§ * MR. DILLWYN (Swansea)
Mr. Speaker, the Church of England was established by the State to provide religious instruction and religious administrations for the people of this country. It extended its operations to Wales as well as to England, and it created machinery for carrying on its operations. It calls itself the National Church, but it seems to me that in order to warrant the assumption of such a position it should include within its fold the great bulk of the people of the country in which it is established. Considering its internal dissensions, and having regard to the fact that great numbers of people have withdrawn from it, I very much doubt whether it can claim that title even in England; but whatever may be the case in England, it is quite clear that the Church has no claim to the title in Wales. So far from the bulk of the people of Wales belonging to the Church of England the majority, the overwhelming majority, of the population are decidedly opposed to it. It is an offence to the people, and it deserves to be so. In its early days the Church had a free hand in Wales; it had no opposition and was enabled to do pretty much as it liked, and it signally and disgracefully failed to perform the functions allotted to it. There were four dioceses in Wales, and a great number of the incumbencies were in the hands of the Bishops, and others were in the hands of the great families of this country. Instead, however, of seeking to evangelize or to teach the people religion the clergymen of the Church appeared to have had but one object in view, and that was to make as much money as they could. The Bishops appointed their own relatives and friends to the incumbencies. Many of them never went near their dioceses but appointed curates, many of whom were men of very indifferent character. In many 71 instances the Church in Wales seemed to be viewed as a fit institution to send into the black sheep of great families. The clergy were immoral men and drunkards and they altogether failed in their duty; they, indeed, taught the people evil instead of good. We have very little time to discuss this question to-night, and therefore I shall abridge my remarks as much as possible. I shall for instance use very few quotations, but I must use these in order to show that I am not over-stating the case with regard to the conduct of the Welsh clergy. I have here a quotation from The Visitation of Dr. Bailey, the Bishop of Bangor, in 1623. With regard to Llandisilio, he tells us "there have been but two sermons here in the last twelve months." With regard to the parish of Llandensant, he says:—The curate here is presented for not reading service in due time and for not reading of homilies and for not registering christenings, weddings, and burials. They had but three sermons here since last Whitsuntide twelvemonth. The said curate is presented for haunting of alehouses for being often overseen in drink; also for omitting to read the Litany most commonly, and also for brawling and quarreling with his parishioners and others.Here is another quotation with respect to Aberdaron:—Sir Griffith Piers, vicar, is presented. A dead child of Hugh Thomas lay unburied from Saturday to Sunday, for that the vicar could not be found to bury the same. Also that the said vicar came to read prayers upon a Sunday, and was not well, but seemed to be overseen by drink, and after the evening prayer went to the alehouse. Also that the said vicar being warned upon Saturday to come and bury one upon Sunday did not come at all neither to bury the dead nor to read service here that day.Here is another. Hon. Members, what is the date? From 1602 to 1642. [Ministerial ironical cheers]. We shall have something to say about the present state of things. The Rev. R. Pritchard, himself a clergyman, writes:—Licentiousness, drunkenness, dishonesty, falsehood, and infidelity, are rampant through the Principality; Judges and juries sympathize with drunken murderers, and permit extortioners to rob widows and orphans. Sheriffs and their deputies plunder innocent people by virtue of their offices. The Lord's day is a day for drunkenness, dancing, idleness, and wanton lewdness among the Welsh.In the middle of the eighteenth century, the Rev. Mr. Charles writes:—In those days the land was dark indeed. Hardly any of the lower ranks could read at 72 all. The morals of the country were very corrupt, and in this respect there was no difference between gentle and simile, laymen and clergymen; sluttony, drunkenness and licentousness prevailed throughout the whole country.Under these circumstances it is hardly to be wondered at that the Welsh first of all lost all sense of religion or nearly so, and in the second place lost all confidence and trust in the Church, which had so misused its advantages. There were, no doubt, in the English Church some earnest, honest men, who were shocked at the state of things throughout Wales and endeavoured to awaken the country to a better condition, but so far from being supported by their fellows, their good lives being a reproach to the evil doers, they were persecuted and driven out of the Church, by the Church itself. It is true there has been great reform in the Church of late years. Early in this century there were no clergymen who understood the language of the people, but some few years ago the Church awakened to its duties, and endeavoured to recover its position in some respects. Men were appointed to incumbencies who understood Welsh, and the clergy were more moral and better than they had been in the early days. In its early days the Welsh Church was little better than a happy hunting ground for immoral and corrupt men, men who were ashamed to live in their own country. Now it has become much better and it endeavours to fulfil its duty. But it is too late. It is not now a National Church. If it exists at all it is as a proselytizing Church. That is an additional grievance, because the great territorial influences in Wales are for the most part Church influences, and the people are often constrained to conform to the religion of their landlords. The fact that all the influence of landlords and of most of the employers is exerted to induce people to declare themselves Churchmen, considerably embitters the feeling against the Church in Wales. It is said that the Church people in Wales are gaining ground, but I do not think anybody will say they are in a majority. I doubt whether the hon. Members for Welsh constituencies, who may vote against this Motion, if there are any, will assert so much as that. It is admitted on all hands that the 73 Nonconformists in Wales are in an overwhelming majority. There has been no regular religious census taken; indeed, if one were attempted it would only lead to inquisition and persecution on the part of the landed proprietors, who have great influence, and who would not fail to exercise it. But I have here figures which have been compiled by a gentleman upon whom I can implicitly rely. According to his calculation the average attendance lately at churches and chapels in North Wales has been:—At Churches 86,438, at Chapels 317,078, or a difference in favour of the Chapels of 230,640. The return for South Wales has not been so fully made up, but I believe the following figures may be taken as substantially correct:—At Churches 78,195, at Chapels 423,077, or a difference in favour of the Chapels of 344,882. The attendances at Church Sunday Schools in North Wales have been lately 25,083, while those at Chapel Sunday Schools have been 136,522; in South Wales 22,842 in Church Schools, and 155,180 in Chapel Schools. In North Wales, therefore, the attendances are in proportion of seven at Chapels to two at Churches, and in South Wales of seven at Chapels to one in Churches, and no one can doubt that Nonconformity is the religion of Wales. One evidence of the feeling of Wales with regard to Dissent versus Church, is its Parliamentary representation. We know very well there is little chance of any man being returned as a representative of a Welsh constituency who is not in favour of the Disestablishment of the Church. The Welsh are strongly in favour of Disestablishment, and they are now putting forward their demand with great earnestness and determination. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the feeling against the Church is increasing in bitterness and strength. What are the tithe riots of which we have heard so much? I do not suppose the Welsh like imposts of any sort any more than other people, but I do not believe they would object to the payment of tithes so much as they do if they were persuaded that the tithes were being used for purposes which benefitted the country. They know that is not so, and that is why you have to employ police and sol- 74 diery to collect, not the rents of the landlords in Ireland, but the tithes of the clergymen. The Welsh are fast realizing the value of the treatment they have received at the hands of the English, and here let me read a passage from a speech of Lord Salisbury at Newport, a town which is not in Wales but in which the people speak Welsh, and the people of which earnestly sympathize with the Welsh in their struggle against the establishment of the Church. Lord Salisbury said—If the Church were disestablished in every part of the land, all the machinery by which God's word has been preached, by which Christianity has been upheld, by which all the ministrations of religion have been carried to suffering humanity, would be destroyed at one blow.The people there know perfectly well what has been done by the Church in Wales. What have we seen lately? Lord Salisbury flaunts the Church as the sole upholder of religion, but at this moment we see a Bishop of the Church of England being prosecuted — for what? For Nonconformity. The Prelate in question holds great place, great position, great revenues; he holds them upon certain conditions, and he is now being prosecuted for resolute and wilful disobedience to those conditions. That is not a pleasant state of things to contemplate. I might quote case after case, but I well content myself with one more extract. I will not go to Nonconformists. I quote dignitaries of the Church. The Bishop of Liverpool, in November, 1887, said, with regard to the Church, which Lord Salisbury spoke of as the sole upholder of religion in Wales:—The Church was in a most unsatisfactory condition. It was a Church without order and discipline; it was in a state of lawlessness, anarchy, chaos, and confusion, and, unless some remedy were applied, must make shipwreck. In short, in matters of discipline they were at present drifting like a ship without a rudder; the evils of the position were simply incalculable; party spirit increased in every diocese, diocesan institutions were starved and neglected, one man would not support them because he thought them too high, and another because he thought them too low. The advocates of disestablishment rejoiced to see them playing their game so well, and biting and devouring one another. The gulf between clergyman and clergyman became wider and wider every year, and ministers of the same Church kept aloof and separate from one another, as if they did not belong to the same communion. At the rate things were going on, 75 it would soon be impossible for the Bishop to ask candidates for orders, any questions about the Lord's Supper. If all that did not constitute a danger, he did not know what did.This is the description given by one of the lordships of the Church so lauded by Lord Salisbury. How he could have made such a vaunt I cannot say. I will not say he wilfully stated what he did not believe; no doubt he believed what he said, but he must have been profoundly ignorant of the views of the Welsh people, and I cannot understand how he should be ignorant of what Dissenters have done in Wales in contradiction to what the Church has done. I have alluded to what the Church did formerly in Wales and to its present position. But what have Dissenters done? The Church in Wales in former days almost destroyed religion, and would have done so absolutely but for the Dissenters. The late Dean of Bangor in a paper he read at Swansea, in 1879. said, "In 1715 there were but five Nonconformist Chapels in Wales." In 1879 there were 2,717 belonging to three denominations alone. There were in 1879 12 weekly journals and 18 magazines published in Welsh, and five-sixths of these were produced by Nonconformists. So these Nonconformists are bringing back religion to Wales, and educating the people in it. I could quote much more from the late Dean of Bangor, but let me now, leaving the dignitaries of the Church, refer to the evidence of a Peer—Lord Aberdare. He lives in Glamorganshire, and I know no man who knows Wales better. I do not agree with him on all points, but I do with this which he says of Wales:—The religion of the country would have died out if it had not been for the exertions of the Nonconformists.That is in South Wales. Now hear what the Bishop of Bangor says of North Wales.If every Church in Wales belonging to the Establishment were closed, there would still be ample accomodation for the whole population in the places of worship belonging to the Nonconformists.I thought I had done with references to the Dean of Bangor's Paper, but this I may quote. He says—Dissent in England is sporadic, and in Wales endemic; local in England, national in Wales. Five-sixths of the Welsh-speaking millions rea outside the Church.76 The people of Wales complain of your Establishment; they are a people who love freedom, and hate an Establishment for teaching them their religion; they prefer in religious matters to be left to their own arrangements. They were driven from the Church. The Church had once a position in Wales, but has lost it never to regain it. I know the country pretty well, and I have no doubt of that. The complaint we make, the appeal we make to the House, is that the English people are maintaining a Church, which is not the Church of Wales, but the Church in Wales. This is our whole quarrel with you; it is a statement confirmed by the great dignitaries of the Church of England; the Archbishop of Canterbury himself speaks in the same way; there is no Church of Wales, he says, there are four dioceses of the Church of England in Wales. The Dean of Llandaff, any other venerable and most highly respected dignitary of the Church speaks in the same way. An objection is sometimes urged against this Motion, that it contemplates changes that require the utmost deliberation, and would require legislation that must be taken up by a Government. Well, of course I should not dream of bringing in a Bill; that is the work of a Government; only to be carried through by a Government. It is argued, too, that Wales is really part of England. Part of our island it is, but the people are of a totally different nationality. Those who use that argument are Englishmen who do not know Wales. I am sure they would get no Welshmen to join their opinion. The people of the two countries are as distinct as two countries can be; there is more distinction, I think, than between England and Scotland or Ireland. They are distinct in thought, in habits, in manners, in laws; the Welsh have language differing from English more than any other, a language which is gaining ground, and, more than all, they differ in religion. I do not wish to go upon the religious ground at all. I wish to put this simply as a national question. We, as a nation, object to this institution you impose on us, and, as a nation, desire to see it abolished. It is said that we take this up as a political and Party question, but that is not the case. I have also heard it said that so far from this being a 77 Party question, that were this grievance removed we, the Liberal Party, would lose our strength and influence in Wales. I do not listen to the argument. I do not believe there is any truth in it. It may be so, and if it is so, then it is evidance of the bitterness and keenness with which Welshmen feel the position of Establishment, that they subordinate their political opinions to the desire to get rid of it. But I know Wales with a life-long knowledge, and have no fear that Welshmen will desert the Liberal cause. Their love of that cause is not due to this grievance they desire to get remedied; it is due to the same love of freedom that prevents them from accepting the Established Church. Welshmen will still remain true to their colours; but whether they do or not does not influence me in moving this Motion. I am not prompted by Party motives. I move in this matter because I believe our claim is founded on right and justice. We have the Irish and Scottish people with us, and a great portion of the English people are on our side. The English Nonconformists are with us as a body. A great section of the English people are satisfied with their Church, but of this I am sure, that if the position were changed, if a condition of things such as exists in Wales, obtained in England, and the Church were out of sympathy with the Nation as a whole, Disestablishment would not be delayed for one more Parliament, and the English people would sweep away the Establishment. What I have said as to the proportion of Churchman to Dissenters in Wales can be amply maintained, I ask the English people to do as they would be done by, to assist Wales in removing an Establishment which has failed in its duty, and which can not be maintained without a violation of justice and equity.
Motion made, and Question proposed,That, as the Church of England in Wales has failed to fulfil its professed object as a means of promoting the religious interests of the Welsh people, and ministers only to a small minority of the population, its maintenance as an Established Church in the Principality is an anomaly and an injustice which ought no longer to exist." — (Mr. Dillwyn.)
§ * MR. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
In rising to second this Motion, I hope I may be permitted 78 to express the deep regret I feel at the absence from among us of a late Member of the House, who discharged the duty now entrusted to me, on the last occasion when this subject was before us—a man who, for twenty years, was a respected and familiar figure on these Benches, and who for fifty years was the spokesman and representative of all that is best and purest in the character of my countrymen. As time presses, I will endeavour to narrow, as far as I properly can, the issues before us. I will not enter into the abstract question of the merits or the demerits of an Established Church, though, I confess, just now that is rather a tempting subject. Nor will I stop to argue with those who hold what I may call the "divine right" theory of the Church of England; who regard any infringement on her privileges, and any encroachment on her revenues, as an act of sacrilegious plunder. That doctrine, I think, received its death blow some twenty years ago, when Parliament disestablished, and disendowed the Irish Church; for if that great measure settled anything, it settled this—that a privileged Church cannot, as such, exist in this country, unless it fulfils two conditions; unless in the first place it comprises the clear and undoubted majority of the people, and secondly unless it is so intertwined, so interwoven with the moral and religious life of the people that you cannot uproot the one without inflicting a serious and, perhaps, a deadly blow on the other. That point was established by the Irish Church Act. Now I am perfectly willing to agree, for the sake of argument, that taking England by itself, the Established Church does, to a certain extent, fulfil one or the other of these conditions; but I emphatically deny that it fulfils them as regards Wales, or that, humanly speaking, it can, within any measureable distance of time fulfil either the one or the other. And now let me meet a preliminary objection. It really is the only argument worthy of the name that can be adduced against this Motion. We are told that as Wales is an integral part of England, therefore, the Church in Wales is an integral part of the Church in England; and, therefore, you cannot disestablish the one, without disestablishing the other. 79 Now it seems to me that argument is somewhat of a two-edged sword, for it could be used with quite as much effect for an attack upon the English Establishment as for the defence of the Welsh Establishment. But I pass from that, for I entirely deny the major premise, It may be perfectly true that there is an Act some 350 years old, an Act so musty, so antiquated, that no two Members of the Treasury Bench can agree whether it is in force or not—the Attorney General and the First Lord of the Treasury are at loggerheads on the subject—it may be true, I say, that by such an Act, Wales was politically incorporated with England. But surely, if we have not by this time learned that it requires something more than an Act of Parliament to stamp out a nationality and to fuse two nations into one, then the lesson of the last century has been sadly thrown away. The truth is that it is a lawyer's argument and not a statesman's argument; and I am not surprised that Lord Selborne, a lawyer of lawyers, should have urged it very strongly. He took the trouble to go down to Wales to tell Welshmen that they were no more entitled to call themselves a nationality than Yorkshiremen. All I can say is I think we ought to be exceedingly obliged to him, for if anything were wanted to make our seats safe it was the speech made by Lord Selborne. There is in Wales (and Monmouthshire, which is Welsh in everything but name) a population of about 1,700,000 — equal to half that of Scotland, and to about one-third of that of Ireland—and of these the great majority are divided from their English fellow-subjects, not merely by a physical barrier, not merely by a difference of race and temperament, but by the greatest barrier which can separate one nation from another,—the barrier of language. The Welsh have a language which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) says, is so far from dying out, that it is actually gaining ground. A language more unlike the English language than are one-half the languages on the Continent. If any hon. Member doubts that let him spend six months in trying to learn it, and I shall be very much surprised if at the end of that period, he can pronounce 80 the words which mean "Yes" and "No" in Welsh so that a Welshman can understand him. If ever there was a people entitled to distinctive treatment at the hands of Parliament, that people is the people of Wales. You have shown that by legislating on temperance and on educational questions from a Welsh standpoint. And now I will quote a high authority, an authority that both sides of the House will listen to with attention, viz., Lord Derby. He is not like Lord Selborne, a great lawyer, but he is something more—he is a great statesman. Lord Derby says:—"The question of maintenance or the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church ought to be decided in accordance with the wishes of the Welsh people, whenever those wishes are authoritatively declared." Now, when we find the Welsh people practically unanimous, but when we find the Welsh Members voted down by a majority of hon. Gentlemen who really know less about Wales than of many foreign countries, less than they know about Egypt or the Soudan, then it is, I think, time to remember what has been said by one of the most thoughtful of living historians, Mr. Spencer Walpole, viz., "It is absurd to say a country enjoys representative institutions when her delegates are uniformly outvoted by men of a separate race." This remark was made in reference to Ireland, but hon. Members will pardon me if I apply it to Wales. And now let me apply the tests I spoke of. Is the Church the Church of the majority of the nation? The suggestion is so ridiculous that if you were to put it to any Welshman, if he were not restrained by his native politeness, he would laugh in your face. If the Welsh Church comprises the majority of the people, how is it that five-sixths of the Welsh Members sent here—26 out of 30—are pledged to the hilt in favour of this Motion? How is it, to take the latest illustration, that in the County Council elections, which, rightly or wrongly, were fought on Church and Chapel lines, the Noncomformists swept the board? A good deal has been said about that religious census, giving the attendances at church and chapel in Wales on a certain Sunday two years ago. I have no great faith in such tests, for on that particular Sunday each party, having ample notice of 81 what was going to happen, went into the highways and hedges and brought in the maimed, the halt, and the blind, so that in some parishes there was hardly a church or chapel baby left in its cradle. Of course, by picking out all the cases most favourable to themselves, and ignoring the rest, the Church advocates have been able to draw the comforting assurance that they are only in a minority of two to one. This has been the subject of considerable discussion in the Press, and the Times sent down a young gentleman of considerable literary ability to write "Letters on Wales." He was connected I think with half the clergy of the diocese, and of course he looked at the matter through Church spectacles. I 'do not blame him for that. But in one of these "Letters" it is stated that on a particular Sunday in the parish of Ruabon the number of persons who attended church was nearly double that which attended the Nonconformist chapels. But what are the facts? I have stated them in a letter to the Times, and they have never been challenged. Of the village of Ruabon it might be true; but the old parish of Ruabon, now sub-divided into four parishes, has a population of over 15,000 persons. In that parish 21,305 persons on that Sunday attended the three Nonconformist services, giving for each -service 7,068, or 47 per cent of the whole population, while only 4,445, or 1,482 for each service—that is to say, 11 per cent of the whole population—attended the three services of the Church, of England, showing that the attendances at chapel on that particular Sunday were more than four times as numerous as those in church. Taking the country throughout, that is a fair proportion, but if you go further west the difference is much greater. But it would be absurd to rest this great question upon the result of a sum in vulgar fractions, especially as the most ardent champions of the Church Establishment only contend that the Church is stronger than any other denomination taken by itself. But then it is contended that if the Church does not attract to herself the majority of the population while they are alive, at least she gets hold of them after they are dead. This singular argument is strongly urged by Lord Selborne in his book on the defence of 82 the Church against dissent and in support of that singular argument Lord Selborne quotes figures to show that in the cemetery of Ruabon the burials in the consecrated portion of the cemetery largely exceeded those in the unconsecrated part. The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes) improved on that argument, for he showed by figures a few years ago that the Burials Act of 1880 had had comparatively little operation in Wales. No doubt he thought that a slap in the face for me. But what is the real explanation? I am bound to say that, with some notable exceptions, the clergy have availed themselves of every technical objection they can find to prevent Noncomformists from making use of the Burials Act. Every effort has been made to deprive them of the benefits of the Act, and unless the Act be amended, as I am now striving to amend it, I think the greater part of them will continue to be deprived of its benefits. But there is another answer to this argument, and I give it on authority of Lord Beaconsfield himself. In a very remarkable speech made in 1873, in moving the rejection of the Burials Bill, Mr. Disraeli quoted most elaborate statistics to show that in some parts of Wales two out of three of the Nonconformist chapels had burial grounds of their own, in which its members naturally preferred to be buried, and I remember he added, in his characteristic manner, that if he had been a Nonconformist and contemplating burial, he would have regarded such a state of things with profound satisfaction. But an hon. Member opposite has placed on the paper an Amendment which states that the Church is gaining ground in Wales. I am thankful to think that no Welshman has had the hardihood to put his name to that Amendment. The hon. Member who has done so (Mr. Byron Reed) comes from Yorkshire—a county winch Lord Selborne said was quite as much entitled to a nationality of its own as Wales. I can assure the hon. Member that his Amendment may do for Yorkshire, but it will not do in Wales. I do not know what knowledge the hon. Member has of Wales. My knowledge of the Principality, I am sorry to say, dates back to a period about a quarter of a century be- 83 fore the hon. Member was born. When I saw his Amendment down on the Paper I turned to that repertory of knowledge to which we all refer on these occasions, and I found he was born in London and educated near London, that he was Parliamentary Secretary of the Church Defence Association, that he was a Director of certain Conservative Societies, that he was a liveryman of the City of London, and a member of the Shipwrights' Company, that he had been Secretary of certain Conservative Associations, and, last, but not least, Secretary to Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett, M.P. I admit that all these things are very considerable claims to our respect; but I want to know what have any of them to do with Wales. No doubt it is possible that in some of the fashionable watering-places of Wales, such as the hon. Member no doubt frequents, and in the border towns, which are really more English than Welsh, there may be some grounds for his assertion. But my own experience—the experience of my own senses, which I must prefer to any evidence the hon. Member can adduce—teaches me that in Wales proper the exact contrary is the case. I must admit that the Church is making tremendous efforts just now. It is putting out all its strength. That is one of the things we complain of. It is being converted into a propagandist Church, a proselytizing Church, and, indeed, it is so occupied in fighting dissent that there is some danger of its ceasing to preach or at least to practice Christianity. Indeed, when I think of the enormous forces, the wealth—and wealth is a great power in a poor country—the charitable doles, the Primrose bounties, the social influence, as it is called, which the Church in Wales can call to its aid, I am amazed that its progress should have been so small, Hon. Members little know the petty persecutions, the social ostracism, the boycotting which the poor Welsh Nonconformists have to endure. To my hon. Friends and myself these things matter little. County society even in Wales is not so peculiarly lively that it is impossible to live without it, and I have often consoled myself with the reflection that it is better to be boycotted than to be bored. But it is a very different thing for the struggling tradesman, the man who has a young family to support, to be told at 84 the doors of the hall or the mansion—in substance, if not in words—"No Dissenter need apply." What is the result? Why, that the Church has got hold of the two ends of society—the plutocrat and the pauper—those who are most able to give and those who are most anxious to get—Dives at one end of the social scale and Lazarus at the other. Sydney Smith once said that carriage-horses always drive to church, but in Wales it is said you can tell whether a man is a Churchman by the hour at which he dines and the number of servants he keeps. To say, therefore, that the Church is in a minority is to state only half our case, for it is a minority composed precisely of those persons who are best able to pay for their own religious worship. Now, I wish to speak with the greatest respect of the Welsh clergy as a hard-working and most zealous body. I ought, I am sure, to be the last man to depreciate them. But they are in a most unfortunate position, which cannot help exercising a deteriorating influence on them. The incumbent is usually the chaplain and almoner of the squire, and too often the electioneering agent of the Conservative candidate. Talk of political Dissenters! Why, half the vicarages in Wales are political camps and centres at election time. In my county at the last election half the vicarages were virtually committee rooms, and I believe if I had been defeated half the church bells would have been rung to celebrate the event. No doubt we shall be told by the hon. Member opposite that munificient sums have been collected for-Church purposes of late years. That is quite true, and all honour to those-who have done it; but, to my mind, that is the very strongest argument in favour of the voluntary system, for it shows that the Church in Wales is quite able to take care of itself. I should like upon this subject to quote the words of one of the ablest and staunchest of Welsh Churchmen—the late Dean of Bangor, a brother of the present Bishop of St. Asaph—spoken at a Church Congress at Swansea some time ago. "The Church," he said, "has made material progress of late. Churches, parsonages, and schools have been built; but how many of these-churches are empty? Five-sixths of 85 the Welsh-speaking millions are outside the Church." That is the testimony of your own witness. But what are the Nonconformists doing? They collect from the poorest class in a poor country £300,000 a year, more than £30,000 more than the whole of the State-paid income of the Welsh Church. The Calvinistic Methodists alone gave £173,000 a year. They have 4,500 places of worship, and a corresponding number of ministers and preachers. No doubt both Churchmen and Dissenters have been making great efforts—and again, I say, all honour be to those who make them. But there is this difference—the churches are built with the cheques of the wealthy, the chapels with the shillings and pence of the poor. As to the boasted conversions of Nonconformist ministers, I confess I look upon them as very apocryphal. There may be some weak-kneed brethren, tempted by the prospect of the loaves and fishes, to desert the faith of their fathers. But, as a rule, these stories remind me very much of the stories we used to hear about the conversion of the Jews. There was a Society for the Conversion of the Jews with an income of £1,000 a year. But it seems that it costs £2,000 to convert one Jew. Of course, the consequence was that that society was only able to show one conversion every other year, and naturally enough, in one of the odd years, when no conversion had been shown, there was a good deal of dissatisfaction expressed at the annual meeting, and some person said they must either increase their income or give up business altogether. However, one member rose to the occasion and pointed out that even with their present resources they had two alternatives open to them. They could either half convert a whole Jew, or wholly convert a half Jew. So in Wales, it seems to, me Church proselytizers spend their time between half converting a whole Dissenter, or wholly converting a half Dissenter. In the last century Arthur Young estimated that at the then rate of progress it would take 4,000 years to convert Ireland to Protestantism. Assuming it took a 40th part of that time, it would be a little unreasonable to ask us to wait until the great-grandchildren of the hon. Member opposite had been able to convert the Nonconformists of Wales into a minority. I come now to the second test. Is the 86 Establishment essential to the spiritual well-being of Wales? All I can say is, that if salvation is only to be found in the bosom of the Church, the Welsh must be a nation of heathens and publicans, for it is common ground that until lately the Church shamefully neglected its duties. According to Lord Aberdare, religion would have disappeared from the country but for the exertions of the Nonconformists. But what are the facts? In no part of the country are the gaols so empty, the places of worship so full, or the amusements of the people so pure and elevating. I have been told by Judges that when they passed from Denbighshire to Cheshire it was like passing from light to darkness, and I remember that some time ago in three counties in Wales there was only one prisoner, and she was an English woman. The people do not take their pleasure in prize fights and gambling clubs. They leave that to Peers of the Realm. I am not going to notice what has been said by politicians in ermine—men who use the Bench as a pulpit or a platform to promulgate theories they have advocated in the House of Commons. I will come to the surer ground of judicial statistics, though I am almost afraid of quoting them after the light and airy way in which the Home Secretary recently pitched to the winds his own Home Office Returns. The Home Secretary seems to live in a transcendental world, undisturbed by such vulgar things as facts or figures. Perhaps, however, there may be some Members on this side of the House—some inferior beings who may desire to know what is the exact proportion of crime in England and Wales. I will tell them. The senior Member for Merthyr (Mr. D. Thomas) showed the other day that, while in 1887 the population in Wales and Monmouthshire was to that of England in the proportion of 6 per cent, the serious crimes committed there were in the proportion of little more than 3½ per cent. I know that these arguments will have little effect on the serried ranks of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I know that I might as well—Go stand upon the beach,
And bid the main tide bate its usual height as appeal to those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. But there is one body to 87 whom I can appeal with more confidence —the Liberal Unionists. I can assure them this is no question of the integrity of the Empire. I feel sure that we shall have the vote, if not the voice, of the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for West Birmingham. I do not suppose the author of "The Next Page of the Liberal Programme" is the man to say one thing on a platform in Wales and another on the floor of the House of Commons. Will the eldest son of John Bright be found false to the cause of which his revered father was the most eloquent advocate—I might almost say the apostle? But I will quote on this question one of the greatest of living Liberal Unionists—as great, though, perhaps, not so advanced, as those I have mentioned—Lord Derby, who, three years ago, at Blackburn used these memorable words:—I consider Wales has a strong claim to be separately dealt with. In Wales, as was the case in Ireland, the Nonconformists form the bulk of the population. The Welsh people constitute in many respects a distinct nationality, and I do not see why we should refuse to Welsh loyalty what we have granted to Irish sedition.Yes, but what made the Irish seditious? True it is that the Welsh are a most loyal and law abiding nation, but I am afraid there is a limit even to endurance, and things have happened lately in Wales which show that it is just possible that the time may come when we shall have a second Ireland in Wales. But I prefer to appeal not to your fears, but to your sense of justice. Whether we shall succeed to-night or not I do not know, but this I know, that time is on our side. We have behind us the rising manhood of Wales, aye, and our ranks are being constantly recruited from that great and growing body of our fellow citizens who, taught by the lessons of our own Colonies, taught by the experience of the great Republic beyond the ocean, taught, above all, by the lamentable spectacle in our midst of a State Church divided against herself, are beginning to learn that the true way to keep religion pure and undefiled is to keep it unspotted from the world, and that the Church of Christ herself will walk the earth with freer and firmer tread when she has ceased to lean on the crutches of an Establishment.
§ * MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, East)
I do not for a moment intend to follow the right hon. Gentleman in his excursions into biography and personality. I venture to think that neither the good temper nor the good manners of the House are promoted by such a course, and, personally, I am content to leave the right hon. Gentleman's remarks to the judgment of both sides of the House. My own personality is, of course, a most unimportant matter, but I represent a much larger number of voters than the right hon. Gentleman, and I have had many opportunities of making myself personally acquainted with this subject. I think I shall be able to show the House and the right hon. Gentleman that, although I have not the length of years, the Parliamentary experience, the knowledge of the Welsh language or of Wales, which the right hon. Gentleman possesses, none the less I have had opportunities which, perhaps, I have been able to put to some useful purpose of forming a clear and intelligent judgment on this question in Wales itself. But I take this higher ground, that the question now under consideration is one not limited to the Principality of Wales. I can well understand the tactics of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) and those associated with him in this Resolution, and I can well understand that the ancient policy of dividing in order to conquer has found favour with Gentlemen on the other side. But those who act with me in this matter are agreed that when the question of the Disestablishment of the Church comes to be settled by the people of this land it must be settled as a whole and not as a part, and we are perfectly content to take the judgment not only of this House, but of the constituencies in all parts of the country as soon as hon. Gentlemen opposite give us an opportunity. [Ironical Opposition cheers.] That derisive cheer means that that opportunity can be given only by Her Majesty's Government; but I must remind hon. Gentlemen that at the two last General Elections, when the question of Disestablishment was brought forward, they and their leaders "began with one accord to make excuse." I have intimated that I will deal with Wales as an integral and indivisible part of the United Kingdom, and in support of that 89 view I will quote an authority of weight, not only with hon. Gentlemen opposite, but with the whole of the House—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. Speaking in this House in 1870 on a Motion of the late Mr. Watkin Williams, the right hon. Gentleman said:—There is a complete ecclesiastical, constitutional, legal, and I may add—for every practical purpose—historical identity between the Church in Wales and the rest of the Church of England. I will not say what it would be right to do provided Wales were separated from England in the same way that Ireland is, and provided that the case of Wales stood in full and complete analogy to that of Ireland in regard to religious differences. But the direct contrary of this is the truth. I think, therefore, it is practically impossible to separate the case of Wales from that of England.Upon the expression of the right hon. Gentleman, and on that indubitable historical and constitutional authority, we take our stand, and we decline, as Englishmen, to separate the Church in Wales from the Church in the rest of the country. Now, I am led to inquire somewhat curiously into the motive of this Disestablishment agitation at this particular time, and I have come to the conclusion, from a rather exhaustive study, that hon. Gentlemen on the other side are becoming alarmed at the rapid and ever-increasing progress which the National Church is making in that part of the kingdom, and that they have come to the very definite conclusion that now or never is their time. I shall be able to show this evening by quotations from writings in the interest of the other side sufficient weight and warrant for any statement I shall make. The Cambrian News, a journal with which the hon. Member for Swansea is no doubt familiar, goes so far as to be even somewhat rude to the hon. Member, and to use expressions which I would not venture to employ. It says:—The inhabitants of Wales are not satisfied. Disestablishment is an urgent matter in Wales, and must be pushed forward even if Welsh Members have to make themselves disagreeable. Such weakness as Mr. Dillwyn displays in reference to Disestablishment creates derision, and he will very soon be requested to hand over that subject to a more robust Member of the Party.Hence this Motion, hence this discussion, and hence those biographical and historical observations of the hon. Member for Swansea. 90Wales is becoming," continues the Cambrian News, "very impatient of Members of Parliament, whose only notion of representing the constituencies is ministering to their own personal pride.So much, then, for the inspiring motives from certain sections of the community in Wales which stirred hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ * MR. BYRON REED
I am not aware. I do not pretend to read the imprint of every newspaper; but I presume that the hon. Gentleman does not for a moment impugn the accuracy of the quotation?
Well, I will leave the hon. Gentleman to settle that for himself. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to know the place of publication of the Cambrian News I should think he could easily obtain it from his colleagues on that side of the House. I pass on, however, to make this observation. The Motion of the hon. Member lays especial stress upon the alleged failure of the Church in the Principality. Now I know of no standard by which failure or success can be decided; I know of no official or ecclesiastical standard; I do not know that even the hon. Gentleman himself has attempted to set up a standard, and I am therefore driven to take this course of inquiry, to make comparison—the testimony in respect of which is ready to my hand—between the strength of the Church and of Noncomformity in Wales. Now, I will make the proposition, which I do not think will be broadly denied in this House, that at almost every official assembly of the various dissenting bodies in Wales, in the pages of almost every annual report which appears in their interest, the general complaint and wail is one of failing resources, of decreasing members, of ministers without charges, and of charges without ministers, and, above all things, the ever increasing burden of debt, which weighs as a fatal incubus on the shoulders of dissenting religious effort. On the other hand—I doubt whether hon. Gentlemen opposite will listen to this converse of the picture—we have at every official gathering of Churchmen in Wales, in the charges of 91 Bishops, in the visitations of Archdeacons, at the Rurideacanal Chapters, and upon every occasion when Churchmen come together, congratulations at the increase in members, and at the greater grappling with the population. With each year, aye, each month, it may be said that while the Church is waxing, Nonconformity is waning. [Laughter.] That broad proposition I hope to be able to prove by authority which even the hon. Gentleman who laughs will scarcely be inclined to contend against. Now, the chief leading reasons which suggest themselves as being the grand cause of the decline of Nonconformity in Wales are these:—Firstly, the increasingly political character of the ministers; and, secondly, the ever increasing burden of debt. Chapels are built hastily to gratify sectarian rivalries without the means of paying for them, and the debt hangs like a millstone round the neck of the congregations. Another cause is that the younger generation of Welsh people are more and more becoming members of the National Church, and, indeed, it is a common complaint in the columns of the Nonconformist Press in Wales that the sons and daughters of Nonconformist parents attend the services of the National Church. Now, Sir, I quote from a paper of some authority and repute, the Homilist, published in London. It contains a communication from Nonconformist Minister, who says he is also a Radical, in the course of which he writes—The characteristic feature of Welsh Nonconformity is the general air of lethargy and sloth that pervades everything. The mournful cry issues from the chapels in the land, 'Who hath believed our reports, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?' Echo answers 'Who.' Can you explain it?' Within the last few years the preacher has found out that the kingdom—which is not of this world' does not afford scope enough for his eminent talents, and has set his heart on setting in order the 'kingdom of this world.' Enter into conversation with your minister and try and find out his hobby. Politics first, politics second, politics to the end of the chapter. No place is too sacred for political discussion. Monthly meetings, quarterly meetings, associations, and general assemblies do not consider it incompatible with their religious character, nor in any way infra dignitatem to discuss political subjects and pass resolutions bearing on the same.Then I find that a writer in another Nonconformist paper, the name of which I dare scarcely venture to pro- 92 nounce in the presence of hon. Gentle men—the Goleuadd says:—There is an itching among certain ministers of the gospel for seats on the County Councils. Some weak and thoughtless persons encourage them. The young people in the churches require training. The Sunday School teachers meet to prepare for their work, and anxiously look towards the door for the appearance of their minister. The members at the church meeting ask, Where is the pastor? There is a family in trouble and wants consolation and advice. A widow and children have lost a husband and a father, but there is no minister to comfort them. There are sick members waiting day after day or a word of sympathy from their spiritual advisers. Several young people about leaving their homes for England want good counsel. The minister was at Twrgwyn on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday he was at the monthly meeting. On Wednesday he was arranging meetings of the Liberation Society, and in the evening assisting at one of them, with Mr. C. R. Jones, of Llanfyllin. On Thursday he was at a Conference at Shrewsbury, and in the evening at an Eistedfodd at Caersws, in the capacity of adjudicator and reporter for the Liverpool Daily Post. On Friday at an important parliamentary Committee meeting at Chester in support of the great Liberal Party, Mr. John Morley being present. On Saturday he returns home to preach on Sunday without a new sermon, and prays God to help him in his weakness after having spent the week like the prodigal son.Well, I venture to say that these are by no means exaggerated statements of what happens among the mass of Nonconformist ministers in Wales. It was not always so. In the early days of Welsh Nonconformity, the fire and fervour of the minister's enthusiasm in the pulpit, and at the class meeting, moved the religious instincts of the Welsh people. But so surely as the minister of religion is degraded from his higher calling to the lower level of Party politics, so surely does he lose that spiritual influence which after all it should be his chief object to attain. Of such ministers might not a Macaulay write, "As we wax hot in faction, in battle we wax cold." As they wax hot in political faction, so will they wax cold in spiritual work; so will they find the ground slipping from under their feet in Wales; so will they find the rising generation going back to the Church of their fatherss, as a Welsh orator said years ago, "like bees returning to the old hive," and so in days to come, and not very far distant, will hon. Gentlemen find it difficult to go to their constituents with Motions for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. I spoke just now of the burden of debt 93 which oppresses Nonconformist effort in Wales. I suppose it is within the knowledge of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and it should be within the knowledge of all Members of this House, that in very many cases chapels are run up by enterprising builders as matters of speculation. Popular preachers. who are supposed to draw by pulpit influence, are looked upon as eligible objects of such speculation. A writer in a certain Nonconformist paper—Y Seren, of the Baptist Order in Wales, says:—It is known to many of us as a denomination that the pecuniary state of our churches in many places is exceedingly undesirable, and that there are some of us who have suffered and are suffering because of our chapel debts. Many have experienced great losses through lending their money on our chapels, being under the impression that the denomination as such was responsible for the debt.It is not to be wondered at with such a state of things that there should be repudiation of chapel debts, and that disappointed money lenders and speculators are inclined to look with considerable disfavour on those who have turned out so bad an investment. Now, I wish to quote from a writer referred to by the hon. Member for Swansea—I mean Mr. Thomas Gee, who may be described as the chief priest of the Liberation Society in North Wales. The journal—the Baner—in which he writes is published at Denbigh. Mr. Gee, writing in the Baner recently, and speaking of the Calvinistic Methodist body in Wales, says—The report for the year 1888 just printed shows a decline in the number of members. Here we have the ministerial labour of this great body showing no results, but a loss. The thousands of pounds collected for the ministry, the work of the Sunday schools, arid all the prayer meetings have produced no results. The ministry is become more learned, or ought to be, for a large sum of money is spent on it, but there is a fear that it is deteriorating, and that this is the natural inference to be drawn from the report.This, Sir, is by a Liberationist writer in a Liberationist journal in North Wales, and I will not trouble the House with more than a hurried extract from it. The Rev. R. Ambrose Jones, speaking at a meeting at Abergele, called attention to the personal defection of the members of the churches of his denomination. He said— 94If we do not take care of the poor, they will cease to take care for us, and will go to the Established Church and follow hundreds of other poor.The same gentleman went on to say—The people are less, as well as the money, and members of Sunday Schools are less by scores than the year before.Also—I find that we have not increased for some time in the number of our members, and possibly not in our attendance, which is a lamentable fact worthy of notice.It is impossible to search any official reports of the Nonconformist Press without finding day by day testimony to the same effect—namely, declarations of the decrease of Nonconformist membership in the Principality. Again, on the other hand, I find in the Cambrian News a letter which says:—The Church parson, with his daily services, his oversight of elementary schools, his mission work, his house to house visiting, and his numerous societies, is a hard-worked individual. It is the Nonconformist minister, with his one week-night service and his two services on Sunday, who is becoming an object of reproach.In point of fact, the bulk of the philanthropic and benevolent work which is common to the whole community falls on the shoulders of the clergy and people of the Church, and not on the ministers and members of dissenting denominations. I will quote again, and this time from the speech of a gentleman occupying a high local position, and I am glad to see the hon. Member for Swansea still in his place as I wish him to hear this quotation. The Mayor of Swansea, speaking at a meeting of the Swansea Industrial Home for Girls, said:—He could not understand why all those present at the meeting, except himself, were members of the Church of England and not of the Nonconformist bodies. They were asked the question why the Church of England was progressing and why the Nonconformists were going backwards. He replied that it was because the Church of England was honestly doing its duty, and the Nonconformists were not.This from the Mayor of the borough represented by the hon. Member opposite is in itself a striking testimony. I now leave this part of the inquiry into the condition of Nonconformity in Wales, cursory as it has been, but based on the testimony of the Nonconformists themselves, and turn to a consideration of what are the Church's 95 position and prospects and rate of progress at the present time. I find that unquestionably recent years have given a great impetus to Church work and influence in Wales. I will not attempt to fix any particular time for the beginning of this revival, but undoubtedly great assistance was given to it by the holding of the Church Congress at Swansea ten years ago, and many of us hope that when the Congress meets again in the autumn of the present year at Cardiff, it will again mark a new departure on the part of the Church in Wales, and give to its work in the Principality a new impulse to energy. I find that in 1632 there were 700 clergy in the 847 parishes of Wales, whereas in 1888 the number of clergy had increased to 1,434, and the number of parishes to 987. This more than doubling the clergy in half a century, is a very pregnant fact. In the ten years ending 1886, no fewer than 228 churches were restored, enlarged, or built afresh in Wales; and taking the confirmations in the churches, I find from the official returns of the Bishops, that the average number of confirmations in 1886 was 6,528, that in 1887 it was increased to 7,028, and that last year it rose to 8,454. There is a very curious fact in regard to these confirmations. In very many cases the Bishops found they were called on to confirm not only numbers of young people who were members of Nonconformist families and congregations, but also many Nonconformists of advanced years. According to the Bishop of Llandaff—On December 4, 1887, at a confirmation held at Llantwit Vawdre, when there were 90 candidates, all but three were converts from Nonconformity. At Pontlottyn, on December 11, 1887, when 31 adults were baptized, and 53 males, and 68 females confirmed, nearly all had been formerly Nonconformists.The same Bishop also says—A remarkable confirmation was held at St. Lleurwg's Church, Hirwain, on December 3, 1888. The list of candidates included 20 men, of whom five were Wesleyans, aged respectively 27, 58, 21, 44, and 30, one being a local preacher, and two others 'members;' two were Baptists, aged 28, and 12, the first being a 'member;' two were Independents, aged 62 and 30, both 'members;' two were Calvanistic Methodists, aged 32 and 21; of the remainder one Churchman aged 69, another 52, and a third 50. Twenty-two boys and girls were confirmed, of whom two were Roman Catholics, two Wesleyans, and one a Methodist.96 I think the House will agree with me that this is a very striking testimony to the position and influence of the Church in Wales at the present time; and the fact that these confirmations include not merely Nonconformists, but many of advanced years, shows that they have found in the Church that spiritual comfort which is denied to them in their own communities; that in the Church, at least, it is possible for men to agree about religion and still to differ about politics, and to join in prayer, and the worship of Almighty God, without discussing mundane and political concerns. The Bishop of Llandaff stated, at a meeting of the Church Diocesan Society in 1887:—In the last four years I have opened 24 new churches and mission churches. I have opened one every month this year, and shall continue to do so during every remaining month of the year. These churches contain on an average 300 sittings each. In one valley in my diocese, with a population of 18,000, there was only one church and one mission church containing 560 sittings. In that valley there are now six churches with 2,000 sittings. I am thankful to say that these churches are all now well filled. Five years ago in this and the neighbouring valley there were not more than a score of houses and two churches; there are now in them 75,000 people, 16 churches and mission churches, and about 20 clergy.One piece of statistics more; and the figures I will quote relate to the town of Cardiff. I find that during the five years to the end of September last there were completed the enlargement and restoring of churches at Cardiff and the building of new ones at a cost of £51,000, raised from voluntary contributions alone on the part of the clergy and lay people of that town. I will now pass to two cases which I think this House will regard as typical ones. At Llanelly (?) in 1837—just over 50 years ago,—there was only only one church, with only 590 sittings, the attendance being only about 200, while the parish had the services of one clergyman and a share of the services of another. In 1889, instead of that one church there were eight churches and 37 mission rooms, with sitting accommodation for 3,374 persons.
§ * SIR E. REED
It would throw great light on this question if my hon. relative would give the increase of the population.
§ * MR. BYRON REED
If I am doing violence to the facts of the case, it 97 will be open to my hon. relative or any other hon. Gentleman to supply the deficiency at the close of the observations I am making. In the case of Llanelly, whereas the average attendance 15 years ago was 200. it is now 3,019, while the number of communicants is 2,330. But there is an even more striking case. I will go to Swansea, which is an appropriate place to name. In 1881 the parish of St. Mary in that town had a population of 39,000, and at the present time that has been increased to at least 42,000. Since January, 1885, there have been built in that parish three stone and two iron churches, and they have all been paid for. They have not been built on loan or mortgage, but have been paid for out of the pockets of the people who believe in the ministrations of the National Church. They have been erected at a cost of £11,041. I find that the fourth stone church is already nearing completion, and will be consecrated in July. The sum of £4,200 has been raised. The third iron church is now in course of erection, and will be shortly opened, at a cost of £800. In the parish of St. Mary, Swansea, there were in 1885 six working clergy, and in 1889 there were ten; on Easter day of this year there were no less than 997 communicants in the parish, and during the four years 605 candidates were confirmed. But what is perhaps the most striking illustration of all, and one which is of the greatest personal interest to the hon. Member for Swansea, is that whereas in 1885, at the then School Board election, only one Churchman was elected, and he only sixth on the poll; at the School Board election held a few months ago, three Churchmen headed the poll, and the fourth was among the elected candidates. Thus, in fact, while declension is the order of the day with the Nonconformist bodies in Wales, growth and development are the order of the day with the National Church. This agitation might have had some chance of success had it been started 50, 30, or 20 years ago; but, Sir, I venture to think that when the hon. Member for Swansea says that the progress of the Church has come too late, it is this agitation for Disestablishment which is too late; that the Church has more than held her own in the Principality in recent years, and that not only 98 in this House, but in the constituencies, as hon. Gentleman opposite will find, she will hold her own against any agitation. As a hostile writer has admitted, the National Church is now putting forth her strength in Wales, and churches which a few years ago were comparatively empty are now comparatively full. I should like before I sit down to say a few words in reply to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman opposite on the question of religious censuses in general and for Wales in particular. The only reason why a religious census, alike for Wales and England, has not been taken in a formal and official fashion is because the proposal has been resisted by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. Churchmen, at least, have nothing to fear from the numbering of the people according to their religious denominations, and if hon. Members opposite will support us next year when the Census Bill is introduced, a clause may be inserted which will secure a religious census for England and Wales. But, although from no fault of ours we have had no formal and official census of that kind, yet an unofficial and informal one has been taken which is not satisfactory to anybody—it was satisfactory neither to us nor to the Liberation Society, and for opposite reasons. In the first place, we object to an unofficial numbering of the people. We saw beforehand that Mr. Gee, under whose auspices an unofficial numbering of the people in attendance at places of worship was conducted, was a pronounced partizan interested in bringing out a certain set of figures to point to a certain conclusion. What happened? He sent out the papers at his own time and by his own officers to take the census in his own fashion; and it was impossible to expect that true, accurate, and just returns could be obtained in that manner. Only part of the returns were published, the information collected not being very much to the taste of Mr. Gee and his. friends, who found to their astonishment that the Church was proved to be much stronger in the Principality than they had reason to suppose. Although we begged for the figures, and invoked the aid of the Liberation Society, they have remained to this day secreted in the pigeon holes of the Baner office 99 at Denbigh; and the Secretary of the Liberation Society was so disgusted with the whole operation that he wrote to the Times disclaiming all responsibility for this census. Had they proved a crushing condemnation of the Church, we should have had the figures readily enough. We also object to the mere numbering of attendants at places of worship, as an adequate test of the religious feelings of the people or the strength of the Church; for inducing people to attend the church is by no means the "be all" and "end all" of the work of the clergy. The clergy of the National Church are not only a preaching ministry, they perform much valuable pastoral work; and it may at least be said, without any disparagement of the Nonconformist bodies, that the clergy of the Church of England are able by the specialities of their organization and methods of work, to reach masses of the people whom dissenting preachers are unable to discover, and to minister to thousands who would not otherwise receive spiritual comfort and consolation. I am inclined to think that if it were not for the Welsh Vernacular Press very little would be heard of this agitation. This Press is for the most part written, edited, and managed by Nonconformists who combine the functions of the pulpit, the platform, and the pen in one occupation. These gentlemen stir up the worst feelings in language so gross as to be almost unquotable, in language which it is a disgrace in educated men to utter, and which it pains enlightened and sensitive men to read. [Cries of "Quote."] An hon. Member cries "Quote." I shall be most happy to oblige him. One Welsh paper has spoken of clergymen of the Church of England in these generous and Christian-like terms. They are, he says, "hypocritical," "sodden with deceit and shame," "lazy drones, unable to preach, move, or work," "blind teachers, soft-brained and dumb," whose visits are "accompanied by nothing better than the fierce breathings of hell." That is very well for a beginning. A Voice: ["That is not the vernacular."] No; it is an English translation. I suspect that in the vernacular it would be a great deal worse. Another writer speaks of the "dirty, stinking, 100 cobwebbed Cathedral of Llandaff," where "bats, owls, and Bishops get fat." I find that these gentlemen of the Welsh Vernacular Press are by no means satisfied with the advocacy of Welsh Members; the hon. Member for Swansea is much too moderate for them, and I doubt if ever the hon. Member for the Rhondda Valley spices their political pabulum with sufficient fire to satisfy them. The Genedl Gymreig allowed a Calvinistic Methodist minister to write—In Wales up to to the present the people have the upper hand. If they wished to retain their ascendency, and especially if they wish to reap the fruit of their victory, they must be prepared to hold their own through blood.The Seren Gomer is the quarterly publication of the Baptists of Wales, and is ably edited by one of their ministers. It said—Wales must be regenerated on Republican and Democratic principles. We look forward with certainty to the day when the four Republics of Britain will move on side by side in peace and comfort, when kings and queens will be left to shift for themselves. We believe that the masses of Scotland, Ireland, and England will help Wales in its laudable efforts to regain Home Rule. If we had Home Rule in less than a month we should cashier the lazy and tyrannical drovers out of our country. The thousands of the Church of England would be utilized to educate the youth, the 'Wales of the future,' and the hills and dales of our country would be restored to their true owners—namely, the Welsh people, not some handful of greedy and rapacious landlords.I notice that the right hon. Member for Denbighshire does not cheer that sentiment. I find these writers have no confidence in the House of Commons. fine of them says—No one can conquer in war without fighting and in war there must be shedding of blood in order to gain a victory. We cannot get the people in the house of palaver to attend unless we do something more serious than talking. They will not think we are in earnest unless we take up arms and make use of them also.
It is an open secret on this side of the House that the election of the junior Member for Merthyr (Mr. P. Morgan) was looked upon by no means with unmixed delight by the political dissenters; and I find one of these gentlemen writing that there were—Thousands of true Israelites who would not have that uncircumcized Philistine to reign over them.I have one more quotation which I hone 101 will satisfy even hon. Gentlemen opposite. A writer in the Celt, in December of last year, speaking of the Disestablishment agitation, said:—We have strong hopes that this unholy marriage is about to be dissolved. 'Disestablishment and Disendowment is coming,' when the Church of England will be put to live on her own resources, and they, the parsons, will have to work or starve. They have enjoyed the fat of the land for ages; but the wheel has nigh completed its revolutions. There is an angel standing in the sun '(Rev. xix., 17), and that angel is William Ewart Gladstone and he had begun to cry with a loud voice to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heavens, 'Come to the supper of the great God,' and the end will be that all the fowls will have their fill of their flesh, by the wealth of the State Church being used for National purposes.Sir, that concluding sentence is the key to the whole position, and shows the meaning of the agitation. The endowments of the Church in Wales are being held out as a gulden bait by unscrupulousagitators—men who pander to the worst passions of the public mind and the worst ignorance of the unlearned, in order to bring about an Act which, were this Parliament to adopt it, would be an act of the grossest injustice and the cruellest wrong, which would undoubtedly recoil upon the hands that wrought it—an act which would assuredly earn for the generation that accepted it the condemnation of its successors. Holding these views I beg to move the Amendment which stands in his name.
Amendment proposed,To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "having regard to the great and growing influence and work of the National Church, especially in the Principality of Wales, this House is not prepared to entertain proposals for its Disestablishment in that part of the Kingdom."—(Mr. Byron Reed.)—instead thereof.
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ * SIR JOSEPH BAILEY (Hereford)
I shall not feel it my duty to occupy much time in seconding the Motion of the hon. Member, but in doing so I wish to say that, speaking as one who has spent his whole life in Wales, I have often expressed my personal regard for 102 the Nonconformist ministers in Wales and appreciation of their work, and only join issue with them when they assume a position of antagonism towards the Established Church. I am sorry to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea in the commencement of his Resolution describes that Church as the "Church of England in Wales"; but no man knows better than my hon. Friend that whatever he may think of its shortcomings at the present time, that Church is the National Church of Wales, which has existed for 16 or 17 centuries. In the Library of the House there is a curious work, "The Laws and Institutes of Wales," and it contains the laws made for Wales 100 years before Norman or English set foot in that country, and it describes how the King assembled his Parliament consisting of Peers and Eccliastics of the National Church. Now, Sir, although no boubt, in Wales as in England, a foreign nation having conquered the country, forced on the land Bishops in Wales as they did statesmen and warriors and nobles in England, still it was the Bishop and not the Church which was imposed on the people. So far is the Church from being an alien Church that having looked carefully through the names of the clergy in the county in which I reside, I find that the name of nearly every one of the early clergy of those days was the name of a Welshman and not of a Norman. I will take, for example, a frontier town which is likely to present the strongest case for the Norman. The first four clergymen named in the frontier town of Hay are, Rhys ap Thomas, Rhys ap Gwillim, Thomas ap Howel, and Thomas ap Evan. Such persons could hardly be of Norman descent. I was surprised to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea mention two cases of drunkenness and immorality among the clergy of Wales somewhere in the 16th century, but if it is necessary to go back 300 years to prove a case of vice and immorality, the purity of the Church is by that very argument almost estab- 103 lished. The hon. Member for Swansea has referred to the number of churches and chapels in Wales. He stated that in 1750, out of 1,191 churches in Wales 769 belonged to the National Church of Wales, and he thereby proves, I think, that up to the commencement of this century the greatest portion of the Evangelical work in Wales was done by the National Church. The hon. Member has also said that the number of chapels at the present day is 4,200, which will seat altogether 92 per cent of the population. In one district in my own county, I believe there are sufficient seats for 15 per cent in excess of the population. The compiler of the census of 1851 estimated that seating accommodation for 58 per cent of the population was sufficient for the wants of the community, so that the present accommodation is far in excess of the requirements.
§ * SIR J. BAILEY
I can speak of the churches in my own neighbourhood, and they are full. It is of course absolutely impossible that when the seating accommodation is in excess of the requirements all the seats can be full. I received only the other day a letter on this subject. I conceal the name of the writer, but it is at the service of any hon. Gentleman who likes to have it. It relates to a Welsh Wesleyan Chapel, and the writer states that the people are suffering very much from the debt on the chapel, and an effort is being made to remove it, but there are only three male members of the congregation, and the burden is too much for them. Well, I think that chapel, however small it may be, can hardly be full. The right hon. Gentleman has assumed that because the Representatives of the country are almost all on those (the Opposition) Benches, the country therefore speaks with one voice for Disestablishment. In the election of 1885 there were 98,000 voters for hon. Gentlemen opposite, and 67,000 for the Conservative side. There were, besides, four uncon- 104 tested seats; but that will not bring up the Nonconformist majority to anything like what the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) thinks it is. I do not claim that the Church people are in the majority, but I believe they form one-third of the entire population. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Osborne Morgan) made an amusing allusion to the Church collecting into her fold the dead Welshmen. Now, I should tell the House there are two occasions in life on which a Welshman sets very great store. One is his marriage and the other is his funeral. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may regard this as a joke, but Welshmen will save money for their funerals, all their friends on the whole country side are asked to attend them. The whole of the family of a Welshman look upon his funeral as a very great occasion. I will show the House by statistics that while a Welshman likes to hear the ministrations of a person of his own tongue, his own rank of life and so on, and therefore frequently goes to a Nonconformist place of worship, on the great occasions of his life he seeks the Church. His funeral and his marriage both take place at the church. I find that on the occasion of marriage 330 persons in a 1,000 persons seek the offices of the Established Church, and only 304 seek the offices of all the Nonconformist communities put together. It is true, of course, that a large number are married before the Registrar, but even if they should all be Nonconformists it would not reduce the proportion of churchmen below one-third. Something has been said about the census got up a year or two ago by the Nonconformists, and the result of which has never been given to the world. I cannot say I regret it, because on both sides there are accusations of fraud and unfairness. I heard of one clergyman, for example, who is said to have counted his children, first in the school and afterwards in the church. On the other hand, I heard of a Nonconformist minister who counted his flock in the chapel and then dismissed them to hear a famous preacher in another chapel, where, of course, they would be counted at the conclusion of the service. These stories show that if you want to number the various religious bodies in the country, 105 you must do so in an authorized way, and that is a test which we on this side of the House do not shrink from, but court. The Church is accused of neglect, but statistics tell an entirely different story. The Church has had great difficulties to encounter, but if I needed any evidence of its activity I should quote a speech of the late Mr Richard, who said in the last 25 years a great improvement had taken place in the Church, that new churches had been built and that the services were being conducted with far more zeal and earnestness; "but, "he added, "it is too late." Sir, I cannot help thinking that the reason this Motion is being brought forward to-night is that my hon. Friend, seeing the advance made by the Church in Wales in the last two years, fears that his proposal may be made too late. Now, Sir, the defence of the National Church of Wales is not likely to be left in such feeble hands as mine, but I have ventured to raise my voice because I believe that the figures of my hon. Friend are entirely incorrect, and that he does not dare to bring them to the test of the census; because the Church which has been described as slothful is one of activity and advancement; and because, while it is described as the English Church in Wales, it was founded before the English or the Normans ever set foot in the country, and has kept alive the spirit of religion in the Principality for 17 centuries, since the time when Christianity first shed its light in the land.
§ * SIR H. VIVIAN (Swansea, District)
The hon. Member who moved this Amendment stated that he had considerable experience of Wales, but he did, not tell us how the experience arose how long he had been in Wales, or during what time he had investigated this question. I take leave to say that after hearing his statements I cannot for one moment believe he knows anything whatever of the religious condition of Wales. I do not desire for one moment to deny the very considerable activity of the Church in Wales. We rejoice in it, we assist in it, we do all we can to help it on. We are Christians, 106 and we do not stand upon the narrow and limited ground of one particular form of worshipping our God. We desire, as far as possible, to bring the Holy Christian religion home to everybody. Therefore, as we rejoice at seeing the enormous increase of the Nonconformist body in our country, so we rejoice in seeing any increase in the Church. I am a Churchman myself, and desire to see the Church increase. No doubt the Church suffers from having neglected the people, but what I say is that the enormous majority of the Welsh people are not Churchmen, but Nonconformists. They have built their own places of religious worship, and they maintain them by expending enormous sums of money year by year. I believe they contribute between £300,000 and £400,000 a-year towards their places of worship. But I deny altogether the statement made by the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. Byron Reed), that Nonconformity is waning in Wales. I say it is increasing in Wales. The returns of the various Nonconformist bodies show that their hearers and their communicants are increasing. I find from a return which I only received to-day that the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, according to the Year Book for 1888, had 1,430 congregations, numbering 132,000 communicants and 282,000 hearers, and that their subscriptions for maintaining their worship amounted to no less than £175,899. The returns show a large increase on previous years. The Welsh Congregationalists have 1,017 chapels and 268,000 hearers; the Welsh Baptists, 810 chapels, and 221,000 hearers. These three denominations alone therefore amount to 772,000 members. I have lived in Wales all my life, and I see nothing but a constant increase in the efforts of the Nonconformists to meet the religious wants of the people. No one probably knows better than I do the number of new chapels that are being built. I represented Glamorganshire for 28 years and I can bear positive evidence as to the enormous increase which has taken place. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Byron Reed) said the debts of the Nonconformist chapels hung heavily round the necks of the congregations, and 107 were not being paid off. I can only say that year by year they do pay off their debts, and I know a case in which £13,000 was laid out upon one chapel, and the debt is now reduced to about £1,500. Constant efforts are being made to pay off the debts of these chapels, and they are constantly being paid off. There is no mistake so great as to suppose that you can meet the religious wants of the people by paying the whole of the costs of a place of worship beforehand. All I can say is, that if the Nonconformists of Glamorganshire had not met the enormous increase of our population by building chapels and incurring debts upon them, a large proportion would have been heathens at this moment. The population of that great county increased by from 300,000 to 511,000 during the 28 years I represented it. Well, the parochial system itself cannot meet an increase of that kind. The hon. Gentleman spoke of repudiation. I certainly never heard of Chapel debts being repudiated in my neighbourhood, and I am quite sure that such a scandal would have rung through every newspaper if it had occurred. They pay their debts honestly, and as a matter of fact, many of our great Chapels are now entirely free from debt. The hon. Gentleman talked of running up Chapels as speculative buildings. No more silly statement was ever made in this House. I have never heard of a Chapel being so run up. The history of our Chapels is to my mind, a noble one. When a new colliery is opened and a new district is started, large numbers of workmen being attracted to a place which was before a lonely valley, congregations are got together by earnest men, generally meeting in the first instance in small houses. They form what they very properly call a Church, and from that they go on to build a small Chapel, and they increase it, and increase it, and increase it. I think I have myself laid the foundation stone of a Chapel, which has been five times increased—five times pulled down and rebuilt. That is the right way in which the increase of provision for religious worship should take place. The hon. Gentleman made a great point of the increase of the Church in Swansea. I can tell him that is entirely due to the efforts of one 108 earnest and zealous good man. Before he came, there was no increase at all, but when he came the Church sprang into life—and we are all delighted it is so. The hon. Member began his speech by stating that the Church of England and the Church of England in Wales were one and indivisible. That might be all very true if you by your superior power could force your Church upon us. But you must denationalize us first, and that you cannot do. The thing is impossible. You cannot stamp out the Welsh race. It is a more ancient race than the English or any other race in this country [Ministerial laughter] Nobody can possibly deny that who knows anything of the history of his country. I should like to see anyone stand up in this House and say that the Cymri are not the ancient British race. It is too monstrous to talk about. The Welsh have their own language and have had it for unknown ages [Laughter]. It is supposed that the first inhabitants of these Islands were a race akin to the Esquimaux, that the Cymri, or Welsh, came in after the last Glacial Epoque which is calculated to have occurred 200,000 years ago, but at what precise date they first occupied the British Isle is unknown, although it is certain that it was very remote. You must bear in mind that the Welsh maintain their individuality, and that you did not conquer them for 800 years—that is to say, from the days of the Romans up to the time of Edward I. They resisted you for 800. years, and you cannot stamp out a nationality of that kind. We demand on their behalf that you should treat them as a nation, and not impose an alien Church upon them, but that you should grant us absolute religious equality. We have a right to it and it must come. I have been in this House many years, and I have seen many a reform as stoutly resisted by hon. Gentlemen opposite as this is resisted by them, but they have had to give way in the end. Strong as they may be in their majority, they will have to give way on this question of the Disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales.
§ MR. W. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)
It is very pleasant, indeed, to sit here and hear that the Church is gaining ground in Wales, and it would 109 give us the greatest pleasure if our own knowlege of the facts could prove the veracity of the statement. I am sorry that the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, and after professing to have so much knowlege of Wales and the Welsh people, had to resort for his authority to a paper called the Cambrian News, inasmuch as no Welsh Member in this House has ever heard of the existence of such a paper. Wales can boast of having four conservative Representatives in this House, and not one of the four has dared to move at Amendment to this Motion. I question very much whether one of the four dare support the Amendment. It has been seconded by a professed Welshman but one who has failed to find a seat it his own country, and who is not likely to find one there. We need not go back quite so far as my hon. Friend for the facts to prove what has been the history of the Church in Wales. Every Welsh Member, and probably every Welshman, is able to give his own experiences of the Established Church in Wales, and I can give my own, and the circumstances in which I was brought up. It has been my lot, fortunately or unfortunately, fortunately, I think, to be brought up among the toiling masses of the Welsh people, and my experience of the Estalished Church has been a bitter one. There was a Church of England in that part of Wales where I was born and bred, as there is in almost every industrial village. It was the Church of the few, the Church of the privileged classes, and to belong to it was to form part of the community, having a share in the loaves and fishes that were distributed. That Church the children of Nonconformist parents were, much against their will, forced to attend on Sunday mornings; if they did not so attend, castigation was meted out to the children themselves, and before Monday evening the parents were made aware that they had incurred the displeasure of the authorities. My mother wept many times to see the state of this hand after receiving castigation for non-attendance at church. Over and over 110 again has it bled under the castigation for not attending at places of worship that my mother conscientiously thought I ought not to go to and where I should be better outside. For obeying my mother and disobeying the authorities I have suffered this castigation many times. What, I ask, has the Church done for the masses in Wales? [An hon. MEMBER, "Nothing."] Perhaps it would not be strictly accurate to say nothing, because, to its own thinly clad and partially fed flock, it has distributed some blankets and clothes at Christmas, and disburses a few tickets for soup, coals, and so forth. But for the mass of the people it has done nothing, absolutely nothing; for nine-tenths of the Welsh people, workmen who have never visited the Church, it has done nothing. Nothing to teach them self-respect, nothing to create in them or develope in them a spirit of manliness, nothing to help them to fight their manifold enemies, nothing to raise the workman in the-social scale, nothing to relieve him from the burden, the ever increasing burden, of the fear of pauperism. What the Church did, if it succeeded at all, was to teach us to do our duty in all stations of life, and under all circumstances to obey the dictates of our spiritual pastors and masters, and to prepare the poor for that huge relief house, where in declining years a man receives relief for which he must be separated from that partner with whom he has shared the joys and sweets of life. What has the Church done for Welsh workmen? Nothing but to teach him to be a miserable serf. I fully admit that there are some brilliant exceptions among the clergy in Wales; men of great heart and true, who strive to do good to their fellows, and whose efforts fail from their connection with the Church. If it had not been for such men as these, the breach between the Established Church and the Welsh people would have been greater than it is, and it is quite wide enough. The renewal of the tithe war in Wales has caused much social irritation, and grows with such rapidity that it not only discredits the Church in Wales, but it is a danger to the State. It embitters the social life, it shadows that sweetness and light which ought to be the legitimate fruits of religion among 111 men. Moreover, in the past, the clergy of the Church of England in Wales has shown many examples of intemperate and vicious life, and in many parts of the country have taught the people that there is a great distinction between the Church and religion. The people know that the terms are not synonymous and not convertible; they know that fully; they teach it to their children, and they write it in their books. In one of the last best novels that deals with Welsh life, it is well exemplified, for one of the characters, a clergyman, being spoken of, the remark is applied to him; "Ah! what a pity that he is a clergyman; that he does not belong to religion instead of to the church." Can you wonder then that these people are crying out for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. Can you wonder that they are crying out and thirsting for religious equality in the country. Now the Amendment to this Resolution has been cleverly couched for unique language. It refers to a National Church, but it does not say the National Church of what country, and I should like to know if the hon. Gentleman who proposes it will say it is the National Church of Wales. Are the Welsh not a nation? Have we no country of our own? Have we no customs of our own? No writers of our own, unique and absolutely our own? Have we no language, a language that no Englishman in this House can pronounce? Have we not every single characteristic that is necessary to make a nation? If that is so, how it is possible for the English National Church to be the National Church of Wales? It never was and it never will be. Reference has been made to the Rhondda Valley, which I have the honour to represent, and to the increase of churches in that constituency; but, as has been already pointed out, no reference has been made to the increase of population or to the increase of chapels. In one part of the Rhondda Valley there is one chapel, in another two, in another three, in another five, in another three of the largest chapels in the United Kingdom, one of which would more than seat all the attendants of the Church in that part of the valley. The Church has one schoolroom chapel and one Church, another in course of erection, but the Church has 112 unfortunately been built, not by the Church of England as an institution, but by one of the lords of the land, and under a peculiar condition—namely, that if ever there should be a sufficient number of Catholics come into that part of the valley the Church of England then would have to give up the building for the Catholics. These three churches are built not by the Church as an institution but by the landlords, and for money made out of Royalty rents and ground rents, money by the sweat of the brow from the Welsh colliers. As the Welsh poet says:—Gwron dewr, anturiwr diwydYn mheryglon munud awrYw y glowr dreulia'i fywydYn nghelloedd llaith y dyfnder mawr.[Cheers and laughter.] You supply me with another argument. You laughed at my language, and still you want to teach me and my fellow countrymen religion in an unknown tongue. You have tried to Anglicise us for many years and you have failed. Certainly you have failed in the past, and you will fail in the future. It is with the money produced by the hard work of the Welsh colliers that those churches you now call the Church of England in Wales were built. When Disestablishment comes, then you will say it would be robbery to take those Churches back, created from the alms of the people, but we are prepared to let you keep all that, if you disestablish the Church. Give us religious equality, you can keep all the fabrics, and we can build fabrics of our own. We are told that now the Church is beginning to mend its ways, and is following the footsteps of the Nonconformists, and therefore the Church should not be disestablished, but I am afraid my hon. Friends it is now too late. We are not prepared to wait much longer, and we appeal to you, our English brother—Wales is your little sister, and appeals to her big brother for religious equality, and sure I am the Church itself would receive the greater benefit from that equality.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES, Cambridge University)
As it has been my lot on more than one occasion to take part in these discussions, I should not like to omit the 113 opportunity of joining in that tribute to the memory of a very distinguished Welshman who took part with us [on the last occasion when this matter was discussed. I came to different conclusions, for I started from different premisses, but I desire to bear my testimony to the memory of the late Mr. Henry Richard, who was a sincere lover of Wales, and treated this question with obvious sincerity. Nor can I avoid before addressing any observations to the arguments advanced, paying some tribute to the speech, to which we have just listened, which I am sure was heard with pleasure and respect in every quarter of the House. It is not for every Member to approach the subject without something of party feeling. But the hon. Member for the Rhondda Valley, though he spoke with genuine feeling, carefully abstained from anything which could cause irritation or aggravate his hearers. In the speech of the Mover of this Resolution there was a marked difference ftom the speeches which used to be delivered. The burden of the song used to be "the alien Church." Nothing of that sort was to be found in the speech of the hon. Member for Swansea tonight. I cannot help feeling that some of the facts which were adduced in the last debate made some impression on my hon. Friend's mind. They have not made that effect on the mind of the hon. Baronet opposite. He still describes the British Church as alien. Well, St. Paul was an alien no doubt, and so far the description of the hon. Baronet is accurate, but I am not aware of any other ground upon which a Church founded shortly after the Christian era can be described as alien.
§ MR. RAIKES
I am speaking of a time anterior to that, though I do not venture to go back for 200,000 years, which I think was the period the hon. Baronet claimed that the Welsh language could be traced as spoken in 114 these islands. I do not go back so far as that, but at all events, I venture to say that I recognise in the speech of the hon. Member for Swansea a disposition to abstain from one or two of the weakest points previously presented to us. Nor have we had much of those piles of statistics so easily multiplied on either side. There is quite enough evidence of the majority of Nonconformists in Wales, but as to the precise amount we are likely to differ. The result of the census recently taken would induce us to think that the belief of the Nonconformists themselves has been shaken as to the amount of their preponderancy. I am not prepared, however, to take the fact of their being a majority as a test which should be applied to this question. I am not prepared to accept the Separatist doctrine that Wales in this matter has a separate existence from England. The word "nation" is a vague and ill-defined word. A race, no doubt, the Welsh are. They have a very ancient patrimony in their mountains and their language, They have some traces of an ancient literature, and they are now doing something towards building up a modern literature. I do not wish to disparage a warm-hearted people, among whom I have lived for many years. I do not wish to dispute their claims to racial considerations, but if they wish to claim a position as a nation, they must show that they have a history such as Scotland has—the history of a separate nation extending down to modern times. The Welsh race are a part of the British ration, and no man can aspire to a higher heritage than to be a member of the British nation. And as they are a part of the British nation, so is the Church in Wales a part of the British Church. The Church is not merely the Church of England, as people are fond of calling it when they wish to use the term in an invidious manner, but it is 115 the Catholic Church as it exists in these islands. The Church in Wales is a part and parcel of the Church in this country. It owes its origin to no plébiscite, as to no counting of noses; it is the body that was planted in these islands as the Christian Church. It may have had its faults, it may have made mistakes, or even committed misdeeds, but as to its historical continuity I am prepared to admit no doubt whatever. That is the view which has been, as we know, advocated in a most eloquent manner by no less a person than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), who at that time had not assumed the proud position of the angel in the sun who was to call on the fowls of the air to devour the carcase. Our view has been well set forth in the Amendment. I do not think there has been any disposition in this Debate on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite—and I honour them for their candour—to dispute the growth and increasing vigour and development of the Church in Wales at the present time. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, who will forgive me for calling him the Rip Van Winkle of religious controversy, has endeavoured to strengthen his argument by a reference to the shortcomings of the clergy in the year 1623. Surely my hon. Friend hardly thinks it likely that a practical body like the House of Commons is going to disestablish the Church of Wales in the year 1889 because there were some drunken clergymen in the Principality in the year 1623. The right hon. Member for Denbighshire has said he is glad that nobody has had the hardihood to assert in this discussion that the Church is gaining ground in Wales, because it is a proselytizing Church.
§ MR. RAIKES
Yes; I took the right hon. Gentleman's words down at the time. He said the characteristic of the Church at the present time is that it is a proselytizing Church.
§ MR. RAIKES
The right hon. Gentman said he was glad that no Welsh Member had the hardihood to say that 116 the Church was gaining ground in Wales, and then he proceeded to amplify his argument by describing the Church as a proselytizing Church, and by holding it up on that account to scorn and reprobation. I venture to say that my right hon. Friend, although himself not distantly connected with the Church in Wales, has very little knowledge of the history of any Church at all if he is not aware that the first note of a Church—if any Church worthy of the name—is that it was proselytizing; and that no Church is of any use, either in Heaven or on earth, which is not a proselytizing Church. For myself I claim that the Established Church in Wales is a proselytizing Church; and I am glad that hon. Gentleman opposite admits that that is one of its distinguishing characteristics at present. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that the Church in Wales is the Church of the plutocrat and of the pauper. Now, I think that the Primitive Church contained within its limits some people of wealth and certainly a considerable number of poor, and one of its characteristics was that it preached the Gospel to the poor. But the right hon. Gentleman has so little charity for the poorer members of the Church of his country that he has no kinder word for them than to call them "paupers." That is not the spirit which characterizes the Church, and I am quite certain that the hon. Member who spoke last would have hesitated before applying any term so contemptuous to his poorer brethren.
§ * MR. G. O. MORGAN
The right hon. Gentleman misrepresents me. When I referred to paupers I meant those in receipt of Poor Law relief.
§ MR. RAIKES
I fail to follow the distinction which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to make; but at all events he went on to compare the Churches in Wales with Dives and Lazarus, and it is not known that Lazarus was ever in receipt of Poor Law relief, nor is it known that Dives spent any part of his substance in building churches or providing for the education of the poor. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Non- 117 conformists raise at the present time an income for religious purposes which exceeds by £30,000 a year the revenues of the Church. Well, all honour to the Nonconformists. I can scarcely find a greater proof of their sincerity and earnestness, but the very fact seems to make it ill-natured to grudge the Church its lesser income. It seems to me that the argument proves the sincerity, vigour, and piety of the Non-conformists, but I do not see how it is an argument for depriving the poorer religious body of its endowments. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Welsh people indulge in refining amusements. There is no doubt the Welsh people have great taste for some things, and particularly for music, in which respect they set a good example to their fellow citizens; but we have heard that the Welsh have some other amusements. We have lately heard of Welshmen spending Sunday in drinking clubs in Cardiff, and these two kinds of evidence as to the amusements of the Welsh people do not seem to amount to an argument for disestablishing the Church in Wales. I feel compelled, before concluding, to say a few words with regard to what has fallen from hon. Members opposite as to the recent tithe riots in Wales. It is supposed by some ignorant readers of newspapers, but, of course, by no Members of this House, that the persons who take part in the tumultuous proceedings against the collection of tithe are truly aggrieved because they have to pay this impost. But as a matter of fact the mobs of boys and the crowds of farm labourers who take part in these demonstrations have never paid tithe. I do not deny that the agitation is shared in to a certain degree by persons who dislike paying any imposts whatever, as an hon. Member has said; and I do not say that it has not the sympathy of certain small farmers in Wales; but the bulk of those who take part in the demonstrations against the payment of tithe have no personal interest in the question. It is always urged by the Nonconformists and Radical Press and by hon. Members opposite that there is a necessary antagonism between Noncon- 118 formity and the Church. If that were so I could much more readily understand the position taken up by hon. Members opposite; but I do not admit that it is so. I believe that if you go to the more quiet and less political Nonconformists of this country you will find that they are of opinion that the attitude of Nonconformity towards the Church is similar to the attitude of the Volunteers towards the Regular Army. [Laughter.] I am not speaking of hon. Members who laugh. Nonconformity now represents a great religious movement of the last century, which affected the Church as much as the dissenting bodies. It represents the development of the religious force of this country that is common both to the Church and the great dissenting bodies, and I think there can be no more false estimate of this matter than that derived from these wretched calculations as to the precise number of persons who go to church and the precise number who go to chapel. Nonconformity is, I believe, a temporary phase in a great religious revival. It is not yet clear how far that revival will redound to the advantage of the Church or the advantage of other bodies, but it still retains great force and has not yet spent its full power. So far, that revival has done at least as much for the Church as for the Nonconformist body. The religious future of this country depends not on the antagonism between the two bodies and the fostering of unfriendly rivalry between them, but rather upon the recognition of the fact that a man may be a very good Nonconformist and yet no enemy to the Church, and that a good Churchman may do honour to the character and spirit of Nonconformity, the one recognizing the services that the other has done in the past, and that other realizing the services that the former may do in the future.
§ * MR. STANSFELD (Halifax):
The time is so exceedingly short that I cannot hope to make myself intelligible on the question as a whole, but I must ask the House for leave to say a few words before we go to a Division. I wish in the first place to draw attention to the marked difference between the terms of the Amendment, and the high- 119 flying views that have been propounded by the Postmaster General. The Resolution sets forth that as the Church of England in Wales has failed to fulfil its professed object as a means of promoting the religious interests of the Welsh people, and ministers only to a small minority of the population, its maintenance as an Established Church in the Principality is an anomaly, and an injustice which ought no longer to exist No part of that statement or assertion of my hon. Friend has been traversed by the Amendment. What was the Amendment? It has been very carefully and curiously worded. It says—That, having regard to the great and growing influence and work of the National Church, especially in the principality of Wales, this House is not prepared to entertain proposals for its Disestablishment in that part of the Kingdom.The House will mark the great difference between the point of view of the Amendment and that of the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General. The latter has told us he cannot admit of any severance; that the Church of England, including Wales, is indivisible, but he appears to be oblivious of the fact that this Motion is not an attack on a Church, but on an Establishment, and that, whilst severing a part of the Establishment, we may leave the Church—the historic and indivisible Church—intact. What I desire to say, in the few moments that I can avail myself of, are two things. I want to state our principle and our intention. The principle and opinion of the Liberal Party on this subject, are well known, and are not new. The noble Lord, the Member for Rossendale 11 or 12 years ago, said at Edinburgh that whenever Scotch opinion, or even Scotch Liberal opinion, was formed on the subject of the Disestablishment of the Scotch Church, the Liberal Party would be prepared to deal with it. Well, the noble Lord has been a Member for a Welsh constituency, and I suppose he knows something about Welsh opinion. I do not believe he will re-echo the views of the hon. Member for Bradford. He knows well enough what is the opinion of the Welsh people on the subject. It is not a question as to whether the 120 majority of the Welsh Nonconformists is two-thirds or more, it is the intensity of their feeling which pervades their whole lives, religious and political, that makes the realization of their hopes, in my opinion, certain in the future. Every great Liberal conference that has been held of late has declared in favour of Welsh Disestablishment. Every Liberal Leader has declared in its favour. The people of England have no right to use their voting power to trample on the religious convictions of the people of the Principality. In our view, to be an Established Church, a Church ought to be national. It should embody and represent the faith of the people, and if it does not do so, it is an injustice to the people, and a degradation to the Church. Is it not a degradation to the Church to bring it down to the level of a Government Department, or of a vested interest. We ought to fight the question out on a higher level; we ought to think more of the Church, one of the highest conceptions of which man is capable. We ought to think more of the Church and less of the connection between the Church and the State. That is our feeling, and our contention. We are profoundly convinced that the English Church in Wales is alien to the feelings and convictions of the people of Wales, and on that ground we take our stand in supporting the Resolution, and it is my firm conviction that the day is not long distant when the Resolution will be recorded as law on the Statute Book of this country.
The House divided:—Ayes, 231; Noes, 284.—(Div. List, No. 113.)
Main Question, as amended, put.Resolved, That, having regard to the great and growing influence and work of the National Church, especially in the Principality of Wales, this House is not prepared to entertain proposals for its Disestablishment in that part of the Kingdom.
It being after One of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.
House adjourned at a quarter after One o'clock.