§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ MR. J. A. CAMPBELL
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, its object was to amend the law regarding ecclesiastical assessments, and especially to remove a grievance in certain parishes which was felt by a class of heritors or owners of land known as feuars. The present state of the law gave rise to the grievance which was found to operate to the injury of the Church of Scotland. His right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay) and his hon. Friend the Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple) had joined him in bringing in the Bill; but that fact did not imply that the measure was one which could only properly come from the Opposition side of the House. It so happened that his hon. Friends and he were the only Members of that House who had lately taken part in the business of the Church of Scotland as members of its General Assembly. Their names, therefore, were to be accepted not as representing a political Party, but as those of Members of the House who might be supposed to have some title to speak on behalf of the Church of Scotland in that matter. Yet it was not unfitting that that Bill should emanate from his side of the House, because the late Government in troduced a Bill on the same subject in 1876, the main lines of which Bill were followed in the measure now before the House. But the object of the Bill was one which had no connection whatever with Party politics, in proof of which he might mention that the first Petition presented to the House on the subject of the measure was in its favour, and from the executive committee of a local Liberal Association in Scotland. He asked the indulgence of the House while he shortly explained the state of matters that had given rise to the necessity for legislation of this kind. The old endowments of the Church of Scot- 4 land consisted mainly of stipends paid out of teinds or tithes, and of a burden upon land for the erection and main tenance of church and manse, and for the provision of a glebe, in each of the original parishes. This Bill had nothing to do with ministers' stipends, or with the Law of Teinds. It had to do only with the obligation to provide and maintain churches, manses, and glebes in certain of the old parishes. The obligation to which this Bill referred applied only to the old parishes; in other words, to 924 of the parishes of Scotland. The number of churches connected with the Established Church in Scotland was 1,501; but only 924 of these were churches of old parishes, and even the whole of these would not be affected by the Bill. There were, besides, 329 new parishes which were provided for other wise, and 248 unendowed chapels. So far as regarded the maintenance of the parish church, the burden had been imposed on the land of Scotland for upwards of three centuries. It was originally imposed by the Act of the Scottish Parliament of 1572; the obligation to provide manses and glebes was introduced at a somewhat later date. But for generations past every purchaser of land in Scotland had been aware of this burden, and had taken it into account in making his purchase. As to the manner in which this burden upon heritors was distributed, a word or two of explanation might be necessary. In the time of Cromwell, Commissioners were appointed to make a valuation of the rental of all lands of the parishes in Scotland for the purpose of levying the cess or land tax. That valuation was revised at the Restoration, and was afterwards, and was still, known as the "old valued rent." The burden of erecting and repairing churches and manses was in practice distributed amongst the heritors of the parish in proportion to their several valued rents, with this exception, that when the parish was not wholly rural, but partly rural and partly urban, or partly land ward and partly burghal, as they said in Scotland, the assessment on the heritors in the country part was upon their valued rent, and on the heritors of the town part upon their real rents—the actual yearly value of their lands and heritages. By a decision of the House of Lords, however, in 1802, in what was 5 known as the Peterhead case, it was declared that in a mixed parish the burden should be laid on the same principle over the whole of the parish, and that it should be upon the real rent. That decision affected the class of heritors called feuars, who had acquired plots of ground not by purchasing them out right, but by taking them subject to payment of a perpetual rent or feuduty. This class of proprietors in country parishes had almost, if not al together, formerly escaped all liability for ecclesiastical assessments. The liability had in some cases been reserved by the heritor who had disposed of the feu, or, if not, it was so small, being only a fraction of the valued rent, that it was no burden to the feuar. Although the decision of the House of Lords was declared in the Peterhead casein 1802, it was not generally acted upon for many years. The heritors preferred to bear the whole burden themselves rather than throw a small part of it upon the feuars. In some cases the liability to assessment for church and manse was expressly reserved by the heritor in setting off the feu. It was to be remembered that at that time the position of a heritor had a political value, which was liable to be reduced if he gave off part of his heritable burdens to others. That political value might be understood when he reminded the House of the kind of votes—which were often heard of in the discussion of the Reform Bill —called "paper votes." And, again, the application of the law as thus de clared necessitated a special valuation of the lands in a parish. Thus it was that for half-a-century, as he had said, the decision of the House of Lords in the Peterhead case made little change in the practice of heritors. But in 1854 an Act was passed for Scot land which made a great change. The Valuation Act was passed in that year, establishing a uniform annual valuation of all lands according to real rent, for the purpose of being used in public assessments. The passing of that Act drew public attention to real rental, and by the annual register of such rental gave facilities for assessment upon that principle. In consequence it had hap pened that since 1854, in many parishes in which outlay had been required on churches and manses, the heritors had called upon the feuars to bear their 6 share of the burden, the assessment being on real rents, an assessment which told comparatively hard upon the feuars. This had been felt by the feuars to be a grievance, because for a long period no such liability was recognized, and because even after the liability was declared in 1802 it was virtually left in abeyance until the passing of the Valuation Act in 1854. The resistance of feuars in some instances to the payment of those burdens had been used to excite prejudice against the Church of Scotland. The assessment being for Church purposes, the Church suffered by the feuars' grievance, al though the grievance was not of the Church's making, and was due simply to a difficulty, or a difference of interests, between the two classes of heritors. The Church receiving injury from the existence of the grievance, it was sought by this Bill to remove it, both on account of the feuars and in the interest of the Church. As to the reality of the grievance, he invited the attention of the House to what was said on the subject in 1877 by Lord Watson, who was then Lord Advocate—It had been very fairly admitted on all hands that for a period of something less than two centuries—since the Union—this had been a parochial burden, and a burden upon land; and he ventured to say that, with very few exceptions, if they were to investigate the transmission of landed estates in Scotland from one proprietor to another, they would certainly find that those who held laud now to the largest extent, held it on the footing that they did not pay the full value the property would otherwise yield, because of the burdens placed upon it by the law of the land. It mattered not whether this was Statute or Judge-made law, it had been, an inherent part of the land laws of the country for two centuries. The payment was a burden on the land, and if they removed it they would be making a present of it to the proprietor, not merely relieving him of a tax. This being the case, he was bound to say further that so far as he was personally concerned he entirely agreed with what had been said on both sides with regard to the incidence of that bur den in more recent years. He had always thought that the incidence of the burden upon feuars had been exceedingly severe, and not what was contemplated by the law, or what was thought to be right even by the majority of those who had borne the burden during the time that it had existed. They knew very well that it had not been always exacted from feuars. Heritors had acted very handsomely in that matter. He quite admitted that the legal liability of the feuars did not admit of dispute—the question was how to adjust the burden. In recent times the word "feuars" had a very different meaning from that which it bore in times past. A feuar now 7 was a person who acquired a portion of a heritor's property for commercial purposes unconnected with the occupation of the land; and universally the feu-rent was greatly in excess of the agricultural value of the land at the time the impost was first made. What was admitted practically by the heritors to be a grievance was that when a man had built business premises or a house, such premises were subject to that old assessment, and paid in many cases more than the land itself. It was also well known that throughout the time the impost had existed it had not been exacted except in rare cases on such property; and it was an undoubted fact, which had been referred to again and again in these debates, that the passing of the Valuation Act of 1854, which gave the value of every one of these properties on the Register, had led to the exaction of the tax from that class of feuars. He believed that but for the passing of that Act, which was a most valuable and useful measure, they never would have heard of this grievance at all."—(3 Hansard,  1155–6–7.)And what had this grievance led to? There had been in Scotland from time to time cases which had caused popular sensation of a local kind, arising from resistance on the part of the feuars to pay this assessment; and in saying that he was quite willing to admit that the grievance was a serious one to the feuars. He would give an illustration. In the parish of Old Meldrum, in Aberdeenshire, the repairs of the manse had been neglected for some time, and there was an old sum of arrears due, so that when an assessment had to be levied on account of the manse, the total reached the sum of £1,700. One hundred and fifty-six feuars were called upon to contribute their proportion of the assessment, varying from £40 to 2s. 6d. each, the total sum due by them amounting to £435. Fourteen of the 156 feuars refused to pay, and insisted upon having their effects sold to meet the call. That occasioned a local scandal. Although it was regarded very much as of the nature of a joke, the whole case was not favourable either to the Church or to the parish. The evil effects did not end with the parish in which such scenes occurred, because the dread of similar difficulties prevented church re pairs being attended to in other parishes. The question was, what was the remedy? The remedy was not the abolition of these burdens upon the land, and the substitution of a voluntary assessment, as was proposed several times in the former Parliament. This was not a parallel case to the Church rates in England. These were rates that might or might not be im- 8 posed, according as the majority of the ratepayers of a parish might decide. This burden in Scotland was a distinct and special burden on the land of the parish. The Church might be said to have a property in it. The churches, manses, and glebes in Scotland were the property of the heritors—not their property to do with as they pleased, but their property in this sense, that they were vested in them for Church uses, and the churches and manses were under their control. If the heritors were to be relieved of the burden of maintaining those properties, they would require to hand them over entirely to the Church. This had not been proposed, and heritors had shown no desire to be relieved of the burden. The proper remedy was to remove the feuars' grievance, without, if possible, altering the position and responsibilities of the other heritors. The last attempt in this direction was made in 1876, when a Bill was introduced by the late Government. The main principle of that Bill was to exempt feuars from their liability to as sessment in respect of their buildings, leaving them liable on account of their land only; but that provision, standing alone, threw a greater burden on the other heritors, who, therefore, found a grievance on their part in having a heavier liability laid upon thorn than the law had hitherto imposed. It was believed that it was mainly on account of that difficulty that the Bill of 1876 was with drawn. The present Bill avoided that difficulty by making it incumbent upon those who promoted the assessment— that was, the friends of the Church in the parish—to provide, by subsription or otherwise, the sums which feuars were to be excused from paying. The Bill left untouched the liabilities about which there never had been any doubt, and it exempted the feuars from a burden about which there had been a doubt; and in exempting them from that portion of their present liability, it laid a burden on those in whose interest the assessment was made—namely, the friends of the Church in the parish. These were sufferers at present from the existing state of things, and might be presumed to be willing to make some sacrifice in order to have a better state of things introduced. There were minor provisions in the Bill regarding which he need not detain the House. There 9 was the exemption of those whose yearly rental was under £4. They were exempted altogether. That provision had been complained of by some critics of the Bill; but the fact was that such very small assessments were scarcely worth the cost of collection. In practice these very small heritors were not called upon to pay, and there would be a convenience in having them distinctly excluded, Again, it had been objected to the Bill that it proposed to exempt from assessment the churches and manses of other denominations in the parish. That provision was in the Bill of 1876, and there was no objection made to it then. It seemed to be rather a generous thing to do, and yet it was objected to at present. He believed there were assessments from which churches and other institutions were exempted now, and it seemed to be not an unfitting thing that in this particular assessment this exemption should be made. Of course, it would not be difficult to withdraw the exemption if the ministers and members of other denominations positively insisted upon it. But on what grounds was this Bill as a whole opposed? An objection had been brought against it that it did not include burghs. The law as to burghs might call for improvement, but that was altogether a different subject. The Bill applied to the kind of parish in which the feuars' grievance had been mainly, if not exclusively, felt; and it had been recognized before that this was a subject large enough to be dealt with in a separate measure. But the Bill was opposed, also, because it was said that no measure would be satisfactory which proposed to continue for the provision and maintenance of ecclesiastical buildings belonging to one denomination any system of compulsory general assessment. One would suppose that this Bill proposed to reenact something which was falling out of use or had fallen out of use. The Bill did not propose to do more than amend the incidence of an assessment already in use. The Bill did not deal with what might properly be called a general assessment at all. It dealt with a parochial assessment on heritors whose property was specially burdened with this particular liability. But another objection was that it was inexpedient to deal with this subject except in connection with a 10 measure for Disestablishment. The advocates of Disestablishment had been accustomed to dwell with great pathos on this liability of feuars for ecclesiastical assessments. One would imagine that a measure to remove the grievance would have commanded their support; but they were not to touch it until they set about disestablishing the Church. That would seem to mean that those who were assailing the Church considered that they had a vested interest in any fault or blemish which affected her, and that no evil was to be touched if the removal of that evil would benefit the Church. How should the remedying of these grievances stand in the way of any agitation for Disestablishment, if such an agitation was ever to commend itself on its own merits to general favour? That question would surely be argued by those who were in favour of it on broader grounds than on the merits of a Bill of this sort. If the advocates of Disestablishment had confidence in their own cause, they ought to be ready and willing to remove a specific evil, which could be remedied without trenching on the general question of the connection between Church and State. These two objections were singularly out of proportion with the scope and nature of this Bill, The Bill aimed at removing a practical grievance; but it did not, in doing so, lay any new burden on any one who might be expected to raise his voice through the amendments to which he referred. Those who might be expected with most reason to demur to the Bill were the members of the Church of Scotland, who in the parishes affected by it would have to make up what the feuars were excused. It was true they had to set against this new burden the great advantage of being relieved from the injurious effects of the feuars' grievance. In some parishes, he admitted, the proportion to be raised by subscription would be considerable; but with the feeling which existed as to the unfairness of the incidence of the assessment, the law must, without some remedy of this kind, be largely in operative at present in such parishes. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland had shown that it approved of the Bill. It had pronounced in its favour almost unanimously, only the mover and seconder voting for an amendment, and that amendment being one rather for 11 delay than one against the Bill. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. J. A. Campbell.)
§ MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT
, in rising to move, as an Amendment—That no measure is satisfactory which proposes to continue, for the provision and maintenance of ecclesiastical buildings belonging to one religious denomination, any system of compulsory assessment,said, that in the remarks with which the hon. Member opposite had introduced his Bill, he told them frankly that he, and those who agreed with him, as members of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, were actuated mainly, if not solely, by a regard for the interests of that Church. He disclaimed altogether that way of looking at the question. They were there to look at the matter from a public point of view, and not as members of one de nomination or another; and it was be cause he had looked at the matter in that light that he regarded the measure just brought before the House as a thoroughly bad measure in principle and utterly unworkable in practice. The hon. Member treated this question as if it were to some extent new as regarded dealing with ecclesiastical assessments. The hon. Member rather complained of his Amendment on the ground that it was too large for his Bill—that his Bill was a partial Bill, dealing with an assessment which he did not consider a general assessment. The subject now brought before the House was an old subject, which had been brought before the House again and again; and in dealing with it on previous occasions the House had come to this conclusion, which he begged the House not to recede from—namely, that these ecclesiastical assessments for the purpose of maintaining the fabric of one religious denomination were unsound in principle. In 1871 Mr. Duncan M'Laren brought forward a Bill for the entire abolition of these compulsory ecclesiastical assessments in Scotland, and the second reading was carried by a considerable majority. They were told that the question was altogether different from and unlike the matter of Church rates in England. He asked why? What was the case in England? Church 12 rates in England were levied upon the occupiers of the parish and upon persons of different creeds for the maintenance of the Church. In Scotland the practice had been to raise this assessment, not upon occupiers, but upon proprietors; and the distinction between the two cases he fully admitted. But it was raised irrespective of the religious persuasion of those who paid the tax or burden. He must say he felt a little inclined to complain of the hon. Member for having prefixed to this Bill a memorandum explanatory of the objects of the Bill and the views of the law held by the hon. Member himself. He complained of that, because he considered the memorandum did not give a correct view of the law as it now stood. The fact was, after the valuation in the time of Cromwell, which was confirmed at the time of the Restoration, that cess became the only means of estimating the value of the property in the parish, and it was no doubt the usual rule to apply that cess to find out the value of the property, and to assess upon it. Long ago it had been recognized that the class of feuars was assessable; and, as far as he could make out, the law seemed to have been that persons now proposed to be exempted were liable. In the case of Crieff, in 1771, where the parish was burghal-landward, the Court of Session ruled that the assessment for the cost of a new church should be imposed on the heritors according to the valued rent, "and on the inhabitants of the urban district," according to the "real rent" of their respective properties. This double rule of assessment was again applied by the Court of Session in the subsequent case of Peterhead, where the parish was also burghal-land ward. On appeal, the House of Lords reversed this, holding that one uniform rule of assessment was to be applied to both districts, and that in burghal-land ward parishes assessment should be on real rent. He held that the two cases did not show that those persons were previously not assessable on the real rent. On the contrary, where there was a large village full of feuars the parish was divided, and those persons were in law liable to contribute to the Church on the real rent. That, he submitted, was the view of the law on the subject. Again, the Valuation Act of 1854 did not propose to alter in any way the incidence of 13 taxation. It did provide a convenient rule corresponding to the facts of the case. It did provide the means of ascertaining what was the real and actual value of the property for the time being in each county in Scotland. It provided that, as a general rule, the assessments should be taken upon it; but it did not provide that, as a matter of law, lands which were not assessable on real rents before should be assessable on real rents after wards. It had been maintained that it was not a usual but a rather rare thing to assess on the real rent; but a Return obtained by Lord Balfour entirely contradicted any such belief. This Return extended over 10 years, and gave the amounts levied in each parish for the maintenance of churches and manses for 10 years up to 1879. The total amount raised was about £400,000. Of that £242,000 was levied on valued rent, and about £156,000 on real rent, so that the sum levied on real rent bore a consider able proportion to the whole sum raised. The Bill, instead of applying to only a few parishes, applied to 900 parishes of the recognized real parishes of the Church of Scotland.
§ MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT
said, it was perfectly true that the Bill did not apply to purely burghal parishes, but he had reason to believe the number of these was extremely small. According to the Return, the sum raised in 10 years in the parish of Heriot, Presbytery of Dalkeith, was £1,864. That was raised on real rent, and the number of heritors was seven. In Lasswade, £990 was raised in 10 years on the valued rent, the number of heritors being 21; and the following note appended to these figures showed how the money was spent:—The years 1877–8–9 were exceptional, the roof of the church having been renewed, and a large addition having been made to the manse. In ordinary years the average was about £24.In the parish of Kiltearn, in the Presbytery of Dingwall, the amount raised on real rent was £145, the number of heritors being 11. In the Presbytery of Dornoch there were a number of parishes in which considerable sums were raised on valued rent in these 10 years. He found that, practically, in 14 these parishes there were no persons for whom it would be worth while to maintain either parish church or manse. In the parish of Lochalsh, where there was but one heritor, £989 was raised, the amount being paid by that one individual. The population of that parish numbered 2,319 persons; but they included only six male and three female communicants and about 30 adherents. He did not mean to say that these Highland parishes were fair samples of the parishes throughout Scotland; but this Bill applied to those parishes, and this was the strongest case against such a Bill applying to the whole of Scotland. In the South of Scotland, in more populous parts, no doubt the Church was much better supported by the bulk of the people; but in these parishes he had no doubt that the means would be amply sufficient to maintain the church and the manse by voluntary subscriptions. With regard to the remedy proposed by the Bill, there were some difficulties, to his mind, as to what was meant by some of the clauses of the Bill. Clause 3 provided that—In regard to landward parishes—where it was legal to impose assessment according to valued rent—that it be so resolved by two-thirds in value of the heritors liable to contribute according to such valued rent present and voting at a meeting of such heritors," &c.In some parishes it would be found that one heritor represented two-thirds of the value, and in a considerable number of cases in all probability three or four heritors would nearly represent two-thirds of the value. As he read the 3rd section, unless two-thirds of the heritors assented, the valued rent was not to be taken, and in such a case what would happen? Was the whole rent to be taken, exclusive of buildings, as provided by Clause 4? If valued rent was not taken, then the provisions of the Bill were, to his mind, positively extraordinary. What was proposed to be done by Clause 4 in landward parishes, where real rent had practically been the rule of assessment? It was proposed, as he understood it, that land should be valued for the purpose of assessment in a way which was entirely new in Scotland. It was not merely feuars to whom this Bill applied; but what did it propose to do? It proposed to introduce a new column in re- 15 gard to the Valuation Roll of Scotland, in which should be entered the value of the land after deducting the value of the buildings upon it. That was done in a very simple manner by defining the word "buildings." This was the definition, and he should like hon. Gentlemen interested in agricultural matters to take notice of it—Buildings shall include all houses, works, erections, and constructions of whatever kind, except houses, works, erections, and constructions connected with the occupation of land as an agricultural or pastoral subject.If farm buildings had been put up, if a farm at the end of a lease had been largely added to, and in consequence appeared on the Roll as of high value, these buildings were to be taken as swelling the value of the land; but if factories were erected, if some wealthy manufacturer built extensive works, which increased the value of the land considerably, that increased value was to be deducted from the value upon which the assessment was to be obtained. He could not conceive anything more contrary to the whole principle of the Valuation Act of 1854. That Act proposed to fix a value from year to year on lands or heritages which were defined by the Act to include houses, railways, factories, works, and so on; and that was the basis on which the assessment, if it was required at all, ought to be taken. Why, in the name of common-sense, in the provision in favour of railways, were the buildings belonging to the Railway Companies to be excluded before the value of the land belonging to them was assessed? It was an absurdity to say that, before rating the North British, or any other Railway Company, they should first de duct the value of the refreshment rooms, station-masters' houses, and other buildings. He did not understand the object of the provision, or how anyone could support it. He could understand the question being discussed as to whether or not the voluntary principle, or as to whether or not the rating principle, was right; but he could not quite follow the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who said that they should maintain an assessment, and that it should not be general—that they were to exempt per sons on no intelligible principle what ever—not only small feuars, but other persons who were perfectly well able to bear this burden. If the Church was 16 to be supported as a public building by the parish, let it be supported, as were the parish schools, by an assessment upon everybody. If not, let them give up the compulsory assessment altogether; as had been done in England, and let the Church rely upon voluntary support, which was amply sufficient to do its own repairs. He had noticed in previous discussions on this subject a very important matter referred to by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson). The objection was on former occasions brought forward that by such a Bill as this, they were proposing to get rid of the compulsory assessment on land, and giving to the lauded proprietors what they had no right to receive. In supporting his Amendment, which he hoped his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow would do, he would ask him not to commit himself to any such way of dealing with assessments. That might affect the question of the Bill brought forward by Mr. Duncan M'Laren; but his Amendment did not pledge anyone as to what was to be done with these assessments after they had ceased to be compulsory. The natural and proper thing was that these uncertain burdens should be commuted. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Lanarkshire (Sir Edward Colebrooke) on previous occasions had suggested what seemed a very proper thing to do—namely, that these uncertain burdens should be commuted, and having been commuted, then "there they are." He did not know that the hon. Baronet went further than to say "there they are;" but then the question would arise whether those belonged to the landlord, or were amounts that might be dealt with in some way useful to the parish. Some of the remarks that had fallen from the hon. Member who moved the second reading of the Bill he agreed with; but he utterly condemned the tactics of those who resisted reforming the Church on the ground that they could not get absolute and immediate Disestablishment. His Amendment was, no doubt, a declaration in favour of certain charges hitherto borne by the State being voluntarily supported, and no doubt it was to that extent a concession in the direction of Voluntaryism. It might be said to be a measure of partial Disendowment. No doubt it was; but he thought it was almost an insult to the Church of Scotland, considering the great sums 17 which were raised year by year, to suppose that it was not able, out of its own funds, to repair its church roofs, and keep its manses in order. The inevitable tendency in Scotland was in favour of the Voluntary principle, and this tendency was not peculiar to Scotland. The same thing was seen in England. In old days money was frequently given by Parliament, or provided out of public funds, for building churches. Why, St. Paul's Cathedral itself was said to have been built, after the Fire of London, out of money raised by a tax on coals. In the year 1818 the sum of £1,000,000 was raised by Parliament; and seven years later another £1,000,000 was raised, to extend the Church accommodation in England. But the days of Church Building Acts had long since passed away; and yet never had there been a time when Church extension had gone on at a greater rate than in recent times. There were 329 quoad sacra parishes in which the Church buildings were provided otherwise than out of public funds, and also the stipends of the ministers. That was the direction in which the Church of Scotland ought to look for its real strength. This question of Voluntaryism versus State was assuming every day, as far as endowments went, a position of less importance. Every day it was the practice of State Churches to rely more and more on voluntary aid. Look at the Free Church of Scotland. That Church raised something like £600,000 a-year; the United Presbyterian Church, £400,000 a-year; and in a paper which had been addressed to them, not very courteously, as "Disestablishment Agitators," it was declared that the Established Church raised about £500,000 per annum, including in that the interest upon previous sums voluntarily contributed. That made £1,500,000 per annum contributed to the support of Presbyterians in Scotland. What was the state of matters on the other side? The whole amount of State support given to the Established Church of Scotland he did not think amounted to £400,000. There fore, only a fraction, and, in proportion, a smaller fraction every day, came from the State. He thought that enabled them to look very hopefully to the future of this question. They saw before them the ultimate matter in which these State questions would be settled. They had 18 to look at the matter as representing their constituencies, and in the interest of the country, not on behalf of one ecclesiastical organization as compared with another. It was the duty of Parliament to judge each question as it came up on its own merits. It was almost repulsive to his feelings that people should be actuated with so much hostility to the Church of Scotland as not to be able to regard such a question on its merits—that they would refuse all reforms to the Established Church while it existed, and would seek by keeping up "a raw" to make it unpopular and weak. He felt that very strongly; and whatever might be the view of a few individual members of the different Churches, he believed his own feelings were shared by the great body of the Presbyterians of Scotland. He had found these sentiments actuating many persons and many different persuasions, and they did not feel that by taking up such a line as he had described they were at all less true than others were to the Voluntary principle. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. R. P. BRUCE
, in seconding the Amendment, said, he did not think it would be necessary for him to attempt, nor should he be competent to discuss, as had been so ably done by his hon. Friend, the present laws, and the precise effect this Bill would have; and he should content himself with saying that he considered the present system of ecclesiastical assessments as vexatious and unjust, and that the Bill now before the House would not deprive the system of these characteristics. The system proposed by the Bill would still be a vexatious and unjust one. The machinery by which it would be carried out would be still more troublesome, complicated, and unfair. What he would like to remark upon especially was the admission which this Bill seemed to contain. It seemed to contain the admission of the injustice of these compulsory assessments. He was aware that the Mover of the Bill had attempted to draw n very fine and ingenious distinction between the burden as it fell on the landowners and the burden as it fell on the feuars. There might be a distinction between the two cases. It might be, as the hon. Member seemed very anxious to prove, that it 19 would be improper to relieve the land owners of this burden, although it was, perhaps, rather surprising, as coming from the Conservative side of the House, that any proposal to reduce any of the burdens on land should be treated as a monstrous proposal. But whether that was so or not—whether the landowner ought to be relieved or not—he should say that the proceeds of this burden belonged to the State as a whole, and not to one particular Church; and, there fore, if the burden was to be maintained, or if it was to be commuted, the proceeds arising from it ought to go to some national purpose. It seemed to him that the object of this Bill had not really been to draw this fine distinction, and to relieve one class of those who bore the burden. It seemed to him that what the authors of the Bill had really had in their minds was this. "We know," they seemed to say, "that this burden is regarded as intolerable in Scotland by the largo majority of the ratepayers; therefore, we will try to exempt those who are most likely to cry out and resent it. We will relieve the buildings belonging to the various Voluntary Churches; we will exempt altogether the smaller feuars; and we will trust to the larger heritors patiently enduring and paying the tax, although they may consider that it is an unjust one." There was another point of interest, and a much more satisfactory point, in his view. This measure was in itself a measure of partial Disendowment to the extent to which the Church was to lose by the exemption of some of those who were liable to these rates, to the extent it was proposed that the Established Church should in future rely upon the voluntary contributions of its own members and adherents. That was a very satisfactory part of the Bill. It. showed that the Established Church saw in what direction it must look for its maintenance. He very cordially concurred in what his hon. Friend (Mr. Elliot) had said on that subject; but he thought his hon. Friend had rather over-stated the amount contributed in one way or another by the State towards the support of the Established Church. In his belief, it did not greatly exceed £300,000 a-year; and if, as they were told, the Established Church last year raised nearly £600,000, it was clear that already the Church was to the 20 extent of two-thirds of its revenue a Voluntary Church. He was sure there were very few in Scotland—he hoped none— who wished to see the Church of Scot land impoverished or injured as a Church; but he thought there were many, and many members of the Church itself, who were thoroughly convinced that the claim put forward by the Voluntary Church—that of complete religious equality—was a just claim, and one which must be granted. Therefore, they would gladly see the Established Church in a position to maintain itself without having to rely upon State funds. Before sitting down, he would like to say one word in reference to the other Amendment which appeared upon the Paper. His hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock Burghs (Mr. Dick-Peddie) held that this subject could only be dealt with in connection with a measure of Disestablishment and Disendowment. He agreed with the hon. Member that this matter could not be finally or completely disposed of except by a measure of that kind. But he thought the hon. Member's Amendment might be so read as to mean that they would refuse to consider any measure dealing with a portion of the subject, however satisfactorily that portion might be dealt with. He did not say that was the attitude taken by his hon. Friend. For himself, he should not like to take up that position. If this measure had dealt the roughly and satisfactorily with the question of ecclesiastical assessments, it would have deserved a favourable reception by the House. It was because the Amendment before the House left it open to them to entertain a measure of that kind, and did not in any way shut the door against dealing with that portion of the subject when it was out of their power to deal with the whole, that he considered the terms of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. Elliott) most satisfactory, and he trusted it would be adopted by the House.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "no measure is satisfactory which proposes to continue, for the provision and maintenance of ecclesiastical buildings belonging to one religious denomination, any system of compulsory general assessment,"—(Mr. Arthur Elliot,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that as his name appeared on the back of the Bill he should like to say a few words with reference to some of the remarks of the hon. Member who had moved its rejection. His hon. Friend the Member for the University of Glasgow (Mr. J. A. Campbell) had entered so fully into the necessity for this measure that he should not venture to detain the House at any length, especially as he was no legal authority upon the legal points, which it appeared to him would be more properly dealt with in Committee, and should not prevent the Bill receiving a second reading. The Bill was desired by the whole Church of Scotland, and in saying that he spoke of a Church which included in its members the largest number of persons of any denomination in Scotland. Therefore, although it might be true there were some persons who objected, he believed that the majority of the people were in favour of maintaining the National Church, and, that being so, they were in favour of this measure, which was to alleviate and do away with the hardship which afflicted and injured the poor members of the Church as well as other persons who had acquired property. It had been suggested that the members of the National Church, should themselves devote their means, as they did very largely, for the maintenance of the fabrics of the manses and churches and the ordinances of religion. But it must be remembered that neither the manses nor the churches were the property of the Church of Scotland. They were the property of the nation. The Church of Scotland had no claim to the churches and manses, which were in trust to the heritors for the use of the National Church. That was the condition of these buildings without a doubt; and it would be absurd to suppose that with, perhaps, threats of Disestablishment looming in the distance, the members of the Church, of Scotland should be called upon to maintain these fabrics alone when there was no security that they would continue their property. He therefore thought, on that ground, that Parliament, urging upon the National Church of Scotland, upon the majority of the Scot- 22 tish nation, to undertake the duty of providing from their own personal property for the maintenance of the fabrics of which they might be deprived, was doing what it ought not to do. The fact of the various denominations in Scotland desiring to acquire or to share the revenues of the Church of Scotland was perhaps very natural on their part; but he had not yet heard that either the Free Church or the United Presbyterian Church claimed for themselves a proportion of the endowments of the Church of Scotland. All they desired was that the endowments of the National Church, appropriated years ago for the maintenance of the Christian religion and for the benefit of the poor who were not competent to provide of their means for religious services, ought to be maintained for that purpose. This Bill was meant to relieve the poor, who were unduly and improperly assessed, as they contended, of a burden which had been unjustly imposed upon them. There was no contention, as he understood, that there was any justice in maintaining the burden on this class. All he understood the opponents of the measure to say was that if this grievance was done away with, other grievances would be left which ought also to be done away with. There were two means by which they might arrive at that conclusion. They could introduce measures for the purpose of removing other of the grievances which were too heavy, in their opinion, to be borne; or, in Committee on this Bill, they could extend its provisions to other persons who they might think ought to be included in the relief which was sought to be obtained. He himself, having the strongest belief in the necessity in a Christian country of the maintenance and security by the State of Christian ordinances in some form or other for the poorer classes of the community, should do all he could to preserve the Established Church in whatever section of the Kingdom it might be maintained. He confessed that in the Sister Country he did not see that the destruction of the Establishment had resulted either in good government or in the maintenance of religious ordinances in the way in which they should desire them to be maintained; and, he said, God forbid that Scotland should ever be reduced to the position of Ireland in consequence of the destruction 23 of the National Church. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh; but that was his opinion, and he had a right to express it. He looked upon the misappropriation of money given for sacred purposes to secular uses as one which had been condemned by the circumstances which had arisen in Ireland since that robbery took place; and he, for his part, would do all he could to strengthen and sustain the Established Church of Scotland by supporting a measure of this or any other character which would do away with small injustices that injured and, perhaps, prevented the full value of the Church. As to the legal question of the applicability of this measure of the law of Scotland, he was not in a position to speak; but he had this to say, that in the part of Scotland from which he came, and in the burghs he had the honour to represent, there was none of that desire for Disestablishment which was said to exist in some parts of Scotland. The hon. Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. Elliot) had referred to a parish church in the North of Scotland in which there were only six communicants and 20 adherents. But it seemed to him that if 2,460 persons there required to be provided with religious ordinances, that showed that there was an absolute necessity for continuing to provide religious ordinances in the locality. If it was to be said that the heritor was to be bound only to give voluntary subscriptions to the church in which he worshipped, he suspected that the parish churches and the manses in that part of Scotland would suffer considerably. He had no doubt that voluntary contributions would be given of his affluence by the noble person who had been referred to in a manner that might be most advantageous to the public; but he accepted the argument of the hon. Member for Roxburghshire, who seemed to suggest that it was only the parish church in which a heritor worshipped towards the support of which he would be invited to subscribe. The Bill which they were now considering was one of considerable importance. It was one which had his cordial support, and he trusted the House would give it a second reading.
, who had a Notice on the Paper in the following terms:— 24That it is inexpedient to deal with Ecclesiastical Assessments in Scotland, except in connection with a measure for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of Scotland,said, his hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. Elliot), in the beginning of his speech, referred to the motives which had induced the Mover of this Bill to bring it in, and he stated that while the hon. Member for the University of Glasgow (Mr. J. A. Campbell) had admitted that he was chiefly actuated by a desire to get quit of a grievance which was found to do injury to the Church of Scotland, he also admitted that that was not the only end he had in view. He accepted the statement of the hon. Member for the University of Glasgow that he also wished to relieve the feuars of the burden lying on them. But he wished to point out that in a statement with regard to this Bill, which he believed had been sent to all the Scotch Members in the House excepting himself, and which had been issued on behalf of the Church of Scotland, the only ground on which the Bill was de fended was that it would effect the removal of a grievance which had been an injury to the Church. Now, had the principal motive been to do justice and to re move a grievance because it was a grievance, he would have had much more respect for the Bill than he had at present. He was not one of those to whom his hon. Friend referred who desired to oppose every effort to improve the Established Church in order that they might be able the more effectually to attack it. He entirely repudiated any such motive, and he knew no one who took part in the Disestablishment agitation who was actuated by a motive so unworthy. But this was a Bill for another purpose— namely, for perpetuating a Church which was not the Church of the people. What had led to the bringing in of this Bill? Since Mr. M'Laren, late Member for Edinburgh, tried to pass a Bill for the abolition of Church and Manse Rates in Scotland, the process of collecting and enforcing Church-rates had gone on in Scotland with increasing frequency and severity, and the annual amount raised—which had not been referred to in this House—as shown by a Parliamentary Return issued in 1879, had in the previous 10 years been on the average £42,000 per annum. The hon. Member for the University of 25 Glasgow had referred to one case about which greater complaint had been made in Scotland than in regard to any other case—namely, the case of Old Meldrum, and he had spoken of that as being a joke. He did not exactly understand whether the hon. Gentleman meant seriously to say that the grievance of the feuars in that case was a joke. The only joke which he knew connected with the case was that the last thing that was taken in payment of the Church rates was the hearse of the village, and he supposed that the joke lay in this, that the Dissenters who refused to pay the rates were prevented from being buried in a decent manner. The real object of this Bill was to strengthen the Church, and to perpetuate these assessments by removing the more glaring injustices connected with them. The hon. Member for the University of Glasgow said that the advocates of Disestablishment in Scotland had always spoken of those grievances with great pathos, and he said he could not understand why they should adopt this mode of opposition to his Bill. They objected to it for very plain and, he thought, sufficient reasons. The principal of these had been stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. Elliot) in his very able speech; but his hon. Friend had not mentioned one which, he thought, showed more than any other the bad character of this Bill, and that regarded the nature of the exemptions proposed. The chief exemptions proposed were of persons who were assessed under £4 a-year, and of the ecclesiastical buildings of Churches other than the Established Church. Now, there was no principle which he thought could justify the ex emption of either of those classes of persons or property. Assuming, as the promoters of this Bill must do, that the church and manse assessments were just in themselves, there was no reason why any class of persons, or any description of property, should be exempted, except on the ground of inability to pay. To relieve Voluntary Churches was simply to present them with a species of bribe in the form of partial endowment which it was not consistent with the principles of these Churches to accept. Why were feuars assessed under £4 to be exempted? The majority of them were not members of the Church of Scotland at all; if they 26 had been, he believed this measure would never have been introduced. Another objection was the mode in which it was proposed to make up for the deficit caused by the exemptions. The Bill proposed to provide for that being done by what it called private contributions; but if they examined the Bill, they would find that the mode of raising these contributions was a curious one. The kirk-session was to set apart a certain number of the sittings of the church, proportionate to the amount of the assessment of the persons exempted, and they were to be entitled to let those seats to the persons so exempted for a rent equal to or forming any portion of the amount in respect of which they were exempted. What was the result of that? It was simply this, that the persons who now paid those rates—persons who had as citizens and as heritors a right to sit in the church— were to be debarred from that right unless they consented to pay for exemption from the assessment an equivalent in the form of seat rent. This, he considered, was inconsistent with the theory of an Established Church. There were many persons who paid stipend as well as Church rates. Suppose a man was paying stipend to the parish minister, and also this church assessment, but was, by the operation of this Act, exempted from the rate, and suppose he, being asked to pay for his seat-rent, declined to do so, the result would be that he, while assessed for the minister's stipend, would have no legal right to sit in the church and hear the minister. In a debate on this subject some years ago the hon. and gallant Member for South Ayrshire (General Alexander) had stated that one of the glories of the Church of Scot land was that it provided the Gospel to all the poor of Scotland without money and without price; but under this Bill heritors paying stipend would have no legal right to go and hear the minister whose stipend they paid. The parishioners, as such, would have no right to sit in the church of the parish, and the parish church would cease to be a national institution as far as they were concerned. His hon. Friend the Member for Fife (Mr. Preston Bruce) had expressed some fear that his Amendment indicated that he was determined that no legislation should take place in the way of removing grievances in connection with the Church 27 Establishment in Scotland, except as part of a measure for Disestablishment. But he was quite willing to accept his hon. Friend's own statement that no legislation should be allowed in regard to any of these burdens that was not of a satisfactory nature; and what he contended was that the mode of dealing with these assessments now proposed was not satisfactory. He was not one of those who refused any instalment of justice unless they received the whole of it. His objection to legislating in regard to the assessments by themselves, even in a more sweeping form than was proposed in this Bill, was this, that the advocates of Church Establishment in the debates on Mr. M'Laren's Bill maintained that these assessments were not a personal charge against the persons who paid them, but were a burden upon the land, and were, therefore, public property for a particular purpose. In that respect they were in the same position as teinds; and what he feared was, that if they dealt with this question in regard to ecclesiastical assessments, apart from the teinds, difficulties would be occasioned when they came to deal with the larger question of the teinds at a later date. They ought, he considered, to be dealt with in the same measure. But his objection to this legislation generally was that there was no consideration which demanded dealing with those assessments which did not apply to everything connected with the support of the Established Church. That being so, he thought there was great risk that in dealing with one injustice connected with the system alone, other injustices might be confirmed. On that account, and because all such legislation as that proposed in this Bill seemed to him to be giving new legislative sanction to the Establishment, he was disposed to resist it. He might not have done so, if Disestablishment had been far off, for then it would have been un wise and imprudent to refuse partial reforms; but his opinion, and he thought the opinion of many in Scotland, was that Disestablishment was in the very near future. And he thought this Bill, and all such legislation as it proposed, was simply an attempt to avert the inevitable. His reason for believing that Disestablishment was not far off, was that the injustice attaching to all Establishments existed in an aggravated de- 28 gree in Scotland. The evils there were of a very great and glaring nature, and there was a very widespread and strong demand on the part of a large portion of the public for the Disestablishment of the Church. He wished to guard against the supposition that it was only the aggravated nature of the injustice in Scotland that led him to demand the Disestablishment of the Church. He believed the injustice involved in the maintenance of an Established Church to be as real and as much requiring redress when the Established Church was in a large majority as when it was in a minority; but the aggravated nature of the injustice in' Scotland, he thought, made the necessity of removing it very urgent, and brought the settlement of the question very near. He did not wish to enter into a discussion of the general question of Disestablishment; but he might be allowed to say, in passing, that he was one of those who objected to the State Establishment of religion in all places and at all times. He thought it was not one of the purposes for which national society existed, that it was a function which the State was not fitted to fulfil, and one which it could not attempt to fulfil without entailing serious evils both on religion and on itself. He could not, however, go into this question now, but would direct attention to the circumstances showing the aggravated nature of the injustice in Scotland. Two years ago a statement, entitled "The Church: its Position and Work," was drawn up and issued by a Committee of the Church of Scotland, which embraced a large number of laymen who were well known and highly respected. This statement was not an official one; but it was afterwards adopted with entire approval in the General Assembly. It began by speaking of the Church of Scotland as having been established in 1592 in its present form, and, in like manner, re-established at the Revolution, "in accordance with the wishes and opinions of nearly the whole people of Scotland;" and it proceeded to state that more than 80 per cent of the people of Scotland were still Presbyterians, and adhered to the Westminster Confession of Faith. The statement in connection with the Bill, which had been already referred to, issued by the Church, more boldly placed the number of Presbyterians in Scotland at 29 85 per cent of the population, thus claiming an advance of 5 per cent in two years. What he wanted to point out was that, in the former statement, the Church Committee recognized and gave its assent to the principle on which the Church of Scotland was established in 1559 and 1690, and suggested that the same principle warranted the maintenance of the Establishment now—and that was that it was agreeable to the inclinations of the people. In the Acts of the Scottish Estates in 1689 and 1690, the chief ground given for the establishment of the Presbyterian Church was its conformity with "the inclinations of the generality of the people." Assuming for a moment the accuracy of the estimate by the Church in the latter of the two statements he had referred to, that the number of Presbyterians was 85 per cent of the population, he wished to show that this fact did not warrant the inference which it was intended to suggest—namely, that the reasons which led to the establishment of the Church in 1690 still existed and warranted its maintenance now, for, at the time the Church of Scotland was established in 1690, the inclinations of the people pointed to two things. They pointed not only to Presbyterianism as the religion of the country, but towards Presbyterianism being established. Now, during the last 50 years, while the people of Scotland remained, probably, in much the same proportion as at the Revolution, Presbyterian, an enormous change had come over their opinions as to the establishment of the Church; and he thought he could prove that a majority of the population, while maintaining their attachment to Presbyterianism, were opposed to the maintenance of the Establishment. [Cries of "No, no !" and "Hear, hear !"] Well, even if less than a majority, there was a vital change in opinion on this subject; at all events, there was a difference between the time when the whole body of Presbyterians were in favour of the Establishment and the state of matters now, when a-half or two-thirds of them objected to the establishment of the Church. If the questions were given, that if there was to be an Established Church, what Church was to be Established? the number of Presbyterians relatively to non-Presbyterians might be sufficient to determine that the present Establish- 30 ment should be continued; but the number of Presbyterians did not matter in the slightest degree in determining the question whether there was to be an Established Church at all. He thought that the percentage of the population claimed for Presbyterianism both at the time of the Revolution and at the present time was very much over-estimated. To say that nearly all the Scottish population was in 1690 Presbyterian, was utterly inconsistent with what they knew from history. But, coming to the present time, the latter of the two statements sent out by the Church of Scotland mentioned a fact which of itself contradicted the estimate that 85 per cent of the population were Presbyterian. It gave the number of marriages by ministers of various denominations, and showed that a fraction less than 80 per cent—79.77—of the marriages were so solemnized by Presbyterian ministers, and 20.23 per cent by ministers not Presbyterian. But they could not assume that the whole of the people married by Presbyterian ministers were Presbyterians, because there were 600,000 people in Scotland who were non-church-going, and it was well known that these persons went to the parish minister to get married, because, in point of fact, Dissenting ministers would not marry them. That number represented 16 per cent of the population, and if they deducted these marriages from the total number solemnized by Presbyterian ministers, the number of marriages of Presbyterians would be brought down to 65 per cent of all the marriages in the country. What he wanted to show was that Scotland was not to be dealt with as a purely Presbyterian country. There were other interests besides Presbyterian to be dealt with. There were Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Baptists, and other denominations, to whom justice was as much due as Presbyterians. He did not pretend to be able to state the precise number of the Presbyterian population who were connected with the Established Church. In 1878 the number of members claimed by that Church was 515,000; by the Free Church, 250,000; and by the United Presbyterian Church, 175,000; making the number belonging to the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church together, 425,000. In 1851, when a census of church attendance was 31 taken, it appeared that the attendance was —Church of Scotland, 351,500; Free and United Presbyterian Churches, 442,500; other Churches, 141,000. There had been no official census taken since. There had been various censuses, not official, taken by newspapers in different parts of the country, which showed that the Church of Scotland had about a third of the attendance of the church-going people in Scotland. These censuses were of no great authority, of course, and the Church objected to them—but, he thought, most unfairly—that they had been taken for the purpose of showing that the Church of Scotland had a small attendance. He denied that entirely. He knew they had been taken fairly, whatever the result might be. Then, there was a Parliamentary Return, issued in 1874 of the number of communicants connected with the Church of Scotland, which showed the number to be 460,000; and another Return in 1878, obtained on the Motion of Mr. M'Laren, which showed the number to be 515,000; thus representing a gain to the Established Church in those four years of 55,000 members. It was generally reckoned that each Church member represented three of the population, so that the result of these Returns was to show that the Church of Scotland had made a gain in those four years of 165,000 adherents. Now, he found that in those four years the whole increase of the population in Scotland was less than l40,000, so that, according to this statement, the Church gained actually 25,000 more than the whole number by which the population of Scotland had increased. Well, that was not a thing impossible in itself; but if such an increase had taken place it must have arisen either from the Established Church having drawn into it adherents of the other religious denominations, or having gained members from the non-church-going population, or by its having done both. But the gain was not from, other Churches, because the Free Church had increased by 10,000 members, or 30,000 adherents, in the same time, and the United Presbyterian Church by 7,000 members, or 25,000 adherents, and the Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, and all other denominations, had also largely gained. But, perhaps, it might be said that some great wave of religious revival had swept over the country, and that the increase of all 32 the Churches was due to the number who had been attracted from the non-church-going population. That theory, however, would not hold, because it was the retierated complaint of all the Churches that the number of non-church-going people was rapidly increasing. This alleged increase in the numbers of the Church of Scotland was not believed in by any intelligent person outside the Church, because it was notorious that the membership claimed by the Established Church in a large number of parishes was so great as to represent a population greater than that of the whole parish, and that, too, in many cases where there existed in the parish large and flourishing congregations in connection with other Churches. The following paragraph, which appeared in The Scotsman, when the Parliamentary Returns appeared, expressed with regard to them the public sentiment at the time:—If things go on much longer at this rate the country will be quite unable to supply the Church with communicants. Not a sinner or unbeliever, perhaps not even a Dissenter, will be left to point a moral or adorn a tale, unless in the meantime the Church Extension or the Endowment Schemes put a check upon the tremendous growth, by refusing to provide further house accommodation.But these statements were not even accepted by all the members of the Church of Scotland. In the last General Assembly, held two weeks ago, when statistics much the same as those which the Parliamentary Returns furnished were brought forward by Dr. Tulloch, the Rev. Dr. Charteris, of Edinburgh University—a man second to none in the Established Church in ability and in earnestness in the maintenance of the Establishment, but who was too wise to believe that the Church could be strengthened by statements of this kind —said—If their membership was so much greater than that of the other two Presbyterian Churches combined, and if these Churches were drifting year by year into stronger motions for Disestablishment, did it not appear perfectly clear that the gulf between them and us, and between their politics on the Church question and the politics of their greater membership, was widening; and yet how did it appear that in the burghs, in the cities, in many other constituencies, it was the politics of the minority that ruled on the Church question?This suggested a very obvious test of the accuracy of the Church statistics, and to apply it he would give an illustra- 33 tion from Dr. Tulloch's own burghs —the St. Andrew Burghs, represented by his hon. Friend (Mr. Williamson). In the parishes of these burghs there was a population of 21,776; and in the burghs, which were not co-extensive with the parishes, the population was 18,605. The Church of Scotland claimed 5,921 members in these burghs, and when that number was multiplied by three it was found it claimed as connected with it 17,763 of the population, leaving for all other denominations only 4,013. At the last election there were 2,396 electors, and the proportion that should have gone to the Established Church, had its strength been what the Returns represented it, was 1,921, and to the non-Established Churches 475. Two Liberals contested the seat—one of whom (Mr. Williamson) was a Disestablisher, and the other, Mr. Bennett, who differed from him mainly in his opinions on the Disestablishment Question. The result was that his hon. Friend, who was in favour of Disestablishment, received 1,258 votes, and the less advanced candidate only 898. One of two alternative deductions might be drawn from that—either that the statistics of the Church were wholly wrong, or that the members of the Church were not generally in favour of Establishment. He did not care much which alternative was chosen. But the injustice involved in the maintenance of the Established Church in Scotland further appeared if comparison were to be made of the religious work done by the National and non-Established Church; and he thought there was no fairer test of the usefulness and earnestness of the religious denominations than in what they contributed for religious purposes. He found that the whole income of the Church of Scot land from various public sources was £381,000 per annum—their own statement was £3,39.000; but that did not include money obtained from the assessments which were to be dealt with by the Bill before the House to-day, and which amounted, on an average, to £42,000 per annum. What did a Church so largely aided by public money do for itself and for the cause of religion? In the Church's statement referred to it appeared that in nine years it had raised £2,588,000, exclusive of a gift by one member of £500,000 and of seat-rents £433,400; if these were taken into ac- 34 count, it would appear that in nine years the Church had raised £3,522,000—a handsome sum, which amounted to rather less than £7 per member, if the numbers claimed were allowed. What had the other Churches done in the same period? The Free Church, with 250,001 members, as against 515,000 claimed by the Established Church, raised, in the same period, £4,893,000, and the United Presbyterian Church, with 175,000 members, raised £3,325,700; these two Churches gave more than £17 per member, against £7 given by each member of the Established Church. He had no means of accurately ascertaining the amounts given by other denominations; but he knew they were very large, and taking them at only one-half of the amount given by the Dissenting Presbyterian Churches, they must have amounted to about £2,000,000 in nine years, making for the non-Established Churches £10,224,100, against £3,522,000 raised by the National Church. The public money received by the Church during that period raised its whole income in nine years to £6,846,100, as against £10,224,100 subscribed by the non-Established Churches, of which the members were also as citizens compelled to contribute to the State Church. He thought that condition of things was a very great injustice, and that it ought to be remedied, not piecemeal by such a Bill as this, but by getting quit altogether of the system which alone made it possible. The Church was daily increasing its demands. These church rates were in creasing in severity; there were every year augmentations of stipend being made from the teinds; and from a Return presented to Parliament at the beginning of this Session on his Motion it appeared that in the last five years au annual sum was added to the income or stipend of ministers of about £1,200, which, capitalized, represented an annual addition of about £30,000 to the endowments of the Established Church. Could it be wondered at that the injustice shown by this state of things was strongly felt, and that there was a loud outcry for Disestablishment? The advocates of Disestablishment in Scotland were constantly told, even by English Dissenters, that they had no great material grievance, and by Churchmen that they had none 35 at all, because the religious system which was supported by the State was exactly similar to that which the great majority of them adhered to. He admitted that their material grievances were not so great as those of their Dissenting brethren in England. They had no Scottish Bishops in the House of Lords; they had no priestly pretensions on the part of the clergy of the Established Church; they had no plurality of livings; they had none of the scandals occasioned by the sale of Church patronage; they knew nothing of the social inferiority of Dissenters which was felt in England; and they never knew the exclusion of Dissenters from the parish graveyards. But they were not, for all that, without very tangible material grievances, as the Bill before the House showed, and as the Returns as to augmentations of stipend showed. But he thought they had a grievance greater still, and that lay in the very fact which was brought forward as a reason why they should be content—namely, that there was no distinction between the Established and non-Established Churches in anything belonging to them as Churches which could mark out the former for privilege and State favour. In England there was an intelligible, if not satisfactory, reason why the Episcopalian Church should be the recipient of State favour. It was a great and powerful Corporation, distinguished from the Nonconforming Churches in its doctrines, its ritual, and its ecclesiastical government. Its constitution fitted it more than that of other Churches for State connection and control. But in Scotland there was nothing to mark out the Established Church from the greatnon-Established Churches. In creed, worship, and constitution they were identical. Now, he would ask his hon. Friends below the Gangway, who were Nonconformists, whether their opposition to an Established Church in England would be lessened if, instead of the Episcopalian Church, they found established—were such a thing conceivable—a great Congregational Union in every respect resembling their own? He thought they would feel that the absence of any intelligible ground for continuing such a state of matters would make it more intolerable than that which existed. It would be felt by them a wan ton and gratuitous interference with religious equality. But it was necessary, 36 in order fully to understand the evils flowing from the maintenance of the Established Church in Scotland, to remember that it tended to defeat one of the very ends for which, on any intelligible theory of Establishment, an Established Church should exist—namely, to unite the nation in religious life. In Scotland, the Established Church not only did not unite the nation, it divided those who, but for it, would be united. In England, those who were outside the Established Church were so almost universally on the ground of differences in creed, or ritual, or Church government, as well as on the ground of its State connection. Their separation from the Church in ecclesiastical feeling was complete. If the Church of England were disestablished to-morrow, they would still be outside of it; and in England, therefore, as a cause of disunion, State connection with the Church acquired less importance than it did in Scotland; because there the ecclesiastical divisions among those who formed the great mass of the nation arose almost wholly from causes connected with the establishment of the Church. He did not suppose that, in the event of Disestablishment, the divisions which now existed would be healed up at once. Their friends of the Established Church said they would not be healed for a long time. How that might be he did not know; but this he knew—that the irritation which Disestablishment would doubtless excite would soon subside, and that if Presbyterians did not see their way to unite, at least, all the bitterness attending the present state of disunion would pass away. He would not detain the House by dwelling on the evils, social, religious, and political, which followed from the unhappy divisions and rivalries which the maintenance of the Church Establishment gave rise to. He would only quote the words of two leading ministers of the Church of Scotland, which described these evils in no exaggerated language. Dr. Milligan, who was Moderator of the Established Church two years ago, said—Our present state is so deplorable that al most anything containing in it the promise of peace and stability might be welcomed as a substitute—precious time wasted in bitter controversy that should be given to the peaceful prosecution of our labours; angry passions awakened in breasts where mutual confidence should live and reign; efforts in every great 37 cause of beneficence, the education of the young, the relief of the poor, the reclamation of the criminal, weakened; the lives of pious and good men saddened by the mutual recriminations of those whom they wished to regard with no feelings but those of reverence and love— the enemies of religion triumphing that our own divisions are destroying what their efforts would never enable them to subvert. Above all, the fair picture of the one Church of the Redeemer, who died, who lives for all its members, soiled and torn, till its strength is wasted and its beauty gone.The Rev. Mr. Macdonald, the Moderator of the Aberdeen Synod, in a sermon delivered before the Synod on the 18th of last month, said—None of us is so wedded to his convictions of the advantages of an Established Church, as to deny there are circumstances in which it may be be maintained that the injury of national religion, and that Disestablishment, though to us it seems pregnant with disaster, may yet be less evil than a condition of ecclesiastical schism and conflict, for which it is held forth as the only cure. I make bold to say for myself that I hold that, as a Church, we ought not to hesitate to admit that the present position of matters is intolerable, and that if we can discover no remedy, we cannot reasonably refuse to suffer others to try that of Disestablishment.Those were the grounds on which he (Mr. Dick-Peddie) thought the time had come to deal with the question, and not legislate in the piecemeal way now pro posed. The feeling in Scotland, he believed, was rapidly growing to that result; and in a very few years they would be able to deal very much more satisfactorily with all those matters than they could do in the measure now before the House. When Mr. Duncan M'Laren withdrew his Bill in 1879, he stated that he found many of those who sup ported him had come to the opinion that the only way to deal with the question was by Disestablishment. He entirely agreed with that opinion, and he would have moved his Resolution if opportunity had offered; but as he could not do that, he would give the Amendment of his hon. Friend his cordial support.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
could not admit that the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was relevant to the Amendment, while it was certainly wholly irrelevant to the Bill be fore the House. The Bill of his hon. Friend was a modest measure. It dealt with a small grievance. It affected a small area in Scotland, and could not be said in any way to aggravate the evils of the Established Church, or the bur- 38 dens which the Established Church inflicted upon Dissenters, if any such burdens could be said to exist. The hon. Member opposite had appended a Resolution which raised the whole question of Disestablishment, on which the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs (Mr. Dick-Peddie) had found it possible to deliver the speech which he was precluded from delivering upon a Motion directly aiming at Disestablishment. The incongruity between the gigantic Amendment and the very small measure to which it was appended must have struck everybody who heard the speech just delivered. He recollected, in the time of the late Government, that at a meeting of farmers in an English county a resolution was proposed that some action should be taken to prevent injury to crops by hares and rabbits. Some ardent politician who was present moved to leave out all the words after the word "That," in order to insert—The act of Lord Beaconsfield in bringing troops from India to Malta was dangerous to the peace of Europe, subversive of the Constitution, and threatened the liberties of the country.He really thought the relation between the Amendment and the Bill was not a bit less incongruous than the relation between the Amendment and the Motion he had just described. There was nothing, however, in all that to surprise them. It was not the first time a Motion, having for its object the remedy of a specific grievance in the Church, had been resisted without its opponents urging a single argument against it, except that, as it really did remove an admitted grievance, it would improve the position of the Established Church, which it was their principal object to destroy. The friends of Disestablishment always appealed to justice and equality. Those were big phrases; but in this connection they meant very little. If the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs relied on justice and equality, why did he not bring forward a Motion dealing directly with the question of Establishment? "Why did he resist a measure brought forward solely to de crease the friction which obtained in some parts of the Establishment machinery, unless it were that he knew the chief allies on which he had to rely in his Disestablishment agitation were not 39 the eternal principles of justice and equality so much as the vulgar desire that money should be taken from the Church and applied to the relief of rates, or some object of the kind? The hon. Member had come before the House as the advocate of Voluntary ism; but he must know that on the question of Voluntaryism the people of Scotland were decidedly opposed to him. The Free Church was not fit to advocate the principle of Voluntaryism. ["Oh!"] Any hon. Gentleman who dissented from that view was unacquainted with the position of ecclesiastical controversy on the other side of the Border. The United Presbyterian Church had always, it is true, gone in for Voluntaryism; but the Free Church did not. Therefore, when his hon. Friend came forward as the advocate of Voluntaryism, let it be understood that he represented in this matter a very small fraction of his countrymen. He only represented the United Presbyterians; he did not represent the Free Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopalian Church, or the Established Church. Let him conclude by giving a warning to his hon. Friends opposite. If they had at heart the Disestablishment of the Church—if they wished to attain that object, let them go about it fairly and directly. Let them bring in a Bill, or get the Government to do it; but let them abstain from wounding the Established Church in the back. Let them meet it face to face; and let them openly debate whether the interests of religious equality were best promoted by a policy of Disestablishment or not. But if hon. Gentlemen opposite wished the House to believe that they were animated by the lofty motives they professed, and not by a feeling of jealousy towards the Established Church, let them abstain from the policy of opposing by every means in their power measures against which they had not a single argument to adduce on their merits, but which they resisted simply because they believed that by making the Established Church more useful they would be making it stronger. If they adopted that course, while he did not hope for their success, he should, at least, feel that they were dealing with opponents who acted fairly. He cordially supported the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had complained of the wide scope this discussion had taken. But it occurred to him (Mr. Anderson) that if any fault was to be found the hon. Member must blame his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Glasgow (Mr. J. A. Campbell), who moved the second reading of the Bill, because the hon. Gentle man must have known that it was inevitable that the Bill would lead to a Disestablishment debate. He did not think the hon. Member for the University of Glasgow acted very judiciously in the introduction of the Bill—not even judiciously for the Church of Scotland. The hon. Member would have done much better if he had let it alone. He looked upon the Bill as unworkable, as well as in principle bad. The 4th clause, about the Valuation Roll, was absolutely unworkable. But he would leave the Lord Advocate to deal with that point. When they had a somewhat analogous Bill brought in year after year by Mr. Duncan M'Laren, he invariably opposed the Bill, on the ground that this power of assessment for the building or repairing of churches and manses was really a burden belonging to the land, and that the effect of the Bill of Mr. M'Laren would simply be to make a present to the landlords of that assessment. He opposed the Bill invariably on that ground. The hon. Member (Mr. Elliot) had mentioned that ground, and deprecated his objection to the Amendment, as that remark did not apply. It appeared to him, however, that the objection did apply; for he failed to see, if the Amendment were carried, that it could have any other effect than making a present of the assessment to the landlords. According to the Bill and the speech of the hon. Member for the University of Glasgow, it was proposed to mitigate the grievances of the feuars; but, so far as the burden was put upon the feuars, it had been taken from the landlords, who had been relieved of the burden to what ever extent the feuars had it imposed upon them. The hon. Member, by his Bill, did not propose to go back to the period before those feuars existed, and restore matters as they were then, because if he were to do that he would re-impose it upon the landlord. Instead of that the hon. Member adopted the 41 Voluntary principle, and proposed that as to any sum of which the feuars were to be relieved, the Church should raise it by voluntary means. The hon. Member, he thought, fairly laid himself open to the taunt of the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs (Mr. Dick-Peddie), who said that, to a certain extent, the hon. Gentleman was really adopting the Voluntary principle. Looking upon the assessment as national property—which, in the event of the disendowment of the Church of Scotland, would be the national property, and in the power of the nation to devote to whatever purpose it pleased—he objected to the reduction which would be made in the value by the relief of the feuars from burdens without re-imposing them upon the landlord, who had, in the first place, been relieved. But, as regarded the wider question, it was not unnatural that the debate should have lapsed into a Disestablishment debate. He was quite ready to discuss that fully on a suitable occasion; but he would not like to say much about it now. But there were a few words he felt tempted to say after the speech of the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs. He had always voted for Church Disestablishment as a matter of justice. He thought it was not right that the national funds should go entirely to keep up one particular sect in the country, especially since that sect had ceased to be the majority of the country. He looked on the question from that point of view, and yet he was bound to say that in Scotland the question of Disestablishment was less ripe for solution now than it was 10 years ago. It was, he believed, a riper question in England, and certainly in Wales, than in Scotland. For one thing, Dissent had been under no social ban in Scotland. It might be for the reason that a large part of the aristocracy belonged to an alien Church—the Church of England; and they were, therefore, in Scotland nothing but Dissenters. They did not, he believed, like the term; but when they went to Scotland they were Dissenters, and nothing else. The fact of their being so perhaps helped to prevent that social ban, which did exist, he believed, to a large extent, in England. There were other reasons which his hon. Friend very fairly pointed out—grievances in Eng land and Wales—which did not apply to Scotland. A proof that the question 42 was less ripe now than 10 years ago he gathered from his own constituency. His constituency was, to a large extent, for Disestablishment, and had always been so. Ten years ago he or his Colleague, or any Member of Parliament, could have got a bumper meeting in the largest hall in Glasgow in support of a Disestablishment Resolution. But about two years ago several prominent Liberationist M. P.'s went down to Glasgow and convened a meeting, and though they had the assistance of his hon. Friend and Colleague (Dr. Cameron) they could get nothing more than a half-filled hall. That was a very significant fact indeed. He thought he could tell the reason of it, and it was well the Dissenters should know the reason. The reason of it, bethought, lay in two particular cases of Church discipline which had come up in the United Presbyterian and Free Churches. The one was the well-known case of Mr. Macrae, and the other that of Professor Robertson Smith. The Macrae case was one in which a clergyman in the United Presbyterian Church was, according to his Church dogmas, not quite sound on the matter of eternal punishment. Mr. Macrae was immediately driven from the United Presbyterian Church for holding those views. Professor Robertson Smith, on the other hand, expressed some opinions not quite orthodox, according to the Free Church, on the matter of the authenticity of some books of the Bible. Professor Smith was immediately driven from the Free Church. There had been a sort of idea in Scotland previously that the Established Church was the most bigoted and intolerant of all the Churches. The Free Church had got free, at least, on the question of lay patronage; but he believed that was the only question on which there was any freedom about it. The Robertson Smith case proved that. Then the United Presbyterian Church was looked upon as the home of freedom; but the Macrae ease proved that it was not so. Because these two cases happened in the two great Dissenting Churches the opinion had gained ground in Scot land that for any kind of freedom of thought there was no home left now but the Established Church. [0ppomtion cheers.] Hon. Members cheered that; but he was going to say that he did not believe that was a correct opinion. It had, however, been gaining ground. He believed that if any unfortunate erring 43 brother of the Established Church happened to utter any expression that was equally heterodox, the Church of Scot land would be just as ready to take up the cudgels and pulverize that unfortunate and erring brother as either of the other two Churches were, so that he did not think there was much to choose among any of the Churches. It was this absolute and intolerant bigotry which the whole of the Churches had shown on so many occasions which had driven thinking people to a large extent away from the Churches—a very unfortunate thing; but it was a fact. What he had said was with great regret, because he had always voted for Disestablishment. He was ready to do so again, because he believed that justice called for it; but he had endeavoured to explain why the question had not gained in the way he could have wished it to gain. The two Churches which he had, perhaps, rather stigmatized, would, he hoped, take a lesson from the past, and be a little more liberal towards people who differed from them in matters of what they called orthodoxy, and enable the Disestablishment Question thereby to grow on its own proper basis; for he felt sure that if it were considered on its own merits alone, eventually Disestablishment would be attained.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, he was quite sure the friends of the Church of Scot land had no cause to complain of the speech of the hon. Member who bad just sat down. Nothing could be more interesting to some of them than the account the hon. Member had given of the retrograde movement on the Disestablishment Question, because they had heard a short time before that the movement had made such rapid progress that the question was now ripe for treatment, whereas the hon. Member now told them that in the last 10 years the movement had distinctly gone back. He accepted the hon. Member as an authority. While the hon. Member for Glasgow treated them to some facts with regard to the illiberality of the United Presbyterian Church, he gave the House an impression that there would be probably illiberality on the part of the Established Church in reference to similar matters; but it happened that there was a case before the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland within the last two 44 years which raised exactly the sort of question to which his hon. Friend referred, and if anyone cared to recall the circumstances of it, they would recollect the different spirit in which the subject was dealt with there; while, at the same time, the Church was in no way open to the charge of undervaluing anything like disloyalty to its standards. There were three other speeches delivered against the Bill. The remarkable thing about the two first speeches was that while they entered very fully into the subject of the Bill itself, both speakers were at pains to repudiate by anticipation the action taken by the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs (Mr. Dick-Peddie). That was another illustration with which they were familiar of the kind of agreement which prevailed on the other side of the House. That showed that they fully understood the motive with which the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs was placed upon the Paper. When the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs rose, he said, of course, the Bill was of a character to prevent his going into the larger question; but he immediately proceeded to go into the larger question, and that at very con siderable length. The remarks of the hon. Member made it necessary to reply to some of his facts. But, before doing so, he congratulated the hon. Member on the arrival of the day on which at last he had been able to deliver a speech in favour of Disestablishment in Scot land. That speech he believed had been in process of manufacture for years. It was not too much to say that the subject of Disestablishment in Scotland had figured on the Journals of the House for years past in the name of the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs, who had been endeavouring all that time to bring it on, although he had never succeeded in delivering his speech until that day. Some hon. Members were, no doubt, very familiar with the expression "now or never" in reference to the Disestablishment movement in Scot land; and he supposed that the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs felt that it was "now or never" for his speech. He had failed this Session to bring on the question of Disestablishment generally, and in connection with the measure now before the House he had taken the opportunity of explaining 45 his views on that question. The Bill now before the House was a very modest proposal. Whatever its fate might be, he should be glad that the discussion had taken place, because the promoters of the Bill had endeavoured to deal, however inadequately, with a known and recognized grievance in Scotland. The hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs said their first object was to strengthen the Church; but the fact was that their first object was to remove an admitted grievance, and if in doing so they were to strengthen the Church, they should rejoice. The hon. Member would not like to have the grievance removed, because he had a vested interest in every grievance from which the Church suffered. It was no part of his business to comment upon the appropriateness or convenience of the discussion upon which the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs entered; but he would say distinctly that the Church of Scotland had no fear of discussion. What the Church of Scotland had cause to object to was the amount of misstatement so freely put forward in regard to her position. The hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs referred to more than one document that had been put forward on be half of the Established Church, one of which was put forward two years ago, and the other within the last three days; but he (Mr. Dalrymple) wished to refer to another document that had been very liberally furnished, and which was entitled "The Disestablishment of the Scotch Church;" and as the first words that occurred in that document were the name of the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs, he sup posed that hon. Gentleman knew something about it. That document contained an extraordinary amount of misstatement on the subject of the Church of Scotland, and it was surprising to him to see at the bottom of it the name of a well-known and highly respected layman, who, he thought, would have taken pains to verify the facts to which he appended his name before he held himself responsible for them. That document had caused great astonishment to many people in Scotland. What was to be thought of the statement that less than one-third of the church-going people attended the Established Church? What was to be thought of the statement that many of the supporters of 46 the Established Church now admitted the injustice of maintaining it? Where was the foundation for such a statement? The remarks of the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs tended to show that there was a feeling in favour of Disestablishment even among members of the Church of Scotland. One other thing he would notice in that document. It was the statement as to the failure of the parochial system. Now, had it not been for that document, he should have been ignorant of the failure of the parochial system; and he should like to know what would happen to the poor of Scotland if it were not for the parochial system? Something had been said by the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs about numbers. He (Mr. Dalrymple) was bound to say that there was no argument he cared less for than that of numbers. At the same time, when the question of numbers was brought up and a good deal was founded upon it, then it became necessary to say a word or two about the matter. He observed that the hon. Member referred to a want of accurate information upon this subject. Why was there a want of accurate information on the subject? Because the hon. Member and those who thought with him objected to a religious Census being taken. Though they were not allowed to have a religious Census in Scotland, it was not at all impossible to have an amateur Census. He had read an amusing account of the particular Sunday on which the amateur Census was taken. He was told that in Glasgow the amount of traffic in the streets on that day was greater than had been known for years before. People who were bedridden were brought at the peril of their lives to be counted; and he had heard of cases where persons were actually dragged out of bed to be counted. They had two Returns of the number of communicants of the Established Church—the Return moved for by the late Mr. Edward Ellice, in 1874, and the Return moved for by Mr. Duncan M'Laren in 1878. There had been little said about those Returns since they were laid before the House, because they were not in favour of the cause which the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs advocated. There was just one set of figures with which he would trouble the House. It appeared that during the last 10 47 years the communicants of the Church of Scotland had increased by 83,000 odd; whereas the increase of the two other large Presbyterian Bodies in Scotland had only been 31,000 odd, showing a majority of 52,000 in favour of the Established Church. The population of Scotland had increased in 10 years by 11 per cent. In the same period the increase of the United Presbyterian Church had been 8¼ per cent; the increase of the Free Church 3.8 per cent; whereas the increase of the Church of Scotland had been 18 per cent. He should like to refer to the Glasgow Presbytery, which was regarded as the stronghold of the United Presbyterian Body. In 10 years the Church of Scotland within the bounds of Glasgow Presbytery had increased 32 per cent; the Free Church had increased 15 per cent; and the United Presbyterian Church had increased 13 per cent; while the population in the district had increased 18 per cent. The hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs made some remarks as to the increase of member ship of the Church of Scotland, and threw some ridicule upon it, as if it were incredible. What the Church of Scotland deplored was the number of people who were still connected with no religious denomination. While desiring to do justice to the Church of Scotland in connection with the increase of its membership, he heartily wished to see the increase in the membership of other religious Bodies keep pace with it, because he believed in that way there would be a chance of overtaking the whole population of the country. The hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs had referred with ridicule to the Return of the Registrar General for 1880. That Return showed that marriages were celebrated in the churches of the different Presbyterian denominations to the number of almost 80 per cent, and out of that number the Church of Scotland was responsible for 46 per cent. The hon. Member, in his desire to prove a changed condition of the Presbyterian Bodies in Scotland from the year 1690, attempted to show that all the other Bodies that did not belong to the Established Church were in favour of Disestablishment. A contention of that kind was totally destitute of foundation, because it was well known that outside Presbyterian Bodies altogether there was 48 no desire on the part of the other large Bodies of the country for Disestablishment. The Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches were not in favour of Disestablishment; and a large section of the laity of the Free Church were also quite opposed to Disestablishment. He hesitated to enter on the subject of teinds, except to saythis—that he thought every statement by the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs with regard to teinds came very badly from him, because when the present Government, at the beginning of this Parliament, endeavoured to deal with the question, they were stoutly opposed by the hon. Member, for fear it would benefit the Established Church. He contended that there never was a Church which did more good for less payment. It was hard to say why this particular moment was chosen for an attack on the Church of Scotland. Sometimes it was said because the Church was weak, therefore its maintenance could not be defended. At other times it was said the Church was getting so strong that if they did not disestablish it now, it never would be disestablished at all. The hon. Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. Elliot) alluded to the case of the Church in the Highland districts. He thought it was only fair to say that, whatever might be the condition of the Church of Scotland in the Highlands, there was no feeling in favour of Disestablishment in the Highlands. This was not the time either to attack the Church of Scotland or enter into a defence of it. The real defence of the Church of Scotland was to be found, not in any enumeration of membership, or in any enumeration of her acts of liberality and munificence in the past and at the present time, but in her quiet work throughout the country; in the creation of many new parishes; in the provision she made for the poor in large cities and in new districts of the country; in the ministrations of religion carried to the remotest corners of the land; in her increased tolerance and comprehensiveness, and in her abundant adaptation to the circumstances of the time. He believed that if the Church was only found in pursuit of these things, and not engaging needlessly in controversy, when her time of trial really came the motley company of her opponents would need all their artillery if they would dislodge her from the position she 49 now enjoyed in the confidence of the people of the country.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, he objected to be led into a discussion of Disestablishment. The Bill now before the House was limited in its scope, and was confined simply to the exemption, of certain persons who were now subject to assessment. Not a single Member who had addressed the House from the other side had said a word in favour of the Bill, and no argument had been used to meet the objections that had been taken to the Bill by the hon. Member for Roxburghshire. He (Sir Edward Colebrooke) was not opposing this Bill as an enemy of the Church of Scotland. He was friendly to that Church; but having said that much, he must say that he thought there were good and valid grounds of objection to the manner in which these ecclesiastical assessments were made on the property of Scotland, and there was a grievance which demanded the attention of the House. He had great doubts, however, whether the Bill now before the House would be accepted by those on whose behalf it was framed—namely, the heritors of Scot land. No one could say that the present arrangement was satisfactory. He believed if the Government would bring in a measure for the purpose of com muting the existing burdens, giving adequate payment for a certain number of years, and limiting the payment of the Church of Scotland to the amount, it might obviate many of the objections now raised. The Bill of the hon. Member for the University of Glasgow made such an advance towards the Voluntary system that it really amounted to a concession almost of the whole principle of church rates advocated by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock Burghs. He listened with great attention to the statement of the hon. Member for the University of Glasgow to know whether he proposed his scheme on the ground of right and law, or on the ground of expediency; but he was not quite clear on what ground he rested his case. The statement was put forward on behalf of the Church of Scotland to the effect that this was a renewal of the state of the law which existed up to 80 years ago; but he should like to know from the Lord Advocate how far his legal know ledge confirmed the statement. He denied in toto the statement that this was 50 originally a direct charge on the heritors, on the land of the country. The charge was on the parishioners; and it was not a direct charge on the property of the country. In reality, this charge had been established by a self-made law, and it had been interpreted as a charge upon the property which bears all other local burdens. He did not think the Mover of this Bill was so well qualified to speak on behalf of the heritors as of the Church of Scotland; and he did not think the Bill would be received as an equitable adjustment by the heritors. In any case, it was one fraught with injustice. It gave exemption on no valid principle, and therefore it ought to be rejected by the House. He had only one difficulty, and that was that the only counter proposition before the House was that of the hon. Member for Roxburghshire, which did not oppose assessments at all, but only objected to levying them for one religious community. That would mean that assessments were to be upheld, provided they were applied to the purposes of the other Churches. He regretted that the hon. Member had not moved that the Bill be read a second time this day six months, and he should make that Motion himself if he had the opportunity.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
said, that he was unable to support the Bill. It was complicated and very difficult to work, and the Valuation Roll which would have to be prepared in accordance with this Bill would be intricate and misleading. The hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs (Mr. Dick-Peddie) had brought into this discussion what was wholly irrelevant—that was to say, the great question of Disestablishment. The hon. Member had alluded to the great wish of the people of Scotland for Disestablishment, as shown by the fact that the hon. Member for St. Andrew's (Mr. Williamson) had beaten a candidate who was against Disestablishment in 1880. He would point out how it was that the hon. Member for St. Andrew's obtained the votes of Churchmen. The hon. Member made no allusion to the question of Disestablishment or Establishment in his address.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
said, he accepted the correction. When the hon. Member for Kilmarnock Burghs 51 himself was before his electors, he said—Knowing that he was supported warmly by many Churchmen in the burghs, as warmly as by any Voluntary, he would not seek to push forward the Church question, though, when the time came, he would certainly vote for Disestablishment.
I wish to say that there is no accuracy whatever in that quotation. I never said these words.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
said, he referred to the speech of the hon. Member as given in The Scotsman news paper, and he certainly found there the same words.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
said, that if he wanted any accurate information with regard to Scottish measures and the speeches of hon. Members he always looked to The Scotsman, and he generally found it correct. The hon. Member for St. Andrew's stated that lie adhered to the views of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) on the subject of Disestablishment; but the right hon. Gentleman had disavowed altogether any intention of allowing the question of Disestablishment or alteration of the Scottish Church to be brought forward in this Parliament. He should like to refer to what the hon. Member for Kilmarnock Burghs said as to the great preponderance of the people of Scotland in favour of Disestablishment. He had a few statistics with regard to the different Churches in Kilmarnock itself. The Church to which the hon. Gentleman belonged had a great many congregations—the congregations had very few members. There were four United Presbyterian Churches in Kilmarnock with an average membership of 461 each, or 1,844 altogether. In the same town there were four Established Churches with an average of 680 members. In Kilmarnock Presbytery there were 30 congregations of the United Presbyterian Church with an average of 266 Members, and 22 Established Churches with an average of 645 members. There fore, although the number of churches of the United Presbyterian denomination might be greater in a certain place, the number of the people attending these churches was far smaller 52 as compared with the Established Church. The cause of this was that the United Presbyterian Church, to which the hon. Member belonged, dealt only with the wealthy well-to-do people, having no poor, or, rather, few poor among their congregations. They had none of the rural population. They dealt only in towns; and, therefore, they could afford to pay their ministers better than any of the other Churches except some of the Established Churches in towns. The United Presbyterians in Edinburgh had 69 congregations, with an average of 401 members; the Established Church had 50 congregations, with an average of 754 communicants. In Glasgow the United Presbyterian Church had 87 congregations, with an average of 523 members; and the Established Church had 91 congregations, with an average of 642 members. In the Highlands the United Presbyterian Church had only 24 congregations. In the Lowlands there were 514 congregations with 168,649 members, or an average of 328. The Established Church had 1,060 congregations, with 482,000 members, which gave an average number of 455 members. That showed that throughout the whole of Scotland the congregations of the United Presbyterian Church were very much smaller than the congregations of the Established Church. The Kilmarnock United Presbyterian Church appeared to be in difficulties with regard to their contributions to the Church. In 1880 the Kilmarnock United Presbyterian Presbytery contributed £2,434; in 1881, £1,667; in 1882, £2,681; last year, £1,820; and this year only £870. That fluctuation showed rather against the Voluntary system. The hon. Member spoke as the advocate of Scotland; but he quite forgot that two or three years ago he got a vote of censure from his constituents because he put forward this question. It was very important to notice that the support of the Disestablishment movement was chiefly confined to the towns; but he might say that there were no people in the country so strong in favour of the principle of an Established Church as the Highlanders who attended the Free Church. They knew that at present they were dependent on the surplus funds in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and they wished to be independent of that aid. A short time 53 ago the Free Church issued a Com mission to inquire into the condition of the agricultural labourers; and they reported that throughout the country generally, excluding the Highlands, the large proportion of the agricultural class professed to belong to the Established Church, and yet their Report recommended the Disestablishment of the Church. The hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) referred to the case of the Rev. Mr. Macrae. That gentleman was turned out of the United Presbyterian Church in a very harsh and high-handed way indeed. He believed there was more freedom and far less bigotry and intolerance in a Church which was regulated by the people through the State. The hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs (Mr. Dick-Peddie) had defended the case of the 600,000 persons who, he said, at tended no church at all. He was sure they would be very grateful to the hon. Member for having encouraged them in their irreligious views. There was one thing to be noticed about the Dissenting Churches, and that was the enormous amount of money they collected and spent without any audit on behalf of the public. They appointed their own auditors. He had proposed more than once a Royal Commission to inquire into the condition of the Scottish Churches, and he regretted very much that that had not been adopted by the General Assembly. If the Government were to appoint such a Commission to go into the whole question of the disagreements of the Presbyterian Churches in Scotland, it might do a great deal to remove the disastrous state of things which now existed.
§ LORD COLIN CAMPBELL
said, that the description of the state of discipline in the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland given by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) had put him in mind of the story of his countryman who was reproached by his minister for not believing in the doctrine of eternal punishment, and who gave it as his explanation that he did not believe any human constitution could stand it. It was a question whether they were not wasting their time in trying to reform and renovate institutions which, according to the hon. Member for Glasgow, would ever be places of intolerable torment. He did not think the debate was one 54 of small importance, or that the responsibility of those who brought it on could very easily be exaggerated. He was interested to observe that the Mover of the Bill, with some precipitancy, took care to throw that responsibility upon the shoulders of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. As anybody might have foreseen, it had resulted in a debate which had raised the whole question of the position of the Church of Scotland and her relations to the Scottish people. He could not think that the time which had been chosen for the introduction of this Bill was favourable, or that it would do much to promote the end in view. He had shared, and still shared, the opinion that it was possible, by introducing certain reforms into the laws regulating the maintenance of the Church of Scotland, to mitigate, in some degree, the intense hostility and bitterness with which it had been, and was still, regarded by a great portion of the people of Scotland. But he could not conceive a greater mistake on the part of Parliament than to legislate on this subject on its own motion, and with out a distinct mandate from the people of Scotland. He could not forget that the Motion of which Notice had been repeatedly given by the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs (Mr. Dick-Peddie) still stood upon the Paper; and he thought it was impossible to dispute that if the House were disposed to give this Bill a second reading, it would virtually affirm, at least tacitly, the principle of Establishment; and he could well understand the objection which the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs had to having his flank turned, and the Resolution of which he had given Notice negatived by a side wind. It seemed to him that the hon. Member for the University of Glasgow (Mr. J. A. Campbell), and those who acted with him, had made a sortie from the fort before it had been actually besieged, and he should not be surprised if that should be the signal for an engagement along the whole line. It had been said that the Act for the abolition of patron age was likely to be the first step to wards Disestablishment; and he thought it was very likely that if this Bill, or any Bill of the kind, were to pass, it would be a second step in the direction of Disestablishment; and he doubted very much whether the people of Scot- 55 land might, in that case, be inclined to give time for a third step to be taken, or whether the edifice which they now thought to put upon a sure and renovated foundation would not be overwhelmed by the tide of public opinion. It seemed to him to be a tactical error to invite Parliament to reform an institution which a great body of the Scottish people believed could only be effectually reformed by Disestablishment. He thought they must be blind to every sign if they could longer entertain any hope that they could stave off the settlement of this question by touching the mere fringe of it. Parliament was bound to take warning by the reception which the Act for the abolition of patronage had received, and to recognize the fact that behind this Bill, as well as behind the abolition of the Patronage Act, there was lurking the great question of Establishment or no Establishment, and the cardinal point whether they were to have State recognition of religion or not. That question had been asked in Scotland, and a great agitation had arisen since the General Election of 1880. It was true that, owing to circumstances, that agitation had somewhat subsided; but it was impossible to say that the people of Scotland had given any definite answer upon it; and it appeared to him to be folly to attempt to legislate on that question on the very eve of passing, as they hoped to pass, that Reform Bill which might serve as the trumpet through which the people of Scotland would speak on this question. He did not think they should be led away by any vaunted prosperity of the Church of Scotland. There was no man in that House who believed more in the great and increasing prosperity of the Church of Scotland than he did; but if her hold upon the affections of the Scottish people was greater than some of them could remember, if her efforts had been greater, if she sent her missionaries to every quarter of the globe, and to parts whore some of them could remember, a few years ago, that none went—even if everything that was set forth in the paper which had been sent to Members of the House by the General Assembly—if every fact and every argument was strictly accurate and true, still he thought they were bound to remember that that increasing prosperity of the Church of Scotland, 56 and those increasing efforts which she had shown, had been, to a very largo extent, due to the beneficent competition of the Voluntary Churches. He did not know, and it would be left to the student of ecclesiastical history to say, what would have been the condition of the Church of Scotland if that sort of competition had not existed. With regard to the question of this Bill, and the grievances it was intended to remove, he knew well what those grievances were. He had had an opportunity among his own constituents to judge of the great bitterness and virulence which those grievances had aroused; and he, for his own part, had longed to do any thing to remove their grievances. It was not with them a mere paltry question of money. It was not the amount of the assessments of which they complained, He was convinced that their grievances centred in something far higher, and that it was to many of them the pain and degradation of feeling that when they complied with the law they were yielding to a principle which they believed to be wrong and irreligious, which meant to them the usurpation and the domination of "Caesar." He knew there might be some who would term that kind of feeling fanaticism. Well, if it were fanaticism.—and he was inclined to think that the opinion of the great body of the Nonconformist people of Scotland was becoming so intense on this question of Disestablishment that a great many of them might be tempted to think it was fanaticism—they were, at the same time, bound to admit that it was a kind of fanaticism that had been the backbone of Scotland, and with out which her history would be barren indeed. Being of this opinion, and desirable though it might be to remove those grievances connected with the Established Church, he could not think that it would be right to do what otherwise he would have considered an obligation on his part—namely, to sup port this Bill, defective though it might be in its machinery; because bethought the time was inopportune, and that the far larger question of Disestablishment must be first decided before Parliament undertook to settle this question; and he felt confident that when he did not support the second reading of this Bill his motives would not be misinterpreted.
§ MR. WILLIAMSON
said, he had not intended to take any part in the debate, but simply to vote for the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. Elliot); but since his name had been mentioned in connection with the Election of 1880, he wished to make an explanation. He thought the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs (Mr. Dick-Peddie) was not justified in the conclusions he had drawn in stating the result of the figures embodied in the Electoral Returns, because a considerable number of the members of the Established Church in the St. Andrew's Burghs had given him their hearty sup port. And he was also bound to correct the statement of the hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir Alexander Gordon), that in his election address he had not referred to the question of Disestablishment. He had referred to that question; and, so far as his memory served him, he had said that he did not think the religious interests of the country would suffer if all the Churches were placed upon an equality. He recommended that sentiment to the House and to the hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeenshire. Both the statements to which he referred were, therefore, to a certain extent, erroneous and irrelevant to the discussion. While he was on his feet, he would just offer a criticism which had not yet been brought to the notice of the House. He referred to Clause 6 of the Bill, in regard to which he did not see why burghal parishes should be exempted from the operation of the Bill. There were a considerable number of burghal parishes, and in some of them the hardship would be quite as great as in the rural parishes. He might cite the parish of Anstruther, where the church and manse of the Reformer James Melville were both built after the Reformation by the voluntary contributions of the people. But if anything happened to that old manse, which was now tottering, the whole of the in habitants would be assessed for its repair; and he did not see the justice of that. Then, again, Clause 10 seemed to be a clumsy attempt to form a coalition between the voluntary support of religion or religious edifices and compulsory assessments for that purpose. He was sure that attempt would fail. For these and other reasons, he had no hesitation in supporting the Amendment.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) had referred to the discipline exercised by the various denominations. It was a reason able inference that those gentlemen who were expelled—the one from the ministry and the other from the professorship—were so expelled on the sole ground that they were teaching doctrines subversive of the belief of the majority of the ministers of their Church; and he did not think his hon. Friend was justified in speaking of these Churches as actuated by either intolerance or bigotry in acting as they did. The hon. Gentleman who had introduced this Bill had not been quite accurate in the description he had given of it. He stated in the Memorandum accompanying the Bill that the duty of supporting the Church was originally imposed on the heritors; but the terms of the Act were not that the burden should be laid upon the heritors, but on the whole of the parishioners. He had been asked this morning by the right hon. Gentleman then occupying the seat from which he was now speaking what was the reason of their having church rates in Scotland since they had none in England, the law on that subject having been changed in 1868 on the Motion of the present Prime Minister. He expected that the hon. Gentleman who brought in this Bill would have given some explanation, of the grounds on which it was proposed to perpetuate a burden upon land in Scotland when they had done away with all similar burdens in England. He could conceive no other reason for it but that the Parliament of England did not do that justice to Scotland which it secured for the people of England. He had a large acquaintance among landowners in Scotland, and he was not aware of one who de sired that these church rates should be perpetuated in Scotland. He believed the wealth of the members of the Established Church in Scotland was quite sufficient to meet the deficiency that would arise from the abolition of those rates, and he demurred altogether to their perpetuation. He did not think it would be injurious to the Church of Scotland. On the contrary, it would increase the voluntary action of that Church, and lead to an improvement in the feeling of the people towards the Church, greater than they could imagine. On these grounds he cordially supported the 59 Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
On the part of the Government I have to say that we cannot accept this Bill; but that, on the contrary, we shall give our support to the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. Elliot). In the course of the debate several references have been made to the law applicable to the assessments with which this Bill is concerned, and I have been more than once invited to make some statement in regard to that law. I shall not go into that in any detail; but I shall very shortly make such a statement relative to the law, as I understand it, as may seem to be material for the purpose of understanding this Bill, and the criticisms which I shall offer upon it. It has been stated, and stated quite correctly, that some time in the 16th century it was enacted that assessments should be imposed for the purpose of building and maintaining ecclesiastical structures. I need not cite the Acts. They have been referred to already; but what I have stated is the substance of them. It has also been correctly stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay) that the word used in the enactment is not "heritors," but "parishioners;" but by judicial inter pretation the word "parishioners" has been held to mean "heritors," so that, in the result, the enactment has been interpreted as imposing these assessments upon heritors. But, Sir, while the Act was thus held to lay the burden upon heritors, there was not in it, nor in any subsequent enactment, any provision fixing the standard or basis of assessment; and, accordingly, it was left open to practice and to decisions to settle what that standard or basis should be. I do not find any evidence that that question came before the Courts for a considerable time; but undoubtedly in the latter part of the 18th century it was raised in the Courts, and it appeared that there had grown up a use or custom in landward parishes of laying the assessment upon the heritors according to what is known as the "valued rent," whereas in burghs it was generally laid on according to the "real rent;" and the question in the Peterhead case was how you should deal with what is called a landward burghal parish—that is, a parish par- 60 taking partly of the one character and partly of the other. It has been correctly stated that in such parishes there had frequently been a custom of lowing the assessment according to the valued rent in. the landward part, and on the real rent in the burghal part; but in the Peterhead case the common standard of liability in both cases was held to be the real rent. I think it is necessary further to offer a word of explanation in regard to how the real rent came to be taken, because it seems to me that, in this discussion and in other discussions relating to this matter, the valued rent has been spoken of as if there were some mystery or sanctity attaching to it different from the real rent. What was the valued rent? It simply was the rent which was ascertained to be the true or real rent upon a valuation made before the Restoration. Inasmuch as there was no annual valuation made of the lands and heritages in Scotland at that time, or until 1854, this old valued rent was taken as a convenient basis. But it began to be, and I have not the slightest doubt continued through the greater part of the 18th century to be, taken as the basis because it still represented substantially the real value of the land. Of course, the real value of the land was every day drifting away from the valued rent; and, certainly, it had done so greatly by the end of the last century, and then, if the assessment was to be made a just one, the necessity of imposing it according to the actually existing value of the land more clearly appeared. When that is kept in view, I think it will be seen that the proposal contained in this Bill, of reverting to the valued rent, not with standing the contrary practice of some where over 80 years, would be utterly indefensible in principle. I venture to say that, historically, no greater change in the value or mode of occupation of land has taken place in any country than in Scotland during those 80 years; and to revert now to the valued rent, which was originally adopted as being a fail-index of the real value, after more than 200 years have elapsed since the valuation represented by the "valued rent" was made, would be to adopt a rule of assessment having no relation to the present actual value of the property possessed by the several heritors. That is one fundamental objection to the whole principle of the Bill. I have 61 thought it necessary to make that explanation, because the Memorandum attached to the Bill, and also the very clear speech of my hon. Friend in introducing the Bill, might have left an impression that there was something in the valued rent which had a statutory authority, or an authority arising otherwise than from custom in this matter which should be preserved. But when it is kept in view that this was an assessment laid on a class of persons interpreted to mean "heritors," I think the House will be satisfied that primâ facie that assessment should be laid upon all heritors according to the value of their land at the time when the assessment is imposed. That is plain, and the decisions of the Courts and the practice have drifted in that direction. The rule of the real rent has been applied to land ward parishes where there are railways which bring in a great deal of value, yet have no valued rents. I will explain Low small holders of land are seldom valued rent heritors. The old valuation was, of course, taken in the names of the persons who then held the land, and was made merely for the purpose of allocating the cess or land tax, a burden of insignificant amount. Accordingly, it was scarcely worth anybody's while, when selling land, to use the statutory powers which existed for getting the valued rent divided. It thus often hap pens now that the roll or list of the valued rent heritor is totally different from the roll or list of the real holders of land, because, when men have parted with land, they have not divided the valued rent. I think the House will see that the notion of doing at this time anything not only to perpetuate, but to revert to a system of that kind, would be retrograde and entirely unjust—even taking the basis of this assessment, assuming it to be a good assessment—apart from all other objections which I shall immediately state. This is an assessment upon heritors, and in respect of land, which, when rightly assessed, should be primâ facie on all land, and upon all holding the status of heritors. It has been stated, and quite truly, that when the real rent came to be taken as the measure, it brought in certain persons, small holders, commonly called feuars. That is rather a popular designation, because all holders of land outside burghs in 62 Scotland are feuars of one kind or an other; and, accordingly, in discussions of this kind, while Scotchmen quite understand what is meant by feuars, it is only right to say that the term is popularly used to designate owners of small pieces of land on which they have usually built a dwelling-house. This being so, it is quite plain that if the assessment is a right and just assessment, there is nothing in its nature which would lead to feuars being exempted. The circumstance of the real rent being resorted to made feuars and the smaller holders aware, for the first time, of the liability which had hitherto been hanging in the air, but had never come down upon them, because of another method of assessment being adopted. It is quite true that when these small holders came to be assessed they felt it to be a great hardship and a great grievance. I agree that it is so. But they were not the only people who felt it to be a grievance; and I think, from the explanation I have given, it is very difficult to say that there is any sound legal principle for assessing the large heritor and exempting the small heritor. But the grievance has been keenly felt by small holders; and if the assessment is not to be laid upon small holders, the question comes to be —is it a kind of tax that should be put upon the land at all?—because, if it is to be put upon land at all, large and small holders should bear it alike. What does this Bill propose to do? I am not sure that on a first reading its precise scope will be seen. This Bill admits in the largest way that it is not a just principle to assess these rates upon laud, and it makes the rates voluntary up to a certain point. Then it stops short, and while it proposes, by way of exemption, to make the rates voluntary as regards some persons, it leaves the rates compulsory in regard to others. Now, where is the principle for that? I should like to point out how it is that under this Bill the principle of compulsory rating land for ecclesiastical buildings is practically given up. There are two exemptions contained in the Bill. One is the exemption of all lands and heritages occupied solely as a church or burial-ground attached to a religious body, or a dwelling-house and garden provided for the minister of such church; and the second exemption is of all lands, with 63 or without houses or buildings, under £4. If these were regarded by the framers of the Bill as exemptions in the ordinary sense—if there was some ground consistent with the principle of the assessment for making these exemptions—then the natural result would have been to throw the burden of what was lost by these exemptions on the other lands in the parish. But they felt they could not do that. When you exempt a man from poor rates on the ground of poverty, you do not call upon someone to come for ward with a bond, undertaking to make good the rates of which he is relieved. The framers of this Bill felt they could not throw the loss on the other lands, because that would be making one bit of land pay for another bit of land—an untenable position. What, then, do they do? They provide that where any proceeding is inaugurated for the building or repairing of an ecclesiastical structure, two or more persons shall come forward practically to give a guarantee for a sum equal to that, which, but for the passing of the Act, would have been leviable on the lands and heritages thereby exempted from assessment—that is to say, it makes voluntary this perfectly arbitrary amount, which will depend on the number of churches and manses belonging to other persuasions, and the number of holdings under £4. And who are the people who are thus to come forward? As far as I see, they need to have no connection with the parish at all. It is anybody, and, accordingly, this extraordinary state of matters is brought about. Suppose no body comes forward with the requisite guarantee, the ecclesiastical buildings can never be touched. But suppose you do get somebody to come forward with this bond, see what the result will be. Suppose there is an intention to repair a church in Ross-shire or Sutherland shire, and nobody belonging to these counties comes forward. Is it intended that volunteers from the great towns should be allowed to tender the bond, and to what effect? To the effect not only of inaugurating the building or the repairing of the ecclesiastical structures, but also of causing the people in the parish to be assessed. Under this proposal, you would leave it at the will and option of any of Her Majesty's subjects, by coming forward with this bond, or not coming forward, to say whether the 64 land in a particular parish is to be assessed. I put it to the House whether anything like that has over been proposed to the Legislature? I say it has not; therefore this Bill is subject to that criticism. The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) said that no one had denied the suitability of the remedy, and that no one had criticized this Bill on its merits. I am venturing to do both. I say the remedy is altogether unsuitable and altogether unworkable. But that is only one thing. It results from admitting these exemptions, and making this requirement, for some volunteer to come forward and guarantee the amount lost by these exemptions, that the whole principle of compulsory assessment is given up, and when that principle is given up, its surrender should have been carried out to its logical conclusion. That is what my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire proposes to do. That objection strikes very deeply at the root of what is done in this Bill, and will be found to go much further than, perhaps, its promoters contemplated. But I would ask, if there is to be exemption, why should the exemption be limited to these particular cases? If this is a proper burden on land, as it must be assumed to be by those who propose to keep it up as to the rest, why should the use of land for a religious building or a manse lead to its being exempted, or why should holdings under £4 be exempted? I suppose the reason is that anyone connected with another religious communion whose building was assessed would have his feelings offended; but, if that is so, it would equally offend his feelings to be assessed in respect of his house and land. The principle admitted by the Bill would thus go much further than its promoters are prepared to go. Then the £4 exemption is a very singular one. The Bill says there is to be this exemption only if a man does not happen to have other land in a parish bringing it over £4. That is also a principle which would go much further than is intended. It is further to be observed that, while in the first instance the guarantee is, apparently, a voluntary one, there are some very singular provisions contained in the Bill, which, as I read it, are intended to recoup the people who have undertaken the guarantee, and these 65 are provisions which do not seem to be consistent with the idea of a National Church. Hitherto, in a landward parish, every parishioner has had a right to a seat in the parish church. That is an article which lies at the foundation of the whole thing. Prom this it follows that nobody in a landward parish has a right to let seatsc—ertainly not to let seats until everybody in the parish is accommodated. It is doubtful whether the rule goes further; but this Bill proposes, amongst other things, to provide, that in allocating the area of a church there may be a certain number of seats given to the kirk-session; and one of the most singular features of the Bill is that it proposes, that when persons do not use some of the voluntary powers contained in the Bill — that is to say, do not choose to renounce its benefits, as far as they are benefits—they are not to get seats allocated to them, though they are heritors and parishioners, while the parts of the area of the church which they do not take are to be given to the kirk-session, and one of the things the kirk-session can do is to let those seats. But there is no limitation as to the persons to whom the seats may be let. No parishioner will pay rent as he is entitled to sit free; and, therefore, I presume it is intended that those seats are to be let to persons who are not parishioners. That is a novel proposal, to take away a part of the area of a parish church, and let it to people who probably will not be parishioners, without any safeguard that the parishioners shall be satisfied. There is no such provision or safeguard in this Bill, and I say that is a very grave defect, and an indefensible innovation on the whole principle upon which ecclesiastical affairs have hitherto been regulated. It has been pointed out during this discussion that the measure or standard of valuation proposed to be adopted by this Bill is altogether novel; and, as far as I can see, it is not sustained by any sound principle whatever. It has been pointed out, also, that the value is to be taken, speaking generally, exclusive of buildings—that is to say, you are not to take laud as you find it, but you are to take laud as you do not find it. One would suppose that every thing that was a proper burden on land would, naturally, be on the land as it is now; but the hon. Member for the 66 University of Glasgow proposes to strip buildings off the land, but he does not propose to do that consistently, because he does not propose to strip off the farm houses—in other words, he proposes the artificial and differential valuation of the land. He proposes, I suppose, prairie value for the sites of dwelling houses; but he proposes that agricultural buildings should be paid for as they are. Is the notion this, that you are to take the land as it was in the 16th century? Can that be carried out consistently? There are very few farm-houses now that were then in existence. They have been erected since; and there is nothing in which greater improvements have been made than in farm-houses. Why should that sort of improvement be treated differently from other improvements? And it is not only in farm buildings that improvements have been made in the last two centuries. A very large part of the face of the country, previously waste and wild, has by drainage and culture been brought into a state of high cultivation. All that is to be valued as it stands. That kind of improvement is not to be discounted—in fact, this Bill proposes to go into endless inconsistencies, in support of which I have not heard one word of argument adduced. It would lead to immense difficulty and immense complication. There is to be a new column, in the Valuation Roll made up once in 10 years, not on existing value, but on a hypothetical value, or, I suppose, prairie value, of the site of every house. By one of the clauses of the Bill it is positively proposed that the assessor who makes up this Roll is to ask the owners of land for a return of the value of the land as if there was no house upon it. How can he answer such a question? And yet, if the man does not answer it, he is to be under a statutory penalty. This would throw our whole system into confusion. I point out these things for the sake of showing that while hon. Members who are promoting this Bill have taken means for pacifying those who feel the grievance most acutely, they are increasing the grievance upon, others, and they are introducing principles altogether novel in respect to assessment for which I have not heard one single argument advanced. What does my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire say? Whether he was staggered Ly the strangeness of the 67 proposals of the Bill or not I cannot say. But he says, in substance—"You have got hold of a sound principle—a measure for making charges for ecclesiastical buildings voluntary; carry out that principle to its logical conclusion." If the words suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for North Lanarkshire (Sir Edward Colebrooke) were omitted from the Amendment—namely, "belonging to one religious denomination"—I think my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire would say in substance to the promoters of the Bill—"You yourselves have admitted it is not a sound principle to make a general compulsory assessment applicable to ecclesiastical buildings." It seems very difficult to resist that—at all events, when we have to deal with a Bill which virtually admits the principle of leaving the matter voluntary and dependent upon guarantors coming forward having no connection with the parish. If that is sound, then the logical result is—" Do not have any compulsory assessment at all." Without delaying the House further, I think I have said enough to show that the ad missions involved in this Bill are sufficient to carry us that length, and that the Bill itself is impracticable and unworkable.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
It is not my intention to follow the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate into the discussion of the legal matters into which he has entered. What I wish to point out is, that if the course to be taken by those who oppose the Bill is not merely to reject the Bill on its second reading, but to substitute in its place the Resolution of the hon. Member for Roxburghshire, that is a very serious step, because they are laying down a principle which admits of very wide application. It may be perfectly true that the objections of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate may be found on examination to render a reconstruction of the Bill necessary; but if the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Government are prepared not only to say that this Bill does not satisfy them, and that they cannot accept the principle laid down in it, but that we must go on, and lay down the principle that no measure is satisfactory which proposes to continue provision for the maintenance of ecclesiastical buildings belonging to one religious denomination, we are committing ourselves to 68 the principle, and we are going directly in the direction of Disestablishment. That may not be the intention of hon. Members in voting for the Bill; but the vote will remain on record, establishing a principle adopted by the House in this year 1884, and it will be used as a starting point for further inroads upon the principle of Establishment. For that reason I cannot help thinking that the position taken up is one that is much more formidable than would be expected from the speech of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate. That speech seemed to me to be very much in favour of the Establishment, and to find fault with the Bill for departing from that principle; but the Amendment seems to go in an opposite direction, and if accepted the consequences may be of a serious character.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, that the Amendment represented the attitude of the former opponents of church rates in this country, who said—"If you will not go the whole length with us, we will not allow you to apply remedies for the re dress of acknowledged grievances. "The opponents of the Bill did not wish it to pass, because it would enable the Church of Scotland to do its work better than it could at present.
§ MR. A. R, D. ELLIOT
said, that after the speech of the Lord Advocate he would ask permission to withdraw the Amendment, in order that, on the suggestion of the Lord Advocate, the words "belonging to one religious denomination" might be omitted.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 103; Noes 160: Majority 57.—(Div. List, No. 116.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.