation, it is true, to an extent not exceeding a year's value of the living is allowed to patrons; but cases have been stated where even in recent years much more has been paid for the right. I have been told on the authority of one who was engaged in the transaction, that the patronage in one of the parishes of Roxburghshire, was within the last 10 years sold separately from the land for £550, the stipend there amounting to £220. In that case the patronage fetched two and a-half times the amount proposed by the Bill. I will not use the words confiscation, be-cause I agree very much with the opinions of the right hon. and learned Lord, that it is very doubtful whether patrons justly held those rights, and whether they were entitled to any compensation at all; but certainly the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) never even proposed to deal with what had been previously considered valid rights of property in so summary a manner. We are told that there is a great difference between advowsons in Scotland and in England; but, certainly the right cannot be more jealously guarded in England now, than it was in Scotland in 1842. In that year in Aberdeenshire, a military force was called out to overawe a recalcitrant congregation, and to support a patron in doing as he liked with what he doubtless considered his own—the presentation of a minister to a church of which he owned the patronage. The House, I think, will listen with interest to a brief ex-tract from the newspapers of the day, giving a glimpse of the state of matters in Scotland in 1842. The Aberdeen Journal of March 2nd, 1842, said— The Presbytery of Strathbogie meet to-day at Huntly, for the purpose of receiving the presentation in favour of the Rev. Mr. Duguid to the church and parish of Glaas, and arranging the further proceedings of his settlement. On Monday last, a detachment of the 71st Regiment proceeded from this to Huntly, where we understand they are to be quartered for some time, in case of any attempted repetition of the late scandalous scenes at Culsalmond. Again, The Aberdeen Herald of March 5th, 1842, says— The Sheriff, Procurator Fiscal, and Superintendent of Police were at Keith, but no op-position was offered to the Presbytery. As a preliminary measure, as well as to show that Government are determined to support the Strathbogie clergyman deposed by the Assembly, a detachment of the 71st Highlanders is stationed at Huntly, whore they remain till further orders. Sir, I think that it adds to the interest of the case to know that the patron who was thus prepared to adopt measures so extreme, was the predecessor of the noble Duke who introduced the measure into the other House of Parliament—the late Duke of Richmond. And now this right is not only condemned as contemptible, but any patron who may demand compensation for its loss is held up to public opprobrium and contempt. Sir, I do not quarrel with the Government in regard to this; but I wish to point out to hon. Members opposite, that there may be other asserted rights of property as jealously guarded now as patronage was 30 years ago, but without any better foundation. Would it not be well, I suggest to them, to moderate such excessive pretensions while it is still time, instead of clinging to them, uncompromisingly, until as is the ease with patronage, it becomes too late? And now, Sir, I thank the House for its kind indulgence, while I have been stating my views on the Bill, which I must oppose both in the interests of the nation and of the Church. Rather than that the Church should accept this fatal gift, it would, in my opinion, be far better for the people of Scotland, better for the interests of true religion, and better for the Church herself, if the State Church of Scotland recognized that her mission as an endowed Church was accomplished, and that the time had come when she must conform her constitution to the mind of the people. By voluntarily accepting the inevitable, she might gather into one fold the various Presbyterian Bodies in Scotland, and trusting not to the State, but to the power of the truths she inculcates and the affections of the people she serves, enter on a new and wide career, no less useful and no less noble than her glorious past.


Mr. Speaker—Considering the late period of the Session, the length of the debate on the second reading of this Bill, and the large majority with which it was carried, I regret that the hon. Member for Dundee—who himself is not a Scotchman, although a Scotch Member—has thought it necessary to renew the discussion and prevent this Bill going into Committee. Both the speeches which have just been delivered might have very well been postponed until the House had before it the question of the disestablishment of the Church of Scotland, for, in fact, they were nothing more than disestablishment speeches. I did not speak on the second reading of the Bill as the measure had been so fully discussed, and I was so anxious that the House should come to a vote; but there are one or two points raised by the hon. Member who moved this Amendment, which I desire to reply to. He said—this is a Bill brought in by the Church against the wishes of the people of Scotland. I should like to know on what authority he makes that statement? Was it not the case that the General Assembly almost unanimously supported this Bill? Was it not the case that meetings of 3,000 or 4,000 of the laity were hold in Edinburgh and Glasgow which unanimously supported the abolition of patronage? I myself attended a meeting of the citizens of Glasgow, where there were not less than 4,000 people. Have there been any similar meetings held in opposition to the abolition of patronage? Not one. It was a mere fiction, therefore, to say that this Bill was introduced against the wishes of the people of Scotland. The opposition to this Bill is from the clergy, not from the laity of Scotland. We all know that the Liberation Society of England sent an emissary some two months ago into Scotland—Mr. Carvell Williams, I believe, was his name—to rouse the people of Scotland to a sense of their duty, and to warn them that if they allowed this Bill to pass, they would perpetuate the Church of Scotland for generations. What was the result of that visit? A complete failure. That gentleman convened meetings in many of our large cities and towns. Even in Edinburgh and Glasgow I assert, without fear of contradiction, that not more than 100 laymen attended any one of those meetings, and all the resolutions were moved and seconded by clergymen or office-bearers of the Dissenting Churches. The people made no response to this attempted agitation of the Liberation Society. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich in his speech on this question, so hostile to the Church of Scotland, used language so vehement—and his manner almost exceeded his language—that it was well calculated to raise religious animosities—and what has happened since? Has the laity of Scotland shown any sympathy with him? Has there been a single meeting held in support of his views? Not one. I would therefore ask, what right anyone has to assume and assert that this Bill was opposed by the people of Scotland? I believe the case to be the very reverse. I believe the laity of Scotland, if not unanimous, are almost unanimously in favour of the abolition of patronage, which has been such a hindrance to the harmony of religious feeling in Scotland. The hon. Member has made a comparison as to the amount of money contributed voluntarily by the Church of Scotland and the Dissenting Churches of that country. We do not pretend to compare in this respect with Dissenting Churches, because we are relieved from the necessity of raising so much money because of the endowments belonging to the Church—we are able, therefore, to do without seat-rents which Dissenting Churches are compelled to impose, and this is of great advantage to the nation, because it makes it the Church of the poor, as it truly is, for every man, however low his position may be, is welcomed to hear the preaching of the Gospel without money and without price. There is one statement of the hon. Member for Dundee with which I quite agree—the great importance of the question—I believe it to be the most important Scotch measure which has been brought before Parliament since the Union of the two countries. The object of it is to restore to the Established Church of Scotland its ancient constitution, which gave to the congregations of every parish the right, as vacancies occur, to elect their clergyman, of which right they were deprived by the infamous Act of Queen Anne—an Act which was hurriedly passed through Parliament against the feelings of the people of Scotland, in violation of the Treaty of Union—an Act which was brought in by the enemies of the Presbyterian Church in order to harass and disunite her members; and well has the intention of its promoters been realized, for it has been the cause of all the religious dissensions and secessions since 1733 till the great Disruption of 1843, when the Church was rent asunder. I hesitate not to say that, but for the imposition of lay patronage by this Act of Queen Anne, the secessions of 1733, 1752, and 1843, would never have taken place, and but for it the United Presbyterian or the Free Church would not have been in existence. Sir, I believe that if this Bill receives the approval of this House—which I trust it shall—its ultimate effect will be to unite the Presbyterians of Scotland in one Church, for it removes the only stumbling block in the way. Their forms of worship, their standards of faith, their Church government are the same; but whether this union of Churches takes place or not, it will at all events prevent a minister being thrust upon a congregation against their will, and above all, it will render impossible a similar disruption to that of 1843. It has been said in "another place" by the noble Lord whose death we all deplore, and has been repeated in this House by the right hon. Member for Greenwich, that this Bill is not now required; that at present, and for the last 30 years, we practically have had no patronage, for all patrons, including the Crown and corporations, leave the choice of the clergyman, as vacancies occur, to the congregations. It is quite true that it is almost invariably the rule, and it therefore does surprise me that so much opposition should be raised to giving us de jure what it is admitted we have de facto. But while I admit that patrons, almost as a rule, since the Disruption, do exercise their privilege generously towards the congregations, still now and again corporations and individual patrons do not act in this spirit, and do attempt, sometimes successfully, to thrust a minister against the wishes of the congregation, and the fact is, that since the Disruption, we have had in the Church 58 disputed settlements, which have been before the Church Courts. There are also some patrons who consider that it is their duty to perform the responsible trust imposed upon them by law. They therefore, after much earnest consideration and enquiry, present a clergyman to the vacant living, who, however acceptable he may be personally, is not well received, and some members may leave that church, as they feel that the congregation should have been consulted. The Established Church is in this way from time to time weakened. Hence the necessity of this Bill to abolish this excrescence on the Presbyterian Church. But the right hon. Member for Greenwich opposes the Church being released of this incubus. He said—"I am quite ready to make a large admission to the right hon. and 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; but as he ignores and sets aside those whom you drove from the Church, he therefore opposes this Bill." I must say this is visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation; but I should like to know who the right hon. Gentleman means by "you," when he speaks of driving those estimable men from the Church of Scotland? Does he mean the Conservative party? Why, the Liberal party was in power from 1832 to 1841—with the exception of a few months in 1834—when this great conflict was going on in the Church, and if they had wished they could have legalized the Veto law, which was all the non-Intrusion party desired, and a moderate and reasonable desire it was. But the Liberal party failed to bring in a Bill during these nine years to prevent this breach in the Established Church. It is true a Conservative Government came in in 1841; but the right hon. Gentleman cannot mean to place the blame upon it, for he was a Member of that Cabinet—President of the Board of Trade—until 1845, when he left it, because of in-creasing the grant to the Roman Catholic College of Maynooth, which College he permanently endowed in 1869; and perhaps it would have been well for the peace of Ireland if he had gone a step further and purchased the allegiance of the Roman Hierarchy out of the funds from the Irish Church. We might now have found them a more contented people. Or does the right hon. Member mean by "you" the clergy, the office-bearers, or the laity, who did not leave the Church in 1843. I assure him and the House that many of the clergy and the great majority of the laity who remained in were non-Intrusionists; but while they were so, they loved the old Church too well to desert her at that trying moment, and had those who left her then not acted so hastily, we would have had lay patronage abolished long ago. But a generation has elapsed since then, and is it fair or just that the members of the Church of Scotland should be for ever burdened with this grievance—which the right hon. Gentleman himself admits to be a grievance—because our forefathers in Parliament or in the Church did not grant the reasonable desires of the non-Intrusion party of the Church? It would be preposterous to treat the members of the Church of Scotland in such a way. In another part of the speech of the right hon. Member for Greenwich, he made use of the following important words:—"This Bill is introduced to strengthen the Church. But how? By weakening the other religious Bodies; by inducing adherents of the Dissenting Bodies to come over, man by man; and I ask the question fairly and publicly, is this a fair and generous course? You compelled them to become Dissenters by contemptuously spurning and casting aside proposals which you are now adopting. You do not offer to receive them back in bodies. If you did, I would withdraw my opposition to the Bill we are now discussing." Sir, these are important words, which no one occupying the high position that the right hon. Gentleman does would use, unless he was authorized by the parties he represented to do so. I am the more inclined to think that he may be so authorized, for I know he has been in close and confidential intercourse with the leaders of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church, who have been daily canvassing Members in the Lobby of this House. I have always understood that two parties were necessary to a bargain. If, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman is authorized to make that statement on behalf of the Free Church, I, on behalf of the Established, beg to state that we will be delighted to receive them back in a body. Nothing will give me so much pleasure as to see the reunion of these two Churches, which should never have been separated. I have always looked upon the Disruption of 1843 as a great national calamity. I will not yield to the right hon. Gentleman in my admiration of those noble men who left the Church then—many of them men of great intellectual power, of great earnestness of purpose, and all of them men of the highest Christian character. There never was a darker day for Scotland than that on which they left the Established Church. I have always looked upon the conduct of the Governments of that time, in resisting the moderate and reasonable request of the non-Intrusion party, as a great political blunder. The passing of this measure will reverse that policy, and I trust it may be the means of reunion of these Churches on terms equally honourable and advantageous. I desire that the doors of the Established Church should be opened wide to the ministers of all Presbyterian Churches. I desire that the congregations, as vacancies occur, should be enabled to elect clergymen of other Presbyterian Churches, and that those clergymen so elected should, after making a declaration that they adhere and conform to the standards of the Church of Scotland, be ministers of the Church, and minister of those churches for which they are elected. I believe the Church Courts have the power of altering the rules for the admission of clergymen belonging to other Churches; but, if not, I hope the Lord Advocate will insert a clause, giving them this power, when this Bill is in Committee. Sir, much has been said as to the position of the Church in the Highlands. I admit, at once, that the condition of the Church of Scotland in these parishes is not satisfactory; although it is not so bad as the enemies of the Church represent, and endeavour to make this House believe. But, I would ask, what is the cause of the weakness of the Church there? The existence of lay patronage, which it is the object of this Bill to abolish. The Highlanders are now as strongly attached to the principles of an Established Church as they were in 1843. They have firmly adhered to the principles on which they left the Church. They have not become Voluntaries—they look upon Voluntaryism as a sin. The Voluntary Church has never taken root there; and hon. Members from Scotland know that one of the main reasons for giving up the proposed union of the Free and United Presbyterian Churches, was the determined opposition of the Highlanders against that union. Well, Sir, if it is true that the inhabitants of the Highlands are still attached to the Established Church, which they left because of the collision between the Church and Civil Courts on account of this law of patronage—is it too much to expect that when this law is abolished, they will again return to the old Church to which they are still so much attached? I hope that, under these circumstances, the hon. Member will withdraw his Amendment, and allow the Bill to go into Committee.


said, he was anxious to give the reasons why he could not support the Motion of his hon. Friend. He did not pretend to be an enthusiastic supporter of the Bill; indeed, he felt that the Government had entered into a course of action which might be productive of danger and difficulty. In this case, everything depended on the shape which might be given to the Bill in Committee, whether it would prove merely an instrument of discord or a change for good. He was therefore anxious for the Bill to go into Committee, in order that it might receive the shape which would make it beneficial. He believed that, with certain Amendments, it was a measure which would be beneficial to the Church of Scotland by adding to its members, and that it might give it a better selection of ministers, and a better administration so far as regarded the poor. He did not think that an object to be deprecated. He did not see any reason why that legislation should be vetoed. On these grounds he supported the measure brought forward by Her Majesty's Government, and he trusted that the hon. Member for Dundee would be satisfied with the discussion he had raised, and allow the House to go into Committee on the Bill.


said, that that was the third day of the discussion, and he would suggest that hon. Members should now allow the Bill to go into Committee. He hoped hon. Members who wished to speak, and who had not had the opportunity, would just console themselves with the reflection—he had often done so—that the speeches not spoken were very likely the best in the debate.


said, he did not wish to obstruct the progress of the Bill, but there were some points in the debate which should not be passed over without observation. The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Orr Ewing) spoke comparatively of the efforts made by the Free Church and the Established Church to raise funds for promoting religious objects, and he said that the efforts of the latter were especially beneficial to the poor, though less in amount, in consequence of seat-rents being charged in the Free Church and not in the Established. The hon. Member said he was well acquainted with the Highlands, and that he knew those regions well; but he (Mr. Ramsay) challenged him to produce any Free Church case in which seat-rents were levied in the Highlands. The hon. Member could adduce no such case. In largo towns, no doubt it was the custom; but it was equally the custom in the Established Church. Seats allotted free to the poor were as usual in the Free Church as in the Established. That, he would remind the House, was not a Bill for the abolition of patronage—that could not be said of it in the true sense of the word. The Bill transferred the right of electing ministers from those who were at present vested in that right, to a new electoral body, to be created by the law. The people of Scotland had always recognized the right of communicants to elect their own ministers, and that, too, whether they belonged to the Dissenting or to the Established Church; but the Bill admitted also such adherents as the kirk-session for the purposes of the Bill should determine to be members of the congregation. That was a new, vague, and hitherto wholly unknown policy, either in the Dissenting, or in the Established Church. They had been told frequently that that was a Bill with which those who were not members of the Established Church had nothing to do. He could understand that, if it absolved all but members of the Established Church from payments towards expenses of the Establishment. He had, however, heard from its supporters no such thing. It left the Established Church power to extract from the unwilling hands of those who were not its members the same payments as heretofore for the support of that Church. He did think that whatever increase to the members of the Established Church that Bill might bring, there would be no increase to the power of Christian truth and morals, and that he valued much more than the interests of the denomination to which he belonged. What the House ought to consider was, whether the measure would tend to increase and strengthen the beneficial influences of Christianity, and not those of any particular party either in Church or State.


suggested that after the former division which had pronounced the sense of the House in such a marked manner, it would be scarcely fair in the hon. Member for Dundee to divide the House on going into Committee.


also hoped the hon. Member would withdraw his Motion.


said, he was willing to do so, but would like to know whether the House would go on with the Bill after the adjournment?


said, that would depend upon the courtesy of other hon. Gentlemen who had Motions on the Paper.


said, in that case he should not proceed with his Motion calling the attention of the House to the circumstances attending an alleged Zulu rising in Natal.



said, the House would sit at 12 to-morrow to discuss and dispose of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee. House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.