HC Deb 02 May 1890 vol 344 cc62-120
*(9.2.) DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

Mr. Speaker, for the third time in this House I rise to move:— That, in the opinion of this House, the Church of Scotland ought to be disestablished and disendowed. On the two former occasions the Motion was defeated, but only by an English majority. It was supported by a large majority of the Scotch Members. In 1886 the majority of Scotch votes in its favour was three to two, and in 1888 they were as two to one. In 1888, 38 Scottish Members voted, and two paired, in support of my Resolution, and only 20 voted against. And, to show the direction in which public opinion is running in Scotland, I may add that the bye-elections which have taken place since the constitution of the present Parliament have resulted in the return of an even greater proportion of Members supporting my views. In 1877 the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington), when leader of the Liberal Party, and when the pass- ing of the Patronage Act had made Disestablishment a prominent question in Scotland, said, speaking in Glasgow— All I can say is that whenever Scottish opinion, or even Scottish Liberal opinion, is fully formed on the subject, I think I may venture to say on behalf of the Liberal Party as a whole that they will be prepared to deal with the question as a whole without regard to other considerations. I am sorry the noble Lord is not in his place. I think it must he held that Scottish opinion is fully proved on this subject when, 13 years after the noble Lord's utterance, the total vote at two successive elections of all sections of Liberal Members from Scotland, including that over which the noble Marquess himself presides, was on the first occasion as four to one, on the second five to one in favour of my Motion. Not only so, but the bye-elections since 1886 show that out of 12 Liberals, orthodox and heterodox, returned to this House by Scotch constituencies, 11 support the Disestablishment of the Church of Scotland. The noble Lord has such a reputation for courage and straightforwardness that I am certain, when these facts are brought to his notice, I may rely upon him for his support. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, at the time to which I refer, was not the official leader of the Liberal Party; but since he has resumed his natural position as its leader he has always expressed his adhesion to the doctrine laid down in the words of the noble Lord. Very recently he made a speech at St. Austell, and from what he said in that speech I think I may confidently rely upon his support. Then there is another statesman in this House—one of eminence I refer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the last Parliament he sat for a Division of Edinburgh, and he was naturally cross-examined as to his views upon this question. His replies on the occasion were oracularly ambiguous. But time has unriddled the oracle, and I now claim his vote. I do not want to misrepresent his position, and, therefore, I will describe it not in my own, but the words of one of his supporters—Lord Wemyss—who thus spoke of it in a meeting which he addressed at Glasgow, in October, 1885. After paying a high tribute to him, and speaking of him as one to whom Cross-Bench men looked forward with hope, the noble Lord went on to say— Mr. Goschen came to be heckled and collared on the question of Disestablishment, and what was his answer—not in a speech. In a speech a man says 50 things which he would rather not see in print. But when you come to be heckled you have time to think what you are going to say, and you answer carefully. Well, what was Mr. Goschen's careful answer to this question of the Established Church? 'My convictions.' Well, what are his convictions? I read it in the Daily Review, so I suppose it must be all right, 'My convictions,' replied Mr. Goschen, 'are the wishes of the people of Scotland.' ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member says, "Hear, hear!" So say I, when the Scottish Members in two successive Parliaments have twice expressed the wishes of the Scottish people upon my Motion in the only manner in which those wishes can be unequivocally and constitutionally expressed, namely, by an overwhelming majority of their votes in support of my proposition. Knowing that the right hon. Gentleman's convictions are the wishes of the Scottish people I have a right to claim his support. I only regret that he no longer occupies a seat for a Scottish constituency, so that greater local weight might attach to the expression of his opinions in the shape in which events have at length consolidated them. But though the enormous preponderance of the Scottish vote ought, in my opinion, to be sufficient to convince the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale it has not been sufficient to convince my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Glasgow, whose views of everything which concerns the Church of Scotland are cast-iron and adamantine, and proof alike against the teachings of experience and the logic of facts. That the hon. Member for Particle and the hon. Baronet the Member for Ipswich have adopted his words, speaks more for the heartiness of their approval than for the fertility of their resources. These hon. Gentlemen declare that there is no reason, either as regards the present position of the Church of Scotland, or the position of the people of Scotland, why a proposal should be entertained for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of that Church. The Representatives of the people of Scotland, selected in successive Parliaments under the widest franchise, and with the protection of the Ballot, may record their votes as they please; the bye-elections can afford what additional indication they may of the feelings of Scotland, but to the impenetrably armour-clad mind of my hon. Friend, these facts afford not the smallest reason why any attention should be paid to the matter. There is, according to him, absolutely no reason, so far as regards the wishes of the people of Scotland, why the proposal should be entertained, not even after the results of the bye-elections, and the unequivocal expression of opinion by the large majority of Members in this House. Such a position seems to me so obviously to constitute either a libel upon, or a treason to, our whole system of Parliamentary representation, and I do not think it is necessary to waste further time in endeavouring to refute it. I can only express my astonishment that a doctrine which is so utterly subversive of the whole of the fundamental principles of our Constitution should be advanced in identical terms by three Members, who claim to belong to the Constitutional Party, without calling for condign and summary reproof and repudiation from their Colleagues. But, says the hon. Member for the Glasgow University and his supporters, there is no reason, as regards the present position of the Church of Scotland, why the proposal should be entertained. He does not qualify his assertion. He does not say there is no adequate reason. He says, "There is absolutely no reason whatever." That is an assertion which, I venture to say, is as unblushingly audacious and untenable as that which I have just characterised. What is the position of the Church of Scotland? Now, Sir, prior to the disruption of 1843, the Established Church embraced the majority of the population of Scotland. At various dates, comparatively small bodies had lived off from it, but prior to the Disruption the Established Church of Scotland embraced the vast majority of the Presbyterian population. Between 1832 and 1842 the Established Church of Scotland entered into a historical and momentous struggle with the Civil Courts of the country. The struggle arose out of the rights of patrons to intrude unacceptable ministers on unwilling congregations; but in the course of the struggle a number of most important points of ecclesiastical polity evolved them selves on which the decisions of the Civil Courts were at direct variance with the most cherished doctrines of the Church of Scotland. To give one single example. One of the most cherished doctrines of the Church is the headship of Christ—that is to say, that the Church derives its spiritual jurisdiction direct from our Saviour. In one of his judgments the President of the Court of Session, referring to the doctrine, said— That our Saviour is the head of the Kirk of Scotland in any temporal or judicial sense, is a position which I can dignify by no other name than absurdity. Now, Sir, the result of this long struggle was that, in the year 1842, the strain between Church and State became very great, and the General Assembly of the Established Church drew up a protest and claim of right. In that document 12 principles were laid down, which the Established Church considered of most vital importance, but which, in their opinion, had been contravened by the decisions of the Civil Courts, which, to quote the words of the protest, in determining these points against the Church— Had exercised powers not conferred on them by the Constitution—had invaded the jurisdiction of the Courts of the Church, had subverted its Government in opposition to God's Word, in violation of the Constitution, and in disregard of divers express enactments of the Legislature. The General Assembly drew up this protest and claim of rights for submission to the Sovereign and the Legislature, and wound up with an appeal to all office-bearers and people of the Church who were willing to surfer for their adorable King and Head, to stand by the Church, and to unite in supplication that He would turn the hearts of their rulers to redress their grievances, "or otherwise"—I ask the House to note these words— Or otherwise that He would give strength to this Church, office-bearers and people, to endure resignedly the loss of the temporal benefits of the establishment and the personal sufferings and sacrifices to which they may be called, and would inspire them with zeal and energy to promote the advancement of His Son's Kingdom in whatever condition it may be His will to place them. Well, here we have formulated by the entire Established Church of Scotland a number of points in which the law, as interpreted by the Civil Courts, was sub versive of the doctrines of that Church. You have a demand made for the redress of these grievances by legislation, and the position taken up was that unless the grievances were remedied there was no alternative but to shake off the trammels imposed by State connection, and, at whatever cost, to assert the spiritual freedom of the Church. That protest came before the Government, and the Legislature, and the Church was informed that its claims were incompatible with the position of the Established Church. And, thereupon, those of its people who adhered to the doctrines of the National Church as laid down in its solemn protest—those men in whose mouths the words "suffering" and "sacrifice" were more than idle wind proceeding from the teeth outward—those who were willing to undergo suffering and sacrifice for conscience sake—these men went forth from the Establishment claiming that they were the rightful Representatives and heirs of the traditions of the Church of Scotland, which they said, and rightly said, was national, not because it was established, but because it was free. Now, those who were thus driven forth from the National Church did not at once demand Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church of Scotland, but when they did make the demand, the circumstances under which it was made rendered it vastly more weighty. They did not make it, as might have been expected, when smarting under a sense of injustice and embittered by the sacrifices they had to make. They endured those things patiently. They worked on for something like 40 years, during which, at the cost of incredible labour and sacrifice, in many instances, in the face of every obstacle which bigotry and intolerance could suggest, at the cost of a pecuniary expenditure of close on 11 millions sterling, they reared an ecclesiastical system which extended over Scotland, and which rivalled the Establishment in its influence and importance. During those 40 years nothing was done to remedy their grievances or to render possible the return to the Establishment of those who had gone forth from it, until, at length, at the instance of the supporters of the Establishment, Mr. Disraeli brought in and carried his Patronage Act; not with the object of re-incorporating the Free Church, but for the purpose of inducing desertions from other Scotch Churches by which the Establishment might be strengthened. There was no pretence that the Act would lead to a re-union of the Church. "I have always said," stated the Duke of Argyll, "there is no hope whatever for the re-union of the Free and Established Churches except on the ground of Disestablishment." The object of the Act was to induce large numbers of lay members of the other Churches to return to the Establishment under the pretext that the most substantial of the grievances that had been alleged should be redressed. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) described it was "an attempt to steal back piece-meal what had been driven forth wholesale," and resented accordingly. Under these circumstances the Free Church was at length compelled to admit that an Establishment so identified with a policy of antagonism and aggression, backed up in that policy by a powerful political Party and State Endowment, constituted a standing menace to its usefulness in the great sphere of Christian work which, at such great cost, it had opened up. The Free Church was at length compelled to admit that under the altered circumstances the maintenance of the Establishment was unjust and inexpedient, and since then, by constantly increasing majorities, the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland has voted in favour of the proposition now before the House. And yet the hon. Member for Glasgow University sees no reason why this proposal should be as much as entertained. Why, in reply to an argument of the hon. Gentleman himself it was pointed out, in 1886, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, that there was not another example in Christendom of a Church enjoying the advantages of State Endowment and State Establishment existing alongside two other Churches of almost equally numerous membership, adhering to the same doctrine, more strict in the enforcement of its discipline than the Established Church, which, having been driven forth from the Establishment, in consequence of their uncompromising adhesion to its principles, now found themselves subjected to the disadvantage of State prestige and State Endowments being used by the Estab- lishment as a lever for their disintegration. There is no reason, forsooth, in the present condition of the Church in Scotland! It is admittedly the Church of the minority of the Scottish people. It does not claim more than 46½ per cent. of the people of Scotland, and we altogether repudiate that claim; still we will take it at their own figure as 46½ per cent. They do not, on their own figures, embrace more than 56½ per cent. of the Presbyterians of Scotland. That leaves 43½ per cent. of the Presbyterians belonging to other Churches. Is that a minority which can be utterly disregarded in the discussion of a question of this sort? The number of Established churches, although there was some quibble about mission stations—is less than the number of other Presbyterian places of worship; and there can be no question that the attendance at the dissenting Churches is greater than at the Established Church. Its revenues are less than half the revenues of the other Presbyterian Churches. What right, then, has this one portion of the Presbyterian Church to exclusive privileges—to exclusive State support—especially when those advantages are used for aggression against the other Presbyterian Churches? I do not complain of the Established Church being aggressive. If it were not aggressive it would show a lack of vitality; but I ask why should the State aid one portion of the Presbyterian Church, and enable it to extend its bounds at the expense of the Presbyterian and other Churches, which are as pure and as zealous in the work they have to perform? We used to have the Act of Union thrown at us, and to be told that the Established Church was guaranteed by that Act; but hardly was the ink dry on the Act, than its most important provision with regard to the freedom of the Scottish Church was thrown overboard by the passing of the Patronage Act of Queen Anne. Only last year, too, the provision which exacted a theological test from every Professor in a Scottish University was swept away. That, perhaps, explains why the old stalking-horse of the Union did not appear in the Amendment to his Motion. We are told that the Established Church of Scotland is doing good work. Will hon. Gentlemen deny that the other Churches are doing equally good work? We are told that without State aid the spiritual wants of the poor of Scotland must be neglected. I hold that to be a libel on all the other Churches of Scotland. The Free Church provides almost exclusively for the wants of the poor in the Highlands of Scotland, and the United Presbyterian Church in Orkney and Shetland. In many of the Highland parishes the position of the Established Church is almost as great a scandal as almost anything that could be picked out of the history of the old Irish Establishment. In a statement which has been distributed amongst hon. Members will be found a list of 13 Highland parishes, embracing a population of over 13,000 souls, and in not one of the parishes are there to be found more than 10 Communicants of the Established Church, whilst in the whole of them that Church claims only 63 Communicants. I could quote scores of instances of the same kind. Even in counties like Caithness, or Ross and Cromarty, where the State subsidy amounts to £6 or even £10 per head of the Communicants, the position of the Established Church is most wretched and deplorable. We are told that the Established Church is rapidly enlarging its boundaries. We claim that the other Churches are doing the same. But if it is increasing more rapidly than the other Churches in Scotland it must be in consequence of the legislation which has been undertaken by this House against the vote of the vast majority of the Scotch Representatives. If any disproportionate increase has taken place in the Established Church, it must have been at the expense of the sister Churches. But we do not admit that the Patronage Act, or the policy since pursued, has in any way strengthened the Established Church. On the contrary, we believe it has been a source of weakness to her by embittering the relations between the Established Church and the other Presbyterian Bodies, and it has convinced a large majority of the people of Scotland that the continued maintenance under present circumstances of the Establishment, so far from being a boon to their religion is a curse. The endowments of the Established Church amount to about £350,000 or £400,000. This, it is said, is the patrimony of that Church, but it is not the patrimony of a Church. It is the patrimony simply of the Ecclesiastical Establishment for the time being-. The endowments are the remnant of the patrimony of the old Roman Catholic Establishment—the patrimony of the Episcopal Establishment. Then they formed the patrimony of the pre-Disruption Presbyterian Establishment, and then of the post-Disruption Erastian Establishment. They are as much the patrimony of the Establishment as the property of the Board of Works or the Post Office may be said to be the patrimony of those Departments, and they are as much the property of the nation as that property. In their history and origin they are infinitely more clearly the property of the nation than certain educational endowments, the destination of which has recently been altered with such ruthless hands by a Royal Commission, of which the hon. Member for Glasgow University (Mr. J. A. Campbell) and Lord Balfour of Burleigh were prominent Members. I say it comes with a very bad grace from that hon. Gentleman and that noble Lord to accuse us of spoliation after the very active part they have taken in putting in force, on much more debate-able ground than we propose to invade, the doctrines we advocate, and especially when, as in the case of the Madras College, St. Andrews, they have sometimes carried out their policy with a cruel disregard of the vested rights of individuals, who had earned those rights by life-long service of the public, and who, owing to the decrees of the Commission, have been thrown upon the world to live as best they may. An attempt has been made to drag a red herring across the trail by suggesting that the endowments should be distributed amongst the Presbyterian Bodies. That proposal has had no practical support and has already been denounced by the leading Representatives of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church. The hon. and learned Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay), when he, a few years ago, introduced a scheme for the re-union of the different Churches, spoke of bringing in a subsequent Bill dealing with this branch of the subject, but nothing more has been heard of it, probably owing to the difficulty being recognised of making this suggested adjustment of the endowments. But it is no scheme of that kind that the people of Scotland want. What, through their Representatives in this House they have twice decided that they want is not any more tinkering with the Establishment. What is wanted is the severance of all connection between Church and State, perfect religious equality among the people, and the appropriation of the endowments, now monopolised by one sect, to public uses, careful regard being had to all vested interests. And, Sir, with the view of again testing the feelings of this House, and especially of the Scottish Members, on that question, I beg to move the Resolution that stands in my name.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "In the opinion of this House, the Church of Scotland ought to he disestablished and disendowed,".— (Dr. Cameron,) —instead thereof.

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

*(9.40.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

I rise with some diffidence to second the Resolution which has just been moved by the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow. It is not to some of us a new subject. It so happens I was one of a deputation which waited on the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (The Marquess of Hartington) when he visited Scotland and made the first official declaration in regard to Disestablishment, and it may not be out of place that, as the proposer represents one of the largest cities in Scotland, the seconder should be the Representative of one of the largest counties. Now, I claim to approach this subject very dispassionately. It so happens that in my own constituency there is a large majority of electors belonging to the Church of Scotland, and it is quite a mistake to believe that the feeling in the Church of Scotland is unanimous against Disestablishment. I have the honour to have among my strongest supporters elders and office-bearers of the Church of Scotland. But although we approach this subject dispassionately, we approach it none the less earnestly. It is not my intention to go into statistics. Were we to go into statistics, and were we to prove that there is in Scotland a large majority in favour of religious inequality, it would, in my opinion, be a stronger argument against that majority imposing on the minority their religion, or any liabilities in regard to it. I have all my life belonged to a denomination which dates back 150 years, and has always held that the religious vitality of the Church itself is a perfect security for its temporalities. We can depend, and do depend, on outmost resolute faith in the goodwill and feelings of the people to maintain the Christian communities to which they are attached. On the present occasion we are asked to make merely a pious declaration of our opinions, and are not entering upon legislation. But, in our view, that is both necessary and right. A subject of this kind ought to be approached with caution. We ought to look at the interests of all concerned, and I believe it would be in the interests both of those in favour and those against Disestablishment that we should have the fullest and freest discussion of this subject before we come to legislation. It is to some of us a matter of very great interest that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, to whom we look as a Scottish Member to give us some declaration on the subject, has already in the Parliament of 1885 given it as his opinion that at that time this subject was not ripe for legislation. But that is no reason why we should not discuss it at the present time, in prospect of legislation in the future. Now, although we have several Amendments on the Paper they are all the same in substance. The Member for the Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities declares in his Amendment that there is no reason, as regards either the present position of the Church of Scotland or the wishes of the people of Scotland, which calls for our interference. I put this proposition to my hon. Friend: that it is not for us to show that there is any call on our part to interfere; but it is for my hon. Friend to show that a minority of the people of Scotland should have for their own disposal large funds which belong to the whole people. There is one 'thing to which I think attention should be called. Before the Disruption the Church of Scotland came to the Legislature and called their atten- tion to the growing population in the cities, for which there was no temporal provision made in that Church. The Legislature said to them, even so long ago as 1838, that they were not prepared to extend these ecclesiastical privileges in Scotland. Having this stated to them, it was necessary that provision should be made for those for whom the Church of Scotland in the disposal of her endowments made no provision; and when the Church of Scotland send out their statistics —as they are doing now—they always conceal from the public the important fact that where there have been two or three Chapels of Ease or quoad sacra churches established, the central churches have never gone the length of what they declare to be their own convictions, and which I think they would do if they had their own convictions as deeply as they profess to have. If it is essential for the cause of religion in Scotland that the parish churches should be endowed, why does not the Church recognise the principle of distributing the endowment with the other Churches, belonging to their own denomination? The hon. Member for Peebles (Mr. Thorburn) brings forward a somewhat different Amendment, in which he says that— As the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of Scotland has not been put before the people of Scotland as a test question, this House declines fundamentally to disturb the present ecclesiastical arrangements in that country. Now, what does my hon. Friend mean by that? Do the upholders of the Scottish Establishment really seriously propose to this House that any other means should be taken to ascertain the wishes of the people of Scotland than by going to the ballot-box? If seems to me if our friends are prepared to say that we should take some exceptional plebiscite different from the ballot-box, they give up their whole case because they fear the tribunal. I do not propose to follow the arguments used in the Amendments any further; but I do notice that it is being constantly stated, and those who favour Disestablishment are reproached by being told, that we have no mandate from our constituents. ["Hear, hear!"] In response to the feeble cheers I hear from the benches opposite, I would ask, have the Party opposite any mandate? What is the mandate? Was it not the whole argument at the recent Election that this matter should be left alone during the present Parliament? ["Yes"and "No"from the Ministerial Benches.] There seems to be a difference of opinion on the point among the supporters of the Establishment, which I leave them to settle among themselves. Who is to blame for breaking the truce? The hon. Member for Inverness was the first to introduce a Bill on this subject, while the hon. Member for the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen is every year bringing in fresh legislation. What right, then, have our friends to say that those who now favour Disestablishment disturb the peace of Scotland and break the solemn promise given at the last Election? I claim, however, some consideration for the hon. Member for the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen, whom I have frequently followed into the Lobby on educational questions. My hon. Friend was elected by the University vote: and although the ministers of the Church of Scotland are constantly telling us that they approach this subject from no Party point of view, out of 310 clerical votes only 15 were given for the Liberal candidate. Does my hon. Friend ask that the endowment and establishment of the Church ought to continue on the ground of its being the Church of the majority? If that is the argument, what have we to say to the Roman Catholics in Ireland, who are in a majority in that country? If we are not to take the numerical strength, are we to take the purity and true religion of the Church? If so, who are to be the judges? Is the House of Commons to be the dictator, and, if so, where is the spiritual independence which has been the glory of the Presbyterian Church in ages past? Now, take another argument. Our opponents say if there is no endowed Church the people in certain districts will be destitute of religion. What is the ground for saying that? The poorest districts of Scotland are the Highlands. Voluntary churches support the whole of the Highlands almost, and the Church of Scotland spend £40,000 a year on congregations, the average membership of which is 5½. It is not true that those who want the Disestablishment of the Church desire to divert the endowments. The claim is that the money belongs to the Church, and that the Church is the Church of the people. The Established Church is upheld by Parliament out of public funds, and every one is agreed that not a penny of that money should be diverted. All we want is that the money shall be applied to some universal purpose, of which all parties may partake alike. On a previous occasion the Lord Advocate said that the question was merely one of envy and personal jealousy. I am not sure upon what foundation this statement is based by the right hon. Gentleman, because our claim is that the envy and jealousy is largely created by the disunion which exists in the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland, and the only means of uniting that Church is by the Disendowment and Disestablishment of the Established Church. Instead of this attitude being assumed in a spirit of jealousy and envy, I claim that it is assumed in the interest of true union, and to put an end to all feeling of jealousy. The learned Lord Advocate made another statement, which was very remarkable. He said the temporalities of the Church of Scotland were "an increment of spiritual means." I confess I have not been able to come to any conclusion as to the meaning of that statement. I have got it from Hansard, and' if the right hon. Gentleman has been misreported I shall be glad to hear any correction. Dr. Chalmers, in a remarkable utterance, has said that the Church might cease to be an Establishment, but that in all the high matters of sacred and spiritual jurisdiction she would be the same as before. I put the opinion of the great leader formerly of the Church of Scotland, and later of the Free Church, against the opinion of the Lord Advocate on this point. We are asked whether Disestablishment would promote union. We are aware that two proposals have-been made—one of levelling up, and the other of levelling down. The first proposal has been found to be impracticable, and union on that basis has been declared impossible. It is, therefore, left to us to seek union on the basis of Disestablishment and Disendowment. I appeal to the House to give serious consideration to a subject which is causing great irritation and great injustice in Scotland. I would ask whether the present is not a great opportunity of effecting Christian union among the religious denominations of Scotland. At no previous period has there been such a disposition to meet the Church of Scotland fairly, and to consider her great history and her good work. We are ready to meet the Church of Scotland on any terms which may be considered fair and just in the interests of Scotland, and I beseech hon. Gentlemen opposite who have been bound so long to the temporalities of that Church to trust to the free-will offerings of the people, having no fear that the Church will not maintain its cause without State connection and without State or patronage endowment. I have great pleasure in seconding the Motion.

*(10.6.) MR. J. A. CAMPBELL (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)

I must oppose the Motion just moved and seconded. I recognise the friendly spirit in which my Friends opposite have referred to me; and I hope that, though I shall be obliged to speak somewhat decidedly on the opposite side, I shall not be less friendly in my remarks than they have been. I must demur altogether to the account given by the Mover of the Motion of the nature and causes of the Disruption movement in 1843. The controversy at that time was not as to whether there was or was not a spiritual Headship of Christ, but whether or not it had been invaded by the Courts of Law; and the position taken up by the majority of the Church was confirmed by decisions in the Courts of Law afterwards in quieter times, which fully established the spiritual independence of the Church within its own province. Then my hon. Friend gave a somewhat fanciful account of the nature of the Church's action in regard to the passing of the Act for the abolition of patronage. That Act was not passed for the purpose of inducing desertions from the Free Church, but in order to relieve the Church of Scotland from a defect under which it had long suffered. The Church had always protested against the system of patronage. The controversy was not as to whether there should be patronage, but how patronage was to be modified or got rid of. Parliament never said that the Church, in passing what was called the Veto Act, had done a thing that was in itself wrong or inexpedient or objectionable, but simply that it had done a thing it had no power to do. I claim that the Church of Scotland has never said anything against the work of its neighbours, or attempted to interfere with that work or refused to recognise the good work of its neighbours. My hon. Friends have both twitted me—["No!"] —well, they have referred in a facetious and not altogether flattering manner to what they regard as inconsistency on my part in two different lines of action—firstly, in opposing this Motion; and secondly, in carrying through the work of the Educational Endowments Commission. With regard to extending the benefits of her endowments, the Church of Scotland has repeatedly and in the most generous and decided manner invited the other Churches to suggest some way in which they might unite with her, consistently with her character as a National Church, to share in the work of the National Church, and share in the endowments of the National Church. My hon. Friend said that the Educational Endowment Commissioners have interfered with existing arrangements, and introduced new systems We did so because we were commissioned to reorganise the endowments, so as to carry out better the intentions of the founders and to make the endowments more useful considering the changed circumstances of the time. On the same principle the Church has also sought to make her endowments more useful; but if she gives up the principle of a National Church, she will be going directly in the teeth of the intentions of the pious founders of these endowments. My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont) has asked me whether I would continue the endowment and establishment of the Church of Scot-laud on the ground of it being the Church of the majority of the people, and if so, whether I would extend the same principle to Ireland and other places. The Church of Scotland has come to us with obligations with regard to her and in connection with the other parts of the Kingdom. We have in the Church of Scotland a branch of the same great Protestant Church as the Church of England. We have in Scotland a Church not out of sympathy with the Church of the majority in England, but representing in Scotland the same sentiment as the latter represents in England. ["Oh, oh!"] I mean the Christian Protestant sentiment of the great majority of the people. The hon. Member (Dr. Cameron) has quoted the opinion of Dr. Chalmers four or five years before the Disruption. I will quote a sentence uttered by Dr. Chalmers four years after the Disruption. "I can afford," said Dr. Chalmers, a few days before his death in 1847, To say no more than that my hopes of an extended Christianity from the efforts of voluntaryism alone have not been brightened by my experience since the Disruption. We rejoice, therefore, in the testimony of the Free Church for the principle of a national Establishment, and most sincerely do we hope that she will never fall away from it. I do not wish to tax the attention of the House any more than is necessary with statistics; but, at the same time, it may be inevitable that some statistics should be referred to. The proposal of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the College Division (Dr. Cameron) is a serious proposal. It is one which will, if carried, involve a greater change than has been experienced in Scotland since the Union. He referred by anticipation to the objections that might be adduced on the ground of the Treaty of Union. I will not dwell on the Treaty of Union. No doubt it has been interfered with in many respects, but I do not know that on that account anything that is a prominent feature of the Treaty of Union is not deserving of serious consideration. The maintenance of the Church as by law established is a prominent provision of the Treaty of Union. It has a prominent place in the Coronation Oath of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom, and I say that any proposal to abolish the Church as an Established Church under such circumstances ought to be approached with consideration and care. I hold that to justify this Motion there ought to be distinct proof that the people of Scotland wish the Church to be Disestablished and Disendowed, and that there is something in the position of the Church to justify such a wish. I deny that there is any proof of either. As to the wish of the people of Scotland, we had an indication of it a few years ago, when shoals of Petitions were sent in to this House against Mr. Dick Peddie's Disestablishment Bill. There has been no change of sentiment in Scotland since that time. I may also refer to the very significant declaration made by the electors of Mid Lothian, who, to the number of 67 per cent., signed a declara- tion that they were opposed to the Disestablishment of the Church of Scotland. The Disestablishment Council of Scotland have circulated, to some extent, a printed statement in this House. Neither I nor any of my Friends received a copy of it, and it was only through the courtesy of an hon. Friend opposite that I now have a copy of it. That document states that, "The people of Scotland have long demanded redress," from having an Established Church. When and where have the people of Scotland spoken to that effect? Proofs are adduced in the statement, but they are from ecclesiastical and political sources alone. The Synod of the United Presbyterian Church and the General Assembly of the Free Church are cited as having passed resolutions in favour of Disestablishment, but these Church Courts are not the people of Scotland. Nor do they represent all the members of their Churches. We know that many Free Churchmen are strongly opposed to Disestablishment; and as to the United Presbyterian Church, although votes have been carried unanimously in its Synod, those who have personal acquaintance with its ministers and members have been aware that there are many in that denomination who have no sympathy with the Disestablishment movement. We now have proof of this, for on the 16th ult. a large and influential meeting of lay members of the United Presbyterian Church was held at Glasgow to memorialise the Synod against the existence and action of the Synod's Committee on Disestablishment and Disendowment. It was declared at that meeting that the Memorialists held "various opinions," as by the constitution of their Church they were at liberty to do "as to the wisdom of the policy of Disestablishment and Disendowment; but that they were "at one in the belief that agitation in support of that policy by a Committee acting under ecclesiastical authority" was "inexpedient." Another proof given in the printed statement that the people wish for Disestablishment, is that at a meeting of 400 Home Rule Liberal delegates, held in Glasgow in November last, it was agreed that Disestablishment Scotland "must be kept in the front rank of the Liberal Programme." There has thus been a resolution in favour of Disestablishment by a certain political organisation and by certain Church Courts. But these are not "the people of Scotland." To say so is an error of the same nature, though not of the same degree, as that of the historical tailors of Tooley Street, who represented themselves as the people of England. I would ask, where have there been any public meetings in Scotland in favour of Disestablishment, for, say, the last five years? But as to the wishes of the people of Scotland, what do we know? Last year the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, speaking at St. Austell, expressed himself to the effect that "The sense of Scotland had now been sufficiently and unequivocally declared" by two votes in this House. But what had the right hon. Gentleman previously said? In November, 1885, addressing his constituents in answer to a question "whether he would would take the vote on the Resolution of the Member for the College Division as indicative of the state of Scottish opinion," he said— If I am right in saying that every Liberal voter ought to support a competent Liberal candidate, whatever be his opinions on the Church question, then, of course, it follows that no such resolution can be accepted as conclusive, because, as I said, the men were elected on the general grounds of Liberalism and were not elected on the Church question. So much for the Parliament then sitting. What of the present Parliament? It was elected on the question of the government of Ireland and not on the Church question. At the elections in Scotland the Church question was scarcely mentioned. It follows, therefore, that a vote on the Resolution of the hon. Member can no more be accepted in this Parliament than in last as conclusive of the opinions on this question of the people of Scotland. And what were these two votes? In 1886, out of 72 Scotch Members, 25 voted for the Motion, and in 1888 38 voted for it. On a subject upon which the Representatives had no mandate' from their constituents, the vote of a bare majority is held to be an unequivocal declaration of the sense of Scotland! But it seems to me we have a somewhat better criterion of the opinion of Scotland than can be got from any vote in this House taken in that way. I refer to what happened at the last two bye-elections, where the candidates who advocated Disestablishment were unsuccessful, and the candidates who were opposed to Disestablishment were returned. So far, then, as the evidence of elections goes, the most recent information gives the sense of Scotland against this Motion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, in addressing his constituents in 1879, put aside the idea that there was any danger of this question being disposed of without a fair trial and a full consideration of the case by the people of Scotland. Such a fair trial and full consideration is exactly what the Church demands. The Committee on Church Interests, who are authorised to speak for the Church in this matter, have said that they would acquiesce in any method in which a decision of the people could be taken on the question by fair and honourable means, and as a distinct and separate issue. The Disestablishment Council in their statement have objected by anticipation to a plebiscite. The Church is not afraid of a plebiscite. It has never asked for one. It does not demand any particular way of taking the decision. But it claims that if the opinion of the people is to be taken, it must be taken on this as a separate question, and not mixed up and entangled with questions of Party politics. As to the position of the Church, there is no warrant for such a Motion as this of the hon. Member for the College Division. The numerical strength of the Church is undoubtedly of some importance in a question of this kind, but it is not the only thing to be considered. The question is not how many members there are in the Church of Scotland, but what proportion of the people of Scotland have any wish that the Church should be disestablished. The Church has many ardent defenders who do not belong to its communion. The Petitions the other year to which I have already referred had the signatures of 150,000 persons who were not in the communion of the Church. Still, the number claiming the Church as theirs is a question of importance, and how is the information to be obtained? [An hon. MEMBER: "Census."] A Census would give us most valuable information on that point, and I hope it is not too late yet to have a column in the forthcoming Census giving religious denominations. But it is not the fault of the friends of the Church that such a Census was not taken on the last occasion. But in the absence of that, some approximation to precise information may be obtained from the statistics of the Registrar General. From these it appears that 47 per cent. of the marriages in Scotland are solemnised in connection with the Church of Scotland. Deducting Roman Catholic marriages and irregular marriages, the proportion of Protestant marriages solemnised by the Church of Scotland is 53 per cent. The communicants of the Church number 581,568, and those of all the other Protestant denominations 520, 730, showing a majority for the Church of Scotland of 60, 800. In the statement which they have issued, the Disestablishment Council venture to say that there are good grounds for calling in question the large membership claimed by the Established Church. This serious charge of misrepresentation is made upon the ground that taking the statistics of congregations of the churches in Perthshire, the numbers connected with the various churches would exceed the whole population of the county; and, coming to the conclusion that there must be a mistake somewhere, in the Church of Scotland or the Free Church or the United Presbyterian Church statistics, they assume that the fault must be with the Church of Scotland! The Church of Scotland challenges scrutiny of her statistics. The membership in the different parishes is published in the Year Book, and the accuracy of the figures can easily be inquired into; and as this case has been so directly mentioned in statements by our opponents, I, holding the position of Convener of the Church Committee on Statistics, undertake to make inquiry in any case where it is thought by any of our friends that explanation is required. The Disestablishment statement, which has been circulated, refers to the fact that the increase of Church membership, as reported last year, was not so great as in previous years; but no mention is made of the fact that this difference is due to stricter rules having been introduced in revising communion rolls. The statement compares the increase in the different Churches in the last year, but avoids the comparison of the last two or four years, which would have shown the following increase—for the last two years, for the Church of Scotland, 10,539; for the Free Church, 5,129; and for the United Presbyterian Church, 900; or for the last four years, for the Church of Scotland, 25,946; for the Free Church, 9,199; and for the United Presbyterian Church, 2,981. I may mention that the statistics which will shortly be published will show an increase for the Church of Scotland in the past 12 months of about 7,000. No one with any acquaintance with Scotland can doubt that the Established Church is steadily and, in many places, rapidly increasing throughout the country. The Disestablishment statement calls attention to its position in the Highlands, and gives statistics with reference to 12 parishes in which the Church membership is very small. Ever since the Disruption of 1843 the Church has been weak in some parts of the Gaelic Highlands, and the 12 parishes mentioned are the worst, that is, the weakest, of the weak places. Yet the case is not so bad as it is represented to be. Let it be remembered that these are 12 parishes out of 1,330. Then, they are all what are called Parliamentary Churches, in remote parts of the Highlands—churches for which it was very difficult for many years to get ministers, and several of them remained closed for some years after 1843. It must be remembered, too, that the figures quoted represent the number of communicants in each parish, not the number of the congregation. The significance of the distinction between communicants and congregation will be understood by all who know anything of Church life in the Gaelic Highlands. It must not be supposed that there is no Church work done where membership or even congregations are very small. The Church of Scotland is admittedly weak in numbers in the four northern counties. But even in those counties its position has been steadily improving for some years past. Turning again to the Registrar General's statistics, the marriages during the last year for which a Report is published, connected with the Church of Scotland in Caithness were 63 out of a total of 187, in Sutherland 26 out of 72, in Ross and Cromarty 44 out of 285, and in Inverness 112 out of 362. In Argyleshire and Perthshire the Church of Scotland is more influential and numerous than the Free Church. And it is to be remembered with respect to the Highlands that, however small the congregations of the Church of Scotland may still be in some places, there is no sympathy, or very little sympathy, in the Highlands with this movement for Disestablishment and Disendowment. The United Presbyterian Church, which claims to be the most thorough-going representative of the voluntary principle, has almost no place whatever in the Gaelic Highlands. I make out only six congregations in the North Highlands belonging to that Church. The Free Church is the strong Church in that district, but it is the Free Church as founded by Dr. Chalmers and others, holding the principle of National Establishment; and the Marquess of Lorne, when a Member of this House, presented a Petition signed by 51,000 persons belonging to the Free Church in the Highlands against Disestablishment and Disendowment. Now, to have done with this question of statistics, I must notice the extraordinary error, which is unaccountable in a paper emanating from a Council sitting in Edinburgh, as to the number of churches belonging to the various Religious Denominations. The Church of Scotland is represented as having only 1,325 churches; but the fact is that it has 1,330 parish churches alone, 174 non-parochial churches, and 146 mission stations, or a total of 1,650. Then this statement makes a more serious charge against the Church than any I have yet mentioned, with regard to the appropriation of money belonging to the poor. This charge refers to the ordinary church-door collections. These are now applied, since the Poor Law Act was passed, by the Kirk Sessions—the office-bearers of the different parishes—to aiding poor persons, so far as they see fit, and to the general expenses of the Parish Church, so far as not met by the assessment on heritors. A Report by each Kirk Session is annually sent to the Board of Supervision, as is required by statute, but the Board does not interfere with the discretion of Kirk Sessions. The congregations, who give the collections, know perfectly well how the money is expended by the Kirk Sessions, and we know that if it were ordered to be expended in the relief of the poor rate there would immediately be an end to the collections. There is no misappropriation of money where it is applied as the donors understand and intend. This "flagrant misappropriation," as the statement calls it, is a gigantic mare's nest. The Established Church is the Church of the poor. The parish minister is there for the purpose of giving his services to rich and poor alike, and the poorest in the congregation have the same claim upon him as the richest. Reference has been made to the public endowments of the Church, and the question has been raised as to whose patrimony these are. They are not the patrimony of the Church, but of the people, but for a particular purpose—for the maintenance of religious ordinances. They represent what has been saved of the endowments of the old pre-Reformation Church, and they are not given now at the expense of anyone. They almost all had their origin in private religious gifts, but they are now given at the cost of no one. The stipends are paid by the heritors not out of their own pockets, but from the teind, which is a burden upon their lands; and so also for the maintenance of the ecclesiastical buildings there is an assessment on the heritors, but it is no grievance to the heritors to pay this, for they inherited or bought their property subject to these burdens. It is the land which provides these endowments. These endowments are not the property of the country as a whole—they are the property of the several parishes; and it would be an injustice to propose to take the endowments of the different parishes and put them into a general fund. The endowments of a parish belong to that parish alone. But it has been asked by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Esslemont) why have not the holders of these endowments—why have not the parish ministers — divided the endowments with the ministers of new churches built within their parishes? The answer is because the money is not sufficient; the old parish endowment is not more than is necessary for the support of one man. Instead of asking the parish minister to give assistance out of his stipend, the Church has erected new parishes and endowed them by voluntary subscription. Since 1843 there have been 366 parish churches added where they were needed. In most eases new churches have been built; but where there was a church already existing it had to be cleared from, all debt, and an endowment found for it. This the Church of Scotland has done by voluntary effort without one farthing of State assistance. It is said this is an argument for voluntaryism, but it is nothing of the kind. This liberality was evoked because of the establishment and endowment principle; because these churches were to be in connection with the Established Church they were founded, and subscribers bestowed their favour on them, and they have given their favour in the form of permanent endowments. Aggression on the part of the Church, then, has been not aggression against its neighbours, but against irreligion. It is said that the Church Interests Committee under my noble Friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh is forcing Disestablishment to the front, but what the Church Interests Committee is doing is only to urge Churchmen to make sure of the sentiments of candidates on this particular question, whatever may be their position as to political parties. Is it not time to do this? Is it not necessary when Home Rule Liberal leaders have agreed that Disestablishment "must be kept in the front rank of the Liberal programme"? I suppose a reference to giving "a new lease of political life to the Tory Party" may account for this Paper not being circulated among hon. Members on this side of the House, and yet I suppose we must not say this is a political movement—this cry for Disestablishment! The plea of religious equality is put forward; and here we leave the field of Scotland for that of the wide world, and come upon really what is the main argument of the opponents of the Church—an argument which is aimed against having an Established Church anywhere. I hope our English friends will take note of this fact. Now, I grant that there cannot be absolute religious equality with an Established Church—because there is necessarily a distinction, whatever it may amount to, between a Church that is recognised and a Church that is not recognised by the State, as the Established Church. But this inequality, although it is inevitable, need not be serious or amount to a grievance to any one. It does not amount to a grievance to any one in Scotland. If there are privileges connected with the Church that press unfairly on non-Established Churches and amount to an injustice, let them be removed by all means; but I know of no such injustice in Scotland. The only thing in Scotland that is a grievance in connection with the Established Church which I can think of at the moment, is the incidence of the ecclesiastical assessment for Church and Manse buildings upon feuars. It is a grievance, because feuars did not expect to be made liable to the assessment. It is only by a comparatively recent decision it is found it must be so. An effort has been made to relieve them of that grievance, without injury to any one, but assistance has not been received from the Opposition. From the way in which the subject of religious equality is sometimes spoken of it would almost appear as if dissenters from the Established Church think it a hardship to be recognised as Dissenters. Now, I do not understand this. They dissent because they are more scrupulous than members of the Church, in their view of some points of doctrine or practice, and they ought not surely to object to this being known. They glory in their position, in one sense, and yet we find them sometimes resenting the re cognition of their position. But if we are to have absolute religious equality, a good deal more will have to be done than the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church of Scotland. We have a Protestant Monarchy and a Protestant Constitution. We recognise our National Protestantism as a guarantee to us of our civil and religious liberty. Even our Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen are protected in their liberties by our Protestantism. It is in their interest as well as in that of others that our Protestant Constitution be maintained. Our laws, our State, our public life are based on the recognition of the Christian religion; but all this will have to be surrendered if absolute religious equality is to be our guiding principle. If, then, we are not prepared to dispense with an Established Church as connecting the State with Christianity, how does the case stand in Scotland? I put aside, for the moment, all arguments connected with the past—with the historic past — and ask attention to present circumstances alone. This Church has the largest membership of any in Scotland. It represents, both as to religious creed and as to Church government; the opinions of some 80 per cent. of the Scottish people; and it enjoys the acquiescence and goodwill, in its position as an Established Church, of the great body of the people. It is, therefore, not a Church to be disestablished and disendowed. We have arrived this year at the bi-centenary of what is known in Scottish Church history as the Revolution Settlement; surely the occasion is not to be celebrated by passing-such a Resolution as the one now before the House!

(10.55.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)

The lion-Gentleman who has just sat down has thought it worth while to refer to a declaration of mine which I will presently allude to. He has already referred to a declaration made, as he stated, by the electors of Mid Lothian showing the majority of constituents in that county, which he stated at 67 per cent., to be adverse to the disestablishment of the Scotch Church. If my memory serves me, that declaration did not embrace all the parishes of the county; but certain of those parishes were left out on principles which no doubt approved themselves to the promoters of the declaration. I will not enter upon a discussion of that declaration, because an attempt to appreciate it with exactitude might lead me into invidious remarks. What I say, in answer to my hon. Friend, is that I shall be most happy to answer the electors of Mid Lothian for my conduct in respect to that declaration, and for the vote I am about to give to-night; and not only so, but I shall be thankful to Her Majesty's Government, and to the hon. Member if he uses his influence with Her Majesty's Government in that direction, if they will give me that opportunity at the earliest possible moment. Then the hon. Gentleman will receive the fullest satisfaction, I have no doubt, at all events with regard to that portion of his speech. The speech of the hon. Member has suggested, to my mind, this question— Upon what ground of principle is the Established Church of Scotland defended? The whole of his speech has consisted of observations in detail, showing how respectable and creditable the Church of Scotland is, in the activity and devotion of its members, which no one will dispute, or showing that some particular piece of evidence alleged by the promoters of this Motion is of smaller value than they have esteemed it to be. In point of fact, the hon. Gentleman has not looked at the crop in the field, but at the gleanings he could pick up. Ho has endeavoured to construct a case out of almost infinitesimal particulars on which to justify the continuance of the national establishment. It was stated, I think well, by my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire, that the burden of proof in a case of this kind rests with those who maintain the principle of establishment. ["Oh, oh."] Is it not so? ["No, no."] Is it not so? ["No."] Then it is contended that, when one religious body out of a number is invested with exclusive possession of national treasure for the purposes of religious worship, that one privileged religious body is under no obligation whatever to show reasons for the preference. That is the doctrine of those Gentlemen who cry "No." I am not saying whether they show reasons or not; but I am saying it is their duty to show reason. What are the reasons upon which the maintenance of a religious Establishment may be defended? I am not going to argue this question on abstract principles. Many Members of this House lay it down as a first principle of politics that in no case can the maintenance of a religious establishment be defended. I do not intend to argue the question upon that ground, and I leave that principle apart, without either affirming or denying it. I look at this case as a case to be decided upon its own merits with reference to the wants and the circumstances of Scotland. Now, Sir, I ask what are the grounds upon which the existence of a religious establishment can be pleaded? As far as I know they have always been these four—either that the religious establishment was performing some special religious work in the country—for instance, such as the care of the poor— which no other body could perform, or that it was testifying to the maintenance of certain truths and doctrines which no other religious body could so effectually maintain, or that it was the Church to which the decided majority of the people belonged, or, finally, that it was the Church to which either the decided majority of the people belonged, or, even without belonging to it, yet wished to maintain in the position of the National Church Establishment. Those are the arguments which have often been pleaded, and which possibly might prevail with a majority of this House for the maintenance of our interest in a religions establishment. But how can any of those four arguments be maintained in the case of the Church of Scotland? That is the question which I propose to try. It is idle to say that the Church of Scotland is doing good work. It is a body composed of men who, as far as the laity are concerned, may, I believe, bear a fair comparison with the members of other religious communions, and as far as their clergy are concerned, everybody acknowledges the merits of their devotion to their duties; hut those qualities the Church of Scotland shares with all the other religious bodies known to exist in Scotland, and consequently they are qualities which form no ground whatever for the preference of an exclusive position. As far as the poor are concerned, in my opinion it would be idle to contend that the Established Church of Scotland was concerned with the poor of that country in any sense except in that important sense in which every religious communion of the country is concerned with them by exercising a most beneficial influence, so that that ground for preference for the Established Church does not exist. Well, Sir, as regards the question of testimony to particular truths, which I refer to rather as what has been historically available in other times than as a topic which would very much avail at the present period. It was greatly urged in the case of the Church of Ireland that it was necessary to maintain it as a protest against the real or supposed influence or the possible influence of the Roman Catholic Church in that country. Now, Sir, is the Established Church of Scotland to be maintained upon the ground that it is the only and the e ential defender of the principles of the Presbyterian religion in Scotland? Why, Sir, it would be ludicrous to adopt such a plea in defence of the Established Church of Scotland. If there are in Scotland to be found those who in a peculiar and pre-eminent sense are the representatives of the Scottish Reformation and its principles, they are to be found, not in the Established Church of Scotland, but in the Free Church of Scotland and in the United Presbyterian body. These are the persons among whom the distinctive principles of the Scottish Reformation are maintained; and I was surprised when I heard the hon. Gentleman opposite quietly stating that the Church of Scotland was really in substantial correspondence with the Church of England as to the position it occupied in the religious world of that country. The hon. Member seems to blot out from his recollection everything that happened between the time of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the time of the Scottish Union. What were the relations between the Presbyterians of Scotland and the representatives of the English Church in Scotland during the reign of Charles II., at the period of the Revolution and at the period of the Union? Why, Sir, the history of this country — a highly honourable history in many respects of free and courageous assertion of conscientious convictions—utterly contradicts the statement of the hon. Gentleman, and testifies to the sharp antagonism which at that period prevailed between the representatives of the Church of England and the genuine and thoroughgoing Presbyterians of Scotland. I will not enter into the question whether in every case the existence of an Established Church is a grievance to those who do not belong to it; but I am inclined to think it is not altogether unreasonable if the members of the Free Church of Scotland and of the United Presbyterian body regard it as a grievance in Scotland; and on these two specific grounds. In the first place, it is they who went out into the desert, so to speak, relinquishing all the temporal advantages of Establishment, and undertaking all the responsibility at a moment's notice of provision for themselves, not because they differed from the historical basis of that Presbyterian Church, but because they were anxious to maintain it intact in its full force and integrity; and, secondly, because in 1874 a measure was passed in relation to Church patronage the whole effect of which could only be—and I am bound in honesty to say that in my belief the intention only was—to draw back piecemeal and man by man as far as possible from the Free Church and the United Presbyterian body—and from the Free Church particularly—those whom in 1843 they had compelled to undertake the responsibility of provision for themselves. According to modern principles, perhaps the fairest of these arguments to which I have referred for an Established Church is that it is the Church of the decided majority of the people of the country. But is the Presbyterian Church of Scotland the Church of the decided majority of the people?




Then you maintain that it is certainly the Church of the decided majority?




I admire the boldness of that assertion. I hope the hon. Member will have an opportunity of producing his arguments and proofs; but what I have observed is this: that as we have heard of those who are more Royalist than the King and more Popish than the Pope, so here is a Gentleman, sitting on the benches of this House, who claims for the Established Church of Scotland, and who offers to prove a great deal more than the representatives of that Established Church claim for themselves.

SIR A. CAMPBELL) (Renfrew, N.

The Presbyterian Church.


I beg your pardon, I said the Established Church. Surely no hon. Gentleman supposes I am saying the Presbyterian Church is not the Church of the majority. On the contrary, it has been urged that if you accede to the Motion of my hon. Friend you will lay the foundation for reuniting in one religious communion three-fourths of the people of Scotland. Then it is admitted that the Established Church of Scotland is in a minority. ["No."] If it is not admitted by hon. Gentlemen opposite it is admitted by the representatives of the Established Church, who have circulated among us for our information a statement which represents their case, as it was very natural they should represent it, in the most favourable form. What is that statement? It is a statement of the number of marriages according to the rites of the different religious communities in Scotland, and, according to that statement, the marriages performed according to the rites of the Established Church of Scotland are a trifle under 47 per cent. of the whole. I understand the hon. Gentleman to maintain that according to the laws of his arithmetic 47 per cent. is more than 53 per cent. Because, unless that is so, by the assertion of the champions of the Established Church it is the Church of the minority of the population. I am bound to say that, in my opinion, these statistics represent the case too favourably for the Established Church. If the same figures were taken for England I think you would find that between three-fourths and four-fifths of the population appeared by the marriage statistics to belong to the Established Church. Every one knows that marriage statistics represent on behalf of the Established Church more than is her due. It is admitted that the Established Church of Scotland is the Church of the minority. How is it with regard to the fourth of the grounds I have referred to—namely, that although it may not represent the religious convictions and associations of a majority of the population, yet it does represent the wish of a majority of the population that it should be maintained as the Established Church of the country? In my opinion, that is a question which we ought most carefully to examine and probe to the bottom. My noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) was the leader of the Liberal party in 1877, when he used these words in this House, and was received with cheers when he used them:— All I can say is that whenever Scotch opinion, or even Scotch Liberal opinion, is fully formed on this subject I think I may venture to say on behalf of the Liberal Party as a whole, that they will be prepared to deal with the question. After my noble Friend had made that declaration I took an early opportunity of expressing my full concurrence with him in the spirit of that declaration. In the spirit of that declaration I waited until the evidence in the case, according to the best of the powers I had of testing it, should come to be clear and conclusive. I think, Sir, we have now reached that point. I cannot doubt that the declarations of the people of Scotland on this question are sufficient to leave no doubt in the minds of Members of this House, if they believe in the Parliamentary representative system under which the country is governed. It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down to refer to Petitions presented, and to pass by entirely the question what is the sense of the regularly chosen Representatives of the people of Scotland; but I contend that the greatest weight is due to the opinion of Scotland, Constitutionally expressed. It appears to me that whatever view Gentlemen may take of the movement, be it a great or a small one, that now exists in Scotland with the view of establishing what is termed Home Rule in that country, whatever may be the view each individual takes upon it, it ought not to bear upon, and hardly can have a bearing adverse to the Motion of my hon. Friend. If we are favourable to the establishment of Home Rule in Scotland we will vote for my hon. Friend, but if anyone be opposed to the establishment of Home Rule in Scotland, or if anyone desires to suspend his judgment, at any rate until he has full evidence, if he does not desire to stimulate unnaturally and fictitiously the progress of this Home Rule movement in Scotland, the wisest thing he can do is to give large scope and large weight and influence to the answer the Scotch people give in deciding Scotch questions. I am glad to see the Chief Secretary for Ireland in his place, because I wish to make an observation or two upon a speech he made upon this subject on a former occasion. He then brought forward and paraded before us what he thought would be a very effectual bugbear to deter us from the course we wished to pursue. He said— If you are prepared to urge that Scotch questions stall be decided according to Scotch opinion, you must be prepared to urge that English questions shall be decided according to English opinion. And if you act on that principle, where will you, the Liberal Party, be then? For since 1868, you have never had a Liberal majority in England. Such is the statement of the right hon. Gentleman—a most imposing and terrifying statement, most effectual and admirable if it had had the slightest basis in fact. It is the practice of the right hon. Gentleman to assume to be true that which he wishes to be true, unless he happens to know it is false. This is entirely false. He paraded before us this most amazing proposition—that from 1868 onward there had been a majority of English Members opposed to the Liberal cause. How does that stand? It stands thus. Whenever we have had a Liberal majority in the aggregate, we have had a Liberal majority in England also. There have been five elections since that date. In three, there have been Liberal majorities; and in two, Tory majorities. In the Parliament of 1868 there was a Liberal majority, and there was a Liberal majority in England of 42 voices. In the Parliament of 1880 there was a Liberal majority, and there was a Liberal majority in England taken alone of 79 voices. In the Parliament of 1885 again, there was a Liberal majority, and there was a Liberal majority in England of 47 voices. Therefore, Sir, I may say two things. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman little knows the material of which the Liberal Party is made if he thinks that through fear of damage to their Party interests in England they are prepared to impose false principles on Scotland adverse to the fair consideration of their claims. This was an assertion which, if it had been a fact, would, no doubt, have been very telling, but it is pure fiction invented in the ingenious brain of the right hon Gentleman. Well, that was the case with regard to Liberal opinion in England. What is now the state and what has been the progress of recent opinion in Scotland? The hon. Member who has just sat down says that on account of two Divisions in this House I intend now to cease from the course of abstinence which I pursued in 1886 and 1888, and vote in favour of Disestablishment. It is quite true that I do so intend to vote, but it is not true that I look simply at the fact that there have been two Divisions in this House. Let me point out to the hon. Member that there is a great deal more in the circumstances before us than the mere occurrence of two Divisions. What were these two Divisions, and what are the other signs now before us as to the movement of opinion in Scotland? In the first place I will say it is quite true that, in 1885, a kind of truce was established, and it was understood in the Parliament of that year—so far, at least, as the Metropolis and the metropolitan county were concerned it was quite understood that the Returns that might be made were not to be taken, so far as some of us, at least, thought, as giving decisive indications in regard to the question of Disestablishment in Scotland. That truce was brought to an end, at least, in my judgment, and I believe in the judgment of many others, by the able action of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Inverness, who declined to recognise the status quo, and brought in a Bill regarded by us as of an aggressive character, thus entirely putting an end to any understanding of that kind. However that may be, with the Parliament of 1885 the whole matter passed away. Since then, it is true, we have had two Divisions, and are to have the third Division to-night. But have we nothing before us but the fact that there have been two Divisions? In the first place we have this—that in both those Divisions a majority of Scotch Members voted in favour of Disestablishment. How do the figures stand? They are capable of being presented shortly and simply. In the Division of 1886 the Scotch Members voting for Disestablishment wore 24, those voting against it 16, and 32 were absent. That is to say, that three to two of Scotch Members voted in favour of Disestablishment, and nearly one-half were absent from the Division. That is my case, because my point is this —not only that the opinion of the Constitutional Representatives of Scotland is in favour of Disestablishment, but that it is increasingly in favour of it; that there is a regular and steady movement in Scotland, the evidence of which cannot be mistaken, all tending in that direction. That was in 1886. What happened in 1888? There declared for Disestablishment in the Division of that year 40 Scotch Members, against it 20, and there were absent 12. Instead of there being three to two, the numbers voting in favour of Disestablishment were two to one, and instead af one-half, or nearly one-half, of the Scotch Members being absent, we had exactly only one-sixth of them absent. And then what was the case with the gross majority in this House, composed, I need not say, of English Members, voting down the sense impressed on behalf of Scotland, supported by Wales and by Ireland? The gross majority in 1886 was 112; in 1888 it sank to a majority of 52. Was there no other indication of opinion in Scotland at that time? We have seen that the Scottish majority increased, that the number of Scottish absentees diminished, and that the aggregate majority diminished. Are there no other indications? Yes, the current elections. The hon. Member says there were two elections in Scotland, and desires us from those two Divisions to understand what was the opinion of Scotland. Let him enlarge his vision. Instead of keeping in view the two elections which, as he truly says, have taken place in Scotland, let him take into view the 14 elections which, excluding one or two Ministerial re-elections, constitute, I believe, the whole of the Scottish elections since 1886. Out of these 14 elections, three persons have been returned to vote against Disestablishment and 11 to vote in favour of it, and not accidentally returned to vote in its favour, but when the question has been fully ventilated and discussed and brought in every possible and imaginable form before the Constituencies. I must own that it does appear to me that there is no doubt at all, either about the condition of opinion in Scotland, if we are to adopt the usual constitutional practice of ascertaining what that opinion is, or as to the direction in which that opinion is moving. I think it quite worth while to mention another indication which is to be drawn from the action of Her Majesty's Government themselves, or, at any rate, from the action of the body which the Government has appointed. It will be remembered that we made an endeavour last year to obtain in the Scotch Universities Bill a change in the law with respect to theological tests; that change in the law was refused by Her Majesty's Government, who, notwithstanding, so far recognised the circumstances of the time that they made an arrangement under which a Royal Commission was to be appointed for the consideration of the subject. That Royal Commission has sat, and I believe that it has taken the bulk of the evidence that it is to take. I believe I am not wrong in stating that in Scotland the confident anticipation prevails that the Commission will recommend the abolition or the essential alteration of the theological tests. I mention that, because I do not intend to quote prejudiced opinion on the subject. I only quote what I understand to be the general opinion in Scotland with respect to this question. I only mention that as another indication of the movement in Scotland and the state of Liberal conviction upon this subject. The hon. Gentleman says, "Oh, no, there ought to be a dissolution on the question. There ought to be a specific reference of this question, unmixed with other questions." Now, Sir, is that a rational statement? That is a demand for a dissolution of Parliament, and for an election at which the people are to consider nothing except the question of Establishment in Scotland; 40,000,000 of people inhabiting these islands are to elect a new Parliament and grant a new lease of power for seven years, in order to determine whether in a country in which the voluntary system is more perfectly organised than in any other country, except, perhaps, America, 18,000 people are or are not to continue to enjoy two or three hundred thousand a year! I do not think, when the hon. Gentleman sees his own proposal described in the light of fact, he can suppose it is to be entertained for a moment. We know perfectly well, Sir, what the opinion of the people in Scotland is; and if we believe in Parliamentary Government, if we believe in the representative system— and I do not think there can be any serious doubt as to the hon. Gentleman's belief in them—we must take, and can only take, the deliberate and repeated acts of the legitimately-chosen Representatives of the people as conclusively showing the conviction entertained by the people. I do not believe there ever was a country where the question of Disestablishment is so simple as in Scotland, or where it could be introduced so entirely without shock or serious trouble. The hon. Gentleman said it would be the greatest change since the Union. Now, Sir, I join issue with him on that point, and I claim his assent as a fair-minded man to this proposition—that it would not entail one-tenth of the violence of change that was entailed by the disruption of 1843; 700,000 people in the Church of Scotland, and the majority of ministers at that time, at once abandoned the advantages of Establishment, gave up their churches, gave up their schools, gave up their colleges and their manses that sheltered their wives and children, and walked out trusting in Providence to find a substitute for them where they could. What violence of change at all to be compared with that would take place in this instance? There may be differences of view as to the spirit in which changes of this kind should be carried into effect, and I have a very decided opinion that they ought to be carried into effect with a considerate and tender hand. I may refer here, I think, to the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. I do not refer to the Act of Disestablishment as it finally passed, because that Act contained concessions to the action of the House of Lords, which certainly upon their own merits I could not then pretend to justify; but I take the Act as it passed this House originally, and I say that that was an example of fair and considerate treatment; and I hope when the time comes, when in some other part of the United Kingdom the same principle may be applied, it may be applied in a similar temper and in a similar spirit. I think equity dictates that method of procedure, and I am quite sure that policy strongly and powerfully recommends it. It is easy to show in abstract argument that those enjoying an exceptional privilege do not derive from that enjoyment any claim for the future; but in this country we have acted in ecclesiastical matters and in all civil matters, in every detail of the Public Service, on the opposite principle, and the possessors of a privilege, when that privilege is recognised as unjust or impolitic, and when accordingly a legislative sentence has been pronounced upon it, have always been considerately and I generously treated. What is the case of the Church of Scotland? I believe there is no case so simple as the case of that Church. People talk of separating disestablishment and disendowment; but without disendowment, disestablishment would be an actual shadow. There is no secular power, there is nothing that can be grasped, belonging to the Church of Scotland except the advantages of stipend. I make no doubt that private endowment would be recognised. It would, perhaps, be a generous thing on the part of the Free Church and the United Presbyterians, if they consented to forego a share in the private endowments, given in great part by members of their own body before the Disruption. Although they might in argument make a very fair and legitimate claim to them. I nevertheless believe that the liberal and generous sentiments in favour of actual possession would remain. Then there is another question—the question of the manses and fabrics—and that question is the only one known to me with respect to which even the difficulty of a couple of hours' discussion would be entailed in order to determine what should be done. The House is aware that in Scotland the fee-simple of the manses and ecclesiastical fabrics does not lie with the corporation sole, the parish, or the cathedral. The heritors now possess them, but they can only use them for the purposes of the Church, and if you take them from the heritors it may fairly be said, I think, that the heritors would obtain an immediate and fortunate relief from the contingent demands which are made upon them from time to time for the enlargement of the parochial stipends. That would be a benefit to the heritors, and it might not be inequitable that they should be called upon to surrender their title to the manses and fabrics. If that were done, it might happen, I think, that the House would do in this case what was done in the case of Ireland, and award compensation for these ecclesiastical fabrics to the Church when disestablished, and with regard to the manses, at any rate, some fair and equitable provision should be adopted. There is no sign that a change of this kind would be attended with any difficulties. On the contrary, when it comes it will come through the recognition in this House of what is due to the claims of Scotland through the recognition of the principle laid down by my noble Friend near me, with regard to which I have no indication as to his intention to act upon it or to cast it behind him. On that subject I have no information, but the principle is a sound, just, and good principle, and I hold myself indebted to my noble Friend for having uttered it. J need only follow him on the path which he has opened for me, and, on the unquestionable evidence which has now been placed before us in the most Constitutional form, I shall be acting upon a moderate application of this principle both of good sense and of justice, to which we must look for the satisfaction and peace of the country and the permanence of its institutions.


It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the stage which has now been reached in this question. The right hon. Gentleman has put an end to that long period of doubt and suspense during which it was thought possible to keep the peace between Radicals and good Churchmen. He has now put an end to that period of balanced ambiguity which was the state of the Liberal Party in the last 10 years. He has now taken a step which is irrevocable and irretrievable, and we shall hold him to it. This is no vague and rhetorical attachment to the principle of Disestablishment; he has shown that it is all cut and dried, and that we should be the most unreasonable people in the world if we thought that so plain-sailing a question required a dissolution. He said that those enormous masses of people had other things to deal with at an election than such easy operations as this. It is cut and dried, and he has told us that he has so far worked out the problem—worked it out in the dark— that it is a question which would take a couple of hours' discussion, and accordingly the people of Scotland have notice to-morrow morning that their affairs have been settled for them, and that this great question, which would require the most earnest consideration of the nation, is now merely to be put in train when that happy opportunity shall arise. The right hon. Gentleman has discussed the question of Scotch disestablishment for the first time for a great many years on its merits, and he proceeds to call upon the supporters of Scotch Establishment to show cause for the continuance of its existence. Why was not that method of argument adopted until to-night? He has put a number of questions as to whether the Scotch Establishment occupies a peculiar position as to the care of the poor, as to whether it bears testimony to particular truths, and as to whether it is the Church of the majority. All these are old-standing questions. They were present in the General Election in 1880, in which he took so large a part; they were again present in 1885, and not once was this aspect of the question mooted. But, further, the right hon. Gentleman has had occasions for telling the people of Scotland what his views were as to his duty and their duty on the subject. In 1885 he went down to Scotland, and with the greatest amplitude and exactness he defined his position, and I must recall his attention to what he said on that occasion in reference to the man date which the Parliament of 1885 was to receive on the subject. He says now that he founds upon the legitimate and responsible position of Parliament as constitutionally representing the people of this counntry on all subjects. But in 1885 he told the people of Scotland that they were safe in sending supporters of Disestablishment to Parliament, because Disestablishment was not to count in Parliament. In those days the "Liberal Churchmen took serious alarm, and so many opponents of the Church were being accepted as Liberal candidates that there was a serious revolt in the Church. The right hon. Gentleman went down to Edinburgh and announced that his errand was to procure union in the Liberal Party, and pro- ceeded to point out that there was no reason for the supporters of the Church to feel apprehension on account of the supporters of Disestablishment getting into Parliament, because it was part of the contract that that question would not come on in that Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman said that a Liberal Churchman need not feel that in voting for a Liberal candidate he was in any way voting for the Disestablishment of the Church; and accordingly the right hon. Gentleman is responsible for having taken away the authority of that Parliament upon this particular question, and he is responsible for having made it impossible to quote the opinion of that Parliament on the question of Scotch Disestablishment as showing the wish of the people. But this was no abstract thesis, because that speech of the 11th of November. 1885, is practically a manual of the ethics and rationale of Disestablishment. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to discuss the question of abstract Resolutions, and to discuss, if I may use the paradoxical expression, the concrete case of the present abstract Resolution. He said that in this Parliament, which was thus to be packed with persons who, being themselves Disestablishment Members, were at the same time to represent the Church, he must protest against the idea that he could support an abstract Resolution in a Parliament so constructed, and would repeat the words which he had applied on another occasion to this question of abstract Resolutions — Until I am prepared with a plan, and until I see public opinion reach such a point that I can make myself responsible for the plan proposed, and support that plan, I decline to raise false expectations by committing myself to an abstract Resolution. [Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite applaud that sentiment. Do they appreciate the point of it? The very reasons which show the importance and significance of supporting an abstract Resolution precluded the right hon. Gentleman and his friends from having anything to do with an abstract Resolution in that Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman says that the state of truce and suspense came to an end with the Parliament of 1885. That is a most astounding proposition. Does the right hon. Gentleman say that any of his candidates in the election of 1886 stood upon the question of Disestablishment? If so, let him name them. But he has not only said that the aspect of affairs was altered in the Parliament of 1886 from what it was in 1885. He has put his finger on an extraordinary reason. He says that when the hon. and learned Member for Inverness brought in a Bill dealing with the spiritual independence of the Established Church of Scotland, that terminated the truce and set free the forces of Disestablishment. The right hon. Gentleman has himself referred—and I make no apology for again referring to it—to the remarkable representation which came from the constituency ho honours by representing. The electors of Mid Lothian—I shall not cavil as to whether the percentage was 57 or 67—approached the right hon. Gentleman in 1885 and memorialised him against Disestablishment. He went down for election in 1886 by these men. Did he tell them that the Bill of the Member for Inverness had put an end to his obligation? Never was there a whisper in the County of Mid Lothian, or in any part of Scotland, of that most extravagant and too subtle theory. Why, if I am right, therefore, in saying that no change has taken place in 1886 in the relations of Parliamentary Representatives to their constituents, am I not right, again, in saying that this Parliament stands, in point of authority in respect to Scottish Disestablishment, precisely as its predecessor did? But I go a little further. As a matter of fact, I have defied any Gentleman to point out that he stood in 1886, as contra-distinguished from 1885, on the principle of Establishment.


I did, Sir.


Well, the exception, I almost think, in this case will prove the rule. But my challenge is this. Were the constituencies apprised that the great event brought about by the hon. and learned Member for Inverness had altered the relation of Members to their constituencies; and, if so, can any meeting or demonstration be pointed to where that was brought home to the intelligence of the country? There is another reason which I should like, although it may seems invidious, to press on the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite. In 1886 I did not think it was likely that any fresh test or any fresh trial would be required of the faithfulness or credulity of the constituencies. I think in 1886 it was quite enough that they had their work cut out for them to conciliate opinion in Scotland without adding this further crux of insisting on Disestablishment. But I turn from the consideration of those facts to the position which the right hon. Gentleman has now taken up. He says that he proceeds upon the clear and unequivocal declaration of opinion by the Scottish people which he has now derived. My answer, so far as that goes on the two Divisions in this House, is contained in what I have said. Neither the Parliament of 1885, nor that of 1886, had any authority to pronounce upon that question. Nay, the right hon. Gentleman himself deprived them of that authority. But the right hon Gentleman says he does not go only on these two Divisions. Look at the other evidence. It is of the most microscopic character. He says the Parliamentary majority has increased. I will tell you why. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government and his Friends did not vote in 1886. Accordingly, the absentees of 1886, released in 1888, to a large extent account for the change. If we are going to examine all this so closely let mo point to a significant part of the increased majority. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire voted against Disestablishment in 1886, but for it in 1888. It was thought by the wicked and sceptical that the right hon. Gentleman was a sort of pilot balloon sent up to indicate or ascertain the current of opinion, and, perhaps, to come down and be credited with its direction. The right hon. Gentleman also says, as a reason for the change—"Look at your own proceedings about religious tests in the Act of last year." The hon. Member for the College Divi- sion of Glasgow must have heard that with a pang, because one of his complaints was that, by reason of the tests, adherents of the Church of Scotland enjoyed a monopoly, and now the right hon. Gentleman, who hears on good authority that they are to be done away with, says "Here is another reason for the change of my opinion." The right hon. Gentleman has made another statement which deserves the serious consideration of the people of Scotland. He has said that a dissolution is not required for the determination of questions of this kind. I would like to ask what is the reason for the passing of an abstract Resolution if there is not going to be action taken upon it. Is this question intended to have precedence of the Irish question? Are the people of Scotland who have pronounced in its favour to be deprived of its benefit until the Irish question is settled? If so, how long is that to take? Does he think he can do it without a dissolution, beyond the one to which ha is looking so anxiously? I protest against political methods which have entangled the people of Scotland into the election of men warranted not to touch this question of Disestablishment, and I protest against the opinion of Scotland being derived from men whose only right as Members is to express their own opinion on this question, and not the opinion of their constituents. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has discussed this question on its merits. May I ask the House what impression the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman have made upon those who have considered this question time out of mind, and who want to know whether anything new has occurred to warrant this great proposed change in the State? Take any date you like. I will take that which the right hon. Gentleman has so often referred to, namely, the date of the Disruption in 1843. If ever the Church of Scotland was weakened to a point at which its continued existence as an Establishment might well be questioned, that was the time. But every decade has added to its strength and popularity. Reference has been made to the Highland counties, and figures, often before paraded, have once more done duty to show the small-ness of the congregations of the Establish ment in those districts. But in these counties there is no grievance, because the people are all in favour of the Establishment, and resist and resent proposals such as are being made to-night. Moreover, these counties do not represent the main current of life and energy in Scotland. In the places to which you would turn for the tests and signs of national preference —places such as Glasgow and the towns around it—you find the Established Church accommodating itself to the requirements of the people, enjoying their confidence, and obtaining their increased support. Let me raise another test. What is the attitude of the Established Church towards other Religious Bodies, and the attitude of the people generally towards the Church? The ministers of the Established Church are popular and leading men, well received by their coadjutors in the Dissenting Bodies, and it must be a keen nose for jealousy and ecclesiastical rivalry which would discover in Scotland anything like a standing grievance arising from the usefulness or influence of the ministers of the Established Church. These are all subjects upon which it would be easy to dilate. I do not think it necessary to do so, but I ask the House to consider one question which is of paramount importance. Hon. Gentlemen speak of money being confined to one denomination instead of being devoted to purposes of public utility. But what are the purposes of public utility which the people of Scotland would prefer to the present application of these funds? The Church never occupied a better position for defence than at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian is a profoundly experienced politician, and he, no doubt, knows what are the political interests and probable results of his present move, but if the Church of Scotland is to be made one of the objects of his threats like the educated class, or like those other enemies whom he has made for himself, then I think he will find a large and substantial decline from the sympathy and admiration which have hitherto been given to him. The people of Scotland have so high an opinion of the right hon. Gentleman that they think he may be safely trusted with a matter of Home Rule for Ireland, about which they know com- paratively little, but I do not believe that he will find in Scotland—and he has not found in his own constituency—people who are so credulous as to think that he knows more about the Church of Scotland than they do. That is one of the subjects upon which, as he has himself said, the people of Scotland have thought much and have their own strong opinions. He must take the consequence of the move which has been made to-night. So far as we are concerned, we shall welcome the opportunity of taking charge—now the sole charge—of the defence of the Church of Scotland. We shall be able to point out to the people of Scotland that if they choose to support the right hon. Gentleman and his candidates they are, with their eyes open, assisting in the destruction of their own Church. And the question which they will prefer, when it comes to that, is one that will be seen at the next election if the right hon. Gentleman will take great pains to employ as much of his eloquence and his energy in pressing that question upon the attention of the people of Scotland as he does the Irish question. As I have said, we will accept most cheerfully the defence of the Church of Scotland. We will do so not because it requires political or partisan support, but merely because in this instance we shall identify ourselves with one of the deepest and most permanent attachments of the Scottish people. For my own part, speaking not only to this House, but, as far as I can, to the people of Scotland, I denounce the manœuvre which we are witnessing as an attempt to destroy the Scottish Church behind the backs of the Scottish people.

*(12.12.) MR. HALDANE (Haddington)

I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate has in the least exaggerated what has taken place to-night. The gauntlet has been thrown down and it has been taken up, and the Lord Advocate will find at the next, General Election that when we come to fight this battle there will be no defection or division in the Liberal ranks. I will tell him what may explain the change in things which has occasioned him so much surprise. There has been a distinct advance in the position of the Liberal Party, because the Tory Party has made the question of the Establishment the stalking-horse on which to fight political battles. In Scotland the Tory Party and membership of the Established Church are by no means convertible terms. One of the most remarkable features in the history of the Scottish Church is that so many persons of the greatest social distinction have passed from the Church of their forefathers over to the alien creed of this country. In Scotland we know a good deal about each other. It is a small country, and we know that many of the most prominent defenders of the Established Church in the Conservative Party have nothing whatever to do with the Established Church. Rumour would even have it that in that ecclesiastical edifice of which the Lord Advocate to-night has proved himself so powerful a prop, even the right hon. Gentleman himself occupies the position of a buttress rather than of a pillar. The Lord Advocate laughs at the notion that the Bill of the hon. Member for Inverness has had anything to do with the change which has taken place in the action of Scotch Members on this question between 1885 and 1886. Well, I will give him an illustration with which I am most familiar. I will take the case of my own constituency—and I refer to it not because of anything striking or peculiar there, but because it illustrates the course I and the hon. Member for Lanarkshire found ourselves compelled to take in the election of 1886. In 1885 we of the Liberal Party were desirous to avoid raising this question, and to reserve our energies for other purposes. I, for one, stood as distinctly for Disestablishment as at the present time, but I was willing to accept the suggestion of the leader of my Party that the question should be put out of the range of practical politics for the time being. But I and other Members of the Party found that the Tory Party were pushing this question to the front. In Haddingtonshire there are 25 Established Church ministers. Of those I had the distinguished honour to receive the genuine opposition of 23 in 1885. In 1886 things had progressed. There were still 25 ministers of the Established Church there, but instead of having the determined opposition of 23 in this county, which embraces a large number of supporters of the Established Church, and is, or was, largely Liberal, I had the determined opposition of the whole 25. The constituency was still one in which there was a large Liberal majority. I found it was no use trying to keep this question out any longer. Therefore, I did what 20 others of my Colleagues did in Scotland, I declared that I would have no more parleyings about this question, and would stand as an out and out opponent to the principle of Establishment in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate asks what it was in the Parliament which was elected in 1885 and sat in 1886 which brought this question on. Does the right hon. Gentleman forget that in the debate during that Session, on the Motion of the hon. Member for the College Division, the action of the hon. Member for Inverness was alleged as a reason for raising the question? The change is due almost entirely to the exertions of the Tory Party, who have sought to make political capital out of a cause they have not really at heart. I do not desire to approach this question in any sense of hostility to the Church of Scotland. I come to debate it on general grounds. We sit in Parliament as politicians, and we are here to say whether or not, in the existing state of things in Scotland, there is a title to maintain the Established Church any longer. It is not enough to support the proposition with which the Lord Advocate has associated himself to-night, to show, as the hon. Members for the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen sought to show, that the Church of Scotland is in a prosperous and flourishing condition. It is not even enough to show that it has increased in its Membership and vitality, because it may well happen that there has been a change of mind amongst the people which makes an Establishment a thing which no longer requires to be maintained. There is a difference between different cases. There is no analogy between the circumstances of England and Scotland, because in Scotland the Established Church is after all but a sect; and the proposition which I maintain is, that there has been such an advance in the condition of affairs in Scotland, that there have been such changes in the circumstances of the country, that the Established Church is not only no longer needed there, but has become an anachronism. There are, at least, two other Religious Bodies in Scotland on the same level, socially, intellectually, and spiritually influential as the Church of Scotland—putting out of question the large and growing body of Episcopalians. There are the United Presbyterian and the Free Church denominations, which are in the same position as regards their ministers and members as the Established Church. No one knows Scotland better than the Lord Advocate, and I challenge him to rise and say whether there is a difference between the status of those who belong to the Established Church and those who belong to the other two Churches of Scotland? Take the case of Glasgow. There the wealthiest citizens are United Presbyterians. In Edinburgh a large proportion of influential citizens are members of the Free Church. Then as to intellectual status, the United Presbyterian and Free Churches occupy positions in no way different from that of the Establishment; and we cannot forgot that they have had their Chalmers, Cunninghames, Candlishs, and hosts of other great men. You can match every great name in the Establishment, with one as great from either of the other two bodies. Men go indifferently into either of the three Churches, and it has been so for years past. Then, as to the spiritual question, does anyone who knows the work that the United Presbyterian and Free Churches are doing maintain that it is less spiritual than that of the Establishment? There is, at least, as great earnestness in what are technically the Dissenting Bodies of Scotland as in the Established Church. We have been told we ought to lay great stress on the fact that numerically the strength of the Established Church is greater than that of the other bodies. Deducting the Highland population, and that very large and fluctuating body of persons who belong to the Established Church because it is more convenient to call themselves something than to call themselves nothing, there is no numerical majority of the Church of Scotland. I say that in the circumstances which exist in Scotland there is nothing to warrant the continuance of the present state of things. We are asked to take some plebiscite of the people of Scotland. I know nothing of plebiscites, and they are un-Constitutional. We have heard to-night from the lips of the leader of the Liberal Party what are the proper means to be pursued to ascertain the wishes of the people of Scotland. This question, we have been told, will be put in the fore front of the programme of the Liberal Party, and by that declaration we mean to stand or fall.

*(12. 20.) THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)

Perhaps, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) has referred to a declaration which I made on this subject, and given some prominence to it, I may be allowed to say a few words. I entirely concur with previous speakers that it is very difficult to overrate the importance of the declaration which has been made this evening. I look upon it as important from many points of view, and not, perhaps, as most important from the point of view of the future position of the Scotch Church. Although the question has entered to-night on a new phase, I think that, as far as the fortunes of the Scotch Church are concerned, it will be extremely probable that many years may elapse and many Parliaments may come and go before the Liberal Party, committed as it has been to-night by the majority of the Liberal Party to the principle of Disestablishment, will find their time sufficiently unoccupied to permit them to deal with the question. But although I do not, therefore, think it is a matter of very urgent and pressing importance as regards the future of the Scottish Church, it is, no doubt, a matter of much more urgent importance concerning the position of a considerable number of Scotch Members. And, although, no doubt, the Party managers of the majority of the Liberal Party have charitably supposed that this change of front will place the Liberal Unionist Party in a most embarrassing position, still, from information which has reached me, I do not think it is altogether impossible that even some Members belonging to the majority of the Liberal Party representing Scottish counties may find their own position somewhat more embarrassing. Therefore, it is not altogether exclusively from a Party point of view that I regret the new position which has been taken up in this matter by my right hon. Friend. During the short period when I had the honour of being the leader, or, at all events, the nominal leader, of the Liberal Party, although I gratefully acknowledge the kind and generous and abundant assistance which on many occasions I received from my right hon. friend, it cannot be any matter of surprise that occasionally upon some subjects I found him a somewhat unruly follower. On some questions of considerable importance, such as the question of Foreign Policy which arose at that time, we sometimes found some difficulty in reconciling our opinions, but upon this question of Disestablishment in Scotland up to the present moment I have found my right hon. Friend the most exemplary follower. The statement which I publicly made, now, I think, 12 years ago, and which has been repeated to-night with perfect accuracy by my right hon. Friend, has been found by the Liberal Party in Scotland to be a most convenient declaration. I must admit it was somewhat wanting in completeness, because when we professed, as we did honestly profess, that our sole desire was to be guided in this matter by the opinion of a majority of the Scottish people, we did not accurately define how the opinion of that majority was to be ascertained. I have always thought myself, and I think that up to a very recent time my right hon. Friend agreed with me, that if a large Scottish majority formed a very strong and decisive and resolute opinion upon this subject they would find in some manner or another the means of expressing that opinion, and of communicating it to a British Parliament. Those means have not been found, and if it is still a subject for discussion, a subject open to doubt or even to argument, whether the majority of the Scottish people are, or are not, in favour of the principle of disestablishment, I think, that fact in itself shows that up to the present time there is no strong opinion on the part of a large majority urgently demanding the Disestablishment of the Scottish Church. My right hon. Friend has told us to-night that he has found the answer to the question as to the opinion of the Scottish people in the votes given from time to time upon this Resolution by the Members for Scottish constituencies.


And otherwise.


Well, the main test has been the votes given on this Resolution. I admit that is one test, but it is not altogether a completely satisfactory test, and could not be under any circumstances. Above all, it could not be a satisfactory test unless the hon. Members who gave their votes were elected—I will not say exclusively, but to a very considerable extent —with a view to the consideration of this question. I do not say that it was necessary that the elections should have turned exclusively upon the question of the Disestablishment of the Church, but what I do say is that to render the test of any value whatever it is necessary that this question should have been distinctly and prominently placed before the constituencies when the hon. Members whose opinions are to influence the judgment of this House were elected. The right hon. Gentleman has done the very utmost that lay in his power to prevent this question from being placed in a definite manner before the people of Scotland, so as to render their votes at the last election a test with regard to it. Reference has been made to-night to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman in the Mid Lothian campaign. I have referred to them myself to-day, and I find in them the most passionate appeals to the Liberal portion of the Scotch constituencies not to permit this question of Disestablishment to exercise any prominent influence on the decision which they were going to form but that Liberal candidates should be elected altogether irrespective of the opinions for or against Disestablishment. If that be the case, and if the advice of the right hon. Gentleman had any effect, as I suppose it had, on the election of 1885, can it be argued that the election of 1886 turned more than that of 1885 upon the subject which we are now discussing? We know that in 1886 there was one subject brought prominently before the constituencies of England, Scotland, and Ireland, to the exclusion of any other, and it is idle to suppose that the advice given to the electors by the right hon. Gentleman in 1885 was absolutely disregarded in 1886 in the face of the more pressing and important question that was placed before them. I do not find, therefore, in either of the elections, or in any of the votes that have been given in this House upon this question any satisfactory reason why we should suddenly abandon the position which I ventured to take up more than 10 years ago, when I was supported by my right hon. Friends near me, as, indeed, I was only five years ago. I do not pretend to have any strong opinion upon this question myself. I do not profess to have even a superficial acquaintance with the most elementary of the arguments which can be used upon the subject on its merits, because I have not given it any careful attention, but I am as ready now as I was 12 years ago to do the best I can to carry into effect the strong wishes, plainly expressed, of the majority of the Scotch people, whenever we can ascer- tain authoritatively what those wishes are. It has seemed to me, however, from the very slight attention that I have been able to give to the subject, that the difference between the various divisions of the Churches in Scotland are so comparatively slight, that the attachment felt to the Established Church of Scotland is so strong, and that the conscientious objections which are felt to endowment or to State connection are in comparison so weak, that it is a some what extraordinary thing that some method has not yet been discovered by which a re-construction and reform of the Scotch Established Church might be devised, which might bring together all the sections of the Scotch Religious Bodies without resorting to the extreme method of Disestablishment. Bearing in mind the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, which has been referred to to-night, with regard to abstract Resolutions, we are bound to assume that the right hon. Gentleman, before expressing the opinion which he has expressed to-night, has not only satisfied himself that the majority of the Scotch people are ardently in favour of Disestablishment, but has also satisfied himself as to the means by which that Disestablishment is to be carried out, and also that he has satisfied himself that no other method of reform and re-construction is possible short of the extreme method of Disestablishment. Well, Sir, my right hon. Friend has satisfied himself of all these things, but we do not know by what process he has arrived at his opinion; we do not know in detail what are the conclusions at which he has arrived. We have only been told tonight that the Disestablishment of the Scotch Church is a comparatively simple matter, and there is only one question that would give rise to any protracted consideration; but I venture to say that there are very few Members on this side of the House who have the slightest conception what would be the lines on which a measure of Disestablishment and Disendowment would be framed. Before we are asked to commit ourselves finally to a policy of Disestablishment and Disendowment I say it would be decent, at all events, that we should know upon what lines a measure is to be framed. Perhaps my right hon. Friend takes a somewhat less exalted view of the character of an abstract Resolution than he did a few years ago. Perhaps these abstract Resolutions, after all, are only a mode of arriving at that which we all want to know—namely, the opinion of the Scotch constituencies. They have been so used on the occasion of two previous Divisions. This Division will probably be another proof of the growing opinion of Scotland upon this subject. If that is the view we are to take of the votes given upon these abstract Resolutions, what is the position of my right hon. Friend in that case? These abstract Resolutions, we are told, are a means of arriving at the opinions of Scotch constituencies. What, I ask, is the opinion of Mid Lothian? The opinion of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian has been given to-night, not on account of any knowledge which he has of the opinions of the voters of Mid Lothian, but because, he has told us so himself tonight, a majority of Scotch Members for other constituencies have on previous occasions voted for this Resolution. It has been said to-night, and I have heard it previously, that a requisition was presented—[Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: No, not a requisition"] —well, that a representation, signed by a considerable number—I have been told by a majority—of the constituents of my right hon. Friend, was presented to him begging him not to vote for the Resolution of the hon. Member for Glasgow. Has my right hon. Friend arrived at any opinion, formed any judgment—has he been able to form any judgment whether the opinion of his Mid Lothian constituents has changed on this subject? If the opinion of the Member for Mid Lothian carries no more authoritative representation of the views of his constituents than it has been shown to do, on what grounds are we to assume that the votes of other Scotch Members indicate the views of their constituents? I will only say that in the vote I shall give to-night, and which I believe some of my friends will give, we shall not be asserting that, in our opinion, the Scotch Church requires neither re-construction nor reform. Many of us believe that it does eminently require reform, and some of us believe that a re-construction of the Scotch Church, which should include other sections that are now outside its pale, is not beyond the limits of possibility. We shall certainly not be voting that an indefinite continuance of the present state of things is either requisite or desirable. We shall not be voting against a reform of the Scotch Establishment, and above all we shall not be asserting that it is necessary permanently to maintain the Scotch Establishment if it should be found that reform of that Establishment and re-construction of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland is an impossibility, and that no other solution will satisfy the settled desires and wants of the majority of the Scottish people.

(12.45.) MR. A. ELLIOT (Roxburgh),

(who was received with loud cries of "Order, order!"): I rise to say a few words on this question, which may be of no importance to hon. Members who sit below the Gangway [Cries of "Divide!"] When I rise to say a few words upon a question which is of supreme importance to the Scottish people I am met with the jeers of hon. Members. I mean, however, to protest, not merely against the decision that is to be arrived at, but also against the method in which the decision is being arrived at. At the last General Election in Scotland the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian declared over and over again that the question of Scottish Disestablishment was hardly ripe for Parliamentary discussion; but now he comes down to the House and supports the Resolution of my hon. Friend (Dr. Cameron). [Cries of "Divide!"] I am determined to have my say on this question. I am here as a Scottish Member entitled to take part in this Debate. I maintain that the manner in which the subject has been brought forward shows that no consideration has been paid to public opinion in Scotland. Hon. Members are invited to arrive at a momentous decision upon a matter which if taken in hand at all ought to be taken in hand by a responsible Minister, and to arrive at such a decision upon an Amendment to the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair. The question has not been discussed by anything like a proper number of Scottish Members; and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian says that the feeling of the Scottish people is in favour of Disestablishment, and when he founds that statement upon the fact that on one occasion in this House a Resolution in favour of Disestablishment was carried, I ask him to consider his own remarks in reference to the weight attaching to that very Resolution. In November, 1885, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Resolution then proposed, which was the same as that now brought forward by the hon. Member for the College Division, would not be accepted as conclusive with regard to the possible opinion of the people of Scotland on the question. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that a long series of such Resolutions would be necessary, and yet he now supports the proposal on Party grounds and without discussing its merits. Liberals in Scotland have in the past been decided on this question, and they will remain decided. Many people in Scotland who a few years ago were in favour of Disestablishment are now animated by a desire to re-construct and reform the Church for the benefit of the Scottish people.

(12.50.) The House divided:—Ayes 256; Noes 218.—(Div. List, No. 69.)

Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

It being after One of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.

House adjourned at five minutes after One o'clock till Monday next.

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