§ *(9.1.) DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
The Resolution I propose to bring before the House is to the following effect:—That, in the opinion of this House, the Church of Scotland ought to be Disestablished and Disendowed.To understand the Disestablishment question in Scotland it is necessary to appreciate the position which the Established Presbyterian Church bears to the Presbyterian religion in Scotland, a position entirely different to that of the Episcopalian Church towards that religion in England and Wales. In England the Episcopal Church—certainly it is the case in Wales—may embrace but a minority of the population; but in both cases the Church is co-extensive with, and practically embraces, the entire population professing the Episcopalian religion. In the case of the Episcopalian Establishment, assuming the postulate—which I do not, except for the sake of argument—that Episcopacy is the true faith, and that it is the duty of the nation to support the true faith out of the national funds, a case can be made out to support that Establishment. But in Scotland the case is wholly different. The Scottish Established Presbyterian 1736 Church is not only confessedly the Church of a minority of the population, but it is also only one of three great Presbyterian Churches. Many years ago the Free and the United Presbyterian Churches seceded from the Establishment, in consequence of the interference of State restrictions with what they considered, and what the whole Church of Scotland pronounced, to be vital points of faith. For conscience sake they left the Establishment, relinquishing its privileges and endowments, and at unparalleled sacrifices they built up alongside the Establishment a magnificent ecclesiastical organisation which is doing precisely the same work as the Established Church—doing that work as well and as efficiently, and without State support. Now, since 1843, the date of its foundation, the Free Church has expended twenty-one and a half millions sterling in founding and maintaining its churches, and the United Presbyterian Church since 1847 has expended twelve millions on similar objects. These sums, making together thirty-three millions sterling, make twice as much as the entire revenue of the Established Church from the public funds, local contributions, Church rates, and teinds during that period. These non-Established Churches embrace a portion of the Presbyterian population of Scotland, which, even on the admission of the Established Church, is not very considerably less than the number within the Establishment; and, on our contention, based on statistics of church attendances and contributions to religious work, these non-Established Churches embrace a larger portion of the Presbyterian part of the population than the Establishment does. Their revenues are ample; their zeal and activity are unquestioned. During the past eighteen or twenty years these non-Established Churches have seen the Establishment availing itself of its privileges and endowments to sap their foundations and lure away their flocks. Year after year the Free Church and the United Presbyterians have been forced to denounce the continuance of the Establishment as unjust, inexpedient, a standing menace to the voluntary churches, an offence to the consciences of a large number of Presbyterians, 1737 and as detrimental to the cause of religious peace and unity in Scotland. The question in Scotland is not only whether it is right that a single denomination should monopolise State support, but whether the churches which have grown up outside the Establishment, professing the same faith with it, should be left to work out their destiny without State interference, or whether the resources and patronage of the State should continue to be enjoyed by a single branch of the Presbyterian community for the discomfiture and disintegration of the other two branches. Of course, the question in Scotland, as elsewhere, concerns not merely Presbyterians; it is a question of religious equality, in which every citizen is concerned. Independently of the large body of United Presbyterians who hold that all connection between Church and State is wrong and inexpedient, there are in Scotland twenty five or thirty per cent. of the population outside Presbyterian bodies, and on what grounds and on what principle of justice are these taxed for the support of a creed the teachings of which they disapprove? We hold that the revenues arising from teinds are just as much national property as the subsidies by Parliamentary grants or the revenue raised by local rates, and their allocation to a single branch of one religion can only be defended on the same ground as subventions raised by taxation direct and avowed. These revenues from public sources are mere fractions of the revenues of Presbyterianism in Scotland. If members of the Established Church were to combine with that liberality which distinguishes members of the Free Church and the United Presbyterians there would be no difficulty in making good any deficit that might arise through the cessation of public endowments. As a matter of fact, in a considerable number of cases where the Established Church is most vigorous and flourishing, it is self-supporting, and Disestablishment and Disendowment, if they came to-morrow, would there create no appreciable disturbance of the existing state of things. It may be said these endowments are necessary for the poorer districts. But it is precisely in 1738 those poorer districts that State interference has been found useless. This is notoriously the case in the Highlands. I could, if time permitted, give a list of a dozen parishes in the Highlands with a population of 16,000 inhabitants and only sixty-three communicants of the Established Church kept up at the cost of £8 or £10 per head for a miserable minority of the population. The people in these parishes are strictly Presbyterian, but they belong to the Free Church, and have nothing to do with the Establishment. Speaking on the Bill introduced in 1886 with the avowed object of inducing the Highland parishes to abandon the Free Church, the hon. and learned Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay), who is about to move an Amendment to my proposal now, epigrammatically stated the case in these words:—In the country districts of the Highlands the endowed Church had no people, and the people's Church had no endowment.The hon. and learned Member desired to rectify the anomaly by endowing the Church of the people, but we believe it is a far more just plan to disendow the Churches which have not the people. Now in these Debates, though I do not know that it is very germane to the question, the question of the true tenets of the Free Church on the doctrine of State Establishment continually crops up. In vain the Free Church, by resolutions year after year, pronounces in favour of Disestablishment and Disendowment. We are told that position is inconsistent with the creed of the Free Church; and in the discussions on the Bill I have referred to, my hon. and learned Friend quoted the opinion of counsel to the effect that—Anyone who did not hold the Establishment principle rejected an essential part of the constitution of the Free Church.Well, if that is so, then the Free Church must be more deeply committed to that principle than the Establishment from which it sprang, for in the Campbeltown case—"Smith v. Galbraith," decided in the Court of Session in 1839, shortly before the disruption—the Court laid down in most emphatic terms that the 1739 doctrine of State Establishment never had been the doctrine of the Church of Scotland. In support of that decision Lord Meadowbank, a great authority on ecclesiastical law, and on this subject in perfect accord with his brethren on the Bench, in the course of his judgment said—The argument of the pursuer rests, first, on the proposition that it is an essential part of the faith of the Church of Scotland that the State shall maintain and endow that Church for the religious instruction of the people.… On that point I entirely concur with the views which your Lordship has so luminously explained. I never heard that, spiritually speaking, it ever was required in the Established Church that the principle of an Established Church in connection with or endowed by the State should be professed as an article of faith. Sure I am that not a word having any tendency to such a doctrine is to be found in any one of the recognised Confessions of Faith promulgated by the Church from the period of the Reformation down to the present hour. On the contrary, the whole history of those tenets, which our Church has ever maintained, is hostile to such a principle.Then he goes on to quote the Confession of Faith recognised and enforced by Parliament, 1567, cap. 3, which, he says—Is utterly and entirely repugnant to any such principle.It may relieve the minds of those who profess to see an attack made upon the tenets of the Church by such a Motion as this to know, on the highest legal authority, the decision of the Court of Session, that if Disestablishment and Disendowment should become law to-morrow not a single principle or tenet of the Established Church would suffer the smallest hurt or damage. Now, in the Amendment which stands in the name of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Finlay), and indeed in all the Amendments, with one exception, it is asserted that Disestablishment and Disendowment would not be consonant with the wishes of the Scotch people. My hon. and learned Friend will doubtless base his statement upon the statistics of Petitions presented to this House against Mr. Dick Peddie's Bill. But many of these Petitions were analysed and their worthlessness demonstrated at the time. I will not enter into the matter further than to say there is no Ballot Act existing in connection with Petitions and no Corrupt Practices 1740 Act to prevent a man signing as many Petitions as he likes. But we have had two General Elections and many bye-elections since that date; and when we are told of large numbers of members of the Free Church and of the United Presbyterians having signed these Petitions in favour of Establishment, we may set against these the resolutions passed by the General Assembly and the Synod year after year in favour of Disestablishment and Disendowment, and we may also retort, by asking why, with these Petitions, indicating such numbers in favour of the Establishment, do they not make their views felt by the Members returned to the House? In 1887 Lord Hartington stated that the question was one that should be decided according to the desires of the Scotch people themselves, and that whenever the Scotch people made up their minds upon the question, the Liberal Party would be prepared to deal with it on its merits. My Resolution has been three times before the House in two successive Parliaments. In 1886 there were for every three Scotch Members in its favour only two against, and on the second occasion there was an absolute majority of Scotch Members in its favour. Bye-elections have shown a greater proportion in favour of this proposal among the candidates returned; and on the last occasion in 1890, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian declared that the conditions laid down by Lord Hartington had been fulfilled and the Liberal Party were committed formally to the support of the Resolution, on that occasion forty-three out of the seventy-two Scotch Members voted or paired in its favour. I do not see how these facts can be denied or ignored when the principles of Parliamentary representation are recognised. But the hon. and learned Member for Inverness says—It is not desirable in itself, nor consonant with the wishes of the people of Scotland, that the Church of Scotland should be disestablished and its endowments diverted to secular uses; and that, in the opinion of this House, it is highly desirable that the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland should be re-united upon a national basis, and that the endowments should continue to be appropriated to religious purposes.1741 Well, it may be highly desirable that the Churches should be united on a national or, as the hon. Member opposite (Mr. de Lisle) would have it, "Catholic" basis, but that will never be accomplished on the basis of any Parliamentary interference short of Disestablishment or Disendowment. That is not only my opinion, but the opinion of men who hold opposite views. When the Patronage Act of 1874 was passed through Parliament, it was again and again alleged that the effect would be to bring about a union between the Established and the Free Churches. The Duke of Argyll, who has always taken a deep interest in Scotch ecclesiastical subjects, saw the fallacy of this contention, and when the Bill was before the House of Lords spoke as follows:—I have always said there is no hope of a union of the Free and Established Churches, except on the basis of Disestablishment and Disendowment.
The Duke of Argyll said that in 1874. If the Duke has changed his opinion since then, the facts on which he then rested it remain unaltered, for he went on to say that there were insurmountable physical difficulties in the way. There were nine hundred ministers who separated themselves voluntarily, and what would become of them? They would starve. That may be the opinion of the Duke of Argyll, but I strongly object to the noble Duke's way of putting it. The Free Church ministers have before now faced starvation on account of what they considered to be their duty. But as to the justice of his main contentions the events of the last eighteen years have left very little doubt. Then there is another opinion expressed by a Gentleman who does not, perhaps, carry the same weight as the Duke of Argyll—the Marquess of Lorne. He has been Governor-General of Canada, and he looks at Church questions in Scotland in the light of his Canadian experience. Writing in 1885 in the Scottish Review the Marquess of Lorne asked—Can any honest Presbyterian now believe that union is possible under the Establishment banner? We know it cannot be.1742 With that opinion I cordially agree. A number of non-established Presbyterian Churches have united. The United Presbyterian Church is an example of this, and the Free Church has been strengthened by the accession of smaller Presbyterian Churches. The Free and United Presbyterian Churches were long engaged in negotiations for union, and if it had not been for obstacles arising out of the existence of the Establishment they would probably have been united long ago. Union can only be brought about by mutual agreement; it can never be brought about by the seduction of individual members, and it can never be brought about by Parliament altering its laws or the conditions of endowment to meet this or that individual's scruples, to tempt this or that individual's cupidity. In the Amendment which is about to be moved the hon. and learned Member practically confesses that the present Establishment in Scotland is unsatisfactory, and modestly asks Parliament in this tenth decade of the nineteenth century to construct a new National Church. He confesses that the application of the endowments is unfair, and he asks the House to endow that new Church. The proposal is presumably that of the Laymen's League, of which he is a distinguished member, and it is to this effect: that Parliament should pass an Act declaring the spiritual independence of the Church; that the endowments of the Establishment should be participated in by the Presbyterian Churches, and that every Presbyterian minister in a parish should be declared the parish minister. But there has been an extremely guarded approval of the last two proposals by the Established Church itself, and the Free Church gave its reply to those proposals last year, when a resolution condemning them was carried by a majority of 7 to 1. The rejection by the United Presbyterians has been even more emphatic. That Church says that it can be no party to any proposals regarding the union of the Churches on the basis of a civil Establishment or participation, by itself or others, in any State endowment or other public funds. What, therefore, would be the result if 1743 legislative effect were given to the Amendment which is to be proposed? It would be that State endowments might induce a certain number of seceders to abandon the Free Church and join the Establishment; but the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church would more than ever resent the attack made upon them, and would support more vigorously than before the policy of Disestablishment and Disendowment. It has been said that it would not be easy to give practical legislative effect to my Resolution, but I think that would, be vastly easier than to give practical effect to the Amendment if it were accepted by this House. The endowments of the Church of Scotland are not a fixed quantity. They are being constantly augmented, even when they are paid from local sources. The Town Council of Greenock is now engaged in resisting a claim for a stipend of £400 to the parish minister. This claim has arisen out of an undertaking to pay not less than £55 11s. 1½d. per annum, entered into by the predecessors of the Town Council some one hundred and fifty years ago. Already the dispute has cost one expensive lawsuit; a second is going on, and probably there will be appeals to the House of Lords. The whole matter appears to be involved in such confusion that the counsel who drew up the agreement by which Greenock agreed to pay double the sum stipulated, having occasion, as a Judge, to consider the case, and forgetting his previous connection with it, declared that he could not understand the principle on which this agreement had been arrived at. If we give to the Scotch people this sort of thing multiplied by three, you will get a state of feeling that will not promise well for the Establishment which my hon. and learned Friend proposes to set up. We have been asked, why should this motion be brought forward at the end of an expiring Parliament, when the public outside take very little interest in our proceedings? Our reply is this. If we allow this Parliament to close without moving the question, and a new Parliament came in, we should be told, as 1744 we have been told again and again, that this question was not before the people of Scotland at the election, and that the Representatives whom they returned had no mandate to express their views on this subject. We desire to make it known that the question is one which cannot be allowed to drop, but one over which we shall fight till victory is achieved. As to the answer that will be given to us to-night that is not a matter of doubt; but earnestly believing in the justice and righteousness of our cause, and believing that in it are bound up the truest interests of religion as well as of religious equality in Scotland, we shall confidently appeal against the adverse verdict of to-night to the supreme decision of the consituencies at the approaching Election. I beg to move the Resolution.
(9.35.) MR. ALEXANDER L. BROWN (, &c.) Hawick
I beg to second the Resolution, and as I seldom interpose in the Debates, I feel I may say a few words on a Resolution of this importance. I should like to call the attention of English Members to the fact that those who are supporting Disestablishment and Disendowment in Scotland occupy a much stronger position than those of our friends who are advocating the same thing in England and Wales. In England those who belong to the Established Church have no doubt that the Episcopal is the purest form of Christianity, and is, therefore, deservedly the Established Church of the country. They would look with scorn and contempt on any proposal to assimilate their religion with that of the Baptists, the Independents, or the Wesleyans. In Scotland that is not so. No Established Churchman has ever ventured to say that his form of religion is better than the Free Church or United Presbyterian form. The most that he can say is that it is at least as good, but by his political action he has shown that he does not consider it as good. What has been the tendency of legislation in connection with the Established Church of Scotland in recent years? It has all been in the direction of making the Established Church a little more like the Dissenting Churches. In 1874 a Bill was presented 1745 to enable the Established Church, like the Dissenting Churches, to appoint their own ministers. I suppose that was with a view to make the Established Church more popular, and to give to its members the same rights and privileges that the Dissenting Churches possess. That I suppose is the explanation of the Church Patronage Act. In 1886 there was another attempt in the same direction, when the hon. Member who at present sits for Inverness brought forward a Bill to declare, what there appears to be some little doubt about, namely, that the Established Church was a spiritually independent Church. The Bill was intended to convince the Highlander that the Established Church held in all its entirety what is known in Scottish Covenanting history as the doctrine of the headship of Christ. The Bill was voted down, but I am very much surprised that in a House where the Liberal Unionist Party is supposed to be supreme it should not have been re-introduced, But has the hon. Member succeeded in detaching one single member from the Free Church, and inducing him to join the Established Church? The Highlander may be simple, but he sees very clearly that the State which declares this Church independent to-day can just as easily take away that independence to-morrow. And so we have in Scotland the extraordinary spectacle of two Churches side by side, and the Dissenting Churches making themselves so much more popular than the State Church, that the State Church is every now and then coming to this House with Bills to make itself a little more like the Dissenting Churches. We do not look up to the Established Church in Scotland, but I will not say that we look down upon it. It has been charged against us that we want to "pu" doon the kirk," but that is not so. We merely want to raise the Established Church to our own high level. I know there will be every effort on the part of our opponents to raise side issues, and so to prevent the public seeing the great principle for which we are contending, and which is becoming so popular in Scotland — absolute equality of all men and all sects in 1746 the eye of the law. However the question may be settled in Church Committees, as politicians we fight under the voluntary flag and no other. There will also be an attempt on the part of our opponents to avoid stating the principle in which they say they believe, that it is the duty of the State to provide for the spiritual needs of the people. Those whose motives are very high will say that plunder and not piety is the mainspring of our action. We shall be asked what practical proposal we have to make; we shall be asked what we propose to do with the money that will be freed. I am not particularly anxious to get our opponents off that line of argument, as it is the line always taken by people who find it impossible to defend the principle for which they are contending. The principal side issues raised in these Debates are that the Established Church of Scotland is the Church of the nation, that it is free to all, that it is the Church of the poor, and that those who defend it are guarding the heritage of the poor. How can a Church be free to a man who utterly disapproves of the principle on which it raises its funds, who considers it dishonourable to put his hand in the State Treasury, which is simply his neighbour's pocket, to build his church and pay his minister? The other Churches are free to all Scotch Presbyterians; the Established Church is the only one which by its civil action shuts its doors in the face of half the people of Scotland. Then, what is meant by the Church of the poor? Does it mean the Church for the poor? for it certainly is not the Church of the poor. You will find in both town and country that it is the rich who go to the Established Church, while the free Churches are crowded by Highlanders and the labouring population. I think you mean the Church for the poor—the Church where they are provided with the inspiration the Christian religion gives for nothing. If that is meant I say there never was, and never will be, a Christian Church which is in that sense the Church of the poor. Our opponents are making a great deal just now of the point that if this controversy is forced on it will form the principal 1747 bar to the union of the Churches. That I cannot understand at all. How can it be a bar to union to take away the favours one particular sect received from the State? If you say those from whom the favour is taken will sulk all the rest of their lives, then on their own heads be the sin and shame. In 1888 the then Solicitor General for Scotland stated the case as it ought to be stated. He said that he and his friends were bound to do their best for the spiritual interests of the people committed to their care. That is the Church and State argument. I would ask what the State is doing at present for the spiritual interests of the people. It is administering some £300,000; is that the measure of the spiritual interests of Scotland? And how is it that the spiritual interests do not increase? The bills for the Army and Navy increase year by year, but the boldest statesman dare not come forward with a proposal to provide for the increasing spiritual wants of Scotland. If that is so, does it not mean that you are pretending to defend a principle which you dare not put into practice? You dare not put your law into practice. In one of the burghs I represent, near Hawick, when a new minister was recently appointed the Kirk Session wanted to put the manse in repair, but the heritors refused to give one farthing towards it, and said they should be ashamed to come and ask the State to do for them what the other sects did for themselves. But the law is that the heritors are bound to keep the manse in repair. There are many Established Churchmen in Hawick who are glad the heritors did not put upon the community what the Church is well able to do for itself. As to the spiritual interests of the people being committed to the Government, I would ask the House to look upon the front Bench—I mean it without any offence—its occupants consist of men belonging to the Established Church of England, to the Roman Catholic Church—I will not go any further, but how is it possible that the spiritual needs of the Presbyterians of Scotland could be committed to such hands? We have only to look at the front Bench to see how utterly indefensible is the position 1748 of our opponents, that the State is bound to provide for the spiritual interests of the people.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, the Church of Scotland ought to be Disestablished and Disendowed."—(Dr. Cameron.)
§ (9.50.) MR. FINLAY (, &c.) Inverness
I rise to move the Amendment which stands in my name. I have listened to the speeches of my two hon. Friends, and have nothing to complain of in regard to the tone in which they have brought the question before the House; but I was a little surprised at one or two of the things said by the hon. Member for the College Division (Dr. Cameron). He asked the House how it was, if the people of Scotland were opposed to Disestablishment, that there was not a larger contingent of Members from Scotland to support that view. My hon. Friend knows the answer perfectly well. He knows that before the General Election of 1885—one of the two which he said manifested the opinion of the people of Scotland—the right hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) appealed in the most impassioned way to the electors of Scotland to give their votes for Liberal candidates irrespective of their opinions on the Church question. Does my hon. Friend think it right after that election to appeal to its results as evidencing the mind of Scotland on the Church question? His second deduction is equally wide of the mark. It is well known to those who took part in any contest in the election of 1886, that the Church question was not brought up in any constituency; the election took place on an entirely different issue, and, therefore, he cannot suggest that the votes given for Home Rule candidates in 1886 can be construed into support of a proposal for the Disestablishment of the Church of Scotland. I was a little more surprised to hear him have the courage to touch upon the grievance of ecclesiastical assessment for the repair of churches and manses. Whose fault is it that that grievance has not been remedied? The grievance would have ceased to exist if it had not been considered a profitable one.
§ DR. CAMERON
As a matter of fact a Bill was brought in for the special purpose, and it was thrown out again and again by the action of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ MR. FINLAY
I admire my hon. Friend's discretion in referring to a matter of ancient history, but the Bill was dropped by the hon. Member to whom my hon. Friend referred, and for years, instead of bringing in Bills to remedy the grievance, that Party has devoted itself to steadily opposing them. My hon. Friend said it is vain to hope that the Churches of Scotland will be united by Parliamentary interference. I have never advocated Parliamentary interference for that purpose. All that Parliament can do is to remove any obstacles in the way of reunion, and when the Churches, as I hope they may, have been able to agree on some basis of re-union, the State might lend its aid. The hon. Member for the Hawick Burghs (Mr. Alexander Brown) made one remark which surprised me. He said that the object of the Established Church of Scotland had been to endeavour to raise itself to the high level already reached by the Dissenting Churches in Scotland. Is not my hon. Friend a reader of the history of Dissent in Scotland? Is he not aware that every secession from the Established Church has been, not on the ground that those who seceded differed from the principles of the Church, but because they held that the majority of the day were not carrying out those principles in their entirety? When the grievance of patronage was removed, the Church of Scotland was returning to its best traditions, and reverting to that freedom which the Church claims as its birthright. My hon. Friend also said that in this matter he was fighting under the flag of voluntaryism. Then, all I can say is that if he is fighting under that flag he is not fighting under the flag of the FreeChurch, for nothing is more certain than that anyone adopting voluntaryism is at issue with the Free Church on a vital point. It is impossible, in discussing the Disestablishment of the Scotch Church, not to carry one's mind back to the arguments for the Disestablishment 1750 of the Irish Church; and, looking at the arguments in favour of that measure, one will find that in every part there is the most striking contradiction between the circumstances existing in the case of the Irish Church and those in the case of the Scotch Church. The Irish Church was disestablished because it was the Church of a small minority of the people of Ireland, and was not growing in the attachment of the people of Ireland. In the case of Scotland, beyond all question, the Established Church embraces within its fold one-half of the Protestants of Scotland. Then why is it we hear so much of these proposals to disestablish the Church of Scotland? It is not pretended that it is because the Church is weak. This agitation has been started because the Church is strong, and is getting stronger every day. They feel that the Church is growing, and unless it can be pulled down in no very long time it will be too strong for any attack. The Church of Ireland, again, represented a faith which was not the faith of the people of Ireland; it represented beliefs alien to those of the vast majority of the people of Ireland. Is that the case with the Church of Scotland? Is that the case with the Church of Scotland? The doctrines and government of the Established Church of Scotland are identical with the doctrines and government of the other Presbyterian Churches of Scotland. How is that, from any point of view which appears to have been stated to the House, an argument for pulling down the Church of Scotland? Is this a matter which ought to be looked at from a national point of view, or should it be looked at from the point of view of the rival bodies? I cannot help feeling that, in the great part of the arguments to which we have listened in this House and elsewhere in favour of Disestablishment, there is an under-current to this effect: that this question ought to be treated as if it were a question between rival corporations. After all, Churches and Ecclesiastical Organisations are merely a means to an end. We ought not in our zeal for the means to lose sight of the end. The Free Church, the United Presbyterian 1751 Church, and the other Dissenting Churches of Scotland are great and useful bodies, but it is possible that we should be so engrossed in the welfare of the body to which we may happen to become attached as to lose sight of the fact that, after all, these bodies, the Dissenting Bodies of Scotland as well as the Established Church of Scotland, exist for the promotion of one great end, and that is the promotion of the religious and moral welfare of the people of Scotland; and what I ask this House to do is to treat this question from a national point of view. We ought not to look at these Churches as if they were so many competitors for the custom of the people of Scotland. There seemed to be a disposition in the speeches of my hon. Friends who moved and seconded this Motion to personify these Churches, and to endeavour to treat it as a sort of grievance to the Free Church and the other Dissenting Churches of Scotland that the Established Church should be under the protection of the State. What is the grievance? Is it a grievance to the people of Scotland? Surely not. The Established Church exists for the purpose of teaching those doctrines which have been professed and taught by the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church, as well as by the Established Church of Scotland. Is it a grievance of the same kind as that which might be set up by any private teachers who consider that their business is interfered with if the State sets up national schools for furthering the education of the people? Surely it ought not to be considered as a grievance by those religious bodies that endowments, which in ancient times were devoted to sacred purposes, should be continued to be applied to the teaching of those doctrines which are dear to almost the whole Protestant population of Scotland. If the object of the agitation for Disestablishment be to give a triumph to rival religious organisations I can understand it; but if what they ought to look at is the welfare of the people of Scotland, I confess I do not see how the withdrawal of these endowments from objects which are dear to almost the whole people of 1752 Scotland can be regarded as either desirable in itself or as likely to meet with the approval of the people of Scotland. Now, what is the feeling of the people of Scotland with regard to this matter? The second portion of the Amendment, which I now submit to the House, is this:—That it is not consonant with the wishes of the people of Scotland that the Church established should be disestablished, and its endowments diverted to secular uses.We are told in some quarters that the Dissenting Churches of Scotland desire that there should be Disestablishment and Disendowment. I think the hon. Gentlemen who lay down that proposition have been either misled by the deliverances that proceed from the General Assemblies of these bodies, and that they have mistaken the voice of the majority in the General Assembly of the Free Church for the voice of the lay body of the Free Church. I do not deny at the present time that a very considerable majority of the clergy of the Free Church of Scotland have year after year voted in favour of the Disestablishment of the Church of Scotland. There is a very respectable minority indeed among the clergy of the Free Church of Scotland who have declined to be a party to any such resolution. But I do most absolutely deny that in this resolution which has been carried in the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland they represent the feeling of the laity of that Church. Some reference has been made to the provision of the Treaty of Union, by which the Establishment of the Scottish Church was supposed to be guaranteed. I never have put that provision so high as some of my hon. and learned Friends have desired to put it. Everything, of course, is in the power of Parliament. Our ancestors no doubt imagined that they had guaranteed most effectually the continued existence of the Established Church of Scotland; but I do say this, without any hesitation, that after a treaty of that kind it would be a breach of faith on the part of the united Parliament to disestablish the Church of Scotland without a clear manifestation of opinion from the people of Scotland in favour of that step. 1753 Since the object of such a provision in the Treaty of Union, in which a weaker country joins with a stronger, was to stipulate for certain powers which it desires to remain unbroken, if that weaker country afterwards changes its mind, and is willing that the Treaty of Union should be modified in this particular, so be it; and the change can be effected without any breach of faith. That condition was fulfilled in the case of the Irish Church, for there is no doubt whatever that the vast majority of the people of Ireland were in favour of the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland. Has that condition been fulfilled in the case of the Church of Scotland? Can anyone say that the opinion of the people of Scotland has been taken upon this point, and that it has been pronounced in favour of Disestablishment? I do not think the proposition can be more clearly stated than it was by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian in a speech made in the course of the Midlothian campaign in 1879. He then said—I should be a party objecting strongly to any attempt to filch or to gain an advantage against the Church of Scotland, or against anything that is Scottish, without a fair consideration of the circumstances by the people of Scotland, to whom it should be referred. The reference must be a real reference. There must be a real consideration in order to have a real decision. Nay, the decision must not only be really manifested and pointed, but an undeniable decision, in order to bring about any fresh issue or any great change.Has there been any such reference or decision? Prepositions have been made over and over again by the friends of the Church, who are confident that they have got the support of the people of Scotland in this matter behind them, in order that the opinion of the people of Scotland might be taken on this point apart from other issues. How have these overtures been met by the advocates of Disestablishment? They have been scouted as unconstitutional. ("Hear, hear!") No doubt the constitutional mode of taking the opinion of the people of Scotland is by Parliamentary election. But what objection is there to putting in force some machinery which would elicit what the views 1754 of the people of Scotland are on this point, uncomplicated by other issues? Why is it that such propositions have always been scoffed at and jeered at? I will tell right hon. Gentlemen why. Because the advocates of Disestablishment are afraid of the result. As no such proposal will be accepted by the advocates of Disestablishment, we are thrown back upon the constitutional means of making known the wishes of the people of Scotland upon this matter. And what is that? Surely it is a General Election turning upon this question. I know that that view is derided, and I know that it is considered absurd that there should be a General Election upon this question. I refer the gentlemen who regard that proposal as preposterous to what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, whom, I take it, they will hardly repudiate upon that point. When addressing the electors of Midlothian on this very subject in the course of the Midlothian campaign, he referred, speaking at Gilmerton, to the case of the Irish Church. He pointed out that resolutions were introduced and carried; and not only that those resolutions were carried, but that they did not bring about the destruction of the Irish Church, though they had raised the question in the face of the country, and that Parliament was dissolved upon the question. And he went on to say—Even in the case of the Irish Church, which was far weaker than that of the Scottish Church, even in that case there was, after the subject had been raised in Parliament, a Dissolution expressly upon the case. The verdict of the country was given only after a full trial and consideration, and this is what the Established Church of Scotland fairly and justly asks.Will the right hon. Gentleman below me (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) get up and repudiate that, and say that that is an absurd proposal? Does he now propose to take the opinion of Scotland upon this question, or does he now deride the idea of a General Election upon this question?—because, forsooth, it is so very small. I do not admit that the question is a very small one. Scotland, it is true, is not so large as England; but, still, the question of the existence of the Established Church of 1755 Scotland is a very serious matter for the people of Scotland to decide, and a matter on which they are entitled to have a deciding voice, without other considerations, which would complicate the verdict and confuse the voice of the country, being mixed up with that great issue. But surely the question of Disestablishment in Scotland loses none of its importance when you look at what the effect of such a proposal in Scotland would be upon the Church of England. Is it such a ridiculous proposal that the question of Disestablishment in Scotland should form the subject of a General Election before it is taken up by a responsible Government? Why is it that so much interest is taken in the subject of Disestablishment in Scotland by the Liberation Society in England? They do not care so much about the Church of Scotland—whether it exists, or whether it does not—but they know perfectly well that they are approaching the Church of England, and that the first operation of Disestablishment in England is that the Church of Scotland should be brought to the ground. That feature of the question was brought out with almost irresistible force by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, whose speeches upon this question in former years afford a perfect magazine of materials for the defence of the Church. In 1885, when he was appealing in the most earnest way to the electors of Midlothian and the people of Scotland not to be misled into the absurdity of not voting for the Liberal candidate because he was a Disestablishment man—when he was appealing to them to vote for the Liberal candidate who represented his opinion upon the Church, he pointed out that the question of the Church in England could not be raised without the greatest damage to the Liberal cause; and he pointed out that if the question of Disestablishment was raised in Scotland it would at once be taken up by the electors of England, and he used these very remarkable words on the 16th November, 1885, speaking at Edinburgh:—The first consequence of urging that Disestablishment should be made a test question in Scotland would be that the friends of the 1756 Church of England would in one great phalanx rush to the poll and support the interests of the Church of Scotland and throw their weight into the scale adverse to Disestablishment.Is it possible—looking at the question of the Church of Scotland either as it affects the people of Scotland in itself or in its bearings, most keenly appreciated by the advocates of Disestablishment in England, on the question of the Sister Church in England—is it possible to say that a question so trumpery as that could not be taken in hand before there has been a Dissolution upon the question? The advocates of Disestablishment, while they sedulously avoid any machinery for taking the opinion of the people on this one question, and while they profess to flout the notion of Dissolution upon that issue, say, "Look at the voice of the Scotch Members in Parliament." What is the good of looking at the way Scotch Members vote when they were returned irrespective of this question? We have got a very good authority for saying that the Scotch Members on this point may not represent the opinions of their constituents. Does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian represent the opinions of the electors of Midlothian on this question? Why, when he was invited to express his opinion upon this question of the Scottish Church in 1885, the opinion of the electors of Midlothian was taken upon the question, with the result that sixty-nine per cent. of the electors of Midlothian, with the exception of three parishes—in which there was no reason to suppose any different result — actually signed a declaration against Disestablishment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian does not represent the opinion of his constituents on this question; and what security have we that the other Members from Scotland represent the opinion of their constituents? There is a constituency adjoining Midlothian with which in former days I had occasion to make myself acquainted, that is the constituency of East Lothian, represented by my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Wallace), whom I do not see in the House; but although my connection with that constituency was not so long as my hon. and learned 1757 Friend—and I never had the honour of representing it in Parliament at all—I certainly got to know enough of that constituency to be aware that my hon. and learned Friend in his advocacy of Disestablishment most certainly does not represent the opinion of that constituency. If he is returned again, as for personal reasons I should be glad he would be, he will be returned not because of his Disestablishment opinions, but in spite of them. The advocates of Disestablishment in Scotland preferred to trust to what they call the play of Political Parties; and the modus operandi is extremely simple. They have, as a rule, captured the Liberal organisation. The Liberal organisation selects a candidate. The first stipulation that the Liberal committee makes is that the candidate should be prepared to swallow Disestablishment. Until he adopts that shiboleth he is not qualified to stand as a Liberal candidate. But when that is achieved, then he comes forward as a candidate representing the Liberal cause, and the electors are appealed to to support the Liberal candidate as against the Tory candidate. Then they are told they should vote on general grounds of politics and that their vote will not tell against the Church Establishment, but when the election is over then that gentleman, if he be returned, is paraded in the House as evidence of the opinion of the people of Scotland. When you have an election turning upon this question in Scotland, then I think the result will astonish a good many of my hon. Friends who sit for Scotch constituencies with a very scanty acquaintance with the groundwork of Scottish opinion on this subject. There are two portions of the Amendment I have to put before the House, and the second portion is as follows:—It is highly desirable that the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland should be reunited upon a National basis, and that the endowments should continue to be appropriated to religious purposes.Now I apprehend that hardly any doubt can be entertained by anyone that it is desirable that there should be re-union among the Presbyterian 1758 Churches of Scotland. Why are they separated? Their doctrine and government are absolutely identical, and the question that every man must ask is, "Why do they remain apart?" We are sometimes told, "You have only to disestablish and you will have re-union," but I venture to think that instead of Disestablishment bringing about union it would put the greatest possible obstacle in the way. I do not think that Members acquainted with the feeling in Scotland will say that the Established Church has been the obstacle to re-union. On the contrary, I venture to think that it is only on the basis of a National Church that a union of the Presbyterian bodies in Scotland is likely to take place. Surely some light may be derived from history in this matter. The Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church entered into negotiations for re-union, and why was it these negotiations came to no result? Neither of them was established; the difficulty had nothing to do with an Established Church, as my hon. Friend (Dr. Cameron) seemed to suggest. The difficulty was simply this, that the Free Church discovered that it was as my hon. Friend has pointed out in the opinion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. J. B. Balfour) and a very distinguished Member of the Scotch Bar, who is now on the Bench—that it was a fundamental tenet of the Free Church that the Establishment principle should be recognised. The hon. Member for Glasgow quoted the sentence which, as many Members are now here who did not hear it, I may repeat—Anyone who does not hold the Establishment principle rejects in our opinion an essential point in the government of the Free Church.There is no power to alter that essential principle. That is why the negotiations between the Free Church and the United Presbyterians miscarried; it had nothing to do with the existence of the Established Church. If you carried a measure for Disestablishment to-day, you would not bring the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church any nearer, for there would still remain the unsurmountable barrier I have mentioned. The Free 1759 Church and the United Presbyterian Church would not be one whit nearer if the Established Church were disestablished to-morrow. It is an essential tenet of the Free Church that the Establishment principle should be recognised whatever may be the opinion of the majority of the hour in the General Assembly of the Free Church, and I do not believe that the clergy of the Free Church represent their congregations in this matter. We have cogent evidence to the contrary, and my impression is that if this matter of re-union of the Scottish churches were left to the laity of Scotland it would be settled in the course of twelve months. There is a strong feeling to that effect in Scotland, and the outcome of that feeling has been the formation of that body known as the "Laymen's League," of which I hope my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Campbell Bannerman) may become a distinguished member. That body represents the feeling of laymen that there is a great and lamentable waste of ecclesiastical machinery in Scotland under the present ecclesiastical arrangements in that country. One united Church would suffice for the religious ordinances of the people, and why should the present state of things continue? Would any man of business tolerate such a state of things in matters under his control? Certainly not, he would look at it in this way, "Here we have these endowments long appropriated to sacred purposes; let us take them as the basis for a National Church as our starting point, and see whether we can get all this ecclesiastical machinery so fitted that it will work in promoting the religious and moral welfare of the people, so that we may go on without these unseemly and meaningless controversies." I must notice the statement my hon. Friend (Dr. Cameron) made in reference to the Highlands. He said it was notorious that the Church of Scotland did not provide for the poorer districts of the country, and he instanced the Highlands. I quite agree with my hon. Friend that in a large portion of the Highlands the people to a great extent—to a very great extent—do not belong to the 1760 Established Church; but was it quite fair not to add what everyone who knows anything of the position must know—that these very members of the Free Church in the Highlands are the most devoted opponents to Disestablishment in the country? Is this the way to convey a correct impression of the Church situation in Scotland? Surely it is fair to remember and to mention that in the Free Church in the Highlands are the most resolute opponents of Disestablishment; that they regard these endowments as appropriated to sacred purposes? My hon. Friend has cited the people of the Highlands as witnesses in favour of, instead of opponents to, Disestablishment.
§ DR. CAMERON
I cited the case of the Highlands for the purpose of showing the absolute uselessness of State Establishment and State Endowment in the poorer districts of Scotland.
§ MR. FINLAY
I do not complain of what he said, but of what he did not say. Surely the scandal of competing Churches in the Lowlands, and the state of things in the Highlands to which I have just been adverting, is enough to justify one in saying that it is desirable that the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland should be reunited on a national basis, and that the endowments should continue to be appropriated to religious purposes. There is very little in the way of re-union; and the obstacle, such as it is, was very nearly removed in 1886. My hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs said the Bill for that purpose in 1886 was thrown out of this House. He forgot to add that it was thrown out by a very small majority. I do not know why my hon. Friend should refer to that occasion. I should have been disposed if I had referred to it at all to refer to it rather as an occasion of encouragement to those who think that the very small obstacle in the way of principle might be taken out of the way of the Churches, so that there might be no further impediment to their re-union. All that is really needed is a very little mutual accommodation on the part of members of the different Churches. And what the laity of Scotland are 1761 disposed to bear in mind is, that all these ecclesiastical organisations exist but as a means to an end. They think that those who are concerned in the direction of ecclesiastical affairs in Scotland in the great Dissenting bodies are sometimes given to mistake the means for the end. The spirit of patriotism is developed in connection with the association to which a man happens to belong, which leads him to mistake the organisation for the great object for which the organisation itself exists. If there is anything distinctive in the history of Scotland it is the history of the Scottish National Church. It is not necessary that a man should be even a Presbyterian to appreciate the great features of the religious history of Scotland. Of course every country must shape its own institutions and its own views, but a great deal of what is best in the life of Scotland has taken shape in the National Church of Scotland. I would appeal to every Scotchman who has some sense of what is due to his country—who has some sense of what is due to the past of his country, who has some care for the future of his country—not to lend a hand to destroy that which it cost his forefathers so hard a struggle to build up.
§ (10.34.) MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
I rise to second the Amendment that my hon. Friend has so ably moved. The hon. Member or the College Division quoted the great work that the Free Church has done since the disruption in building up a structure for itself. It is a great and splendid work that it has done, but in what spirit did that Church start? It started with a movement of splendid religious enthusiasm, a movement which all of us, whether we belong to that Church or whether we do not, admire for its strength, its earnestness, and its unselfishness. But is that the kind of spirit, the kind of impetus, with which we are trying to set the Established Church adrift? You are not telling it to start off on a mission of religion. Instead you are saying, "Erring sister go in peace;" you are seeking to send it away in disgrace, and with the reputation of having done evil in the 1762 past. In the Free Church they are now finding difficulty from the loss of force and impetus which the dying out of the disruption feeling has given them. Two days ago the Moderator of the Free Church in his introductory address said this—For many years the special circumstances under which the Free Church came into being as a separate body formed a powerful factor in her history. A Church that had made such sacrifices …. commanded the respect of all and the adherence of many. For a whole generation the disruption was a circumstance in their favour which no man could misunderstand, but to-day this strong force was almost wholly spent.…. The loss of this initial force was really a very great one.That was the answer to those who say that in proposing to disestablish and disendow the Church they are not hurting the Established Church, but that they are simply giving it the chance which the Free Church had before. And then they profess that this Disendowment is to lead to re-union. Reunion? We are only just now coming to the end of the bitter feeling that the disruption caused fifty years ago, and the disruption was not so much a contest between different sections of the Church as between the leading persons in the Church and the Court of Session and the Houses of Parliament. This present movement is a movement which is considered a clerical and ministerial one, and, therefore, the success of it would mean a permanent bitterness in the relations of the different Presbyterian bodies in Scotland which would last not fifty years, but which would not have expired at the end of a century. It has recently been sought by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian and others to throw the onus upon those who are defending the Church instead of on those who are attacking it. That is entirely unjustifiable. It is for those who attack an institution which exists, and is doing a great work, who seek to change the historic policy of a country, to act not only against the ideas of the Established Church but directly against the whole tenets of the Free Church, and to do what not even the tenets and creeds of the Presbyterian Church insist 1763 on—to do all that for the sake of a phrase, a phrase which in Scotland has no meaning, "religious equality"—to prove their case. It is not suggested that the Church is asleep or stagnant; it is not suggested that she is simply resting on her endowments, and not doing work outside those endowments; that she is not doing a great work and spending what funds she has to the best advantage of nine-tenths of the country. There are none of those great inequalities of payments and of value of livings between one place and another as in the English Church; none of those inequalities which make a certain invidious distinction between the Established Church and Dissent in this country. The hon. Member for the Border Burghs tried to state that the Church of Scotland was the Church of the rich, and not of the poor. He tried it very feebly, and I should like to see him put forward that argument in an assembly of Scotchmen, and debate the question. There is one argument which I am glad to say has not been put forward, and which cannot be relied on for the Disestablishment of the Scotch Church. The Disestablishment of the Scotch Church is not a question of money. The question that is to be fought out there is the question of principle, because the whole amount that would be gained by the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Scotch Church is something wholly and completely insignificant. The value put by the Disestablishment Committee in their circular on the National Funds that would be obtained in connection with the Disendowment would be something like £380,000 a year. A good deal of that, I think, could not in any way be realised. For instance, the assessments of churches and manses could certainly not be realised in case of Disendowment; and then it was admitted a year or two ago by the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow, and also by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, that when you are dealing with this question you must deal with life interests in a generous spirit—that you must give up all the endowments that have been given to the Church by individuals, and that you must compensate 1764 all life interests in a large and generous style. And after you have done that in the same style as you did in Ireland, you would find nearly half the capital value of the Church used up; that was the proportion that they used up in Ireland. If you do that you would have a balance at the outside of £150,000 a year, though many are of opinion that it would be a great deal less. That is the whole amount of money you would have to distribute by destroying the establishment and endowments of this Church. It would not be more than half the amount of money which in this present Session has come as a windfall to Scotland, and over which we were nightly squabbling a few days ago. Is it worth while destroying an institution for money of that sort? Is the Establishment question a burning question now? There is no general feeling and no general activity in Scotland in its favour. Where are the public meetings, the petitions, the discussions and the newspaper articles that show that the question is in the people's mind as a burning and active question? It was brought forward strongly by the hon. Gentlemen, among others, in 1885, and it was pressed forward desperately on the ground that it was "now or never" then. But when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian came down and was expected to curse the Church, to the surprise and bitter disappointment of keen disestablishers, instead of doing that he gave the word that the question of the Church at that election was not in any way to be a test question. Liberal Churchmen accepted that all over Scotland, and immediately after that speech a manifesto was issued by the Liberal Churchmen who had taken part in meetings held in defence of the Establishment. That manifesto was as follows:We loyally accept the declaration of Mr. Gladstone, as the Leader of the Liberal Party, that he will not support the Motion of Dr. Cameron, and that the vote upon that Motion is not to be taken as affording such an expression of the opinion of the people of Scotland as he has declared to be the indispensable condition of practical legislation on the subject. We shall accordingly give our votes at the ensuing election on the understanding, sanctioned 1765 by our Leader, that the question of Establishments is not one of the test questions at that election.The result came out in the number of Liberal Members who were elected throughout Scotland in 1885, but who certainly would not have been elected except for the action of the Churchmen. There is only one point that was quoted by the hon. Member for the College Division that I should like to refer to, and that was in regard to the Highlands, and in regard to measuring the effect of the Established Church in certain Highland parishes by the number of communicants. If he wanted to compare the hold of the Established Church with the hold of the Free Church upon those parishes, he should also have mentioned the number of communicants in the Free Churches in those parishes. All of us who know the Highlands know that in these places there is a very strong feeling, a superstitious fear, against becoming a communicant, and consequently, while you will have a very large number of adherents of a Church, you may count on your fingers the number of communicants, whether they belong to the Established Church or to the Free Church. But I do not want to base my case in any way upon percentages. The case would be gone if it was merely a question of the easting vote of some small section of the community. What we base our case on is that we say that thousands and hundreds of thousands outside the Established Church of Scotland do not desire Disestablishment. You complain of petitions being unreliable. Of course no one ever supposed that petitions were absolutely and strictly reliable, for when you have petitions of 650,000 on the one side and petitions of 3,000 on the other, there remains a good deal of margin for striking off accidental discrepancies, names put on that were not entitled to be on the petitions, and so on. I do not wish to enter on the question of the voluntary principles. I respect the principles but I do not agree with them, and I do not wish now to argue them. All we can say is that they are not the principles of the Free Church; they may be the principles of the 1766 leaders of the Free Church, of large sections in the Free Church, but they are not the principles of the standards of the Free Church. Those principles are stated in the very strongest and clearest terms in the document which the Free Church chose for itself as its standard and test of membership. Dr. Chalmers, the first Moderator in the first Free Church Assembly, said this:—Though we quit the Establishment, we go out on the Establishment principle. We quit a vitiated Establishment, but we rejoice in returning to a pure one. To express it other-wise, we are the advocates for a national recognition and national support of religion, and we are not voluntaries.Patronage was not the cause of the disruption. The Church has got on with patronage for 130 years. It was not a matter of conscience. It was simply the encroachments of the Court of Session that brought about the disruption. It was in search of spiritual independence that the Free Church went out in 1843—it was with the mistaken idea that they would get more spiritual independence outside the Establishment than they had inside that they went. In truth, the Established Church is at the present time the freest and most independent of any. The Church has a status of its own recognised by the Constitution which no other Church in Scotland has. Members of the Church are not content to have no views of their own; they are not content to merely watch the current of public opinions without taking part in it themselves. What is the way out of the difficulty? Presbyterians are in agreement all over the world; why should they not also be in harmony at home? Some ministers of the Free Church and of the Established Church hold services in one another's parishes, and the Established Church is willing to hold forth the chance of coming back on the principles which are the principles of the Free Church. To carry out a scheme of that sort—to bring the Churches together in one strong and solid Church, holding the old Scotch Presbyterian views—would be a task worthy of any statesman who has the confidence of the nation. It is in order to assist in this task of 1767 bringing the Presbyterian bodies together in this way that I desire to support the Amendment.
To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "it is not desirable in itself, nor consonant with the wishes of the people of Scotland, that the Church of Scotland should be disestablished and its endowments diverted to secular uses; and that, in the opinion of this House, it is highly desirable that the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland should be reunited upon a national basis, and that the endowments should continue to be appropriated to religious purposes."—(Mr. Finlay.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ *(10.5.) MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (, &c.) Stirling
If I ask to be allowed to occupy some small part of the time devoted by the House to-night to the discussion of this subject—time all too scanty for the importance of the question—I do not think it will be grudged to me when I state that, having been a Scotch Representative for twenty-four years, I have not yet opened my mouth in this House on the subject of the Scotch Church. My intention is not to invite the House to consider the broad and general question raised by the Resolution of my hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), but rather the position in which that question is now placed in consequence of the attitude of those who oppose Disestablishment. The Resolution moved has this advantage, I think, over the rival propositions before the House—that it is, at least, perfectly plain, unambiguous, and unequivocal. There cannot be the slightest doubt as to what my hon. Friend and those who support him mean. The Resolution means that the one branch of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland which is at present favoured with State patronage should no longer be distinguished in that respect from the two sister Churches. It means that these three Churches and all other religious bodies in Scotland should be put upon a footing of absolute political equality. It means that the public funds which 1768 are at present applied towards the maintenance of the work and ordinances of the Established Church should in future be devoted to some public beneficent purpose or purposes, in the benefits of which all our countrymen in the several localities of the country may share without distinction of creed, or Church, or opinion. That is what my hon. Friend and those who support him mean. Those of us who join in commending this policy to the House do not found ourselves merely upon the general theory of religious equality; we found ourselves upon the events of Scotch ecclesiastical history, upon the glaring inequality and injustice presented by the present relative position of the three Churches; and we found ourselves further upon the fact that, if there is one country under the sun in which the interests of religion can with perfect safety be left to the free action of the people, that country is Scotland. I would myself go further, and say that if there is a Church in any country under the sun which is fit and qualified in all respects to discharge in overflowing measure all the sacred functions which can be fulfilled by a religious society it is the present Established Church of Scotland, with the vitality and energy she has shown in recent years. That is our case. It has been put before Parliament so amply on many occasions that it is unnecessary to dwell upon it now. But how is our proposal met? We have been accustomed hitherto to be told that if our policy were adopted, the interests of religion would be sacrificed, that the moral and social progress of Scotland would be endangered, and that the State support of some Church or other was essential to what is called the national recognition of religion, and that without this national recognition of religion no prosperity can be expected for a country. That is a theory which I entirely reject, but I feel that it at least occupies lofty and even sacred ground. But have we heard it to-night? It has not been mentioned; it has disappeared. But we shall hear it again. We shall hear it constantly—on village platforms, in leaflets, in the conversation of canvassers seeking to win votes; but it is not 1769 brought forward into the broad light of discussion in the House of Commons. Let me say that if that argument has anything in it, it, of course, supersedes all others; and if there is any force in it, then I must say that to be told the elements which are to determine a great cause like this are the wishes of the people of Scotland and the opportunities of debate in the House of Commons is not only idle, but I think I would go so far as to say that it is also insincere. If hon. Members who wish to oppose the Motion do so on the larger doctrine, why do they take refuge in these smaller questions which we find raised to-night? What are these Motions against the proposal of my hon. Friend, which we may take as representing the strongest and most effective argument that can be brought in opposition. There are two coming from different parts of the House—one from my hon. relative opposite, the hon. Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities (Mr. J. A. Campbell), and the other from the hon. Member who has just sat down. These two Members are practically identical in political opinion, and, accordingly, the Amendments are identical in terms. And what do these Amendments say? They say there is no reason, either as regards the present position of the Church or the wishes of the people, why proposals for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church should be entertained. If I were to be critical, I should express my surprise at the phrasing of the Amendments. It is not that the proposal should not be accepted or adopted—but "entertained." To entertain a proposal is a suggestion of a compromise. I do not know whether that is intended. But let me point out that both these Amendments give up any rigid principle on the matter whatsoever—they are founded upon the present position of the Church and upon the wishes of the people. The present position of the Church is what it has been for the last fifty years, with the exception that the Church is stronger, and, therefore, better able to support itself by voluntary action than ever before. So that, as far as the argument from the 1770 present position of the Church goes, it is an argument in favour of the Resolution. Then it is said we are to be guided by the wishes of the people, and I have every respect for the wishes of the people when they are expressed in the usual constitutional fashion through their Representatives. Then my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. Arthur Elliot) has an Amendment—and let me express my no small surprise at finding him among the ardent champions of Church Disestablishment—in which he wishes the whole matter to be postponed until we have first of all had adequate Parliamentary discussion, and until we have had a definite expression of opinion. By "definite expression of opinion" I suppose he means, as did the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, that there should be some step taken to ascertain in a special manner the views of the people of Scotland on this subject. I do not know whether my hon. Friend refers to a referendum or a plébiscite, or to something which requires some other outlandish name. If he means that a special vote should be taken, I must remind my hon. Friend that it would be almost an impossibility to obtain absolute demonstration by any such process. There is, I believe, a process in physics of resolving forces so that you may isolate some one force, and consider its individual effect on the hypothesis that no other forces are acting, but can you apply such a process to a moral or practical question? Suppose there was a plèbiscite taken, and my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire gave his vote on this question. Would he guarantee that at the same time he would not have one of his eyes, if not both, looking at the question of the Union with Ireland? It is obvious that in a country like this, where there are so many interests affecting men's opinions, you cannot completely remove one opinion from another. A party man will take a party view. This process of separation has never been attempted in this country, and I hope it never will be.
§ *MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
But how is the hon. Member to get this "definite expression of opinion" of the people of Scotland? Could a General Election perform the process of the abstraction of which I have spoken? Even supposing it were possible for a General Election to turn mainly upon the question of Scotch Disestablishment, how are we to know that that would even represent in Scotland an opinion purely and solely confined to the one question and the merits of this case? No, Sir, I confess I am constitutional enough and simple-minded enough to prefer the recognised mode of taking the judgment of the country. Then there remains the most important Amendment on the Paper, in the name of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay). My hon. Friend has at least this advantage over the others of whom I have spoken. He, at least, has the courage to say what he means, and he boldly traverses the thesis of the hon. Member for the College Division, and says that it is not desirable in itself that the Church of Scotland should be disestablished—more than either of the chosen champions of the Church of Scotland ventures to say in his Motion. But my hon. Friend also said much in his speech of this necessity for a special expression of the opinion of the people of Scotland. His arguments seem to me to come perilously near the fatal doctrine of Home Rule, because he was most anxious that the question should be determined solely by the Scotch people; and yet when he came to recommend his views further to the Committee he reminded them of the fact that the fate of the English Church would be largely in people's minds in England when voting upon this question. Therefore, the Home Rule which he wished to encourage would surely be over-ridden. My hon. Friend alluded to his intimate knowledge of the feeling of a part of Scotland far away from that district where he now so appropriately finds his seat. He talked of East Lothian, and until we elicited the fact it would have 1772 been difficult to discover that his connection with that district consisted in the circumstance that he was the unsuccessful candidate in an election there. Having followed that election pretty closely, I venture to say that two things were against him. The first was, that he was not outspoken in favour of Disestablishment, and, therefore, did not commend himself to the Liberal electors; and the other reason, which was absolutely fatal, was that he had the misfortune to be supported by the Scotsman newspaper, which every day covered the noble Lord the Member for Ipswich (Lord Elcho), who was his rival, with such constant denunciation and vilification as would have turned anybody willing to vote for my hon. Friend into a supporter of his abused opponent. I now come to what is the real gist of the question before us to-night. My hon. Friend the Member for Inverness talks in a somewhat vague way of re-union on a national basis. What does he mean by a national basis? Let us deal for the moment with the Presbyterian Church alone, without reference to other religious bodies, although these after all have also something to say on this question. Let us look the facts in the face, and I would here ask the House to bear with a Scotchman while he endeavours to explain facts, not familiar to those who have not the advantage of being Scotchmen. What does my hon. Friend mean by re-union on a national basis? Does he merely mean that the three Scotch Presbyterian Churches should make one great National Presbyterian Church? If so, we all agree. There is no reason under heaven why that most desirable consummation should not be effected. But my hon. Friend has used the term "national basis," not in the sense of a national Scotch basis, but in the sense of a State Church basis. Let the House realise what this means when I have stated a few facts. I wish to treat this question from a practical point of view, and of course, as I think, from a common-sense point of view too. And by that I mean I will put aside all ecclesiastical or political theories, and 1773 the arguments drawn from Scotch ecclesiastical history, for, however interesting these may be to the student, and however useful to garnish and adorn our position, it is not by them that the feeling of the Scotch people will be practically influenced in this matter. The Presbyterian Church has three branches. The first in order is the Established Church itself, of which I need say nothing. The next is a body called the United Presbyterian Church, an agglomeration of Churches which from time to time have seceded mainly on the ground of spiritual independence; and the fundamental, essential doctrine of this United Presbyterian Church is that the interference of the State in religious affairs is unscriptural and injurious, and that the interests of religion are best served when they are entrusted to the voluntary effort of the people. The third body is the Free Church, the inheritors of those who left the Church in 1843, under circumstances so dramatic and so full of heroism, in protest against the interference of the civil power in spiritual matters. This Church includes a considerable number of men who are—to use the word of my hon. and learned Friend behind me—passionately devoted to that extreme doctrine of the State Church, which is now apparently abandoned by the champions of the Established Church. ("No, no!") Well, the fact that the hon. Member says "No" will not prevent me holding that opinion. But it is a comparatively small section now which holds these extreme views. The great majority of the members of the Free Church of Scotland, lay and clerical, have by declarations year after year shown that they do not recognise the idea of re-incorporation except on the basis of perfect liberty and equality—in other words, Disestablishment. Now, does my hon. Friend propose a formal, honest, and open incorporation of these two seceding Churches in the Established Church? Not at all. Anyone can see that, in the circumstances I have stated, such an incorporation is practically impossible, and, in fact, to propose it is an insult to the consciences of those to whom it is offered. But the 1774 object is to create some such modification in the position of the Established Church as shall tempt deserters to come back to it from the rival folds. Therefore, while professing peace, it is war that the hon. Member brings. By some specious modification in the constitution, or standards, or canons of the Established Church he hopes to be able to filch and pilfer here a member and there a member from the Seceding Churches in order to strengthen the Established Church. My hon. Friend who lends himself to that process knows but little of his countrymen. The honest men in the Established Church are just as much opposed to such a process as anyone else. Those honest members of the Established Church wish to see their Church strong; but sooner than that object should be accomplished by a process so unfair and insulting to their neighbours—their rivals, if you like—in the other Presbyterian Churches, whose conscientious convictions have driven them into secession, they would say, "Perish our endowments and perish our State privileges!" Is the House of Commons going to assist such a process as that proposed by the hon. Member? How can a United Presbyterian, if his connection with his Church be anything more than a name, abandon his principles, although he may benefit his pocket by joining the State Church? How can a Free Churchman, glorying in the traditions of his Church, and treasuring as his most precious heritage the history of his Church's birth, consent to go back to the Establishment unless on the condition not only that he secures all for which his forefathers fought, but also the fullest recognition and atonement for their great sacrifices? The House of Commons has a peculiar responsibility in this matter, because it was Parliament that I will not say caused, but precipitated, the disruption of 1843. Is Parliament now to countenance an attempt to weaken and beggar this Church which for fifty years has nobly done its work? Let, indeed, the differences between the Churches in Scotland cease, and let the old sores be healed by union. On that we are all agreed. But the only path to union 1775 is by admitting to the non-Established Churches the full justification of their present position; by withholding from all Churches—whether for the purpose of support or of direction and control—the hand of the State; and the Scotch Presbyterian people will do the rest, without the aid of Parliament and especially without the aid of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay). My position is that the union he talks of can only be accomplished by Disestablishment, and I will quote in support of that position authorities that should have some weight with my hon. and learned Friend. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen)—who I am sorry to see is not present—was for a brief and uncertain period a Representative of a Scotch constituency, and in addressing his constituents on one occasion he used these words: "I would wish to recall the fact that I was an ardent supporter of the Disestablishment of the Church in Ireland." It is difficult nowadays for us to conceive the right hon. Gentleman an ardent supporter of any reform—I can see," he says, "in the Disestablishment of the Church of Scotland one great result, which would be entirely absent in the case of the Disestablishment of the Church of England, and that is the union of all the Presbyterian bodies. I am treading upon delicate ground, but I think that the fact that the Established Church is tied to the State was the one great obstacle to the union of the Presbyterians in Scotland.But I have a still higher authority, whom one naturally approaches with awe. The Duke of Argyll made a statement on this subject in 1874.
§ *MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I will quote what he said in 1892 presently, which is better than 1891. In 1874 the Duke of Argyll held a certain opinion which I will now quote. It may be said that that is a long time ago. Well, that is a consideration which might have some effect in the case of anybody else than the Duke of Argyll; but he never changes his opinions, because he is never wrong. What he said in 1874 was this:— 1776There is no hope whatever of the reunion of the Free and Established Churches, except on the ground of Disestablishment.That is a plain statement from the mouth of a man who knows as much of the ins and outs of this question as anyone living. Well, now I come to what he said in 1892. In January of this year there was a meeting in Edinburgh of a strange body, called the Laymen's League, which exists with the object of uniting all the scattered flocks under the banner of the Establishment. The Duke of Argyll was brought to Edinburgh as the great orator on that occasion; and, since the days of Balaam, nothing more remarkable has happened, because he devoted the whole of his address to proving that all the outside seceding bodies were in a very poor way, and that the best of all possible Churches was the Church of Scotland—of course, because it was the Church of the Duke of Argyll. Not a very diplomatic way to bring about a solution of this question. He said, giving them small comfort—My advice is against going to Parliament at all. What can we get better than that on which we have stood for nearly 200 years.'The Scotsman newspaper, which advocates generally the policy of the hon. Member for Inverness, was greatly disappointed with what the Duke said. It hoped the public would not be so ungrateful as to wish that he had buried his views in the quiet crypt of some Church magazine. It summed up the Duke of Argyll's speech as maintaining that the Church of Scotland is the one Church in Christendom which is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, and that its General Assembly is the one legitimate descendant and representative of the Council of Jerusalem. And it argued that, if it were an error to suppose that equal virtue was to be found in other Churches, the Laymen's League was nothing better than a Church Defence Association. Well, Sir, I pass from this point, because what I have quoted shows that eminent men among those who have no sympathy with the policy of my hon. Friend and Member for the College Division and myself share our opinion that the only way to effect a union is by Disestablishment. 1777 It is my hon. Friend for the College Division, and not the Laymen's League, that is the true peacemaker in Scotland. My firm belief is that my countrymen are not so concerned, as they are sometimes thought to be, in nice theological distinctions and in the contests of Church Courts. They are tired and contemptuous of the dark intrigues of political ecclesiastics, such as those which the obscure Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend represents. The proposal of my hon. Friend for the College Division (Dr. Cameron) is perfectly straightforward and unmistakable in its design, and I believe, Sir, that the quiet and steady-minded men of all the Churches, Established or otherwise, have realised more and more every year that while Disestablishment is the only path that leads to union, it will bring no injustice to those concerned, and that it will vastly increase the power for good of that general Presbyterian Church, in which are involved indissolubly the sympathies and traditions of the great mass of the Scotch people.
§ (11.38.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
Mr. Speaker, the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has not left me—I do not complain of it—any lengthened period of time in which to discuss the important questions now before us; but he has, at all events, left me sufficient opportunity to declare in explicit and clear language what is the opinion of the Government upon the Motion and Amendment before the House. One or two of the statements of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down I have listened to with extreme surprise. He occupied no inconsiderable part of his interesting speech with an elaborate attempt to prove not only that the opinion of the Scotch people has not yet been definitely taken on this question of Disestablishment, but also, under no conceivable circumstances, could that opinion be taken under our existing Parliamentary institutions.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman attempted to establish the proposition that it was impossible to have a Dissolution, the result of which would clearly show whether or not the people of Scotland definitely desire the Disestablishment of their Church.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
On the contrary, I am ready to accept the result of a Dissolution—quite ready as soon as the Government will give it us—as a verdict on the point; but what I said was the question could not be segregated from all other questions.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
In other words, the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly ready to accept the result of a General Election as conclusive on this point, while holding the opinion that it would show nothing of the general opinion of the country. He says he will accept the verdict, though it would not be given upon the question of the Disestablishment of the Church alone, but associated with the question of Home Rule, with the Temperance question, and with each and all of the items in the Newcastle programme. Upon that I have two observations to make, and the first is that it is not consistent with the view put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian in 1879. His object at that time was to persuade the people of Scotland to vote for him upon the Eastern question and other important questions then before the country, and he would not allow the red herring of Disestablishment to be drawn across the track. The right hon. Gentleman said—Even in the case of the Irish Church, which was far weaker than the Scotch Church, even in that case the question was raised in Parliament and there was a dissolution expressly upon the question. The verdict of the country was given after full consideration, and that is what the Established Church of Scotland fairly and justly asks.So that whatever may be the view of the right hon. Gentleman at the present time, he in 1879 did not share the view 1779 of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), but on the contrary thought it was not only possible to get the verdict of the people of Scotland on the question of Disestablishment, but it was right to have that verdict definitely taken. That is the first observation I have to make, and the second is not less applicable to Scotchmen, who, over and over again, have had it thrown in their teeth when they have stood by the Established Church of Scotland, that the majority of the Scottish Representatives in the House have voted in favour of Disestablishment. Well, but in the view of the right hon. Gentleman what is the value of that verdict? Does it show that the people are in favour of Disestablishment? Not at all. On the right hon. Gentleman's own principle, what security have we that the hon. Member for Glasgow who moved this Resolution to-night, the hon. Member for the Border Burghs who seconded him, or others who supported him, were not elected by the constituents who sent them to this House to Vote for Home Rule, or on the Temperance question, or any of the various points in the Newcastle programme? What possible grounds are there for believing that these hon. Gentlemen represent the opinion of the Scotch people, or even of their own constituents, on the great question which is now before us? I think the right hon. Gentleman in his few observations on this point has shown himself opposed to the contention of his Leader in 1879, and also at a later date, that the verdict of the Scotch people could not be derived solely from the voices of the Scotch Representatives. I do not propose to go at any length, nor would time allow me to do so, into the elaborate and important questions raised by the right hon. Gentleman. He has dilated on the advantage of re-uniting the various Presbyterian Churches in Scotland, and upon that everybody agrees with him, and it is the subject matter of the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Finlay). But the right hon. Gentleman has told us that it would be degrading and insulting, or, at all events, contrary to the 1780 conscientious convictions of members of the non-Established Churches of Scotland, to enter into any arrangement of the kind contemplated in the Amendment. But upon what historic basis does the right hon. Gentleman found that assertion? He appears to be of opinion that it is a cardinal point with the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church, and that it is an insult to ask them to deviate from it, not to unite with an Established Church. He assumes that it is the specific and peculiar creed of these Churches, that the ecclesiastical organisation which they follow should not be connected with the State. On what historic basis does he found the assertion? It is in absolute contradiction to the most notorious facts of history. It is perfectly true, I believe, that the great majority—not all—of the United Presbyterians do not approve of any relations—of any specific relations—between the Church and State; but it is no part of their original creed, no part of their existing organisation, no pledge to that effect is given by the minister or required from a United Presbyterian layman. I believe I am not going beyond historic fact and am warranted in saying that the original founders of the United Presbyterian Church did not express the view entertained by the right hon. Gentleman; but held precisely opposite convictions. If that be true of the United Presbyterians, it is certainly and emphatically true of the Free Church. The men who seceded from the Establishment and founded the Free Church were as convinced as we who intend to vote against the Resolution to-night are, that the ancient historic connection between Church and State in Scotland should be maintained, and to this day I believe the majority of the men who call themselves the Free Church are as firmly convinced in favour of the principle as their forefathers were when they seceded. I heard one argument of the right hon. Gentleman with astonishment. He told us that we, the Parliament of this country, were at all events partly responsible for the secession from the Established Church in 1843.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Responsible for precipitating the secession of 1843, that is the allegation. I believe the right hon. Gentleman said this Parliament, thus responsible, ought to be most careful before it weakens, or attempts to weaken, the Free Church of which Parliament is in part the author. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by that argument? I boldly assert, and I do not think that anybody will contradict me who knows the ecclesiastical history of Scotland, that if the spirit of the Established Church, and the laws governing that Church in 1843, had been then what they are at this moment, not a minister or a layman would then have seceded from that Church. In seeking to unite the Free Church with the Established Church on the basis proposed, we are asking that from the members of the Free Church which their forefathers would readily have done. I utterly fail to understand, therefore, what this particular argument of the right hon. Gentleman means. When he went on to say that the consciences of Scotchmen required equality of treatment, and what is called by the Liberation Society religious equality as between different ecclesiastical bodies, he used a terminology which, however appropriate it may be to English controversies on the subject, is wholly alien to a discussion upon Scotch matters, for the Scottish people have never desired what the right hon. Gentleman calls religious equality; they have never wished to see the funds devoted from ancient times to the maintenance of the Presbyterian form of religion diverted to other purposes. Whether they belong to the Established Church or not, they have never wished for that kind of religous equality which figures so largely in Liberation Society speeches and pamphlets. I ask the House to reject this Motion on a very plain and simple issue. Here we have funds devoted from time immemorial to this purpose—not public contributions in the sense of contributions from taxation; but funds derived from private 1782 beneficence principally, devoted from time immemorial to this public purpose under sanction of Statutes. I ask the House to reject the Motion because there is no purpose suggested to which these funds could be more usefully devoted or more in consonance with the wishes of the people of Scotland. It is true the right hon. Gentleman vaguely adumbrated some public purposes to which the money might be devoted—baths and wash-houses, I think he mentioned, but he did not tell us plainly what it was he had in mind—some obscure and remote purpose in which he thought these funds might be more usefully employed than in supporting the religion in which the people of Scotland as a whole believe and the form of worship they desire to follow. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I think the purpose to which these funds have been appropriated is the highest purpose for which any funds can be used. They are used for purposes certainly in consonance with the religious convictions of the people of Scotland, and this House would be ill-advised under any circumstances in diverting these funds to other uses, and would be guilty of a crime if it attempted any such diversion without a special mandate from the people of Scotland. I hope the House will assent to the Amendment, which certainly we on this Bench shall not hesitate to support.
§ Question put.
§ (11.59.) The House divided:—Ayes 209; Noes 265.—(Div. List, No. 140.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ It being after midnight, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded to interrupt the business,
§ Whereupon Mr. FINLAY rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ (12.10.) The House divided:—Ayes 294; Noes 142.—(Div. List, No. 141.)1783
§ Question, "That those words be there added," put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, as amended, put.
§ (12.30.) The House divided:—Ayes 247; Noes 175.—(Div. List, No. 142.)
That it is not desirable in itself, nor consonant with the wishes of the people of Scotland, that the Church of Scotland should be disestablished and its endowments diverted to secular uses; and that, in the opinion of this House, it is highly desirable that the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland should be reunited upon a National basis, and that the endowments should continue to be appropriated to religious purposes.