(5.15.) MR. W. PRITCHARD-MORGAN (Merthyr Tydvil)
I rise to call the attention of the House to the injustice of the continued existence of the Established Church in Wales, and to move:—That, as the Church of England in Wales has failed to fulfil its professed object as a means of promoting the religious interests of the Welsh people, and ministers only to a small minority of the population, its continuance as an Established Church in the Principality is an anomaly and an injustice which ought no longer to exist.Hither to this Motion has been submitted to the House by hon. Gentlemen who have grown grey in the service of the nation—gentlemen whose experience in this House has gained for them the respect of their Parliamentary Colleagues of every political shade, and whose Parliamentary services have earned for them the admiration, esteem, and affection of 1242 their fellow countrymen. My experience here, compared with theirs, has been brief, and I ask the indulgence of the House in regard to the observations I have to make. Though I lack experience, I trust I shall not lack earnestness in advocating the claims of the Principality to Disestablishment, and in calling attention to the anomaly of maintaining an Established Church in Nonconformist Wales. Some hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House may not have any great respect for the Welsh nation, nor for the national instincts of Wales, and perhaps the people of Wales have instinctively but little respect for them; but if gentlemen opposite would only listen to the arguments which can be adduced in favour of Disestablishment in Wales, and, instead of looking at this matter through the spectacles of Party, would endeavour to regard it with eyes undimmed by bigotry and with minds unbiassed by prejudice, they would speedily respect the cause we are advocating. I do not expect to receive a great deal of consideration from hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) in referring to Wales, has shown as little consideration for the feelings of the Welsh people as he has for the heads of Irishmen; and his contemptuous and contemptible phrase, de minimis non, applied to Wales, aroused as much indignation in the Principality as did his batons and battering-rams across the water. Now, Sir, why should one particular section, numerically small, enjoy privileges which the others, numerically great, do not share with them? Why should the Church of England be the recipient of the patronage of the State when the great majority of the people worship elsewhere than in that Church? If the people constitute the State, the Church of England in Wales is not entitled to be considered the State Church. It is not, and never has been, the Church of the people, and in all probability it never will be. If the people's Church is entitled to be considered the State Church, or if a State Church should exist at all—a question on which I hold very definite opinions—then Nonconformity ought to be established as the State religion of Wales. But no Noncon- 1243 formist, no Welshman, asks for State patronage, State endowment, or State establishment for Nonconformity. The Nonconformist Church of Wales, the great Church of the nation, has established itself in the hearts of the people, and no Act of Parliament can ever remove it from the throne of its authority. If the tests of custom and usage are to be applied in this matter, then Dissent is entitled to equality with the Church, for the Principality has almost universally adopted Nonconformity as its religion. What the Welsh Dissenter asks for and claims as his inalienable right is that those who differ from him in externals, though not in faith, shall have no privileges which he does not equally enjoy. From the time of its establishment by force until to-day the Church of England in Wales has ever been out of harmony with the national spirit. The Church it supplanted, Roman Catholic though it was, was the Church of the people, for when Christianity first gained a foothold in Britain it found a soil congenial to its growth in Wales. There religion and learning grew side by side. Churches arose and great schools were established which supplied scholars to the neighbouring nations and monasteries and abbeys multiplied all over the land. One Welsh county, if it were inclined to boast, could claim to be the birthplace of more saints than the whole of England. Who ever heard of the Church of England in Wales producing a single saint? Wales has saints without number, but they lived at a period anterior to that during which the Church of England was forced down the throats of the people From the suppression of the ancient Church of Wales in 607 until recent years continual attempts have been made to keep Wales under the heel of English tyranny. There was a foreign garrison in the land. The clergyman, who could not speak the language of the people, was supposed to be in legal possession, although, like the Irish landlord, he preferred to live a long way from the village in which it was his duty to be interested. Attempts were made to suppress the Welsh tongue in the same way as attempts were made to suppress Welsh Nonconformity, but in both cases the attempts were failures. 1244 Leaving for the moment remote history we will now deal with more recent events. At the Swansea Church Congress, the late Dean of Bangor formulated a terrible indictment against the Church of which he was one of the brightest ornaments. Speaking of the 150 years which succeeded 1700, he said—For 150 years every teacher whose name lives in the hearts of the Welsh people has been, without exception, a Nonconformist. While the Bishops were laying hands upon unfit men, the natural, heaven-born teachers of Wales were influencing thousands in the chapel and cymmanfa. Of the clergy those who were educated knew no Welsh, and those who knew Welsh were not educated. Those who had something to say could not say it to the people, and those who could say it had nothing to say.To-day, Sir, perhaps things are somewhat different. The Church has to some extent awakened from its sleep of centuries, and is putting forth endeavours by every means at its disposal—advertising and otherwise—to attract the attention of the people of the Principality. Within the last few days I have been favoured with an exceedingly clever circular letter from a rev. gentleman who lives at Brymbo, near Wrexham. He says—No sooner had I built one church in this parish at the cost of £2,300 than I am pressed to build another one. This church is to be a Welsh church. Ever since their church fell down, 20 years ago, the Welsh congregation have had no better building than the day-schoolroom to worship in. Last year that congregation, in addition to paying their own current expenses, handed over £20 towards the Curates' Fund. They alone have collected this £200,and he gives a fac simile of the cheque, which is somewhat similar to the notes on the "bank of elegance."
§ MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)
Will the hon. Gentleman pardon me? He has omitted the next line of the letter.
§ MR. W. P. MORGAN
The next line reads as follows:—'They alone have collected these £200, many of the colliers giving one or two guineas, and as much as £5 coming from some colliers' houses.More shame say I that a rich Church like the Church of England should try and wring from the homes of these colliers a sum of £5 which the poor men could ill afford to pay. Now let me read the letter which accompanied this cheque:— 1245''Dear Vicar,—We have much pleasure in handing you enclosed cheque for £200, the sum raised by our house-to-house collection. The women hope to clear £100 by their sale of work, and between the laying of the foundation stone and the opening service we hope a further £100 will be raised, making £400 in all. Had the parish not so recently given £700 towards the building of the new English Church there would have been sufficient money forthcoming from us. May God bless our humble efforts, and create much sympathy for us, a Welsh congregation in a Welsh parish, without a church to worship in!That means that a number of English people have migrated to this part of Wales, where industries are increasing to some extent, and shows that the alleged growth of the Church of England in. Wales is not due to the Welsh people, but to the English people who migrate there. This letter, to my mind, shows that conclusively, otherwise the vicar of this essentially Welsh parish would have first endeavoured to collect the money for the building of the Welsh church, and afterwards, if there had been any balance left, would have set about the building of an English church. But nothing of the sort—he spent £2,300 upon an English church, and then gave the Welsh people something from the fragments after the English church had had the solid loaves and fishes. So much for the Rev. Hugh Roberts of Brymbo. Now I wish to refer very shortly to some statistics, which will show—and I do not think that the figures can be questioned by any hon. Member—that the Church of England in Wales has, in the words of the Motion, "failed to fulfil its professed object." In 1676 the Church of England in Wales boasted of 391,297 adherents, while the Nonconformists in that year only had 10,960, so that we find that in 1676 the Church of England in Wales held 96 per cent. of the worshipping people of the Principality, the Nonconformists claiming only 4 per cent. of them. It may be, and doubtless will be, urged that at that time the Church of England was nominally, if not spiritually, the Church of the people. Whatever it might have been then, I think I can show the House that beyond all question the Church of to-day has ceased to be even the nominal Church of the people. The Church boasted in 1676 of more than 390,000 1246 people; but when we get to the year 1801 we find the Church had so far lost its grip upon the people—if, indeed, it ever had a grip—that the Church only provided sittings for 233,730 people, and it will be safe to assert 200,000 of these seats were never filled. In the same year Nonconformist churches provided sittings for 115,107. It will, therefore, be seen that in 1801 they had increased from 4 per cent. to something near 50 per cent. And then what about the open air meetings, the cymmawfas, where the people used to assemble in thousands for public worship, and to hear the Gospel preached under the canopy of Heaven, in the manner in which our great Master first gave His Gospel to the world? Nonconformity was too poor to build churches at that time, but, fortunately for the Principality, the spiritual growth of the people was accompanied by the increase of temporal prosperity, and in 1851 the state of things was very different to that existing at the commencement of the century. According to the Public Worship Census Report, while the Church of England in Wales provided accommodation for 268,953 people, other churches outside the pale of the Church of England provided for 599,520. Right hon. Gentlemen who profess to belong to this Church and sit on the Treasury Bench smile and sneer at these figures; but they are figures which they cannot dispute, and if they had the true principles of Christianity at heart they would give the people of Wales what they want— equality in religions matters. That is all they ask. Although numerically much stronger, they do not wish to be in a better position than the Church of England; they only claim equality of position in religion. According to the Report from which I have quoted, the Roman Catholic Church provided sittings for 2,823 persons in North. Wales, and now I will give the percentages and the precise figures, so that there may be no question hereafter, and that advocates of the Church, like the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Reed) may have the opportunity of meeting facts and figures in detail. In North Wales the percentage of sitting accommodation in churches to population was, in the year I speak of, as follows: Church of England, 28.3 percent.; Nonconformists, 62.5 per cent. In South 1247 Wales the figures were: Church of England, 25.5 per cent.; Nonconformists (not including Roman Catholics), 57 per cent. In 1851, therefore, the Church of England provided for only a quarter of the population of Wales. On March 30 in that year, the attendances at Church of England places of worship were 109,533, while on the same day Nonconformist attendances were 432,274. The churches were not half filled; the chapels were filled to overflowing, independently of many open air meetings held throughout the Principality. In 1879 the Church of England Congress was held at Swansea, the Church people, I suppose, hoping that by coming into direct contact with the Welsh people they might inspire them with the fire and zeal existing among the Church Party.! At that Congress the late Archbishop of Canterbury asked "why they saw so many dissenting chapels in every valley and on every hillside." The power of Welsh dissent appeared to be unknown to the heads of the English Church. The hon. Member for the Swansea District (Sir H. H. Vivian) promptly supplied the answer to the query—There was more vitality in a religion voluntarily supported than in a largely endowed religion.Lord Aberdare, another staunch Churchman who once sat for the constituency I have now the honour to represent, said at that Congress—Religion would have disappeared from the country but for the exertions of the Nonconformists.At this same Congress the Dean of Bangor, from whom I have already quoted, further declared that the Church in Wales "had lost five-sixths of the Welsh people." Indeed, the wonder is that the Congress did not proceed to terminate its proceedings by passing such a resolution for disestablishment as that which I am now submitting to the House. Subsequently to the Congress, controversy arose, and questions were raised, as to the number of persons attending the different places of worship on Sundays, and in 1881 or 1882, I am not clear which, a census was taken of the public worship attendance in four representative towns, Carnarvon, Llanelly, Conway, and Wrexham. The attendances on a given Sunday were as follows: Church of 1248 England, 3,902; other places of worship, 14,801.
§ MR. W. P. MORGAN
I have many statistics from which I shall be delighted to give the hon. Member all the information I can. This is information supplied by a private census.
§ MR. W. P. MORGAN
They are facts, let me tell the hon. Member for Bradford, which have never been disputed, never been contradicted by any of the heads of the Church. I do not think the hon. Member, the great champion of Church government in North Wales, if he will visit the Principality, can doubt that Nonconformity is the form of worship adopted almost universally by the people, and that the Church of England is nowhere in comparison. The figures I have given are beyond dispute in the four towns mentioned—Church, 3,902; Nonconformity, 14,801. In 1884 a Sunday Church Attendance Census was taken at Swansea—a representative Welsh town—and I do not think there can be any question as to the accuracy of the figures: Church of England attendances on a given Sunday, 8,834; other places of worship on the same day, 40,702. In Cardigan—the county in which the Church of England in Wales has its Training College, and where one would think the Church would be somewhat stronger than in other parts of Wales, because it is clear the Church would scarcely set up its Training College in a spot where the Establishment has the least sympathy among the inhabitants—in Cardigan we find attendances: Established Church, 666; Free Churches, 5,693. Look at the diversity of the figures; see how they have altered since the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th; altered to such a remarkable extent that I do not see how it can be claimed that the Church, as established, is the Church of the people of Wales. In largely populated districts like the Rhondda Valley, a district so well represented by my hon. Friend on my left (Mr. Abraham)—in a district such as that, composed almost entirely of a working-class population, the figures give a comparison which, ought to bring 1249 a blush to the cheek of any man on that side of the House who gets up to support the Church of England Establishment in Wales. The incomes of the people in the Rhondda Valley are small; they work hard for their daily bread, but they build their chapels, and supply the ministers who provide for the spiritual wants of the people. In the Rhondda Valley the attendances were: Established Church, 3,949; Free Churches, 51,712. Who, in the face of these figures, will dare contend that the Church of England is the Church of the Welsh people? Lest some of the opponents of Disestablishment may be inclined to imagine that the figures I have so far touched upon have a local rather than a national significance, I will call attention to figures which I know may be received with a certain degree of irony by hon. Gentlemen on the other side. They are vouched for by Mr. Thomas Gee, of Denbigh, the able editor of the leading vernacular newspaper in Wales, the Banner. I quote my statistics from Mr. Gee's letters to the Dean of St. Asaph's, published in the Welsh language, and, before quoting them, I may say that their accuracy has never been challenged by the Dean. The census was taken on January 9, 1887. In North Wales the attendances for the day, including morning and evening services, were: Nonconformist chapels, 317,078; Church, 87,438. In South Wales: Nonconformist chapels, 468,731; Churches, 89,047. So it appears that in 1887 the attendances at Church were in the North about one in every five, and in the South one in every six of the Nonconformists. But, to further strengthen my case, and so that our opponents may not be able to say that the House has only had ancient statistics submitted to it, I will give the result of a Sunday census taken within the last two months. The editor of the Genedl, another enterprising vernacular newspaper, has recently sent round a special commission to gauge the actual attendance in the Churches of England in North Wales, and through the courtesy of the editor I am able to give the House the information obtained. In one church, Llithvaen, eight persons attended service; in another, Pystyll, seven persons; in Llandedwrn two persons; in Penllwch two persons attended 1250 service, and the congregation in this instance consisted of the parson's wife and the churchwarden; and in another church visited by the commission, Ciedio, near Nevin, the commissioner himself formed the entire congregation. So that if he had not attended from motives of curiosity, the parson would have had the church to himself. This reminds one of the anecdote of Dean Swift, who, finding only the clerk in attendance at service, proceeded in this form: "Dearly beloved Roger, the Scripture moveth you and me in sundry places, &c." In a periodical which has lately come before the public, the Religious Review of Reviews, a magazine which gives a considerable amount of information respecting various denominations, and which, from the comprehensiveness of its scope, is likely to have a broadening influence upon the religious world of to-day, I notice an able article by Mr. Bompas, Q.C. That gentleman argues for disestablishment without disendowment, and suggests that, the initiative should come from the Church. But if we wait until that suggestion is carried out I am afraid we shall wait a long time. I do not believe the Church will inaugurate any movement of the kind unless it is driven into a corner; and I object to the Church appropriating to herself property which is undeniably national. The Church take the initiative? Why has the Church in Wales aroused from its sleep? Because the desire exists to give spiritual instruction to the people? Certainly not; it is the cry of disestablishment and the fear of losing its loaves and fishes that has awakened the Church. Were it not for endowments and tithes we should have a very sorry battle, and, on behalf of the Nonconformists of Wales, a very easy victory. Now let me glance at the Church of England from an economic standpoint. The annual income of the Church of England in Wales is estimated at £256,000, and the nominal members of I that Church are about 250,000. This is a liberal computation, and I doubt if there is that number of actual members. But allowing 250,000, the cost of religious ministration to this section of the community is £1 per head. That may not seem, nor do I think it is, at all unreasonable, until we come to compare it with the 1251 Nonconformist figures. What are the figures on the Nonconformist side? The annual income derived from voluntary subscriptions, given for the most part by working men—men whose wages do not admit of their giving large amounts, and therefore the sum must be made up by an enormous number of contributors—is no less than £400,000, and for this Nonconformity administers to the spiritual wants of at least a million people. Nonconformist ministers may be and doubtless are, in many cases underpaid, but they know perfectly well that if they have any talent at all that their talent will not remain long unrecognised; they know that advancement in the Nonconformist Church is by merit, not by favour, not by money, nor by influence—friendly or political—or otherwise. Those who are interested in the subject of "sweating" may with advantage turn their attention to what goes on in the Church of England. Whilst poor, hard-worked curates in large towns receive a paltry pittance of £120 a year, the Bishops live in Palaces, and for doing very little receive stipends equalling, in some instances, the emoluments of right hon. Gentlemen who occupy seats on the Treasury Bench. In the diocese of St. Asaph—the diocese which perhaps attracts more attention in this Debate from the interest the Bishop takes in this matter—in the diocese of St. Asaph there is a parish—Llandyrnog—with a population, including Dissenters, of only 475, where the clergyman enjoys a living worth £700 per annum, and there are many other similar cases, while in large towns the paltry pay of curates is a scandal of which Churchmen ought to be ashamed. I should like to call attention to a computation made by a clergyman of the Church of England, and I suppose his figures will be accepted even by the hon. Member for Bradford. In Clarke's Prebendaries the income of the Church is put down as £325,226, and this may be taken as the minimum amount, for it excludes annual payments from the Augmentation Fund and for pew rents, and adding these and local contributions we may call the amount £380,000 for the four Welsh dioceses. With this ministration is given to 350,000, including children, out of a population of 1,750,000. These figures differ from mine, 1252 but the result is practically the same. Doubtless we shall hear that many Nonconformist ministers are leaving their chapels and joining the Church of England. Certainly there are a few weak - kneed mediocrities who have gone over to the Church of England, but they are men of no intellectual capacity, otherwise their talents would be appreciated in the ranks of Nonconformity, and Dissenting congregations do give their ministers sometimes very handsome salaries indeed. On the other hand, we know that the ranks of Nonconformity have been reinforced by some of the noblest sons of the Church of England in Wales. We shall be told there is an awakening in the Church and signs of an earnest desire for reforms; but the cry of "disestablishment" has caused this—the fear of the loss of worldly wealth. The political influence of Nonconformity in Wales was asserted in 1868, when the Nonconformists returned as their special representative here my revered predecessor, the late Mr. Henry Richard. From that time until to-day it has been growing politically, socially, and religiously, and it now claims the equality which is due to it. Wales has not forgotten the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, in his desire to give religious equality to the people of Ireland, was instrumental in disestablishing the Church in Ireland, and the Welsh Members are glad to see him in his place to-night, and hope that his voice will be lifted up for Wales as it was for Ireland. Wales has not forgotten the statesmanlike references made by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) in respect to the disestablishment of the Church of Scotland, and she hopes that if he does not by his voice support the Motion for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, he will do so by his vote. Wales has not forgotten the services to religious freedom which have been rendered to the people of this country by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), and I have every reason to hope the House will hear the right hon. Gentleman's voice in support of the Motion. Irish Members in the House will not fail to support us, because they received for 1253 their disestablishment valuable support from Welsh Members. I also hope we shall receive support for the Motion from the rank and file of those who call themselves Unionists. Whatever their opinions may be with respect to what they call the integrity of the Empire, I trust they will not abandon the professions they made to their constituents, and the principles they have promised to adopt, by failing to support the claim of the Welsh people on this occasion. But there is another class to whom I appeal—namely, those who profess no particular creed, who worship at no particular Church—men who are practical Christians, although they are not considered orthodox Christians—men who by their lives and their conduct towards their fellow-men show they are following out the teachings of the Great Master. I implore those men to assist the Welsh people in attaining their desire for religious equality. It may be asked whether the Church will suffer by disestablishment. I do not think it will. The members of the Church of England will take a far deeper and keener interest in their Church if it is less a Church of the priests and more of the people. It is true, if the Church is disendowed, Church people may have a little more to pay for their religion; but they can afford it. What I now ask for is a declaration that 4he time has arrived for the disestablishment of the Church. Take as an object lesson the Australian Colonies. In their infancy many of those colonies aided all religious denominations. Now, however, no Church receives State aid. What as the consequence? The Church of England in the Australian Colonies is as vigorous as Nonconformity in Wales. The people freely contribute to keep the Churches going, and they are far more popular than they otherwise would be. It will probably be argued that the Church in England and Wales is one and the same institution. That, I admit, is an argument which, upon the face of it, appears to commend itself to the House; but the Licensing Laws of England and Wales were the same, yet a Sunday Closing Act for Wales was passed at the direct wish of the people. An Intermediate Education Act—a measure of great and vital importance to the Principality—was passed at the 1254 request of the Welsh people, and Well's charity was dealt with in a manner which almost converted me to the belief that there is no necessity for Welsh Home Rule. I and my colleagues ask that effect should be given to the wishes of the people in respect to the Church; and the people of Wales have, by an overwhelming majority, expressed the opinion that the time has arrived for the disestablishment of the Church. There will be opposition to the Motion from hon. Gentlemen opposite, who blindly follow the Government. But I see sitting in his place the hon. Member for Devonport (Sir J. Puleston). I am sure the hon. Gentleman, as an ardent and proclaimed Nationalist, will hesitate before he goes into the lobby in opposition to the Motion. The hon. Gentleman will have to decide whether he will serve his country or his party, and in view of possible contingencies at Carnarvon he may possibly come to the conclusion that he will better serve his party by voting in favour of the Motion rather than against it. There is opposition even in Wales itself, but who are those in Wales who are opposed to disestablishment? Are they the representatives of the bulk of their countrymen? Are they the elect of the Welsh nation, the exponents of the will and desire of the people? No, they are nothing of the sort. They are the Bishops, and Deacons, and Archdeacons, and Canons, whose only claim to be the successors of the great Apostles seems to lie in inditing uncanonised epistles to the newspapers. The anti-disestablishment party in the House is led on this occasion by the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. S. Leighton), and the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. B. Reed). It is a peculiar circumstance that the Government have been unable to find any representative of the people of Wales to propose any Amendment to the Motion. Although he comes from a neighbouring county, the hon. Member for Oswestry is of all men in the House the least capable of expressing an opinion with reference to the Welsh people. I join issue with the hon. Gentleman when he says in his Amendment that the Church claims no portion of its revenues from taxation. Tithes may not legally be designated as taxation, but still they are looked upon 1255 by the people of Wales as a most iniquitous system of taxation. It is well-known that the hon. Member for East Bradford, another spokesman of the Anti-Disestablishment Party, is the exponent of the opinions of the Church Defence Organisation. The hon. Gentleman receives his retainers and refreshers from the Church, and comes to the House periodically for the purpose of preventing the Welsh people, of whom he is absolutely ignorant, getting that which they so justly demand. If the Government and Parliament are desirous of having peace, harmony, and contentment in the Principality, they will agree to this Motion; they will not further irritate the people by bolstering up in their midst a Church in which they do not worship, a Church with which they have no sympathy, but will give them that equality in religious matters without which the people of Wales ought not to be, and never will be, satisfied.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "as the Church of England in Wales has failed to fulfil its professed object as a means of promoting the religious interests of the Welsh, people, and ministers only to a small minority of the population, its continuance as an Established Church in the Principality is an injustice which ought no longer to exist."—(Mr. Pritchard Morgan,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ (6.18.) MR. DILLWYN (Swansea, Town)
I cordially approve of the Motion of my hon. Friend whose speech has been so exhaustive and conclusive. I happened a day or two ago to come across the Record, and I have noticed in that newspaper that the Bishop of St. Asaph had declared that in about five years time the Church, so great is its progress in Wales, will be able to meet the Nonconformists on their own ground. I think the right rev. Prelate is greatly mistaken. I know Wales pretty well, for I have lived there all my life, and I consider that Welsh Nonconformists are more active and more decided than they ever were in my memory. My hon. Friend had alluded to the national instinct of the Welsh. I have no hesitation in 1256 saying there is no part of the United Kingdom where there is more distinct nationality on the part of the people than there is in Wales. The people have a literature of their own, a language of their own, and laws of their own. I believe that Welsh is more spoken now than it was when I was young. It is, perhaps, well to explain the reason why this question, which has been discussed in the House before, has been brought up again. The Welsh people are constantly urging their representatives to bring the question forward. Every day the people become more alive to the necessity of Disestablishment, and day by day it becomes more difficult for the Welsh members to resist the appeals made to them. But there is another reason which induced us to bring up the question. I and my hon. Colleagues know we shall not carry our Motion tonight, but the divisions which have taken place in past years have shown that the feeling in favour of Welsh nationality is increasing year by year, and it is our desire to again test that feeling. I do not expect justice so far as the Welsh Church is concerned at the hands of the gentlemen who at present occupy the ministerial benches, but we do expect justice at the hands of the English people. It is to the English people we appeal. We know that before very long there must be a General Election, and it is well, before that election takes place, that the masses in England should be reminded that the Welsh people are as much as ever opposed to the establishment of the Church. I am satisfied that if the Church in England occupied a similar position to the Church in Wales things would not remain unaltered for a single Session. I believe that at the next election the English people will do the Welsh justice, and that Welsh disestablishment will be amongst the foremost questions which will engage their attention. It is said that the disestablishment of the Church will be an act of spoliation and robbery. I do not know what spoliation and robbery means if disestablishment will be spoliation and robbery. What I understand spoliation to mean is the despoiling somebody of property which belongs to them. Does the Established Church belong to any particular body? Is there any particular body who holds 1257 it in fee simple, or as a bit of freehold? Not that I know of. It is national property held from the State. The Queen is at the head of it, and it is an arrangement organised by the State and aided by the State for the purpose of providing for religious ministration. The Established Church in Wales is the Church of a small minority of the population, and we ask the House to declare that its continuance is an anomaly and an injustice which ought no longer to exist.
§ (6.30.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I feel myself, Sir, indebted to the courtesy of the hon. Member opposite, who is to move the Amendment to this Motion, for having waived his claim to press that Amendment immediately after the speech of the Seconder of the Motion. I am bound to say that I am glad to have an early opportunity of intervening in the Debate, because I do not think that I am able to adopt wholesale all the statements made by the hon. Member who brought forward this Motion in his comprehensive speech. I shall exercise a just right in stating to the House, in my own tone and manner, my views on the question, and in dealing with the subject in a way less likely to sharpen the opposition than my hon. Friend found it necessary for himself to adopt, with the views he takes of the present action of the Established Church in Wales. If I go back for a period of 50 years—and my own knowledge of Wales has extended over the full range of that term—I could not speak of the Established Church in Wales at that period as I am able to speak of it now. At that period its administration was undoubtedly open in many ways to very heavy censure, and feebleness was everywhere—or almost everywhere—manifest in its discharge of its duties. At present, however, the case is different. I do not look at this Motion of my hon. Friend with a disposition to apply the microscope to its wording, because I might be obliged to say that it does not give full effect to my own views in one or two particulars. In the first place, I do not think that there is great historical precision in the words which, the Motion adopts, though I understand the motives leading to their adoption. There is, for instance, a phrase 1258 which describes the Established Church in Wales as the Church of England in Wales. As far as I know the history of the case—and I have done my best to acquaint myself with it, though I believe that there is no standard work on the history of the Established Church in Wales during the whole of the long period over which it has existed—but as far as I know that history, we might really speak with as much justice of the Church of Wales in England as of the Church of England in Wales, We know that towards the close of the sixth century of the Christian era—and I hope that the House will not be dismayed at my going back so far, for I will certainly pass over the intermediate period—when England was still barbarous to a great extent, and almost wholly dechristianised in the south, and east, and centre, Christianity existed and even flourished in the northern extremity—which was in partnership with Scotch Christianity—and also in portions of the west, which were connected with Wales. For St. Augustine or his representatives—the missionaries sent by Pope Gregory VIII.—were met by bodies of Welsh Christians, who represented the Christian Church existing in the country from a very early time, and reinforced by refugee British, who were driven by the Anglo-Saxon pressure into these western districts. These were the true representatives of the Church in Wales, which Church has, as far as I am aware, continued from that day to this—that is, looking at it from without and in its corporate capacity. This is a very curious history—the history of the Church in Wales. It would be difficult to find in any portion of Christendom a more signal example of noble, magnanimous and self-denying conduct on the part of the body of the people than the effort which has been made—especially during the present century—by the Nonconformists of Wales to make a provision for their own religion. It is not to be asserted that at all periods the Welsh people had felt the deficiency of that provision. It is a very curious fact that what is termed the Anglican administration, as it operated in Wales, conferred upon the people of Wales one very great and signal blessing, which was highly appreciated by them, and that was the introduction of their mother-tongue into the services of 1259 the Church. It was a thing which could be dispensed with, perhaps, in England, where the language was strong and where its roots ran through every fibre of the community. But in Wales the language was weak, drooping, and losing ground; and it was owing to the introduction of the mother-tongue into the services of the Church that the Welsh people were, for a long time after the Reformation, Established Churchmen. My hon. Friend will find testimony to that fact in the history of Mr. Hallam and in other historical authorities. In point of fact, no person could have more conclusively established the point than has the hon. Member himself to-night; because he went back—and I am very much obliged for the interesting information which he gave us—to the year 1676; and he showed us that at that time, while the strength of the Church was represented by 391,000 persons, the strength of Nonconformity at that period—that is to say, the strength of Puritanism—was represented by only 10,000. It would have been impossible at that period—if my hon. Friend had been a Member of the House of Commons in 1676 instead of in 1891—it would have been impossible for him at that time to have made a Motion to the effect that the Church in Wales had failed to fulfil its professed object and ministered only to a small minority of the population. After that came a period most unhappy and most deplorable for Wales, when the Welsh language was proclaimed and put aside, and when, in neglect of native claims, Englishmen came in to occupy every bishopric, every deanery, and every benefice throughout the Principality, quite irrespective of the voices of the people. Then the Welsh people were driven, as I may say, into the wilderness, and then the Welsh people, who are now and who have always been a most devout and most religious people, felt the grievous necessity under which they were placed, and they set about, what was for them, the gigantic effort of providing themselves with the means, the ordinances, and the material appliances of religion. That is the case; and it is a circumstance of great satisfaction to me that, in approaching the question as it now stands, I have nothing to do but to confess my sincere and hearty congratulations to both sides of this question 1260 in Wales. I believe that there is great activity in the Welsh Church. I have seen it grow under my own eye. I am not now speaking of my own parish. That is a large, populous parish, where the Welsh tongue has never been native, and which is, like many other parishes in Wales, much more English than Welsh in its circumstances. But speaking of the Church itself in Wales I do not hesitate to say that though I believe the precepts of Nonconformity are not narrowing, that the energy of Nonconformity is not diminished; that it retains its place in the hearts of the mass of the people; yet the efforts and exertions of the Church now and for a good many years, and the growing and increasing efforts, are such as do, in my opinion, great credit to the energy both of the clergy and of the laity of that Church. I render them ungrudging recognition; and I do not think it my duty on this occasion to withhold any portion of the praise which is their due. A representation was made to me to-day by a dignitary of the Established Church, and it is this. He founded himself on a book which is an Anglican authority—the Official Year Book of the Church of England, and which may be termed, in a certain sense, authoritative, and which is friendly to the Established Church in Wales. What he told me was this. That the rental of Wales, as compared with the total rental of England and Wales, was 4 per cent.; that the population of Wales, as compared with the total population of England and Wales, was 6 percent. But that the contributions of Churchmen towards religious objects and the support of the Church in Wales, as compared with the total contributions of England and Wales to the same objects, was not 4 per cent. or 6 per cent., but no less than 14 per cent. That is a statement which I think stands in strong, and I may say extraordinary, contrast with the extremely painful, nay the very disgraceful records of the past which is now becoming remote; and in endeavouring to do justice to Wales I find myself not in the slightest degree able, any more than I am disposed, to found this Motion upon the idea that there is on the part of the clergy of the Established Church in Wales the slightest tendency or disposition to neglect their duty, or that there is not 1261 abundant evidence of the inspiring efforts—and in many cases the very self-denying efforts—which they make to extend the administration of the Church and the means of meeting its local wants. I quite agree with my hon. Friend in one point which is not immaterial. He says, with perfect truth, that there is a very considerable English immigration into Wales. There is a mining immigration which leads to an English demand in the matter of religion; although I believe it is also a remarkable circumstance that the families of these English miners ultimately become Welsh, adopt the Welsh language, and tend to swell the number of persons speaking Welsh. But, at the same time, there is an English immigration. There is also a very considerable immigration of English to the watering-places of Wales. That may account for some portion of the remarkable figures which the defenders of the Established Church are able to allege on their own behalf; but I do not think that it at all abates what has been said in regard to the increasing devotion of the people, as well as of the ministers and the governors of the Church, in the prosecution of their duties. But then the question is asked why interfere with that state of things? If the Church is active and progressive and the Nonconformists are contented, why interfere? But, Sir, the Nonconformists are not contented—and the question is, whether they are entitled to be contented? Sir, the Nonconformists are making, in the most distinct terms, in a voice very audible indeed, and governed by all the forms of the Constitution, a demand which I, for one, think it my duty to listen to, and which I feel convinced before any great length of time has elapsed, even quite irrespective of the present divisions of Party, will have to listen to, and will be disposed to listen to. I agree with almost everything that was said by my hon. Friend the Seconder of this Motion, who spoke with a weight that belongs to his high character and his long devotion to this cause. I think he is perfectly right in what he said with respect to the vivid sentiment of nationality in Wales I do not think that the Welsh people are disposed to make inconvenient claims upon that subject. I believe that whatever they ask 1262 will be confined within the bounds of reason and moderation. But I do think that my hon. Friend is entirely justified in stating that that sentiment exists, and exists with great force and activity in Wales, and that the people of Wales will ask and will expect, and, so far as they constitutionally can, even will insist, that in the proceedings of the British Parliament due regard shall be paid to those several and distinct claims which the Welsh people within their own bounds and limits are warranted in making. Well, Sir, I am bound to say that in this matter I regard myself as having no title whatever to praise on the part of the Welsh Nonconformists. I have done nothing to press their cause forward. I have waited for their deliberate and sufficient expression of judgment upon it. If there is anyone entitled to praise in this matter, of those with whom in other times I was officially connected, undoubtedly it is my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale. Such is the modesty of my noble Friend that he shakes his head and repels the compliment. I must insist upon placing on his head the crown which he is entitled to wear, because it is a matter of record that when he was leader of the Liberal Party, and spoke in that capacity on an important occasion in Scotland—of course, I admit that the parallelism in the case of Scotland and Wales has yet to be confirmed; but still what I am now saying is simply to assert that my noble Friend did take a bold step as a leader, and entitled himself to great honour and credit on account of that bold step, when he declared in Scotland that the question of Disestablishment was a question which must be decided according to the sense of the people of Scotland, and that if the wish of the people of Scotland were in a direction contrary to the wish of the people of England, as declared by their Representatives, then the wish of the people of Scotland ought to prevail with respect to the continuance or discontinuance of their own ecclesiastical establishment. Well, Sir, I do not know whether my hon. Friend is inclined to insist strongly upon the want of parallelism between the case of Scotland and the case of Wales. But even in the case of Scotland, following the banner of my noble Friend and wait- 1263 ing till I thought there had been sufficient Parliamentary and electoral manifestation to place the matter of fact beyond all doubt, I gave a very deliberate adhesion and support to the Motion of the hon. Member for Glasgow last year. Following, as I said, the banner of my noble Friend, but unhappily following it, not in conjunction with the person of my noble Friend, I could not fully and absolutely comprehend in my innocence why he should be found in the opposite lobby after his authentic, authoritative declaration that disestablishment must be decided by the voice of the people of Scotland. I do not know whether I am right that my noble Friend did not deem the declaration of the decision and the sense of Scotland to be sufficient to make it imperative upon him to give his vote in support of the Motion. Well, I do not know how that is, but I think that when you look at the state of opinion in Wales and the form in which that opinion may be expressed, has been and will be expressed, there can be no doubt whatever about it. Now, I have no question all that I shall be referred, and very fairly and properly saluted with citations from a speech of my own on a former occasion—I do not remember exactly in what year—[Mr. G. OSBORNE MORGAN: In 1870. Twenty-one years ago.] Since then I have had time to be born again, and come of age. The passage to which reference is made was that it is impossible to separate the Church of Wales from the Church of England. I may have used that expression. I think it very possible that when disestablishment in Wales was proposed more upon the judgment of an individual, or of a group of individuals, than as the distinct expression of a strong, distinct, deliberate, and pervading national sentiment, it is quite possible that I may have used that expression, which may, when strictly regarded, be found to involve an element of exaggeration. Well, I might have Said that, in my judgment, it was impossible to re-construct and re-adjust the Income Tax; but, at the same time, if the people of England, in their deliberate mind and by an over whelming majority, arrived at the conclusion that that must be done, it would be the duty of Members of Parliament to set about it and do it as quickly as possible. And I say now what I believed then, and what I believe 1264 now, that the operation of disestablishing; he Church of Wales from the Church of England will not be found very easy. I suspect that it will be found that it is tied and knotted and tangled, I might almost say, in such a multitude of legal bonds and meshes with the general body of the Church of England, that it would be a very formidable matter indeed to accomplish this purpose. I think the Mover of this Motion was very wise in not making any such attempt, which, if it is to be done, is to be done by the Government, and I have no doubt it will require all the skill, all the knowledge, and all the care, and let me say more, all the sense of equity and moderation that can possibly be brought to bear upon it in order to carry through the work in a satisfactory manner. Well, so much then for the question of the impossibility of which I have endeavoured to dispose, so far as the words are susceptible of verbal explanation. Well, then I must look at the whole case—and I think I observe one or two gentlemen opposite smiling, or a little more than smiling, but permit me to say that there are a great many things which the Tory Party have believed and have declared to be impossible, and which afterwards—I do not wish to make any invidious reference—under adequate pressure they have been perfectly willing and perfectly competent to achieve. Now, Sir, the question is, what does justice demand of us in this case? Well, undoubtedly, I am aware that the Established Church in Wales is an advancing church, an active church, a living church, and I hope very distinctly a rising church, rising from elevation to elevation. I do not say that the case of the Church of Wales is a repetition of the Church of Ireland; but I do say this: that it is a repetition of the Church of Ireland in two vital points, two vital and determining points, apart from the general abstract principle of establishment, which it is not necessary for me to enter into at this time. In two vital and determining points I cannot deny that the case of the Welsh Church correponds with that of the Church of Ireland. In the first place, it is the church of the few against the church of the many; and, in the second place, it is the church of the rich as against the church of the comparatively poor. These broad 1265 features are so stamped upon the case that, in my opinion, it is impossible to deny them. Very well, Sir. In that state of facts, have the people of Wales given their judgment upon this question? I cannot deny that upon the whole, and not in a very rigid sense, but still in a somewhat substantial sense, it still remains a proportion coming not very far from the truth to say that the Nonconformists are the people of Wales—undoubtedly the bulk of the people of Wales. The enormous majority of those classes that can in any way be distinguished from the people, or from the mass of the nation, is outside the pale of Nonconformity. Looking at their numerical preponderance, even upon the entire population, and looking at the distribution of various classes of society, it was not very far from the truth to say, though I admit there is some element of exaggeration, but only a very limited one, that the Nonconformists of Wales are the people of Wales. The Motion of 1870 was probably the first serious Motion that was made in this House for Welsh disestablishment. Since then unquestionably the subject has taken a far wider scope. It has been under notice in the minds and in the hearts of the Welsh people. If a judgment has been given it has been given, and the conviction on which it was formed was formed, upon such knowledge as it was possible for the person forming the judgment to attain. That being so, after the full knowledge that a very large numerical preponderance had spoken—for although the Established Church may be a considerable body in Wales, yet it is comparatively small when compared with the entire population—that preponderance of the population has spoken again and again on every occasion which was given to it; and if the occasion is given to it again no one will deny that it will speak in terms as intelligible and unmistakable and decisive as those to which it gave utterance at the General Election in 1886, and at former General Elections. They have returned some 30 Members, so distributed that the Party which we term the Liberal Party claims 25 as against five to whom we think the description of Liberal not altogether applicable. That is not quite an accurate account of the matter; for, 1266 as I am told, I must still make a further addition to the majority, and a further subtraction from the minority, which makes the majority one of 27 to 3—a majority constitutionally, lawfully, peacefully, regularly, and I may say repeatedly returned to Parliament. Wales having thus spoken, is it right, is it desirable, can it long continue, that by English opinion such a declaration proceeding from Wales should be disregarded, contravened, and overruled? It may happen once or twice. I will not say how long it may continue. I will not undertake to define the length of time in months or years. In politics it is dangerous to predict. But this I will say—it will be a very little time. It cannot sound well in the ears of the people of Wales, it cannot seem well in their eyes, it cannot savour well in their nostrils, if, when this House divides on this question, the opposition to the overwhelming proportion of Welsh opinion will hardly have a solitary Representative from Wales, for I am told we are not quite certain even of the three. The remainder of the majority will be composed of hardly any Members from Ireland, in a very small degree from Scotland, and in an overwhelming, gigantic, absorbing proportion from the vast number of seats which are filled by English Representatives. I do not see the expediency or advantage of prolonging the controversy. Undoubtedly, I am sorry to say, though I hope I have argued this question in a manner which cannot at any rate give offence to those who differ from me—undoubtedly these religious, or rather semi-religious, or mixed controversies, upon the question of establishment and disestablishment, when they become serious, are not good for the temper and social condition of the country and people, who have never quarrelled about anything else. A people kindly, genial, and loyal as the Welsh people are, might perhaps have their tempers sharpened and exasperated on these ecclesiastical questions. I have said that my hon. Friend was, in my opinion, quite right in saying that the sentiment of nationality was strong and inextinguishable in Wales; and I think he was also right in the deliberate persuasion and conviction which he then I expressed, that this feeling of the people of Wales could not long continue without 1267 having its due and just effect within these walls; and the people of England, who are eminently a just people, will give, and will insist on giving, to Wales in respect of her reasonable demands the same just, considerate, equitable, and conclusive settlement which, in the like circumstances, I believe they would claim for themselves.
(7.8.) THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAISES, Cambridge University)
I cannot deny that the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman replied to his own former utterances has entirely disarmed controversy and anticipated criticism. I observed that the earlier part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was delivered in a very chilling silence on his own side of the House, and those hon. Members who cheered the latter part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech should be reminded that, just as there was a loophole in that very positive statement of 1870, which announced the practical impossibility of separating the Church in Wales from the Church in England, so there is to-day a loophole in what the right hon. Gentleman has just stated. The right hon. Gentleman was careful to observe, in speaking of the numerical preponderance and social distribution of the Nonconformists and Churchmen of Wales, that there again was that element of exaggeration which may thereafter be used against those who support the right hon. Gentleman in this Debate, and who have seemed so delighted to hear his concluding statement. The first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech commends itself very much to those who sit on the Ministerial side of the House. I do not wonder at the something like dismay which fell upon hon. Gentlemen opposite when the great prophet whom they brought to bless turned and cursed them, and demolished their ancient history so completely. The right hon. Gentleman has made the task of the opponents of the Motion easier and much more simple; and I am very glad, so far as the earlier part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech is concerned, to range myself under the right hon. Gentleman's banner, although I shall not find myself accompanying the person of the right hon. Gentleman into the lobby. But, after all, the right hon. Gentleman's only countervailing argument appeared 1268 to be based on one premiss—the national feeling of Wales. The right hon. Gentleman laid enormous stress upon that national feeling, and called upon the House to follow the lead of that national feeling, although I think it has at least taken that period of nonage to which the right hon. Gentleman referred—20 or 21 years—for the right hon. Gentleman himself to arrive at that state of mind. But what is this so-called national feeling in Wales? The hon. Member for the Rhondda Valley is an exponent of the national feeling of Wales—I might almost say that, as far as the House is concerned, it is comprised within the limits of his person. I venture to say there is nothing in the history of the Welsh people which entitles them to attribute the word "national" to those feelings, which are racial perhaps and characteristic, but are not national. The people may swear by the soil, their language may be couched in the vernacular, but that is not a national feeling, because there is no such thing as a Welsh nation. [Opposition laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen who dispute that should apply to their Leader for information on the secular history of their country. Anciently there were three Principalities within the limits of what is now called the Principality of Wales—the Principality which owes its origin and establishment to the fact that Wales passed under the English sceptre. Therefore, I contend that to call the Welsh people a nation is grossly to exaggerate and wholly to misrepresent the facts of the case. I am not going to question the claim of the Welsh to call themselves a people or a race. They are a very interesting race [Mr. W. ABRAHAM: Nation], and they are a very peculiar people. They have their own traditions and their own prejudices, and there is much in both their traditions and their prejudices which specifically claim the interest of those who like to follow the folk-lore of small and obscure populations. I admit that, as a matter of archæological interest, these peculiarities of the Welsh people are deserving of the attention, and entitled, at least, to the consideration of antiquaries and historians, while to those who live among them they are a never-failing subject of sympathy and interest, and they also bring to Wales a great number of 1269 Englishmen who take an interest in the country on account of these peculiarties. But when dealing with a political question, is this House to be governed by vague sentiment of this description? Wales is part of England, and the question of the Church in Wales is the question of the Church of England. The right hon. Gentleman forgets, when he talks of the familiar material of the opposition which will be arrayed against this proposal, that this question is not exclusively a Welsh one. Primarily it may be a Welsh question, but it is one which concerns the whole of this realm of England, and in which every Englishman is entitled to have his voice. When we go into the lobby we shall be dealing with a matter which most nearly and closely affects the existence of our own Church; we know that this attack, which at the present moment is limited to the Welsh outwork, is one which is intended to be followed by one on the whole citadel. Therefore, we are not going to be beguiled by the voice of any Welsh siren to surrender a post, by the surrender of which we shall be abandoning the main principle upon which we rest our case. We are not prepared on this occasion, or I hope for many years to come, to accept the proposition, that because a small population in one corner of the country takes—or thinks that it takes—a dislike to any institution common to the realm at large, we are to go on with a series of fragmentary and sporadic acts of legislation until we have frittered away all the oneness of this realm of England. The right hon. Gentleman, however, did not entirely rest his case on the question of national feeling, but he drew a parallel with the case of Scotland. But, for my own part, I failed to see the value of that comparison. We know that the history of Wales and of Scotland is entirely different. We know that while Scotland once had an independent existence, Wales had not. Scotland is an ancient kingdom, which came into partnership with us through the person of one of our Sovereigns; it has its ancient laws and customs, and it had its Parliament. There is, therefore, no analogy between the two. But I think that a fairer parallel to draw would be between the Church in the Highlands and in the 1270 Lowlands of Scotland. In the one region you have the aboriginal inhabitants who have retired with their ancient language into the remoter mountains; in the other the Saxon invader, who settled down with civilisation on the more accessible country. That would be a much fairer analogy to draw, and I do not think that even the centrifugal instincts of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle had made out a scheme which would enable the Church of Scotland to be dealt with by separate legislation for the Highlands and for the Lowlands. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian also referred briefly to the question of numerical preponderance and distribution. He has done such full justice to the position of the Church in Wales that, for my own part, I would rather amplify the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman than deal with them in a hostile spirit. When we are told that the Church in Wales is ceasing to be a living body, and has been merely galvanised into existence by the cry of disestablishment, I think that it is well to bear in mind that Church revival in Wales has not at all commenced with the recent agitation against it. A late Bishop of St. Asaph (Dr. Short), when he came into the diocese in 1850, was able to point to the period of 40 years before that as one of continued activity, and that activity has since gone on in an increasing ratio. In the period of 40 years before 1850 19 new churches had been built, 10 rebuilt, and 71 schools and 60 parsonages, erected. I believe these figures compared favourably with those relating to any other diocese throughout the length and breadth of England. In the 40 years which ended in 1890 the figures were—new churches 57, rebuilt and restored 127, schools 150, and parsonages 138; £108,755 having been expended on the building of schools, and £132,857 on parsonages, by Churchmen in the diocese. I wish the House to see that the Nonconformists of Wales—to whose religious zeal I always pay the utmost respect—have not a monopoly of voluntary contribution, but that the Church is as capable of making sacrifices. The diocese of St. Asaph contains 208 parishes, with a population of 268,901. The Church expenditure upon all Church objects in the dioceses during the 1271 last 40 years has been £899,298, the annual expenditure at the present time upon Church expenses, school maintenance, and societies is £27,889; and on Church buildings £20,000; that is to say, that the Church is spending on purely diocesan objects about £50,000 a year out of the pockets of the laity. In 1870, when Mr. Forster's Education Act was passed, the daily attendance in national schools was 11,663; in Sunday schools 15,008; while in 1890 the figures were—in national schools 19,445, and in Sunday schools 20,604. And this increase in the attendance at the Church schools has arisen in spite of the innumerable Board schools put up all over the country. In the ten years from 1860 to 1870 the number of persons confirmed was 12,000; between 1880 and 1890,15,000; and between 1880 and 1890 nearly 20,000; while between 1870 and 1890 the number of communicants had just doubled. With regard to the Church services, in 1890 the number of English services was 394, and of Welsh 264; the numbers in 1870 being 240 and 219 respectively. A very interesting test on Nonconformist feeling in Wales is supplied by the celebrated Burials Act, in connection with which my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. G. O. Morgan) expects to attain immortality. In 1885 the burials under the Act were 247; in 1886, 216; in 1887, 271; in 1888, 245; and in 1889, 251, while the Church burials for the year 1889 numbered 3,618. I find that during the last five years out of 208 parishes in this diocese there were 94 where there was not a single burial under the right hon. Gentleman's Act, 30 where there was only one, and 18 in which there were only two. There is another very important point to be considered, and that is how far Nonconformity supplies sufficient ministration for the wants of .the people, if that supplied by the Church is to be withdrawn. I find that in 1886 there were 280 Nonconformist ministers resident in the diocese, while in 1890 their number had declined to 256. At the same time, it must be borne in mind that the number of Church services has increased from 450 to 600.
§ MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid.)
The right hon. Gentleman does not give us the authority for the figures.
I get them from a source which is accessible to all hon. Members, namely, the Charge delivered last year by the Bishop of St. Asaph. There is another point connected with Nonconformist ministration which, is extremely important, and that is that in 1886 there were 83 of these 208 parishes without a resident Nonconformist minister, and in 1890 there were 90 in the same condition. If Nonconformity is to take up all the ground and supersede the Church, why, here are nearly half the parishes in a diocese which have not got any Nonconformist shepherd to lead the flock, yet in every one of them the Church has provided ministration for the poor. Does not the hon. Member see that he is paying a compliment to the provision made by the Church when he complains of the number of churches with small congregations? If the hon. Member had endeavoured to make out a case by showing that there were large parishes where no ministration was provided by the Church, then he would have had something to go upon; but when he complains that the Church supplied a superfluity of ministration then he showed no case at all. This question has come to be treated as if it were a purely Welsh question. I venture to point out that there are English people in Wales as well as Welsh, and they have some claim to the provision of religious ministration in the way in which they can appreciate it. I think the House will be surprised when I say that in the same diocese there are 52 parishes in which the Welsh language is not spoken, and the number of monoglot Welshmen only amount to 35 per cent. of the population of the diocese. These are facts which also have to be taken into consideration when this matter is dealt with. As to the assertion that the English Church in Wales is an alien Church, I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has finally disposed of that preposterous proposition. The right hon. Gentleman has justly called attention to the fact that in the later part of the 17th century there was probably no part of Her Majesty's dominions in which the population was more universally attached to the Church than in Wales. Then when did the Church become an alien Church? That re- 1273 condite historian, the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, told us the ancient Church was superseded sometime in the 7th century. He does not seem to realise an unbroken continuance of the ministrations of the Church, that Church which brought out the Welsh Bible, and introduced the Welsh language into the services of the Church. There never was, among all the baseless inventions by which it is sought to bolster up this fictitious agitation, one more entirely without justification or foundation than that which alleges that the Church in Wales is an alien Church. I have to thank the House for having listened so considerately to a speech which in its main features has been controversial; but I am quite sure that, whatever may be the present attitude of hon. Gentleman opposite with regard to this question, if they think they are going to improve the position of this country or of their own Party by pandering to this pseudo-national chimera, which is constantly being put forward as a stalking-horse for electioneering purposes, they will find they have created for themselves a new difficulty nearer home than Ireland, which will again perplex and hamper their legislative efforts if they ever again have a majority in this House. As we are told that the first result of their return is to be a Parliament in which Ireland stops the way, so probably their next Parliament will be one in which Wales stops the way; and when we have come to the separation of Wales on the same lines as the separation of Ireland is now proposed, the country will again have legislation proposed, not on grounds of principle, not with any regard to constitutional principle or national unity, but based upon the narrower and baser foundation of sectional hatred and local jealousy—a policy which will well deserve the ruin it will bring upon those who make themselves responsible for it.
(7.40.) MR. J. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
If the right hon. Gentleman has ever a reasonable case to present to the House, he never fails to present it in a vigorous and effective manner. I do not think, however, I ever listened to a weaker or a more ineffective speech from him, than the one he has just made, a fact which I cannot believe is attributable not to 1274 him, but to the weakness of his case. The right hon. Gentleman commenced by denying the principle of nationality in regard to Wales. He said Wales is not a nation, and the way in which he attempted to make out that proposition was certainly very novel. He said that before Wales was conquered by England instead of being one Principality it was three. If the right hon. Gentleman's reasoning is correct I do not suppose there is a single nation on the face of the globe. England, France, or Germany are not nations, for they were all subdivided in ancient times. It is not necessary for me to go into any finely-drawn argument on the point, for no two persons can ever agree as to what constitutes a nation. The common sense of people, however, enables them to understand pretty clearly the meaning of many things that cannot be scientifically defined. The right hon. Gentleman went very considerably, and, I think, very properly, into statistics. It is the matter of numbers which differentiates the case of Wales from that of England. I admit that a large number of the strongest arguments in favour of disestablishment in Wales is also applicable to the maintenance of any State Church in any country; but I say, we are entitled to claim, as supporters of this Motion, persons who are supporters of the principle of Church Establishment. I do not suppose that any supporter of that principle will maintain that it ought to be applied where the Church Establishment ministers only to a small minority of the people. It will surely be conceded that, in order to make the Establishment in any degree defensible, it should be national in reality as well as in name—that it should secure the support of the bulk of the nation. The supporters of the Welsh Establishment are very far from claiming that the Church in Wales commands anything like a majority of the people. In fact they all admit that it is in a minority. As the late Dean of Bangor said, the Church have "lost five-sixths of the Welsh people." The Church defenders have of late attempted to make out that they are entitled to a larger proportion; but no person who, having intimate knowledge of Wales, would venture to assert that there are more than a-sixth or probably more than a-tenth of the people of 1275 Wales who are staunch adherents of the Church Establishment. The statistics quoted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite were chiefly statistics of money spent and buildings erected. I am quite willing to admit that the Church in Wales, as measured from that standpoint, has made immense progress in the last 15 years. But that is no proof whatever of the progress of the Church in the affections of the people at large. We admit that nearly all the rich people in Wales and nearly all the landowners are Churchmen. The right hon. Gentleman's statistics prove merely that the rich people have freely spent their treasures in the last 20 years in building churches. The Nonconformists have also built, and I venture to say they have spent a great deal more than the Church of England people have during the last 40 years. In the previous Debates on this subject it was made a taunt against us that we had over-built chapels, and we were told we had built three or four where only one was necessary. Hon. Gentlemen who oppose us on this question ought to have some sort of consistency in the arguments they use. They say we are unable without the assistance of the Church to supply the religious wants of the people, and then they contend that we over-supply the requirements. It is necessary for them to agree among themselves, and say on which of these contentions they are going to rely. It is certain that if we have erred at all it has not been in under-supplying the religious wants of the Welsh people. There is not a district in which we have not fully and adequately supplied those wants. The right hon. Gentleman opposite made a great point of the fact that there were numbers of parishes in which there were no Nonconformist ministers. The right hon. Gentleman's arguments on that point serve to show his ignorance of Wales. He evidently is not aware of the fact that one of the largest Nonconformist bodies of Wales has no settled pastorate, and that a large number of chapels are served by itinerant ministers. It is true that in a few large towns the system of the settled pastorate is now obtaining among the Calvinistic Methodist body, but to argue that, because that system does not obtain everywhere, 1276 Nonconformity is declining is absurd, because it is under the system of itinerant ministry that the whole of Wales has become Nonconformist. The success of the Calvinistic Methodists in Wales is entirely to be attributed to the itinerant ministry. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the number of burials in churchyards as a proof that Nonconformist feeling is not increasing in Wales. That was a very unfortunate test to apply, because we know that in consequence of the way in which clerical rights are abused in Wales the Bill of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Osborne Morgan) has almost become a dead letter, or, at all events, that it is only very partially resorted to. Throughout central Wales a great dispute is now raging in relation to a scandal that has recently taken place at Barmouth on this very question. We all know that the right of selecting the burial ground, according to the law, rests with the clergyman of the parish. In England, and also in Wales provided the fees are freely paid, the clergyman always considers the feelings of the family when he makes the selection. In the Barmouth case a widow prepared a grave in which she buried her deceased husband. She expressed her desire to be buried in the same grave, and when her son died had him buried in an adjoining grave in order that she might reserve her husband's grave for herself. The lady died a few weeks ago. She had expressed to her executors her desire to take advantage of the Burials Act to have the Nonconformist burial service read to her, and the executors informed the rector of their intention to carry out her wish. He immediately asked: "Are you going to pay my fees?" The House knows that there is no such thing as a legal burial fee in Wales. No burial fee can be claimed anywhere unless it has been customarily paid from the time of Richard I. In Wales the practice until 20 years ago has invariably been to pay no fee, but the persons attending the funeral contribute something in the form of a voluntary collection. An illegal attempt is now made by the clergymen to exact a fixed fee from everybody who takes advantage of the Burials Act. Because the executors of this deceased lady refused to pay this illegal fee, and insisted on having a Nonconformist service, the clergyman abused his 1277 right of selecting the site of the grave. He said: "Very well, then, I will not let you bury this widow in the grave of her husband." The executors were forced to submit to this. There is another reason why the Burials Act is not resorted to. We know that the parishioners have the right of burial. If a person has lived outside the parish and wishes to be buried in ground where, perhaps, his fathers have been buried before him, and his executors express a desire that the Nonconformist burial service should be used, they are instantly met by the clergyman with a declaration that the body shall not be buried there. So much annoyance is caused by the hostility of the Church of England clergy to the Burials Act that the people have almost generally, to avoid scandal, abandoned the right of having the Burial Service read by their own ministers. When a member of a family has just died his relatives are in no mood for squabbling, and say: "Let us have no bother; let the clergyman read the service." Reference has also been made to the question of Confirmation. To get a large number of persons confirmed is a very important thing in the eyes of every clergyman. As a rule he canvasses as thoroughly as he can, with the object of getting as many as possible presented to the Bishop for Confirmation, and a large number are presented who have not been in the habit of attending the church, and who never go afterwards. I was told by a Nonconformist minister that children who were members of the Nonconformist congregation in his own parish were induced by the express desire of the clergyman to go to the church and be confirmed by the Bishop, although they never afterwards frequented the Church, but remained members of the denomination to which their parents belonged. The fact is that the hold of the Church in Wales, as far as it has any hold whatever, is almost entirely confined to the English-speaking people. I ought to mention that there is one class of the Welsh working men among whom you may expect to find some support of the Church, and that is the publican class. Outside the publicans and their customers there are scarcely any of the working men of Wales who belong to 1278 the Church. Within the last few years a very strenuous attempt has been made to increase the number of the working class adherents of the Church, but the amount of the increase has been very slight and gives no occasion for boasting on the part of the Church. All the territorial magnates and a large number of the employers of labour are Churchmen. Ever since the disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1868 a great panic has fallen on the clergy of the Church of Wales. They seemed to feel that unless they reformed and increased their numbers the fate which had befallen the Irish Church would befall them, and the most strenuous attempt has been made to get people to come into the Church. When you consider that all the influence of the territorial magnates has to a great extent been placed at the service of the clergy, you will fully understand that it is of immense advantage to a working man to leave the chapel and become a Churchman, as far as his material interests are concerned. It is not surprising, therefore, that some few have been found who have abandoned their own religion and gone over to the Church. Some English people are thoughtlessly disposed to assume that all Welsh people are religious. That, of course, is an absurdity. Such a thing cannot be said of any people in the world. There are a large number of people in Wales who attend no place of worship, and there are others who care more for their own advancement than anything else. It is not surprising, therefore, when the influences of which I have spoken are at work, that some slight increase should have taken place in the number of churchmen. Supposing all the landowners and all the large employers of labour in England were Roman Catholics, and it would be of great advantage to a man who wanted to obtain an allotment, or a farm, or a tenement, or obtain employment in a quarry, to be a Roman Catholic, what would you expect to find? Surely you would expect that a large number of unprincipled people who care not a straw about any religion in the world would become Roman Catholics. They would become Mahomedans or Buddists or anything else under similar circumstances. Those who have turned away from Nonconformity 1279 in Wales are a miserable minority, but most of them have been induced to do so by these influences. This is one of our strongest complaints about the present efforts of the Church in Wales. So far as those who profess Church principles devote their efforts to the spread of Christianity, we say, God bless their work, but when they attempt to demoralise the people by bribery of this kind, we are compelled to enter our protest against it. I will repeat a fact which was told to me not long ago by a minister of the denomination to which I belong, who laboured in a district strongly subject to the influences to which I refer. He said very few had gone over from his chapel, and those who had done so belonged almost exclusively to the class I have referred to. There was, however, he said, one man whom he had been very sorry to lose. He was a man who had a good reputation among his fellows. He was a member in full communion, a teacher in the Sunday school, and was regarded as a person of good and solid character. That man went over to the Church, but did not receive any reward for his apostacy, and the consequence was that he ceased to attend any place of worship. The clergyman of the parish called on the man's wife, who had stuck to the chapel, and asked her why she did not go to church, saying: "Your husband comes sometimes, but I never see you." She replied: "I know he goes sometimes, and it was an evil day for us when he left the chapel. When he was a member at the chapel he always spent his evenings at home, but now he spends them in the public-house, and I bid my boys to be warned by their father's example against leaving the religion they were brought up in." Now, I do not say that because a man goes to church he takes to drinking, but I say that this man by his conduct lost the respect of his neighbours and that he lost his own self-respect also, and then, becoming reckless, took to drink. This attempt to win over the Welsh people to the Church by bribery and by appeals to sordid motives is an evil that is much felt. We do not so much mind the loss of individuals because, after all, it is a mere handful that goes over, but we do protest against the demoralising effect it produces. I would ask the House to bear with me 1280 while I give some statistics on another point. Hon. Members are aware that Welsh people have very largely migrated from Wales to the large towns of England. Liverpool has often been called "the metropolis of North Wales," from the large number of Welshmen who are congregated there. If the Church in Wales were so strong as to number among its adherents two-thirds or three-fifths of the Welsh people you would find the same proportions among the Liverpool Welsh. But you find, as a matter of fact, that whilst there are 45 Nonconformist Welsh chapels in that city, there are only 4 Welsh churches. The total number of communicants in Nonconformist Welsh chapels of Liverpool and district is 10,331, and the total number of communicants in the Welsh Episcopalian churches is only 455, or only 4½ per cent. of the whole. What is the reason for this? The reason is that in Liverpool the Welsh people are totally free from territorial and squirearchical influences. The Welshman in Liverpool is not likely to get a bargain or a place because he is an Episcopalian, and, therefore, he goes to the place of worship he really prefers. If you take the other large towns in England the same state of things is found to exist, although not to the same extent. In London, Manchester, and Chester similar circumstances are found. There are no less than 34 English towns and industrial villages outside these places in which there are Welsh Nonconformist chapels. They include Birmingham, Bristol, Wolverhampton, Ashton-under-Lyne, Eochdale, Stockport, Barrow-in-Furness, Dalton, Wigan, Spennymoor, and Warrington. These chapels have been built by Welsh immigrants out of their own pockets. In not one of these towns is there a single Welsh Episcopalian Church. The reason is that there are no Episcopalians among the Welsh people who go there, and there are no landed gentry to build churches. A further illustration of the same state of things is to be found in America. Everybody who knows anything of Wales knows that there has been a vast emigration from Wales to America. In the United States the Welsh Congregational Body, which is one of the four large Nonconformist Bodies of Wales, has 215 chapels, whilst 1281 the Baptists have 64 chapels, and the Calvinistic Methodists 190. There are spread over the United States 469 Welsh Nonconformist chapels. How many Welsh churches are there? There is not one throughout the length and breadth of the United States. There are altogether 26,000 adherents of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Body alone in the United States and they subscribe from £15,000 to £16,000 a year. In Australia there are four Welsh Nonconformist chapels and not a single church. I do not say that the proportion of Churchmen to Nonconformists in Wales is analogous to the proportion I have referred to as existing outside Wales, and for this reason: that when the English-speaking people of Wales emigrate to England, they, of course, go to the English churches. But this is a further proof of the point I am endeavouring to make, namely, that the Church community in Wales is confined to the English-speaking portion of the community, and that if you go away from the English-speaking people in Wales you find the Church non est. We are often told that we are trying to make political capital out of this question. If anyone has to gain by disestablishment in Wales, however, it is not the Liberals or the Nonconformists. If anyone will gain it will be the Conservatives. Formerly the Parliamentary representation of Wales was confined to the Welsh territorial magnates, who are all Conservatives. Now the Welsh Members consist of anybody but the large land-owning class—London barristers, English merchants, solicitors, traders, and, in fact, anybody and everybody but the landowners. The reason is that the old landed aristocracy of Wales have allied themselves with the Church Establishment, and have tried to cram it down the throats of the people. Anybody who is acquainted with Wales knows that the Welsh are an eminently Conservative people. What is it that makes a man a Conservative rather than a Liberal? As a rule, you find that men of a timid and cautious temperament become Conservatives, and men of a bold and sanguine temperament Liberals. But among the Welsh Nonconformists you find the timid and cautions men are as great radicals as the bold and sanguine, simply because of the Church Establish- 1282 ment. You will never find a Welsh Nonconformist who is a Conservative unless he is the tenant of some big landlord, nor will you find a Churchman who is a Liberal. The movement in favour of Church Disestablishment has in no class in Wales made greater progress than among the landowners. Silently and secretly a very great change of feeling has been coming over the landlords of Wales. They have seen that Disestablishment is inevitable, and they are coming to believe that it is desirable. They have seen that they will never have the least chance of recovering their hold upon the people of Wales until the Church is disestablished. This has been brought very vividly to their minds by the County Council elections which took place in Wales a little over two years ago. At those elections the ancient gentry were almost universally defeated. A few of them were returned for the wards and districts in which they live, but the immense majority found that they had no chance against the Nonconformists. This is all due to the same cause, and, though the aristocracy of Wales are as strong and zealous Churchmen as ever they were, their belief in the desirability of maintaining the Church as a State Establishment is fast diminishing. No doubt hon. Members will say I am proving too much, and will ask why I go in for disestablishment if it will be of advantage to the Conservative Party. I go in for it because the people of Wales wish for peace. At present there is nothing but discord, and there will be nothing but discord so long as this Church Establishment exists. I have shewn the bitterness that is caused by the way in which the territorial influence of the aristocracy has been unsparingly used in favour of the Church, and I will now conclude by saying that this religious question should be set at rest, so that all religious denominations in Wales may have liberty and freedom to devote themselves to the work of spiritual regeneration, instead of quarrelling and bickering amongst themselves. (8.31.)
(9.0.) SIR J. BAILET (Hereford)
When, at the commencement of this Debate, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian communicated with me and expressed a desire to follow 1283 his two supporters who Lad moved and seconded this Resolution, I felt certain that I was only doing what the House of Commons would have desired me to do in giving way to the right hon. Gentleman, although it is extremely unusual for the leader of a Party to follow the Proposer and Seconder of a Resolution hostile to the other side of the House without any intervening argument having been heard from those who say they object to that Resolution. Nevertheless, when I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman I felt that I could not regret the course I had taken, because, in the first place, it afforded me the greatest pleasure to hear the manner in which he corrected the numerous mistakes in Welsh history that had been made by the Proposer of the Motion, and because, also, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to me to raise the tone of this Debate from one of strong vituperation and personal attack upon Members on this side of the House, which, to say the least of it, is a tone most undesirable in the conduct of Parliamentary proceedings. Moreover, I could, not but recollect that I had heard a magnificent speech from the right hon. Gentleman on the same subject 20 years ago—at a time when he was not an irresponsible Member of the House of Commons, but was leader of the House and Prime Minister to Her Majesty the Queen. That speech was on exactly the same lines as the one he has delivered to-night, with one exception, which the right hon. Gentleman designates as "sufficient electoral support." When he came to the conclusion of his speech we had one more instance of the marvellous facility with which the right hon. Gentleman adapts his opinions to the altered circumstances of the day. I cannot refrain from reading to the House the concluding words of the speech delivered on that occasion. He was alluding to the Church of Wales, having touched on his connection with the Church of England, and he said—I know the difficulties, and I am not prepared in any shape or form to encourage, by dealing with my hon. and learned Friend's Motion in any way except the simple mode of negative, the creation of expectations which it would be most guilty, most unworthy, most dishonourable on our part to entertain lest he should convey a virtual pledge. We cannot go in that direction. We do not intend to do so. 1284 We deprecate it, and we should regard it as a national mischief.That, Sir, is the conclusion to which the same set of facts as those with which we now have to deal brought the right hon. Gentleman 20 years ago. Now, Sir, one fact which seemed to influence the right hon. Gentleman's mind was that which he called "sufficient electoral support." He alluded to the small number of Welsh Members who sat on this side of the House and to the much greater number which sits on the other side. Now, I have two remarks to make on this: the first is, that the question of disestablishment was not before the Welsh people at that time. If you were to take the numbers of the Welsh people and the numbers of their Representatives in this House, and use the figures as conclusive argument that the Welsh people desire disestablishment, you must first be clear that they knew at the time of the election that the effect of their votes would be to bring about the disestablishment of the Church in Wales; and if that has not been the case you ought, at all events, not to judge the feelings of the people by the number of Representatives they return to this House, but rather by the number of voters who have voted for those Representatives. Now, what is the fact as to the number of Welsh Representatives? I give hon. Members opposite the full benefit of the fact that at the last General Election there were four constituencies uncontested; but as to the others, the number of electors who voted were 60,000 or thereabouts on the one side and 90,000 or thereabouts on the other side, or in the proportion of 3 to 2. The fact that there are only three Conservatives under such circumstances is one of the curious proofs which are sometimes given that the electoral system of this country may be very unfair to large minorities of the people. If the question of Welsh disestablishment had been clearly and distinctly before the people of Wales at the last election, I believe that two-fifths to three-fifths would have changed from one side to the other, for the Church has yet some hold on the affections of a large portion of the people. Now, Sir, I would remind the House of one other point which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with. He scattered 1285 to the winds the argument raised by the Mover of this Resolution—an argument which has so often been put before the House—that the Welsh Church is an alien Church and not the Church of the nation. What are the facts? The Welsh Bishoprics were founded before the English Bishoprics, Those who have any real knowledge of the Principality are aware that the names of the parishes follow the names of Welsh saints whom no Englishman, unless he has lived in Wales, knows anything about. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution dealt with the question of the Reformation, when, in his judgment, the old Welsh Church died, and something else was put in its place. I must say I do not think it lies with hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are nothing if they are not Protestants, not to give their entire approval to the doctrines of the Church as established at the Reformation. But I may put the point in a different form. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) spoke of the Welsh endowments being taken to supply the wants of the English Church. Doubtless, at the time of the Reformation Wales was dealt with differently from England, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners take credit to themselves for using the funds of the disestablished Welsh religious houses for ecclesiastical purposes; but the Commissioners did not use those funds for ecclesiastical purposes connected with Wales, but in order to enrich the English ecclesiastics who had nothing to do with Wales. I am well aware that at the present time the action of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, in supplying the religious wants of large populations, especially in Wales, has given the Principality a larger sum than was formerly administered; but, at the same time, the loss incurred by the Welsh Church in the time of the Reformation accounts for the poverty of that Church during the last century. Then I come to the Act for the Better Propagation of the Gospel in Wales. In 1650 the idea of the better propagation of the Gospel in Wales was demonstrated by the ejectment of "200 malignant clergymen from the Principality," their places being supplied by "Godly and faithful men." These men may have been Godly, and they were probably faithful, but their 1286 literate capacity was very doubtful. The Church of Wales was unfortunately compelled to undergo for a few years the infliction of these faithful men, and this, coupled with the state of poverty to which the Church had been reduced, was doubtless the main cause of the trouble that came upon it. I do not know whether hon. Members fully realise the poverty of the Church during this period. In the Diocese of St. David's, in the year 1720, there were 37 livings under £50, 42 under £40, 60 under £30, 29 under £20, 39 under £15, 57 under £10, and 29 under £5 a year.
§ SIR J. BAILEY
I am afraid I have not the figures showing the other extremes; but I have heard it said by an hon. Member, in a former speech, that he attributed much of the evils in Wales to the anti-national policy of that time. I do not want to deny that anti-national policy, but I do say that a great many of the evils which have arisen are referable to the poverty of the Church as well as to any anti-national policy that may have been pursued by the English statesmen of that day. The hon. Member has asked me to state what are the other extremes. I have told him I cannot do that, but I repeat that the Welsh Bishoprics at that time were so impoverished that a great deal of what has happened is attributable to that circumstance. It is this poverty which has been used as a justification for the pluralities existing in Wales, owing to the extreme poverty of the Church it was absolutely impossible for a clergyman to accept a Welsh Bishopric, unless in this way he had the means of maintaining the position. If, then, the Church was as poor as I have described it, how can you expect it to be able to meet a sudden emergency, such as has arisen from the enormous increase which has taken place in the Welsh population? It has also had to meet the bi-lingual difficulty, which is evidenced by the fact that, while 20 per cent. of the population speak Welsh only, 34 per cent. speak English only, and 46 per cent. speak both English and Welsh. It is when the Church is surrounded by all these difficulties that there suddenly comes upon the Church 1287 the vast increase of population I have alluded to. The population, partly from natural increase, but largely from immigration, has increased from 500,000 to 1,500,000. Railways have sprung up, the iron trade of the Principality has risen to great prosperity, and a Church has had to meet an increased growth among its people of from 50,000 to 150,000. Now, Sir, in comparison the present position of the Church in Wales with the ancient character of that institution, it must be borne in mind that for 14 centuries the Church was absolutely the Church of the people. It has been described by the Mover of the Resolution as having at the end of the 17th century comprised 96 per cent. of the people. They were then most ardent Churchmen, and until this century was somewhat far advanced. I do not believe Nonconformity had obtained anything like a strong hold upon the Principality. The father of dissent in Wales was a Magistrate of the district, and on his tombstone, which is in the parish church in which I live, his epitaph says: "He remained a faithful member of the Church of England until his death." I think that if that gentleman had known what his action was going to bring the Established Church to in his neighbourhood he would have re-considered it; at any rate, he must have thought he was taking upon himself a great responsibility, but he cannot be described, as the hon. Member opposite has described some Nonconformist ministers who have joined the Church in the present day, as a weak-kneed mediocrity. His death took place in 1811, and since that time the Nonconformists have had ministers of their own preaching the Gospel to the people. It was my privilege to know one who was considered to be the leader of the Nonconformist and Liberal Party in the county in which I live as well as the neighbouring Counties of Carmarthen and Radnor. He was the strongest speaker in that part of the Principality on the side represented by hon. Members opposite at the time of his death. He was buried according to the rites of the Church of England, and I was given to understand, and I believe it to be an undoubted fact, that it was by his special desire that his funeral was con- 1288 ducted in that way. That man, whose name I believe is well known to some hon. Members, though I will not mention it now, was a straight and honest man and a most sincere Nonconformist. While the Welsh people like the simplicity of the services in their various chapels, while they have an honest love for their chapels, yet I believe that in their inmost heart, and I speak not merely of the ministers but of the congregation, there is a strong—stronger than is thought—regard for the Established Church in Wales. Now, Sir, reference is often made to the number of Nonconformist chapels in Wales, but, if the House will permit me to say so, I regard that as a sign not of strength, but of weakness. Up to the middle of the 18th century every one knows that the Church was predominant in Wales. As a matter of fact, in 1742 there were 105 chapels and 769 churches; in 1851, 2,826 chapels and 1,180 churches; and in 1884, 4,200 chapels. In 1851 Nonconformity seated 58 per cent. of the population. What is the cause of this increase, then? The large number of Nonconformist chapels is caused by the splits among the congregations. Troubles occur, and part of the congregation build a new chapel—a circumstance which indicates, as I put it, weakness rather than strength. I have here a letter from one who is connected with a Nonconformist place of worship, and he writes: "There is a debt on the chapel of £760; we are only a few poor work people." This chapel is in a large and thriving centre, and no doubt there are well attended chapels all around it, and, while I sympathise with the people, still I think it an exceedingly imprudent thing on their part to burden themselves with another chapel when they had already plenty, thus creating that great source of trouble to Nonconformists—the chapel debt. My hon. Friend alluded to the number of Church burials—something like 20,000 Church burials and 1,400 under the Act of my right hon. Friend (Mr. G. Osborne Morgan). The hon. Member who spoke last said on one notable occasion a clergyman had been found to do an injustice to his parishioners by refusing to bury in a grave which had been bought by a man for himself and wife. If these facts can be proved that clergyman would get no 1289 more sympathy from me than from the hon. Member. Still, such a circumstance is a reason, possibly, for re-considering the Act of the right hon. Gentleman, and, going further, but not for disestablishing the Church. I propose now to give some figures respecting the diocese of St. David's. The number of confirmations in 1886 was 2,533; in 1887, 3,004; in 1889, 3,206—in ten years, 26,041; a number greater than is recorded in most English dioceses. An hon. Member opposite says that the number is due to pressure brought to bear upon the people by the clergy, and that afterwards the communicants go back to Nonconformity. Such a statement is a libel on Welsh Nonconformity, and public opinion would not allow Welsh Nonconformists to at once desecrate their own form of religion and that of the Established Church. In St. David's, between 1879 and 1888, 25 churches have been built or restored—a number not reached by 25 other dioceses, while only seven have exceeded it. In Llandaff, in the same period, 42 churches have been built or restored—a number not reached by 27 other dioceses. The exact number of Church attendants cannot be got at with the facility which exists in the case of Nonconformists who erect their chapels in centres where they think there is need for them, whereas the Church goes to the thinly as well as the thickly-populated districts, and establishes its church for the ministration of the few as well as of the many. In the parish of Merthyr, in 1810, the population was 7,705, and in 1888 it was 58,000. There are 17 clergyman at work there, and since 1877 £41,200 has been spent on Church extension and £12,750 added to the endowment. And now I come to the parish of Rhondda. The hon. Member, when on a former occasion he spoke on this subject, referred to the fact that at one time there were only two churches in the parish. He said that there was an obligation to hand one of these over to the Roman Catholic Body, and that the other had been erected by a wealthy person, who had obtained the money by the sweat of the brow of the colliers of the district. Well, as to the former of the two churches I think it very difficult for the building to have been used for a better purpose than that to which the owner devoted it, pending the time he 1290 hoped it would be occupied by his coreligionists, while how could a colliery proprietor better expend his profits than by building a church for his workmen?
§ MR. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)
What I complained of was that the church was not built for the workmen, nine-tenths of whom were Nonconformists.
§ SIR J. BAILEY
Well, it is not necessary to enter into that question now. We have been told that the increased Church activity is a fight for tithe. Whereas there were only two churches in Rhondda 20 or 30 years ago there are now 22. In one Church district, where the clergyman's income is £289 a year, he keeps no fewer than seven curates; in other church districts the clergymen get nothing at all for tithe. It has been said that the building of these churches has been a foolish expenditure of rich men's money, but can you imagine anyone being liberal or foolish enough, not merely to build 22 churches, but to enlarge the parish church as well? In nine of these churches Welsh services are given. To say that these churches are filled with the rich and wealthy landlord class, no one knows better than the hon. Member for Rhondda opposite that this is not the case, for the Valley of the Rhondda is certainly not filled with rich people. But this affords a striking instance of what is being done by the Church in large centres of population in Wales. There is one argument further I should like to put before the House. If Wales were separated from England by the sea, as is Ireland, or by an impassable range of mountains, I would leave the argument where it is. But such is not the case. As my right hon. Friend told us, Wales never has been a nation. There were only three occasions on which all Wales was united, and by no possibility can you name a town which could have been the capital of the whole country; and the reason is clear. In the South you have the great Valley of the Severn, connecting the mineral district with Bristol, Gloucester, and other English counties; and the railways, too, which are laid out to suit the requirements of the commercial classes, do not connect the South with the rest of Wales; they connect it with London and Liverpool. On one occasion lately we went so far towards considering 1291 London our capital that we held our national Eisteddfod there. Then we have the Valley of the Usk, connecting Wales with the Great Plain of Monmouthshire; and then the Wye, going into Herefordshire, through the Counties of Brecon and Radnor, the beautiful Valley of Llangollen, and if you disestablished the Welsh Church you would have farmers living next to each other under an entirely different religious policy. This is no mere chimera, and I do not think that any hon. Member opposite has thoroughly considered the vast interference with the Church, apart from the Established Church in Wales, which this Motion contemplates. The County of Monmouth is generally considered to be a county of England. It is part and parcel of a Welsh diocese. Are hon. Members going to break that diocese up? That would be the result of the adoption of this Resolution. You are not going to disestablish the Church merely in the 12 counties of Wales, but in the County of Monmouth as well. If you go a little further, you will find a part of Shropshire is in the diocese of St. Asaph. Are you going to break up that diocese? A part of Radnor and most of Montgomeryshire are in the diocese of Hereford, and a part of Flint is in the diocese of Chester. The Resolution means the disestablishment not only of the Church in Wales, but, to the extent I have mentioned, in England also. Mr. Watkin Williams (afterwards Mr. Justice Watkin Williams), when he brought forward this Motion, said—If you disestablish the Church in Wales, you must on the same ground disestablish it also in Cornwall and Yorkshire. Whenever those places wish to disestablish their Church they shall have my hearty support.I hope that hon. Members who desire to disestablish the Church will bear that argument in mind. The time may come when Church disestablishment will be the battle cry at some General Election, and it will then be seen how deeply the Church has embedded itself in the hearts of the people. Let us beware of having our fortresses taken in detail. In this question, as in so many others, union is strength. No doubt this Resolution will be brought for ward year after year until the majorities may possibly fall off from very weariness. I hope the House will resist the temptation to 1292 weariness, and that they will stand shoulder to shoulder to resist a Resolution which is intended to injure, and perhaps destroy, an institution which in England, as in Wales, is the ancient Church of the people.
§ (9.50.) MR. STUART RENDEL (Montgomeryshire)
We could have desired no one to meet us on this question better than the hon. Baronet the Member for Hereford who has just spoken, for we were well aware we should meet in him a courteous opponent, and that his arguments would be the arguments of a straightforward man. But I hope the hon. Baronet will forgive me if I say I failed to find any new argument in the speech he has just delivered. He has undoubtedly fallen into an error in which the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General led the way. I must say I think that after the tribute paid by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian to the work of the Church of England in Wales it was needless for the Postmaster General to spend so much time in adding his meed of praise. We might have been spared that, and also the praise showered upon it by the hon. Baronet, who is the Lord Lieutenant of a Welsh county, for time is far too precious thus to be expended. The Welsh people have constantly declared that they are not the enemies of the Church; they have no quarrel with the Church, and it is unreasonable year after year, in reply to their case, to bring out that sophistry and that contention. One quarrel is with the establishment in Wales, and I say that that ought to be the quarrel of the Church Party itself, for they have suffered from it more than the Welsh people have. To that position we desire to confine ourselves. The hon. Baronet said he doubted if the disestablishment of the Church had ever been really a test question at any General Election in Wales. He need hardly entertain that doubt, for, with his knowledge of the Principality, he must be aware that it is the special test raised at every election, and if he will stake the issue on that point alone, any single Member for Wales on this side of the House will gladly resign his seat if the hon. Baronet will agree to abide by the result. It must be patent to the whole House that we stand on Disestablishment because we have done so 1293 for the last three General Elections. We know it is the only ground on which we can present ourselves to a Welsh constituency, and to pretend that we are agitators and foment the feeling is unworthy of reasonable discussion in this House. But we are suffering from a severe disappointment this evening. Great as the evening has been on account of the important deliverance of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, which will resound from one end of the Principality to the other, and which has at last lifted the question into the highest of all places, has placed it among the foremost to be dealt with, we regret that the Amendment on the Paper was not, as we understood it would be, moved by the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. STUART RENDEL
At any rate, it stands here upon the Paper, and in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, who is the official champion of the Church in Wales. It is impossible not to see how far that Amendment departs from the lofty assumption and from the position of superiority hitherto taken up by our opponents in dealing with this question. What are the terms used?—That, inasmuch as the Church derives no portion of its revenues from taxation, and provides, in Wales as well as in England, spiritual ministrations for a larger proportion of the population than any other denomination of Christians, it is unjust, as well as inexpedient, to deprive the Church people of the Principality of the means to support the form of religious worship which they prefer.The Church by this Amendment drops into the position of a mere denomination. The Amendment practically concedes the point for which Welsh Members have always contended. We protest against its claiming a monopoly—against its claiming the sole right to administer to the spiritual wants of Wales. We say that in Wales the State ought not any longer to sanction and make valid this unjust and unreal pretension. And this Amendment practically abandons it, and treats the Church as one among other denominations. Well, let the State concur and then we shall be satisfied. But the Amendment goes on to plead ad misericordiam against any deprivation by the State of its present means of support. No more pitiful appeal was ever put 1294 forward on behalf of a great historical body than this one from the wealthy classes in Wales. If the Church cannot live in Wales without State support it ought not to live at all. If there is one thing certain it is that the Welsh people can and will support their own religion. A body which cannot live in Wales without extraneous support stands condemned. This pitiful appeal comes from the wealthy classes in Wales, the classes which own the land and most of the funded property, and it is addressed to this House against a proposition made by those who speak for the people of Wales, for those who are already adequately supplying the religious requirements of Wales out of their own pockets, and who deem this maintenance of their religion, not a burden, but an honour. We do not desire to say one word of disrespect to the Church. We desire rather to congratulate it upon its labours. We do not grudge it its success, if success there be; we only ask why should it be supported by the State, and why should it derive its support from endowments which ought to belong to the whole people of Wales? Now, the foundation of this singular plea is that this denomination, the Church, is superior any to other denomination in Wales in numbers. I will not go into figures more or less ambiguous. I will not follow the course taken by the Postmaster General, but I wish to mention, and am bound to mention, certain broad figures as to which there shall be as little doubt as possible. I do not think the broad facts of the case are always fully appreciated. The Church in Wales has 1,500 beneficed clergy and curates. The Calvinistic Methodists in Wales have 1,258 chapels and 284,000 adherents, and in 1890 collected, £182,000 for the maintenance of their chapels.
§ MR. STUART RENDEL
I have not the figures just now in hand. The Congregationalists have 1,138 chapels and 283,000 adherents, and collected £124,000, while the Welsh Baptists have 753 chapels, with 100,000 communicants. It has been suggested that Nonconformity in Wales is standing still or decaying, but to refute this I will point to the amount of money collected for 1295 the maintenance of one of these denominations. Perhaps the amount of contributions is a more convincing test than the number of adherents. The average amount collected annually by the Calvinistic Methodists for the 10 years from 1871 to 1880 was £144,903, and for the years from 1881 to 1890 it amounted to £170,700, and in the last year, at a steady increase, it amounted to £182,000. I have not the figures for the Congregationalists, but I can give the number of chapels and of actual communicants as to whose genuine membership there can be no doubt. In 1861 the Congregationalists had 761 chapels; in 1882, 1,083 chapels, and by 1890 they had 1,138 chapels. In the same years the number of communicants were 97,647, 120,652, and 127,360. The growth in numbers of the Welsh Baptists has been still more significant. In 1872 they had 576 chapels and 62,887 communicants, and last year they had 753 chapels and 939,622 communicants. In short, if I may take the total number of chapels or congregations as a fair test, these have grown from 2,927 in 1861 to over 4,500 last year. These figures show a steady and uniform growth, and therefore any argument founded upon the decay of Nonconformity in Wales is erroneous and unfair. It must be remembered in considering these figures that the Welsh population is not increasing as the English population increases; in fact, in five counties the population has dwindled for the last five years at the average rate of 600 a year. My hon. Friend the Member for the Eifion Division of Carnarvonshire has dealt with an interesting point, showing how the Welsh Nonconformists carry their Nonconformity with them out of Wales. It should carry conviction of the manner in which Nonconformity is ingrained in the character of the Welsh people to see the touching manner in which they take their religion with them wherever they go. And in regard to the hundreds of Welsh congregations in the United States—all of whom look upon this question as one not only of justice to their religion, but of recognition of their nationality—I would urge the unwisdom of those who now hold a majority in Parliament solely upon the cause of Imperial unity, lending their numbers to defeat a Resolution which 1296 tends to bring together and reconcile to a great English Institution every Welshman throughout the Empire. Of course, it is alleged by those who see a decline in Welsh Nonconformity that there has been a great revival of the Church in Wales. We are not here to contest that, or to quarrel about it, though we may have our own ideas as to the manner in which it is seated, and our own view as to the value to be attached to some of the figures with which the statement is supported. But one thing we will not do, we will not follow the example set by those high in authority in the Church—we will not endeavour to improve our own position by blackening the position of others. It is for us to state our case to the best of our power in accordance with the facts, but it does not fall within our methods of controversy to attack those who are honestly working in the same vineyard. We have not the slightest desire to depreciate good work that is done, whether by the Church in Wales or by any other denomination. It may, however, be fairly pointed out that as compared with England the ministry in Wales is doubly manned. You find in proportion to Church population, twice as many Bishops and Chapters and beneficed clergy in Wales as in England, and we are not quarrelling with the fact, but it does appear to us to render it all the more significant and arbitrarily aggressive that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in the exercise of the extraordinary powers given to them by Parliament over what some are nevertheless pleased to call Church property should annually transfer large sums of £30,000 or £40,000 as subventions from the undermanned Church in England to the already over manned Church in Wales. Now, after all, what is the result of what the Church has been doing in Wales? There has been an anti-tithe agitation. Is that a satisfactory result? I hardly think there is anyone will say it is. What is the constitutional test? The wish of the people as expressed in a General Election. Is there any doubt as to what the result of a General Election in Wales would be now, or a year hence, or at any time? Nobody can have any doubt. There are not many Conservative Welsh Members, and there are not many Conservative candidates, but I was interested in reading the other day of the attitude 1297 of one Conservative candidate who, having once represented a Welsh consituency, has a laudable ambition to do so again. He was "heckled" on the question of disestablishment, and what he said in substance, in reply, was—I am a Churchman. I think disestablishment would be ruinous to the religious interests of the country and the Church, but if the majority desire it I will vote for it.That is a striking indication of what the state of feeling in Wales is, and of what the prospects of the next General Election in Wales are upon this question. I do not think the Postmaster General has assisted the Welsh Conservative candidates by his speech of to-night. It is a great event for us that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has spoken as he has, but if there is any speech second in value to us it is that delivered by the Postmaster General. The present authorised Church argument is represented, I take it, in the Amendment, but there is another bolder argument expressed by the Dean of Llandaff, who has urged—How can you disestablish the Welsh Church? There is no Welsh Church. The Church in Wales is nothing more nor less than four dioceses of the Province of Canterbury.I should like to ask the Postmaster General whether in his view there is a Welsh Church or not? The Dean of Llandaff says there is no Welsh Church. If there is no Welsh Church, then it is not a National Church in Wales, and Wales has a fair claim to say that the English Church shall not have the national position the State assigns to it in Wales. If it is, as is thus admitted, an alien Church, why all this heat and show of indignation over the term alien? On the other hand, if it is a Welsh Church then it is the National Church in Wales, and Wales, as the inherent right of its nationality, may claim to deal with it constitutionally. Whether it be called a Welsh Church or not a Welsh Church, our position is unanswerable. We have a right to reject its claims to monopoly if it is not ours. We have a right to deal with them as we please if it is ours. The real truth is this is a question of the separation of four dioceses from the Church of England, and though the difficulty of the separation has been done full justice to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, is it such a serious matter? 1298 All the dioceses of the Church of England in the Colonies of Australia, New Zealand, and the Cape were, down to 1861, regarded and treated by the Church and the Government as part of the Establishment. In 1861, Lord Kingsdown's judgment decided that they were not, never had been, part of the Establishment. Since colonial dioceses were thus declared by the judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council not part of the Establishment, has the Church suffered any hurt? Has the discipline or the doctrine of the Church been affected? Has there been any conflict between the Established and the non-Established portions of the Church? On the contrary, no one seems to have been a whit the wiser or a penny the worse, and I venture to doubt whether the all important fact I now mention is within the knowledge of more than a very small minority of this House. It is no necessary part of Church unity that these four Welsh dioceses should be maintained as part of the Church of England. It is too late in the day to say that the separation of four more dioceses out of the hundred that belong to the Church of England can seriously affect her position, when already for the larger portion of those 100 dioceses are outside the Establishment. It is not essential to the life of a Church that she should be the creature of the State, and to make casuistical and sophistical difficulties over disestablishment in Wales is to exasperate a question which has already tried the Welsh people enough. Can any hon. Member, after hearing the arguments adduced on behalf of the Church, justify in his own mind the maintenance of the Establishment in Wales? I know that there is a sort of impatient idea that the Welsh people are Dissenters out of perversity, and why do they not, it is said, become members of the Church of England? I venture to say that, proud as the English people are of the Reformation, the Welsh people have as much reason to be proud of the redemption of Wales for Christianity by Nonconformity as Englishmen have to be proud of their Protestantism. It is not consistent with the self-respect of our peculiar people, our interesting race—call them what the Postmaster General will—to continue to tolerate the existence of the Establishment. Harmless as the Establishment may seem here, the people in Wales 1299 feel that they are unjustly kept under the Church yoke, and that their religion has cast upon it a certain stain of illegitimacy by the State giving exclusive and exhaustive spiritual authority to one denomination which is not that of the people. Consider what Establishment means. It means that the whole of the country of Wales is mapped out for the clergy, that the Bishops in Wales are the Bishops of every soul in their respective dioceses, and that every incumbent is by law the pastor of every soul in his parish. A smaller anomaly is that the Church of England recognises the Orders of the Roman Catholic priests, but will not recognise the Orders of Nonconformist ministers. Can it be supposed that a people like the Welsh, deeply attached as they are to their Nonconformist ministers, will willingly tolerate a state of things under which their ministers are in law discountenanced, their religion placed under a stigma as though of base birth, when it is in truth their highest glory, and when as a nation they are as justly proud to be Nonconformist as any Englishman can be to be Protestant. And who are the people you thus gratuitously insult and are willing to alienate? The people of Wales are religious, orderly, temperate, thrifty, and loyal beyond, I might say, other people; they are not intolerant of the Church of England doctrines; their objection is simply to its Establishment. As I well remember the late Mr. John Bright saying to me 10 years ago, when this question was first set burning in the minds of Welsh Members, the Church has ceased to be the Church of the people, not by its own wrong-doing as a Church, but by the action of Establishment. Establishment killed the Church, said Mr. Bright. And now I venture to say that it is Establishment which is rendering the Church odious to the people of Wales, and to contest the position of the Establishment, to try to save the Establishment, is to aggravate the position, and will make the inevitable change one of more severity to the Church. The real policy of those who care for the Church should be to reconcile the Church to the people, and that will best be done by disestablishment. I ask the House what harm the people of Wales have done to England 1300 that they should be so used? In what respect can it be said that they are in the wrong, or have ever acted wrongfully? Why are the English battalions here, and not the Scotch or the Irish, to vote against this Resolution? It is not our fault that Nonconformity has grown to be the form of our national religion; I do not say it is the fault of the Church even. It is the fault of the State, and the State must admit it, and withdraw its unhappy intervention as well for the sake of the Church as in justice to the Welsh people. Our demands are moderate, we do not wish to give effect to any revengeful feelings, we are not covetous of the goods of the Church. This is no claim for concurrent endowment, this is no proposal for a Maynooth grant. All we ask for is an honourable equality before the law for all denominations in Wales, and the people of Wales cannot do less than make this demand again and again until it is satisfied. Whatever the vote to-night may be, however English numbers may overthrow us, there is not one of the Englishmen who will go into the Lobby against us who will not feel that were we to do otherwise than fight this question as the one question for Wales we should be wanting not only in national self-respect, but in actual manhood, and in their hearts they would despise us.
§ (10.30.) MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
I was glad to hear from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down the magnanimous declaration that he was not going to blacken the Church to which he belongs, but I think most hon. Members will agree that before he sat down he had succeeded in giving the Church what is commonly called a "back-hander." The hon. Gentleman seemed rather satisfied with the Amendment I have put down upon the paper and thinks it is a step towards reconcilement—that it is making an advance towards those who belong to other denominations. I am glad he thinks so. For my part I have no quarrel with Nonconformists, I represent Nonconformity as well as Church feeling. I am certain that I represent a great many Nonconformists who disagree with the words of the Churchman who has just spoken. The hon. Member who moved this Resolution seemed to think that I am hardly capable in my position of speaking for Wales or Welshmen, but I may say I am a good deal more connected 1301 with Wales than the hon. Member who has spent twenty years of his life in Australia, and I think I know more about Wales than the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, whose connection with the Principality is merely apolitical one, who has no home in Wales, and does not speak the Welsh language. I have something more than a political connection with Wales. I am acquainted with Welsh sentiment, and I do not hesitate to say that Churchmen and Nonconformists and all religious men in Wales will be extremely shocked at the tone and language of the hon. Member who brought forward this Resolution. I am perfectly certain that I speak the opinion of Nonconformists, and that they will not approve of the virulent attack the hon. Member has made upon those whose religious views differ from his own. The hon. Member who sits for Merthyr was returned to Parliament, not upon what may be called the Nonconformist interest, for all of those connected with the chapels in Merthyr voted against him and used the strongest language in condemnation of his claims. They said—though I hardly like to repeat what they did say—"that he was brother to Judas Iscariot," and that he and all his friends were going to a very bad place. I do not know whether he has yet made friends with these electors, or if, by his speech, he hopes to do so. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian has given us an interesting account of his own attitude towards this subject, and how for the last twenty years he has been patiently watching which way the cat would jump. There was to the last an uncertainty as to which way he would vote, and it was extremely interesting to note the anxiety depicted on the faces of Members opposite as the right hon. Gentleman described the zeal and activity of the Church. However he seems to have come to the conclusion at last that the cat is out of the bag and has jumped. The right hon. Gentleman's conscience is influenced by electoral, figures, his political conduct is governed by arithmetical rules, and upon the result of the elections of 1886 he has made up his mind that the number of Welsh Members supporting this Motion is sufficiently large to make it safe for him to support the Resolution. But I am not quite sure that he is right for in the 1302 election of 1886 the electors voting for the present Members numbered 60,000, and against them were 48,000, a proportion of five to four. Why, hon. Members who profess to represent Wales, represent only the "odd man." As an indication of the current of opinion at the present time, I may point to the recent School Board elections at Swansea, where the Church candidates, three clergymen, completely defeated the Nonconformists by more than 2,000 votes. [An hon. MEMBER: "The cumulative vote."] I think the idea that the feeling is all one way is based on a mistaken view of the facts. We shall this evening apply the microscope to Wales, but it must be remembered that this Motion affects five or six dioceses in the Southern Province and one in the Northern; it affects the Church of England in England as well as in Wales. The conditions of the Church in Wales are the same as in England, with this difference perhaps—that Churchmen in Wales show greater zeal and contribute more generously than in purely English dioceses, and that there are in Wales a larger proportion of communicants to the population than in England. But I specially wish to ask the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Stuart Rendel) what he means by the maintenance of the Establishment? Can he give us a definition; can the hon. Member who moved this Motion? Does he not know that the term "by law established" is a mere translation of "legibus stabitita," and simply means the recognition and protection which is by law accorded to every lawful religion? That the term is equally applicable to all denominations. The hon. Member does not understand, and greatly disparages the position of the denominations whose case he is endeavouring to put forward when he does not recognise this fact. For the last 200 years there has been what may be called concurrent establishment. If he doubts that allowance by law is of necessity a sufficient establishment, let me remind him of old statutes and judicial declarations. In 1767, in the House of Lords, Lord Mansfield in the cause between the City of London and the Dissenters on the nomination of sheriffs used these words—The Toleration Act renders that which was illegal before now legal. The Dissenter's way of worship is permitted and allowed by the Act. 1303 It is not only exempted from punishment, but rendered innocent and lawful. It is established."Hon. Members are perhaps ignorant of the law: they have not perhaps read Black-stone. It may be they have never heard of Lord Mansfield, who said the worship of Dissenters is established. Speaker Onslow supported that view, and in Dr. Furneaux's letters to Blackstone hon. Members will find the privileges to Dissenters described as legal establishment. For 200 years—from 1720 to 1850—the Dissenter denominations received State pay, sums of money being granted every year in the Appropriation Acts for their support, because they were considered to represent a legalised and established form of public religions worship. But Nonconformists are always asking for more establishment. Only the other day they asked for special rights to obtain sites for places of public worship. We have recognised the rights of Nonconformists: their ministers are relieved from serving civil offices: they are recognised by law.
MR. STUART BENDEL
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent me. What I said was that the Established Church does not recognise the orders of Nonconformist ministers.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
Still I do not quite know what the hon. Member means. The Church does not recognise the orders of Nonconformists or Nonconformists our orders. Of course, no Church recognises the orders of another, in the sense of allowing services to be performed by those who do not believe in the doctrines of the Church.
§ MR. STUART RENDEL
I am unwilling to interrupt the hon. Gentleman; but I must repeat and emphasise my statement that the Established Church does recognise the orders of the Roman Catholic Church, but not of Nonconformists.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
I beg pardon; we do not recognise the orders of the Roman Catholic Church, nor do Roman Catholics recognise our orders in the sense I have referred to.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
proceeded: I say we do recognise the position of Nonconformist ministers by law, by the State, by Acts of Parliament relieving them from service in offices where otherwise they would be compelled to serve, and so I say Nonconformity is established 1304 by law. But it is the endowments hon. Members want to confiscate, what do they care about the relations between Church and State? Why not be honest and say you want the money? For my part I can more tolerate though I cannot admire the narrow bigotry which would suppress every form of faith but its own than I can endure the canting hypocrisy which covers its predatory instincts under the cloak of religion. Here are the uses as set out in their draft Bill to which hon. Members would apply the money they get from the Church.
§ MR. STUART RENDEL
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to directly mislead the House. His language is sometimes strong and his statements occasionally erroneous, he speaks of a draft Bill of ours; I can assure him there is no such thing in existence.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
Oh, but I have the draft Bill here. ["Whose"?] Here are some of the purposes to which the funds of the Church are proposed to be devoted: music rooms, museums, observatories, eistedfodds. Will hon. Gentleman put all religious bodies upon the same footing? Dissenting bodies are richly endowed; let hon. Members regard the Church endowments as they do the endowments of their own denominations. The property administered by the Church is private not national property. If anybody doubts that I recommend him to learn law and history from the Nonconformist Selden, the Radical Chancellor Brougham, the Tory Eldon, the Unionist Selborne, the Radical historian Freeman. It is private not national property, and those who deny it assert what is morally, legally, and historically untrue. The Church has never been subsidised by the State, and is no burden upon the State. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has said on a notable occasion that the clergy are not State paid. I do not know whether that declaration of fact will now be said to contain "an element of exaggeration." The statement of the hon. Member for Swansea that tithes were supplied to the Church, by Parliament, is historically and absolutely untrue. Now it is declared in this Motion, that the—Church has failed to fulfil its professed object as a means of promoting the religious 1305 interests of the Welsh people and ministers only to a small minority of the population;but, as a matter of fact, there is in Wales no religious body which has so large a number of members. If all minorities are to be robbed of their endowments merely because they are minorities, then disendowment will have to begin with the Roman Catholics first, then the Wesleyans, the Independents, the Congregationalists, the Baptists, the Calvinists, and, last of all, the Church. It is not the Church of the few, but of the many. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, said the Church in Wales is in precisely the same position as the Church in Ireland; but he forgets that in Ireland Roman Catholicism has a far larger number of adherents than the Church of England. But there is no religious denomination in Wales that can compare in numbers with the Church of England. Hon. Members base their case upon numbers, but how is it they so bitterly oppose an authoritative return of their numbers—a religious census? Why do they object to a man stating the religion he belongs to? I do not know how it may be in the company hon. Members keep, but I have never heard of a Nonconformist being ashamed to acknowledge the religion to which he belongs. Hon. Members claim to have many friends, why are they unwilling to have them counted? An amateur census has indeed been taken by an important gentleman whose name has been mentioned in the Debate, though probably it is not familiar to many hon. Members—a gentleman of the name of Gee. Mr. Gee is an Irishman, and, therefore, would be counted an alien in Wales. We do not call such persons aliens, but they have been called so during the Debate by hon. Members who claim to represent Wales; but, alien or not, Mr. Gee is a very important person; he is practically father-confessor to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Osborne Morgan), and generally an autocrat among the Radical Members for North Wales. He is, indeed, a sort of Welsh Schnadhorst. This gentleman set up a census in 78 parishes, and published the returns as they came in. From these returns it appears that the Church in these parishes stands in proportion of 5 to 1 to the Baptists, 5 to 3 1306 to the Calvinists, 3 to 1 to the Independents, and as 3 to 1 to the Wesleyans. This then, 1 say, is not the Church of the few, but of the many. This census further tells us that in Bangor the numbers are r the Church 5,306, Calvinists 3,549, Independants 1,026, Wesleyans 1,386, Roman Catholics 260. In Denbigh the Church 2051, Calvinists 938, Independents 609, Wesleyans 388. In Brecon, the Church 2832, Calvinists 148, Independents 189, Wesleyans 335, Roman Catholics 556. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, who has lived long enough at Harwarden to know something of the poor, made the audacious statement that the Church is the Church of the rich. We all know that Nonconformity is strongest among the middle classes, and has but few adherents among the poor. It is not always easy to test this. But the Nonconformist Board of Guardians at St. Asaph determined to find out the strength of Nonconformity among the poor by counting the adherents of different denominations who were in the workhouse. It turned out that there were 96 Churchmen, 13 Calvanists, 9 Baptists, 6 Independents, 5 Wesleyans, and 5 Roman Catholics.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
Here we have the result of the investigation by a Nonconformist Board of Guardians establishing the fact that among the extreme poor the immense majority belong to the Church. This does not look like the failure of the Church among the poor, while Mr. Gee's census proves their strength in large towns. But Nonconformists, if not hon. Members, are willing to admit the activity of the clergy. The Rev. John Thomas, D.D., at Carnarvon on Nov. 20, 1883, said:—During the last 50 years, but especially during the last 25 years things have greatly improved. A large number of Welsh Clergy take a deep interest in their work and there is no end of their visitation among their parishioners. I admire their zeal.I have a good many other statistics which I put away because they have already been touched upon, and now I will say something upon what I may call the other side. I should like to know what means Dissenters have of supplying ministration to the poor, if a Motion like this under consideration is put into effect. There 1307 are 90 parishes in St. Asaph which have no resident Nonconformist minister. Something has been said about an alien Church. Do not hon. Members know that Nonconformity was first forced on Wales by Cromwell and Major General Harrison? Do they not know that the clergy were thrust out, that a State religion was set up, and ministers paid by Parliamentary Commissioners, who established the Calvinistic doctrine of religious inequality. The plan failed, and in 1676, or 20 or 30 years afterwards, the Nonconformists in Wales numbered only 4 per cent of the inhabitants. Methodism in the last century was the offspring of the Church. It was a brotherhood within the Church. In 1801, and again in 1834, the chiefs of the Methodist body said they did not want to separate themselves from the Church of England. It was only when politics overshadowed the chapels that the attack upon the Church was made in Wales. I would like to have one or two inquiries made as to Nonconformity in Wales. I would like a Royal Commission to inquire into the established Nonconformist denominations in Wales. The official statistics of the Calvinistic Methodists show that in 1884 in that body there were 10,000 communicants, while in 1886 there were only 6000. We have other official statistics printed by the Nonconformists to the effect that in 1883 there were 422 Baptist pastors, and in 1886, 360. I would like to have an inquiry as to how many chapels have been abandoned and used for secular purposes since 1860, and how many unnecessary chapels had been erected, because I find that at a meeting held last spring, at Shrewsbury, one of the speakers said it was nothing less than a scandal to their common faith to see, in a street 30 yards long, four chapels, any one of which would accommodate all the congregations. I would like to know how many chapels are used for political meetings. There is the scandal of that hon. Member who got up in the pulpit, and, having delivered a very racy address one Saturday evening to the political Nonconformists, put a pipe in his mouth and smoked. [Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Leighton) does not give way he is in possession of the House.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
I do not see why I should give way to the hon. Member when I referred to a scandal in which he was not the actor. The real reason for the present agitation is the decline of Nonconformity and the increasing strength of the Church. If we crippled the Church who would be the gainers? Will spirituality be renewed amongst Nonconformists by giving this blow to the Church? Methodism, which is 100 years old, is already on the wane. The Welsh Church is older than the See of Canterbury, and has given to the Welsh the translation of the Bible, which has been the means of preserving the language, and is to this day practically the dictionary of the Welsh people; the bishops, clergy, and laity of the Church in Wales were never more active in Church work, in educational work, in philanthropic work, and I maintain that it would be unjust and inexpedient to paralyse the labours of such a Church; it would be to encourage class hatred and bitter sectarianism; it would take away from the poor the means of religious worship and retard the progress of the nation.
(11.9.) SIR G.TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgton)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member (Mr. S. Leighton) in his historical argument, but I must say that though I listened to his speech with great care and attention it was not easy to get hold of any tangible argument in favour of the Welsh Establishment. If the Church is to be saved it will be by speeches of a different kind. There have been speeches delivered by hon. Gentlemen opposite to which a much closer examination must be given. The hon. Member for Oswestry appealed to the age of 1309 the Welsh Church, but for our present purposes we need not go back very far in history—not beyond the lifetime of many living men. Two generations ago there were in Wales 300 or 400 chapels, and now there are 3,000 or 4,000. That shows the tendency of the current: that shows what the people want, and will continue to want, until the Resolution before us has been carried out by law. Speeches in defence of the Church have been made, not by Welsh Members, but by Members for neighbouring English counties. The Members for Hereford and Shropshire are as near an approach to Welsh Members as can be got to plead against the wish of Wales. The hon. Member for Oswestry told us that the cause of this movement was the decline of Nonconformity and the increasing strength of the Church, and the hon. Member for Hereford (Sir J. Bailey), my old schoolfellow, who I hope will allow me to call him my hon. Friend, who spoke in the tone which men should adopt towards their neighbours, made the very best case out for the Church—a case in which he evidently thoroughly believed. He said that the Church of England and Wales, or the Church of England in Wales, as the hon. Member for Merthyr called it—it does not greatly matter by which name it is called for the short time it will last as an establishment—has increased greatly of late years, and he gave instances of that increase. Other instances have been given on the other side of the question. Now, I beg hon. Members to look very closely into both cases. The hon. Member for Hereford took the case of Merthyr Tydvil, the constituency of the hon. Member who moved the Motion. He showed how Merthyr Tydvil has increased. He showed that it is a great community of some 60,000 people, and he showed, if I recollect right, that about £122 a year is paid in tithes.
§ SIR J. BAILEY
The right hon. Gentleman is mixing up two cases. I think the sum in Merthyr Tydvil is, £800.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
The sum, at any rate, was small. He showed how there was a small sum in tithes, and how, by the public spirit and devotion of Churchmen, a very large body of religious teaching has been set up, many churches built, and many curates en- 1310 dowed. In fact, the whole speech of the hon. Gentleman was a speech on the advantage of voluntaryism. Other cases taken by another hon. Member, who well knows the case of Wales, were Cardiff Swansea, and Llanelly. In Cardiff the tithes are £109, in Swansea £140, in Llanelly I can find no tithes recorded at all, but the populations are enormous; they are counted by scores and hundreds and thousands, and they afford a fine field for the exertions of rival religious bodies. Where the population is dense and the endowments are small there the Church of Wales was increasing as the Church of England is increasing in our great cities. That is an argument, not for Establishment, but for voluntaryism. We must not think that in these great centres Nonconformity is behind hand. The same causes which have given an impetus to the Church have given an impetus to Nonconformity. In Merthyr Tydvil for every seat which the Church has provided, four are provided by other bodies, and in the great centres of Monmouthshire for every seat provided by the Church at least three have been provided by other bodies. It must be remembered by those who, like myself, listen for the opinions of the people through the mouths of their constitutional representatives, that all these crowded districts, of whom my hon. Friend spoke, send by enormous majorities men charged to effect in Parliament disestablishment of the Welsh Church. But these places do not afford the strongest test; that is to be found in the rural districts, those Welsh speaking districts where, by the confession of a dignitary of the Established Church, the Nonconformists are in an enormous majority. And what are the statistics of the hon. Member who has just sat down when tried by the light of the confession of a Dean of his own Church, when he says—Out of 1,006,100 souls who, according to Mr. Ravenstein, speak Welsh, 800,000 are attached more or less closely to the 3,000 chapels of the three different Nonconformist sects. Statistical apologists will hint that these Nonconformists exist only on paper. Paper adherents do not give money. The Welsh Nonconformists give far more than £300,000 a year.The truth is that it is these rural districts that are the real test rather than the great towns. These are the cases in which the excluded are the most 1311 numerous and the included are few, while the endowments are enormously great in proportion to any work done for the benefit of the population. The Postmaster General referred to these districts. He said that the great glory of the Church was that it kept up public worship and service for small congregations of two, three, and four people. If that were a valid argument, the Irish Church would be alive this very moment. It is quite idle to argue that these districts would be left without' any sort of public worship if this money were withdrawn. If any good work is being done in these districts, even if the money were withdrawn, why should not the Church as a voluntary institution with its rich adherents go on doing the work which is done by the Nonconformist bodies with their poor clients? It is not the case that the field would be left empty, for the field is a religious field. The Welsh are a religious people, and if in any places there are only one, two, or three going to church, that is because the majority go to chapel. The real defence of an Established Church is that it is the Church of the poor. I have never heard any hon. Member deny that the Nonconformist bodies in Wales are the churches of the poor, or argue that the Church in Wales, whatever it is, is, at any rate, anything but the Church of the rich. And yet the Nonconformist colliers, the small famers, and small shopkeepers keep their own ministers, silently and without complaint, in decent competence. I have very small sympathy with men who draw large rents from the land and get the profits from the large works, who endeavour in the English newspapers to secure sympathy for their ministers, and yet who let their clergy starve if the tithes are not regularly paid. That is the state of things in Wales. The rich have their religious worship kept up for them at the expense of national property of £260,000 a year at the least. The poor took out of their slender earnings at least £300,000 a year; and then the Postmaster General comes to us and says that Wales is to submit to this state of things for the sake of England. He says that to rebel against this state of things would be to "fritter away the oneness of this realm of England." The speech of the Postmaster General was worth a great deal to us. It is strange, 1312 Indeed, that so ingenious a Gentleman, who is arguing on behalf of an institution which he loves in so disinterested a manner as he does love the Church to which he belongs, should be so unfortunate in his language as to give weapons of the most trenchant sort to those who are endeavouring to overthrow its bulwarks. The references of the Postmaster General to the Welsh people I prefer to be read by the people in the Postmaster General's speech. The very mildest of them all was when he compared them to the more civilised districts of the Island. He used very much stronger remarks than these, but none of his epithets will go so home to the Welsh people as his absolute denial of a Welsh nationality. And on what ground does he deny this nationality? On the ground, so far as I can make out, that according to his reading of history until Wales fell under the power of England it never was united, bat was split into three Principalities. Are we to make that the test of nationality? England, indeed, may be a nation on those conditions, and so may France. But what do you say to the nation, the struggle for whose nationality has made the history of our lifetime—the Kingdom of Italy? Was Italy a united Italy without anything else attached to it before the time that it was united under Victor Emanuel? Indeed, if I were to scrutinise too closely the claims of Ireland on the principle laid down by the Postmaster General, Ireland would have no claim to nationality. No, Sir; the arguments that have been used against this measure have not been of a very persuasive nature. The most formidable argument, and the one on which our adversaries rely, is that the Church, though not a very successful authority, is still a Propagandist Church. A sanguine man in the Debates on the Irish Church Bill said it would take 4,000 years to convert Ireland to Protestantism; and I think it would take at least four centuries to make any impression on the Nonconformity of Wales. And what a prospect it is for Wales that all the endowments of the Principality should be placed during all that period in the hands of the adversaries of the creed of the majority. It is said that the Welsh clergy are politicians. How can they 1313 be anything else if the endowments are used to draw their flocks away from them? Politics has been to them a matter of conscience. They are bound to be politicians. The only way to send them back to their duties, and to give them the same interest which all good citizens have in politics, is to do justice—to pass this Resolution and found a Bill upon it, at the earliest opportunity—to give them the fair play that all citizens ought to have. If you do that, you may be very sure that they will retire into the ranks of private citizens. There remains only one argument that I know of of a serious sort, and that is that the Church of England and Wales is an organic and indivisible body, and that you cannot separate the parts any more than you can separate a limb from the body. Now there is an interior and visible, as well as a mystic meaning in this. The visible meaning was given by the hon. Gentleman opposite. He said there were such very great practical difficulties on this question. He said—Monmouthshire is part of the diocese of Llandaff, and how would you separate Monmouthshire from Llandaff and leave it, as an English county, under the influence of the Established Church.My answer is that we should not separate Monmouthshire from the rest of the diocese of Llandaff. What would have been said if we had been told two years ago that we would not have a Local Government Bill because the unions overlapped the boundary of this or that county? And as regards the mystical side of the question—"This is a single indivisible body which cannot be divided"—that I allow is too deep for me. It is not a practical objection at all, and Members of this House are not likely to have much sympathy with it. The Resolution is a practical suggestion. We know the thing can be done. We have done it in the case of Scotland 200 years ago. It was quite idle to give the Scottish people then the arguments which are now thought good enough for the Welsh Nonconformists. The Scottish people told English Churchmen in a very sharp manner that they will not have them. This has been done in the case of Scotland, and it has been done in the case of Ireland. We know, therefore, that it is 1314 practical. I will advance only one more argument, which I think has not been given already, but which I consider a very serious argument indeed on one side of the question—that is, the demoralizing effect in every department of social and municipal life of Church privilege. Just as in Ireland when you began to favour a particular Church in things religious, that favour was spread to civil matters, so the same thing has taken place in Wales. There are Welsh counties where religious opinion is made a test for taking part in civil duties. There is one county which returns six Members to Parliament pledged to disestablishment, and yet in that county a short time ago there were but two County Justices who were Nonconformists. In the County of Carmarthen four-fifths of the population are Nonconformists. In the Island of Anglesey not long since there was but a single Nonconformist on the Bench, while in Flintshire there is not one. Up to a very recent period the same state of things prevailed in regard to other public positions in Wales. But it is very different in all cases in which the Welsh people have the power to express their own wishes, as in the County Councils, for instance. The conscientious objections which many Welshmen have to the payment of tithe has produced great differences, and has been one of the great causes which have led during the last three years to the greatly increased desire for disestablishment. We know by recent and ancient history that a Church which is in a precarious and an invidious position may be safe so long as it remains quiet, but that directly it becomes aggressive towards its opponents it will be placed in great danger. The Church in Scotland will furnish an example of this in the case of the Patronage Bill, and it is now the case with the Church in Wales in connection with the tithe war. If the Welsh Nonconformists had been left alone they might have remained tranquil, but the Tithe Bill which is about to pass through Parliament has set their backs to the wall, and they are determined to fight the whole question. The feeling against the Established Church is stronger in Wales at the present time than it ever was. It has been growing rapidly, and 1315 in proof of that I will give the House one or two figures. The old Parliamentary representation of Wales was not in favour of religious equality. In 1856 only two Welsh Members voted in favour of Mr. Miall's Motion for Welsh Disestablishment. Later on in the same year, when a Motion was brought forward in the House to enable Dissenters to take part in the proceedings of the Cambridge University Senate, only one Welsh Member voted in its favour. In 1870 it would be found only seven Welsh Members voted in favour of disestablishment, while now the numbers were 27 to 3, with the difference that the three cannot be relied on to vote at all. The reason is that since then two things have happened—we have got the ballot, and household suffrage has been extended to the counties. That is to say, the great body of the common people in Wales have the franchise, and they use it without supervision or dictation. It is proved beyond all manner of doubt that the great body of the Welsh commonalty are attached to the Nonconformist faith, and are opposed to the Established Church. The feeling against the Established Church grew up in the last century under a very severe system of persecution, such as is impossible now in these days of publicity and humanity, and it is kept alive, and will continue to be kept alive, by the only persecution now possible—the favour and partiality shown by the law to creed as against creed—a favour and partiality which I earnestly trust will receive their deathblow to-night.
§ (11.35.) THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir E. CLARKE, Plymouth)
The House may well feel surprised that no attempt has been made by those who support the Motion to grapple with the propositions it contains. That Resolution made two statements of fact, and upon those statements based a recommendation. The statements are—first, thatThe Church of England in Wales had failed to fulfil its professed object as a means of promoting the religious interests of the Welsh people;and, secondly, thatIt ministers only to a small minority of the population.The first of those propositions has been refuted as much by the speech of the 1316 right hon. Member for Mid Lothian as by any other speech that has been delivered to-night. The very person who has moved this Resolution acknowledged that there has been an awakening to life on the part of the Church in Wales. If the Church in Wales needed any vindication at all it has received it in the speech for which this Debate will be memorable—the speech of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, who spoke of the Church in terms of deep and sincere admiration, and showed that in support of their creed and their Church the supporters of the Church of England in Wales have outdone even the generosity of the people in English dioceses. This directly negatives the first proposition put upon the Paper. The right hon. Member who spoke last seemed to think that he had answered the argument based upon the recent increase of churches in places like Merthyr by saying that the Nonconformist chapels had increased in like proportion. Surely that does not disprove the good influence of the Church in Wales. Is it not a good thing that the energy of the Church should inspire corresponding energy in other bodies? An honest rivalry amongst those who are teaching religion and endeavouring to do good ought to be a cause for jubilation. The second proposition in the Resolution is that the Church in Wales ministers only to a small minority of the people. Has that been proved? The expression "a small minority" has not been explained, and we know that the last Church census, in 1889, which was begun was not carried to a completion by those who, being opponents of the Church, had thought to make capital out of it. It is not uncharitable to suppose that if the results of that census could have borne out the views expressed by the opponents of the Church they would have been put before the country in their entirety. Does this Resolution mean disestablishment and disendowment? ["Hear, hear!"] Then why does it not say so? Why should an attempt be made to induce the House to accept a vague Resolution of this kind? If the Church is using the funds it possesses for the benefit of the people there is no ground for taking them away. The right hon. Member opposite delivered a speech 20 years ago which he had not 1317 recanted, although to-night, with a miraculous subtlety of interpretation, he has tried to minimise its effect. Speaking of the proposal then made with regard to the Church of Wales, the right hon. Gentleman said—We do not intend to go in that direction; we deprecate it, and we should regard it as a national misfortune.That was 20 years ago, and what has been the history of those 20 years? There is not a Welsh Member who does not know that to-day the Church in Wales is stronger and better and purer and more energetic than it was then. Can Parliament reasonably be asked to cripple this organisation, which is generally admitted to be doing good work to-day—to cripple it, not because any one suggests that there is any object under the sun to which the Church funds can be devoted with greater usefulness to the people, but simply because a section of the community wish to gratify a political antagonism? It is said that the Nonconformity of Wales is opposed to the Church; but it is not to the old and traditional Nonconformity of Wales that this movement can be referred. Welsh Methodism was began by Churchmen who had no thought of making their movement an assault upon the Church. Welsh Methodism was taught by Churchmen, most of whom remained faithful members of the Church. In 1834 there was an assembly of the Welsh Methodists at Bala, at which it was unanimously agreed that those present deeply lamented the nature of the agitation now so persistent in the kingdom, and which avowedly had for its object the severing of the National Church from the State, and recommended every member of the Connection not to interfere, and pray that "They might lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty." If those men who founded Welsh Dissent and restored to the Church by their bright example much of the efficiency that it had greatly lost, had been alive now, I believe that they would have raised the strongest voice against the Motion of their successors, who now ask to have the National Church disestablished and disendowed. The history of the Welsh Church has been a long one. For 1,300 years its tradition has been continuous, and because 200 1318 years ago, through the action of a Monarch to whom England has not much reason to be grateful—I mean William III.—an unpatriotic, hard, and not a national administration of the Welsh Church occurred, by which it was for a time divorced from the people and weakened in its hold, that is no reason why, when we find the Church regaining its authority and strength, sounding the note of purity, of energy, and of a true faith, we should not let the Welsh people enjoy in its increasing strength and fulness the administrations of a Church which for 11 centuries has been dear to them. It is too late to deal with any matters of statistics; but I would observe, in conclusion, that for neither statement made in the Resolution has sound reason been given in the speeches of hon. Members opposite.
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 235; Noes 203.—(Div. List, No. 60.)
§ Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SUPPLY,—Committee upon Monday next.