§ MR. ASQUITH
In asking, Sir, for leave to introduce a Bill to prevent the creation of new interests in the Welsh Church, I am undoubtedly asking the House to take the first step towards the Disestablishment and Disendowment of that Church. That the Government should adopt that course, whether it meets with approval or disapproval, will, I am certain, excite no surprise from any quarter of the House, for the policy of Welsh Disestablishment is a policy to which the Liberal Party as a whole, is distinctly pledged. It is a policy which was before the eyes and in the minds of the electors of the country when they recorded their votes last summer, and Her Majesty's Government would be failing in their duty if they did not take advantage of the first opportunity which offers itself to them, and by all the means which the requirements of Business place at their disposal, give prompt and effectual execution to the policy so entrusted to them. Before 205 I go into the general question, the House will, perhaps, permit me to say two or three preliminary words with reference to our method of procedure and the form of our proposal. Sir, the primary obligation which rests upon the Government in reference to the great measure in relation to Ireland, which was introduced and discussed last week, renders it obviously impossible that we could, with any advantage, introduce during this Session a detailed and complicated measure of Disestablishment. On the other hand, the Government feel that the requirements of the case would not be met by simply inviting the formal assent of the House to an Abstract Resolution. In the year 1868 my right hon. Friend the present Prime Minister, when he took in hand for the first time the question of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, proceeded, in the first instance, by way of Resolution; and it was only when the House had carried his Resolution that he introduced, as founded upon it, a Bill, which is the counterpart, in substance and intention, though not in terms, of the Bill which I am going to ask the leave of the House to introduce. All the conditions of that time, however, were very different from the conditions in which we find ourselves to-day. My right hon. Friend at that time was the Leader of the Opposition, and not a responsible Minister of the Crown. He was taking action in an expiring Parliament. Only the year before that in which his Resolutions were introduced Parliament had assented to a wide extension of the suffrage; and my right hon. Friend felt it was his duty, before this question was finally dealt with, that the new constituencies so brought into existence should have an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon it. But, Sir, in the circumstances of to-day, in the judgment of the Government at any rate, it would be a pure waste of time to introduce a Resolution first and a Bill afterwards. No doubt there are many hon. Members in this House who object to the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church, and they will have an opportunity of expressing their opinions, and of giving effect to them, in the Division Lobby on the Second Reading of the Bill. I adopt in reference to this Bill the language used in another place by the Duke of Argyll with reference to a 206 corresponding Bill in 1868, when he said thatThe first great object of the Bill is to give an assurance to the Irish people.I will substitute the Welsh people—That the Imperial Parliament will deal without unnecessary delay with the whole question of the Established Church in Ireland, and place the question in the forefront of the living politics of the nation.That is the spirit and those are the objects with which this Bill has been introduced. I will now state very briefly what is the form in which we propose to give effect to our intentions. The original intention of the Government was to follow closely the Bill of 1868, which received the assent of the House of Commons at all its stages, but which was rejected, as so many other Bills are, when it reached another place. The Bill of 1868 prohibited all new appointments to bishoprics, dignities, and benefices which were in the gift of public patrons. It did not deal with private patronage, for the very simple and sufficient reason that you could not interfere with the exercise of the right of private patronage oven to the extent of suspending it for a limited time without, at any rate, giving rise to claims of pecuniary compensation. But when we came to look into the matter it appeared to the Government that all the objects they had in view might be met by a simpler and less drastic course of procedure. We do not propose to prohibit the Crown or any public patron from appointing to such offices in the Church in Wales as may become vacant after the passing of the Act. But our measure consists of a single clause, to this effect: that, in all appointments so made— private patronage is not dealt with—after this Bill becomes an Act, the emoluments of the office should be held by the new incumbent subject to the pleasure of Parliament. Thus there can be no claim to pecuniary compensation in respect of a person taking office after the passing of the Act, because office will have been taken with full notice of the declared intention of Parliament. In the view of the Government, it becomes unnecessary to insert the original provision restraining the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; and I will ask you, Mr. Speaker, in putting the question, to omit those concluding words. 207 I am not going to discuss the abstract question of Establishments, nor the further question as to the immemorial and constitutional right of Parliament to appropriate for national purposes national property which has been enjoyed by members of a particular religious community. [Opposition laughter.] No, Sir, because I regard the ethics and the constitutionality of that question as having been finally and conclusively settled in the case of the Church in Ireland, when this House, with the assent of the House of Lords and the Crown, passed a measure to which every objection could be taken that can be taken to the present Bill. One still sometimes hears from the lips of belated controversialists the words "plunder and sacrilege." But with the Act for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church unrepealed, I think we are entitled to ask that these expressions shall be banished to some museum of political antiquities. Nor will I go into the historical question, tempting as the subject is, as to the origin and position of the Welsh Church. I do not think it can be said to be altogether irrelevant to such a discussion as this to consider whence the Established Church came, what were the circumstances under which it was planted among the people, and how far in days gone by it has discharged, or failed to discharge, the responsible duties which its position involved. But if that question is to be dealt with it must be by other speakers. For my part, I am content to take existing facts as they are, and to rest the case for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Welsh Church not upon historical grievances, but simply on the state of things which confronts us when we survey the ecclesiastical position of the Principality at the present day. What is that position? The Church in Wales is, admittedly, in a minority—a very small minority. [Opposition cries of "No!"] I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen who question my assertion are prepared to maintain that the Church in Wales embraces within its fold more than a quarter of the population.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The noble Lord says he is. Then I shall be glad to know upon what facts. I shall be curious to know whether, so far as the Welsh- 208 speaking part of the population is concerned, anyone is prepared to maintain that less than six-sevenths of it are outside the Established Church? I should have thought that it was sufficient to give the fact, which is admitted by the supporters of the Church as well as by those who favour Disestablishment, that, as was stated by the Committee which reported on Intermediate Higher Education in Wales in 1881, the Nonconformists constitute a very large majority of the population. I am glad, however, to say that we need not rely upon the fallible and disputed evidence of more or less conjectural statistics. The people of Wales have at their disposal a constitutional organ for the expression of their wishes; and if I want to know what the opinion of Wales is with reference to a matter which peculiarly and intimately concerns the Welsh Church, I do not think I can have more authentic evidence of it than is to be found in the character of her representation. Taking the last General Election, and including Monmouthshire in Wales, there were 34 Members elected, of whom 31 are pledged to Disestablishment, and only three are opposed to it.
§ MR. ASQUITH
An hon. Gentleman opposite says "Home Rule." Are we, then, to understand that the decision of the Welsh people at the last General Election was upon a question of Home Rule, and not upon a question of Welsh Disestablishment? To that question I get no reply.
§ MR. ASQUITH
Well, as the noble Lord has raised the question let us dispose of it once for all. I will quote an authority which I think even the noble Lord will accept, that of the author of an article on "Constitution Revision," which I read with great pleasure, and profit—intellectual pleasure, at any rate—in the November number of the National Review. It proceeded from a very distinguished pen—that of the Leader of the Conservative Party—and it preferred to account, amongst other things, for that fortuitous and incoherent majority which keep my right hon. Friend and his Colleagues in power. In the course of his review Lord Salisbury had to deal with the somewhat remarkable case of Wales. This is Lord Salisbury's 209 explanation of the matter—not the same by any means as that of the noble Lord. Lord Salisbury says—It is notorious that the Welsh voted for Radical candidates, not for their love of Home Rule, but for their adversion towards the Welsh Church.Well, Sir, I am quite content, whether the noble Lord is or not, with that authority. I say it makes good my statement. I am glad to believe that all these 31 gentlemen are good Home Rulers also; but I say they are returned by their constituents, amongst other things, at any rate, to put an end to the Establishment of the Welsh Church. The average majority of the 31 Members who are in favour of Disestablishment is 2,000, while of the three opponents of Disestablishment from Wales one had a majority of 98 and another a majority of 118. But that does not exhaust the case. In the three typical Welsh Counties of Anglesey, Cardigan, and Carmarthen, every candidate who appealed before the electors, whether he was a supporter or an opponent of Home Rule, was in favour of Disestablishment. It was suggested by my hon. and learned Friend the late Solicitor General, whom I do not see in his place, in a very remarkable speech which he made last year in defence of the Church, that in seven of the eastern counties of Wales the Nonconformists were in a comparatively small minority. But in these seven eastern counties the verdict is the same as in the rest of the counties. They include East Glamorganshire, in which the majority was nearly 3,000; West Monmouthshire, majority about 5,000; and the borough of Merthyr, which beats the record of all constituencies in the country, with a majority of 9,000. The real significance of these figures is that they represent the climax of a continuing process which has been apparent since 1868, when for the first time, by the extension of the suffrage, the people of Wales had a fair opportunity of pronouncing their opinions. Their real significance can only be measured when at the same time we realise the strength of the national forces arrayed upon the other side. What is the position of the Church in Wales? For generations past she has monopolised the whole Parliamentary representation of the country, and in days gone by—I 210 do not mean as a body, but through the land-owning class she owned, and owns to-day, almost the whole of the land of Wales. Until very lately—until within the memory of almost the youngest here—the Church has filled the magistracy and all the offices of public trust. It dominated for generations the government and teaching of the grammar schools. It controlled the endowments and the charities of the country. The Church had at her disposal, and behind her throughout this controversy — of which we are now approaching the close—every material force and every institution of the land. I will add—for I think it is an admission which justice demands—that whatever may have been the case in the past, during the last generation at any rate, the Church has had what has been for purposes of offence and defence a far more valuable weapon in the increased zeal and devotion of her ministers and her laymen. She has fought in this struggle, I do not hesitate to say now, under the most advantageous conditions; and if she is worsted—and she had been worsted, as I have proved by the evidence which I have given as to the state of opinion in Wales—she has shown that it has been through no lack of discipline or energy on her own part. I cannot forbear, before leaving that branch of the subject, from quoting what has often been quoted before—the opinion of one of the keenest and most fastidious critics ever known in this country, a man who was not only not an enemy of the Church, and who was certainly not a friend of Dissent—I mean the late and ever-lamented Mr. Matthew Arnold. In one of the last things he wrote before his death he penned these words with reference to the ecclesiastical condition of Wales—To maintain the Establishment in Wales for the sole benefit of a small minority of the population is an absurdity there just as it was in Ireland. When it comes before the mind of reasonable people, it is felt by them to be so. The thing being felt to be an absurdity, its long continuance becomes impossible.I venture to ask this question: Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Welsh Church were a separate Establishment; suppose it were separated, even in the same sense in which the Irish Church was separated from the Church of England, is there any man, any con- 211 siderable body of men, in this House who would say that Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen hero are entitled to force its continuance upon the Welsh people in defiance of their express wish? I do not believe, if that was the position of things, that even those who are going to vote against this Bill, and against any subsequent measures that may be taken, would venture to defend such a position. Are we, then, not justified in taking, in relation to the Welsh Church, the opinions of the Welsh people as a governiug—I will not say an absolutely conclusive, but at any rate a governing—factor? I have heard it said that to occupy such a position as that is to be guilty of what is called separation. If it be so then I am a Separatist, and in very good company, the company of no less distinguished a personage than the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party, the Duke of Devonshire, because as is in the recollection of every Member of this House, not very many years ago, when a precisely similar question arose with reference to Scotland, the Duke of Devonshire declared, in plain and emphatic and unmistakable terms, that the opinion of the people of Scotland ought ultimately to decide the question. I apply the same test to the case of Wales. I say that, unless you can show some overwhelming ground which has never yet been suggested or hinted in the other direction, the facts I have stated as to the condition of Welsh opinion are conclusive as to the state of that Welsh opinion, and as to the course this House and Parliament ought to take. What is the ground taken when you attempt to differentiate the case of Wales from that of Ireland and Scotland? It is that the Welsh Church has no independent or separate existence, and that the dioceses with which we propose to deal in this Bill, or in any subsequent measure for Disestablishment, are parts of the Province of Canterbury and integral portions of the Church of England; that there is such a complete organic connection, I ought, perhaps, to say incorporation, as between the Church of England and those outlying constituent parts, that you cannot touch the one without at the same time touching the other. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for the University of Oxford agrees that I have stated the argument fairly. To those who make use of it, I should like to put the question, 212 How far are they going to carry it? Suppose that in Wales the Church, instead of including within its pale one-fourth—if the noble Lord likes, I will say one-third of the population of Wales, it does not affect the argument—only included one-fortieth of the Welsh people, would you, for the sake of this miserable handful of persons, and notwithstanding that the vast majority of the people of Wales were against the continued maintenance of this Establishment in their midst, yet consider yourselves entitled to require Parliament to keep it up? Because if the argument is good for one-fourth, it must be for one-fortieth, and it must be good with reference to any smaller, any infinitesimal, proportion of the people, in any hypothetical case you could imagine. But I ask, further, is this a wise position for hon. Gentlemen to take up in the interests of the Church of England itself? Are you going really to ask Parliament to flout national sentiment in Wales, clearly and unequivocally expressed, because, if we granted that which the Welsh people so plainly demand, ulterior consequences might happen to an institution here in England with which the Welsh people are not concerned? Is that your position? I ask, further: Supposing Disestablishment and Disendowment took place; supposing these four Welsh dioceses no longer to enjoy such privileges and such endowments as now belong to them, in virtue of their incorporation in the Established Church, will the connection between these dioceses—I do not say the Mother Church, but the Church of which they are a part and parcel—cease to exist? We sometimes hear arguments which seem to imply, "If you remove from these particular dioceses these special privileges which the status of our Establishment gives to them, Wales will be plunged into a condition of spiritual destitution, and the Church will be mutilated and maimed." But it is our duty to safeguard the Church against the faint-heartedness of her own advocates. These dioceses will remain with their Bishops, with their clergy, and with their whole ecclesiastical organisation, and with full, ample, and generous provision, if we are to judge from past experience, for every interest which at present exists. The only change will be that the Bishops and the Deans of the dioceses will no longer be appointed by the Prime Minister 213 of the day, and the national property that has hitherto in Wales been appropriated to a denomination representing a small minority of the people will be devoted to Welsh national purposes. I ask hon. Gentlemen who take this gloomy view of the powers and prospects of their own Church to look at the history of Nonconformity in Wales. Nonconformists in Wales have covered the country with, I believe, something like 4,000 chapels, and, though the poorest section of the community, they contribute something like £400,000 a year in the shape of voluntary contributions to maintain the religious life of their various denominations. The total endowment, so far as I can ascertain the figures, of the Church of England in Wales, in the four dioceses, does not exceed £250,000 a year. Are we going to be told that this great Body, representing the wealthy and the lauded classes of Wales, and said to have an increasing hold upon the opinion and upon the sympathy of Wales, and, at any rate, having behind her the co-operation and active support of the great Church of England —are we to be told that it is not going to be even capable of doing that which the Nonconformists have done, and are ready to do in the future? I entirely disclaim, in laying this Bill before Parliament, on the part of the Government any feeling of hostility whatever to the Church of England. We claim to be better friends of the Church than those who are pinning their cause to the Establishment, and I have endeavoured to avoid, in the remarks I have made, wounding the feelings of the most sensitive Churchman. I have discussed the question solely—as I hope it will continue to be discussed—on broad grounds of national policy. But when I am told that the Church in Wales will cease to exist, or that the Church of England will never recover from this staggering blow, I venture to remind hon. Gentlemen that in the United States of America, in Australia, in Ireland, the English Church is to be found as strong and vigorous, resting on a still broader basis of popular sympathy and support than where it is protected and safeguarded by the principle of Establishment. At any rate, without going into these ulterior consequences, it appears to us that political justice casts upon us a duty which we 214 must perform. The first step in the performance of that duty is to prevent, as this Bill will prevent, the creation of new pecuniary interests. It is a moderate measure; it is a temperate measure; and, in my judgment, it will do no harm to the Church. It certainly is not conceived in any spirit of animosity against the Church, and I trust that hon. Gentlemen will at least give us, who have introduced the measure, credit for believing that the Church will not be weaker, but will be stronger; that it will not be less, but more, influential as a moral and regenerating force in the Principality of Wales, when she can step down from the invidious position of ascendency which she at present occupies; when she can cast aside the encumbering traditions of her own political past; and when, descending into the common arena, she can meet her rivals upon level ground and upon equal terms, and contend with them for the spiritual advance of Wales.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prevent, for a limited time, the creation of new interests in Church of England bishoprics, dignities, and benefices in Wales and Monmouthshire."—(Mr. Secretary Asquith.)
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
I beg to move the following Amendment:—That it is inexpedient and unjust to interfere by legislation with the operations of the Church in the Welsh dioceses, while the principle of an alteration in the relations between Church and State in that part of the United Kingdom has not been adopted by Parliament.I am aware that to move an Amendment to the Motion for Leave to introduce a Bill is not a usual or generally a convenient course. But in taking that unusual course I think hon. Gentlemen, if they will listen to my arguments, will see that I am reasonable and logical, because my objection is not to the particular Bill which the right hon. Gentleman has sketched out, but to the principle of proceeding by Suspensory Bill at all. Therefore, it is just and reasonable to take the sense of the House at the outset of this legislation as to whether the course proposed by Her Majesty's Government is one which the House ought to adopt. The arguments which I shall address to the House will be arguments against a Suspensory Bill at all. The arguments of the Home 215 Secretary were chiefly directed to supporting a Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church which is to be brought in at some future time; but my objection to a Suspensory Bill is one which will proceed upon very broad and very deep considerations. We are living at the present time in a period of transition, when social forces, by which men are surrounded, are so great that individual energy and individual zeal are unfit and unable to cope with them, and when the social progress which is likely to be made in the immediate future will be made by means of association, combination, and corporate action. At such a period hon. Members will agree with me, it is foolish to destroy, or even to injure, any institution which either is useful to the people or is capable of being made useful to them. If that principle applies to ordinary combinations and associations, it applies in a very much greater degree to a Church, because at the present day the value of religious organisation in dealing with the social problems which are likely to occupy attention in the future is immense. You must if you can prevail on those elements in society, which are antagonistic to regulate their pretensions and demands within limits consistent with the maintenance of our social fabric by instilling in the minds of all classes a sense of their duty towards each other—that employers of labour, on the one band, must insist on their absolute rights, but, at the same time, must remember that they have a duty to discharge towards their employés, and that the different classes of workmen in the country must not combine in the pursuit only of their own individual and selfish interests, but that they must have regard to the interests of others and not pursue their own selfish interests too far. If the House agrees that these propositions are sound, then, in dealing with the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, we have only two questions to ask and to decide. The first question is: Is the Church in Wales capable of being useful to the people? If that question is answered in the affimative, will the Suspensory Bill—not a Bill for Disestablishment—cripple its usefulness? Now, I do not want to weary the House with statistics as to the usefulness of the Church in Wales; but perhaps the House will permit me 216 to draw its attention to a few facts that will enable them to estimate and realise the character and the extent of the progress and vitality of the Church in the Principality. The most important point in estimating the Church's growth and vitality is the increase in the number of its ministers by whom its usefulness is made effective. I find that in the four dioceses of Wales the incumbents actually engaged in the cure of souls increased between the years 1834 and 1886 from 457 to 930, while the number of assistant curates in the same period increased from 65 to 454—more than sevenfold. I have not got statistics which show the extent to which the ministrations of the clergy in Wales have been accepted by the people in the whole of the Principality, but I have been furnished by the Bishop of St. Asaph—[Ironical Ministerial Cheers]—with figures relating to his diocese, which, in spite of the jeers of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I think will be interesting to the House. In 1870, the year in which the National Education Bill was passed, there were in the National Schools of that diocese 11,600 children, and in 1889 that number increased to 19,400, or nearly double. In the Sunday Schools, during the same period, the number of scholars increased from 15,000 to 20,600. In the decade 1860 to 1870 the confirmations numbered 12,000 odd, while in the decade 1880 to 1890 they were 19,800. The communicants in the churches on Easter Day, 1871, were 7,375, and on Easter Day, 1890, they were 14,534, or nearly double those of 1871. The average Sunday services in the diocese in 1870 were 240 English and 219 Welsh, a total of 459; while in 1889 these rose to 394 English services and 264 Welsh services, making a total of 658. During the past 40 years in that diocese, which has 208 parishes, and a population of 269,000, there have been built and restored no fewer than 184 churches, 150 schools, and 138 parsonage houses at a total expenditure of £899,000. These figures will give the House an idea of the extent to which the Church in Wales has succeeded in making itself useful to the people. A still more vivid picture of the Church work that is going on in Wales is afforded by one parish, which I will refer to especially—the parish of Brymbo. This is a parish 217 of which an hon. Gentleman who represented a Welsh constituency once said it was a shame that money should be extracted from the poor people, because the population of that parish, numbering 8,345 persons, were almost all of them colliers and steel-workers. The population all belong to the labouring class. Well, in that parish 20 years ago there was one ruinous church; by the collections of these working people, aided, no doubt to some extent by others, there are now three churches in the parish, and the separate district church—in all four churches. In these churches the whole of the sittings are free and unappropriated. There are 600 sittings in the parish church, in St. Paul's 450, in St. John's 300, and a number not specified in this district church, the name of which I am incapable of pronouncing. Besides building these four churches they have fitted up a mission-room, built boys' and girls' schools, a vicarage and school at Brymbo. All the expenses of the parish are paid by subscriptions, and the subscribers seem to consist almost exclusively of colliers, blacksmiths, shopkeepers, a colliery manager, a station master, workmen in steel-works, a farmer, a joiner, and a shoemaker. These people raise among them a sum of no less than £200 a year for the support of the churches of that parish. [Ministerial cheers.] I am pleased to hear those cheers, for I interpret them to mean that such work as goes on in Brymbo parish is useful, is good for the people, and is such work as no legislation of this House ought to interfere with. I have, therefore, brought the House to agree to my first proposition, that the Church in Wales is an institution capable of being useful to the people. I will not dwell any longer upon a proposition to which everybody assents, but will at once proceed to my second proposition—namely, whether this Suspensory Bill, which will suspend the action of the Church, will injure the good work which the House seems to admit is going on. The Bill will stop the existing mode of operations of the Church; it will suspend the functions which it at present performs. It will stop the corporate life of the Church and its present mode of government, and will not give any fresh powers of activity in other ways. My view of the matter is that 218 suspension is far worse for a Religious Body than Disestablishment. I do not think that Disestablishment is a wholly unmixed evil. [Ministerial cheers.] Hon. Members misunderstand my meaning. When we have to discuss Disestablishment I shall be able to adduce reasons to show that the evils preponderate over the advantages. What I said was that Disestablishment is not an unmixed evil, because while taking away some advantages, it gives the Church an opportunity of developing its energy as a voluntary association—and very likely by the process of Disestablishment and Disendowment a certain stimulus and activity would be given to the members of the Church which might assist them to overcome, in some measure, the evils which had been created. But by a Suspensory Bill you give the whole of the mischief without any of the benefits. You stop the existing life of the Church without giving it fresh life in another direction. ["No, no!"] That proposition does not seem to be accepted. Let me calmly argue it out. How can the Church make progress unless it attracts young men who are growing up to its ranks, and while the Church in Wales is under a Suspensory Bill, what prospect is afforded to young men anxious to take orders? There can be no security for vested interest. Then besides the necessity of attracting recruits to the service of the Church you must have the means of promoting the higher officers of the Church to superior places falling vacant, and the inferior officers to positions of greater responsibility and influence. How could you do that during the operation of the Suspensory Act? If we take the Irish Church Act as a model of this unknown Bill, which the Home Secretary has indicated it is his intention to introduce in the course of a year or two, by the 15th section, compensation was given to what were called permanent curates, or, in other words, curates recognized by the Church Commissioners as permanent. I do not know whether anything of that sort was intended by this Bill. But look at the position of a curate during this Suspensory Bill. If he remains in his permanent place he will after a Disestablishment Bill passes have a right to compensation, but if he accepts promotion during the operation of a Suspensory Bill he will forfeit any right to eompensation 219 for such promotion. You may here and there find men whose financial position renders them above such considerations, or with nobleness of soul sufficient to look on salaries and emoluments and compensation as dust and ashes; but you must deal with the average of mankind In any Church combination there are men with vested interests which, possibly, they cannot afford to give up, and, there fore, under a Suspensory Bill, any curate who changes his position must be prepared to sacrifice his future prosperity. What are we to say as to the benefices themselves? As the benefices of the Church fall vacant, if the corporate life of the Church is adequately to continue you must promote the younger men into the higher and more important positions of the clergy. But if a beneficed clergyman gave up his position for the sake of obtaining a higher place in the Church he would forfeit the advantages which the attainment of the higher place would otherwise bring with it. That would be the case in a still stronger degree where the highest officers of the Church are concerned. Supposing a Bishopric falls vacant during the time the Suspensory Bill is in force. How are you going to obtain a fresh Bishop? You will only obtain a mere stop-gap Bishop with no vested right. He will not be a Bishop of a free or voluntary Church, in which case he would know what is before him. He will be a Bishop condemned practically to future extinction. He will have no recognised position, no certainty, no security. Now, I do not quite understand what the Bill, as described by the Home Secretary, is to do in the case of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Will the Ecclesiastical Commissioners be required to go on increasing the salaries of the holders of Welsh benefices? For the last 60 years there has been a steady progress going on in the dioceses of Wales, by which the transference of ecclesiastical property, formerly held by Bishops, canons, and rectors, has been made to the incumbents of the parish where the property lies or to new parishes. No less than £35,000 a year is spent at present in augmenting the income of the Welsh parishes. Is that augmentation to go on, or is it to cease until the Disestablishment Bill is introduced? Then another important point to consider is the course that will be taken in regard to the Ec- 220 clesiastical Commissioners' Common Fund. Are they to be required to spend that Common Fund, or any part of it, in Wales? At present the Common Fund is distributed in Wales in private benefactions, according to the claims of the population, and special consideration is given to the mining districts. Are the Ecclesiastical Com missioners to be forced by any provision in the Bill to go on spending the common fund in Wales, notwithstanding the threat of Disestablishment hanging over the Church? If not, it must be apparent to the House that, unless some fair arrangement is made, the Church will be very seriously wronged to the amount of £35,000 a year, during the operation of the Suspensory Bill—the amount which has been, and would be, contributed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for Church services in Wales, but which, with the threat of Disestablishment hanging over their heads, the Commissioners may be prevented, or may be unable, or may think it inconsistent with their duties to spend. Again, how long is this Suspensory Bill—this condition of suspended animation—to last? I did not hear any thing definite on that subject from the right hon. Gentleman. I did not hear any definite promise made by him—and if it had been made it would have been worth attending to—as to the precise number of years for which this state of suspended animation in Wales is to last. The Prime Minister, in a speech made on this subject two years ago, pointed out to the House that the disestablishment of the Church in Wales would be a difficult and complicated matter. Per haps I may read the words of the right hon. Gentleman, as they will give the House some idea of the improbability of an early solution of the question.The operation of disestablishing the Church of Wales from the Church of England will not be an easy one. I suspect it will be found that it is tied and knotted and tangled, I might almost say. in such a multitude of legal bonds or meshes with the general body of the Church of England that it would be a very formidable matter indeed to accomplish this untying purpose. I have not the least doubt that it will require all the skill, all the knowledge, all the care, all the sense of equity and moderation that it will be possible to bring to bear upon it, in order to carry through that work in a satisfactory manner.I quote that to show that in all human probability, if this Bill were passed into law during the present Session, the 221 Church in Wales would be kept in this condition of suspended animation for an indefinite number of years, which, as I have shown, would be most detrimental to the progress and the good work of the Church. I must say, again, that Disestablishment at once would be better, would be far less injurious to the interests and progress of the Church in Wales than this new-fangled method, for which there is no precedent in our laws, of suspending her functions before you are prepared to deal finally with our status as an Establishment. What is the only reason given to us for this inconvenient and cruel course of treatment? The only reason which the Home Secretary gave—the only reason that ever has been given—is national sentiment. I am not going to scoff at national sentiment. I have the most intense admiration for national sentiment. I think it is for all our good that in this United Kingdom we have so many different nationalities, each of which contribute by its peculiar qualities and its peculiar virtues to the benefit of the general whole. But if I would not scoff at nationalities in general still less would I scoff at the Welsh nationality. There is a fervour and a poetry in the temperament of the Welsh which add greatly to the character of the United Kingdom; and I am sure that if any one had the experience I once had of being present at a mass meeting in Wales and hearing 15,000 voices singing their national songs, led by the hon. Member for the Rhondda Division (Mr. Abraham), he would have had his dull Saxon blood stimulated by so fine a sound. But this very admiration for Welsh nationality make an Englishman unwilling that this United Church—for the Church of England is a United Church—should be severed from its Welsh dioceses, and lose the zeal and the poetic sentiment—and the love of music—which the Welsh element confer upon it. I would not fix any limit upon the development of national sentiment in the United Kingdom except one—and that is that national sentiment must never be carried so far as to injure its partners in the United Kingdom and break up the Union by which we are so happily held together. I am unwilling to believe that the nationality of Wales really desires to inflict upon the Church, either directly in the Welsh dioceses or indirectly by 222 severing them from the others in England, an injury which the Bill would cause, and my reluctance to believe that is based on the sentiments which the founders of Welsh Nonconformity themselves entertained towards the Church. I may quote again those words of Daniel Rowlands, uttered to his son on his death-bed in 1790, when he urged him to stand by the Church, and told him there was a spark in the Prayer Book that will never be put out. "Though it is hidden now," he said, "you may live to see it bursting out into a bright flame." He urged his son to stand by the Church —" though, perhaps," he said, "you will not be repaid for it, still stand by the Church." I find the same sentiment, in the main, in the Constitution of the Welsh Nonconformist Bodies. I hold in my hand the Constitution of the Welsh Calvinistic Body, an unalterable Constitution—by which that Body is as much bound as the Church is by its laws. I find it laid down that—The object of the said Conference hath been, and shall be, to promulgate the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as set forth in the doctrine and articles of the Church of England, and in the book called the Shorter Catechism.I therefore believe that this sentiment which has arisen in Wales is a perverted and a transient one. I believe it, because I cannot help contrasting it with the conduct of the Nonconformists of England towards the Church. A great many of the English Nonconformists are strongly opposed to Disestablishment. I am quite aware that there are some English Nonconformists who are in favour of Disestablishment; but I am quite sure there is no English Nonconformist who would do anything which, in his opinion, would injure the usefulness or impair the efficiency of the Church. If the English Nonconformists were in favour of Disestablishment, it was on the same ground that some members of the Church itself are in favour of it, because they believe that Disestablishment would conduce to the greater efficiency and greater activity of the Church. But what English Nonconformist would desire to see the action of the Church suspended for an indefinite number of years till the question of Disestablishment was decided upon? What English Nonconformist would ever consent to inflict upon the Church in Eng- 223 land such disabilities and such disadvantages as the Church in Wales would labour under if this Bill were to pass into law? There is an hostility to the Church exhibited by this Welsh national opinion to which the Government are yielding, and which was shown in the Debates last year on the Clergy Discipline Bill, when the conduct of certain Welsh Members were severely rebuked by the Prime Minister, but which, notwithstanding his rebuke, was persisted in. I believe, notwithstanding the action of certain Welsh Members of this House, that the great mass of Welsh Nonconformists are animated by the same spirit as their English brethren, and that they have no real desire to destroy or injure the Church. At all the corporate gatherings of the Church in England it is a common and ordinary part of the proceedings that an address is presented by the Nonconformist ministers of the neighbourhood welcoming the corporate action of the Church in their district, and wishing her God-speed in the effort she is making for the improvement of the people. I do not know whether it is the same in Wales.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
I rejoice to hear it, and I do not believe that men who will come in that way and deliver addresses to a Church meeting when it is held in their neighbourhood are really desirous to pursue a course which I think I have shown the House would be most injurious to the Church. I am obliged to the House for the kindness and attention which they have extended to me. I have tried to make out three propositions. First, that the Church in Wales is vigorous and fruitful, and not a dead and decaying branch of the Church, but one of its most vigorous and lively parts; in the second place, I have tried to show that a Bill like this, which is to suspend. all appointments of Church officers for an indefinite time, and to entirely destroy the particular mode in which, by law, it now developes and expands, will injure and cripple the work which the Church is now doing; and, thirdly, I have tried to show that the national feeling in Wales, as it was exhibited in the House of Commons in the last Session of the last Parliament, is diverted. I believe it is transient; I believe it is contrary to 224 the genius of Nonconformity; and that it is utterly at variance with the forbearance and toleration which the Founder of our religion taught.
§ SIR JOHN R. MOWBRAY (Oxford University),
in seconding the Motion, said he was very much surprised at the mode in which the Government proposed to deal with the Welsh Church. His right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had been candid enough to explain why he had dealt with the question in this unprecedented manner by bringing in a Bill not preceded by a Resolution. His arguments, however, were not satisfactory. In 1868 the Liberal Party was on the Opposition side of the House. The Leader of the House in 1893 was the Leader of the Opposition in 1868, and the right hon. Gentleman did not then care how much time he spent, or how much he interfered with the Business of the Government by moving Resolutions. But in 1893 there was the Home Rule Bill to be got through, and other work also must be done; and, therefore, the House must not discuss the Main Question of the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. But he thought there was some thing to complain of in the speech of the Home Secretary. If the right hon. Gentleman had been candid on one side, he had not been equally candid on the other side. For the past fortnight a notice had stood on the Paper in the name of the right hon. Gentleman, which stated that the Bill was not only to prevent the creation of new interests in bishoprics, dignities, and benefices, but also to restrain in certain respects the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. They all knew that the right hon. Gentleman was a deliberate and far- seeing man. He knew that some legislation would be required to restrain the action of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and it was to be presumed that these words were put into the notice with the sanction of the Cabinet. But now, with out a single word of explanation, the right hon. Gentleman had said that he would leave out all the words in the notice referring to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Why had not that been done during the past fortnight? His right hon. Friend had stated that this Bill would be the first step towards the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. He would like to ask in what 225 way it would be a step to the creation of new interests?
§ MR. ASQUITH
I will answer my right hon. Friend now. The Bill will not stop any appointment or preferment of any kind, but anyone who accepts any position of emolument after the passing of the Bill will hold it subject to the pleasure of Parliament.
§ SIR JOHN R. MOWBRAY
said, he would like to know why it had become unnecessary to restrain the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners? Was nothing needed to stop the action of the Commissioners, or did the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury intend to follow up the course which had been initiated by the Comptroller of the Household (Mr. Leveson-Gower), to stop the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners by voting as an Ecclesiastical Commissioner and bringing all the authority of the Government to bear against the formation of any now districts? It had been elicited by questions in Parliament that the Comptroller of the Household had endeavoured to stop the proceedings for the formation of a new district at Colwyn Bay. What happened was explained by an extract which he would road from the statement made by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the House of Lords. At a meeting of the Estates Committee of the Ecclesiastical Commission, held on February 9th, there was read—A communication from Mr. H. M. Suft, on behalf of the Lord President of the Council, forwarding copies of a letter from Mr. J. Herbert Roberts, M.P., and of a Petition to Her Majesty from the Rev. W. Venables Williams, the vicar of the parish of Llandrillo-yn-Rhos, in the diocese of St. Asaph, protesting against the assignment of a separate district out of that parish to the consecrated church of St. Paul, Colwyn Bay. Mr. Roberts urges that, independently of the considerations set forth by Mr. Williams, it would not be justifiable, in view of the Suspensory Bill relating to Wales about to be brought into Parliament, for the Commissioners to create a new cure, and, therefore, a new ecclesiastical vested interest. Mr. Leveson-Gower stated that he was authorised, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, to deprecate, in view of contemplated legislation, the assignment of any new districts within the Welsh dioceses.The Home Secretary has said that the Bill would prevent the creation of unnecessary benefices; but the question was not whether the Bill would prevent the 226 creation of unnecessary benefices, but whether it would impede the creation of necessary benefices. Would the Government claim the right to stop any action on the part of the Commissioners which the law made imperative upon them to carry out? He supposed it was to be taken for granted that the conduct of the Comptroller of the Household in the Colwyn Bay case had been sanctioned by the Cabinet. The Comptroller had acted after consulting the Home Secretary, and the Lord President of the Council had forwarded a significant letter to the same effect. In any case he held the Government responsible for the action of the Comptroller of the Household; and looking back for 20 years, he saw in these proceedings the same spirit which ultimately effected the abolition of purchase in the Army by Royal Warrant. He had ceased to be a Member of the Ecclesiastical Commission, but no one had greater experience of the Commission than he. He had acted for two and a half years as Crown Commissioner, and for nearly 22 years as Commissioner appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He had acted on the Commission with men of all shades of political opinion—with Lords Chichester,Eversley, Cardwell, Aberdare, Sherbrooke, and Mr. Edward Bouvene, all of them Liberals. He had acted with these Church Estates Commissioners appointed by the present Prime Minister in his previous Governments, 1869, 1880, 1885. But they had never allowed politics to enter into their deliberations; they administered the Acts under which they were empowered according to the best of their ability, and they thought only of their single duty to the Church of the nation. That duty was to develop and to utilise to the greatest possible extent the property of the Commission, and to distribute out of the common fund the surplus available for the relief of spiritual destitution. In that distribution they never favoured any parish in any part of the Kingdom; they did justice to Cornwall as well as to Durham, to the Principality of Wales as well as to East Anglia, and they never ventured to anticipate the action of the Legislature, or presumed to say what politics might prevail in any Parliament. Now, a new matter was brought under the consideration of the Ecclesiastical Commission. The 227 Commissioners were called upon to take a new departure by anticipating the action of Parliament—action which Parliament might never take, action which, indeed, he would say Parliament would not take this year whatever that House might do; and it came to this: that the Commissioners were asked to anticipate the action of Parliament in some future year. The Home Secretary had given the go-by to that important question, but he should ask him what action the Government proposed to take with respect to the Ecclesiastical Commission? Did the Government think they could restrain the action of the Commission by the votes of new Commissioners from voting money to the Church in Wales, or did they intend to rely on the Lord President of the Council, as the particular member who was able to give validity to acts of the Commission by sanctioning orders by Her Majesty in Council which ratified their schemes? Did they expect him to stop any or every grant to Wales, without regard to the merits of the case? That would be an attempt to bring political interpretation to bear on the Acts of Parliament entrusted for administration to the Commission, and he thought that was thoroughly unjustifiable. He asked the Home Secretary did he omit the Ecclesiastical Commissioners from the Motion on the Paper because he thought the Government were strong enough to restrain the Commissioners without the Bill? or were the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to go on making provision for the Church in Wales as usual? The Bill had no precedent before it; it would only waste the time of Parliament. It was not likely to secure the assent of Parliament during the present year, and he hoped the House, under these circumstances, would interpose in this stage and refuse leave altogether to bring in such a Bill.
To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is inexpedient and unjust to interfere by legislation with the operations of the Church in the Welsh dioceses, while the principle of an alteration in the relations between Church and State in that part of the United Kingdom has not been adopted by Parliament,"—(Sir John Gorst,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. STUART RENDEL (Montgomeryshire)
said there were 31 Members of that House from Wales, who would naturally regard it as their first duty and highest privilege to speak on this occasion. They did not, however, conceive that on the First Reading of a Bill of this character any prolonged Debate was necessary. At the same time, they felt it was only reasonable and respectful that some statement of the case for Wales should be made by the Welsh Members, and they had done him the honour of entrusting to him that statement on their behalf. He, therefore, earnestly asked for the kindly forbearance of the House. The first observation which the Welsh Members had to make was that in this matter of the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales they were not actuated by any hostility to the Church. Wales desired that the Church should be free, strong, and reconciled to the people. That desire was sincere, and it would be unfortunate if this Bill should be regarded as any attack upon religion. The Welsh people were a religious people, and they were not actuated by any hostility to the religious organisation which was unquestionably doing a very great work in the Principality. It was not to the Church that there was any hostility, but it was to the Establishment. That was no fanciful distinction. One had only to look at the history of the Church in Wales to see that the State manipulation of the Church was the root of all the evil, and that the remedy for that evil was nothing more nor less than the removal of the Establishment. He could not say that the English Church in Wales had ever borne the character of a National Church. From the first the Church of England in Wales, whether Augustinian, Latin, or Anglican, call it what you will, had been a Church of conquest. In proof of this he might be allowed to quote from the famous Petition of the Welsh Princes to the Pope—The Archbishops of Canterbury, as if it were a matter of course, send among us English Bishops, ignorant alike of both our customs and our language, and who can neither preach the Word of God to the people, nor receive their confessions except through interpreters. These Bishops arriving from England love neither ourselves nor our country; but, on the contrary 229 vex and persecute us with a hatred rooted and national; they seek not the good of our souls, but only aspire to rule over, and not to benefit, us. For which reason they do not often labour amongst us in discharge of their ministerial functions; but whatever they can lay hold of, or obtain from us, whether justly or unjustly, they take away to England, and there live luxuriantly and wastefully upon wealth derived from the monasteries and lands given to them by the Kings of England.
§ MR. RENDEL
replied that this was a quotation from an historical document of the 12th century. An argument was founded on the venerable character of the English Church in Wales, and he was going back to the origin to show how that Church had been manipulated by England for secular objects from the earliest times. He would come down to the 15th century and quote from an eloquent and earnestly devoted Churchman—Dean Edwards, of Bangor—who wrote that—The burning of the cathedral at Bangor, and of the cathedral, episcopal palace, and canon's houses at St. Asaph in North Wales, and the destruction in the same year (A.D. 1402) of the castle of the Bishop of Llandaff, and of the house of his archdeacon in the south, were indications of the popular hatred of the Cymric people towards a system which degraded the spiritual officers of the Church into instruments for the accomplishment of a selfish earthly policy.They had, he contended, a history of the unbroken manipulation of the Church by the State—by England—not in the interest of religion, but in the interests of the earthly policy of the English Government in Wales. From 1745 the Church in Wales was not only not National, but it was distinctly anti-National. For 150 years, from 1720, not one Welsh-speaking clergyman was appointed to a bishopric in Wales. Over all that period the policy of English statesmen appeared to have been to denationalise Wales, to destroy the language of the Welsh people, and to do that through the instrumentality of the Establishment in Wales. He said that not in order in any way to cast reproach at the present moment upon the Church as a Church. The Church was the victim, and not the author, of Establishment. It was the Establishment that was the instrument of all the wrongdoing, and it was at the Establishment that Wales, ever since household suffrage and the Ballot had 230 given it freedom, was, with accumulating energy, aiming, and was now striking, this last and final blow. Wales desired to be at peace with the Church, but at peace upon honourable terms of mutual respect and equal rights. Wales repudiated as a calumny and a wilful perversion of the true issue the charge of hostility to the Church based upon the assault on Establishment. Church and Establishment were not convertible terms, and it was easy to show that the Church Party did not in truth treat the Church and Establishment as one and the same thing outside Wales. He observed that those who led the Opposition in this matter—and he would take such authorities as the Archbishop of Canterbury and the two Houses of Convocation—were as much opposed to Disestablishment in Scotland as in Wales. But in Scotland the Establishment was a Presbyterian Body, while alongside it was the twice Disestablished Church occupying the position of Dissent. Therefore, to maintain Establishment in Scotland was to maintain Establishment at the expense of the Church. In short, the English Church was fighting in Scotland for the establishment of schism, and in Wales was urging on Welsh Churchmen to fight against Welsh Nonconformity as. being schism. In both Wales and Scotland the English Church was sacrificing the interests of the Church to the interests of Establishment. Their case against the Establishment was this: The Welsh had been rightly called a nation of Nonconformists. Welshmen were as legitimately proud of their evangelisation of Wales a century back by Nonconformity as Englishmen were of their Reformation two centuries earlier; and it was intolerable to them that they should have to endure an Establishment to this day, which gave a spiritual monopoly in Wales to the very religious body which had so cruelly betrayed and abandoned Wales, which set upon the people of Wales the reproach of religious schism, and which cast upon the Welsh ministers, who had brought religion to the Welsh people, the stigma of spiritual illegitimacy. A practical part of the grievance was that it was the Establishment which killed the Church in Wales. In the immediate past there had been a deliberate policy of starvation pursued which had reduced the people at 231 one time to nearly spiritual destitution. At the present time the policy forced upon the Church in Wales, not in the interests of Wales, but in the interest of the Establishment, was a policy of proselytising, that is of religious civil war. The Welsh were, perhaps, the most religious of the four peoples of the United Kingdom. Nonconformity had made of Wales a garden of religion, and the Establishment now called upon the Church to come in like some ground landlord to assert possession of the spiritual monopoly of Wales and take the benefit of all the unearned religious increment, and to say to Nonconformity, "You are intruders; make room for me." That was not an extravagant way of putting it. Recently The Standard devoted its first leading article to the question of Disestablishment in Wales, and, commenting upon a speech of his charging the Establishment with proselytism, asked boldly of the clergymen of Wales, "What are they there for but for that?" It was perfectly clear and admitted that proselytising by the Church in Wales was now practised not in the interests of the Church in Wales, but of the Establishment. But it was too late. There was no room for the recovery of Wales by the Establishment. What was remarkable in Wales was what he might term the religious overcrowding. In one of his famous speeches Mr. Bright declared that Wales was penetrated with religion; every nook and corner of it was filled with religion. He agreed with that; and, indeed, the overcrowded state of its religious machinery was notorious. In regard to Church machinery, Wales was, relatively to England, largely overstocked. In England the dioceses, although increased of late by six in number, were as 1 to 820,000 population. In Wales they were as 1 to 420,000. In the same way in England the benefices were in the proportion of 1 to 1,910 of the population, and in Wales 1 to 1,550; this, too, in a country where the people were mainly Nonconformists. There could be no doubt that the Church machinery in Wales was vastly greater in proportion to Church people than it was in England; and it was clear if the Church was to grow, it must and could grow only at the expense of the Nonconformists. This was, therefore, not a battle against unbelief; it was simply 232 a predatory aggression by the Church of the rich and the alien against the Churches of the people. He should like to be allowed to illustrate from his own county and diocese how the Establishment had operated in Wales. Comparatively recently—i.e., in the year 1834—in the County of Montgomeryshire, Church livings amounting to £13,930 a year were enjoyed by sinecurists and absentees, almost without exception relatives of the Bishop of the diocese, whilst the aggregate income of the working resident clergy amounted to £8,511? Early in the present century a Bishop of St. Asaph had managed to confer upon himself and those of his own household £23,629 a year, whilst the entire body of the resident working clergy divided amongst them £18,391. From 1745 to 1830 out of 83 higher preferments 73 were held by Englishmen. This was the manner in which English Establishment operated in Wales in the immediate past. How was the Establishment now dealing with the Church? Under the working of Establishment it fell to Lord Salisbury of late to select a new Welsh Bishop, and he would ask the House to remember Lord Salisbury's view as to the position of the Church in Wales as described in his famous Newport speech. His Lordship was speaking amongst a great mass of Nonconformists, and he solemnly asserted to Wales that all the machinery by which God's Word had been preached, and Christianity upheld, by which the ministration of religion had been carried to suffering humanity, would be destroyed at one blow if the Church were disestablished. Those words amounted to this: that Lord Salisbury absolutely ignored the existence of Nonconformity, and regarded Wales as dependent upon the Establishment for any sort of religious life. In such circumstances Lord Salisbury's appointment of the Bishop of St. Asaph was an excellent example of the mischievous working of the principle of Establishment. That appointment had strictly reflected Lord Salisbury's attitude towards Nonconformity in Wales, and had, therefore, been coincident with a serious increase of the worst features of religious strife. It was notoriously a purely political, polemical, partisan appointment. It came to this: that, within his (Mr. Rendel's) lifetime, the Church throughout 233 the diocese of St. Asaph had, through the Establishment, suffered from a stifling of religion due to religious torpor, and was now suffering from an exacerbation of religion, due to religious strife. How was that strife engendered? The Premier laid the seed of it by a political use of his patronage. He set an example of such use to the Bishops. The Bishops in Wales had an even larger share of the patronage in their diocese than was possessed by the English Bishops. The Bishops of Wales practically appointed all the Church dignitaries in their dioceses. The Bishop of St. Asaph, for instance, appointed the Dean, Prebendaries, and Canons, and out of 217 benefices in the diocese he had the appointment in no less than 115. He was in a position to make or mar the career of his clergy, and it was a case of "like master like man." It was not long ago that he actually made it a boast that 16 Nonconformist ministers, not one of whom he named, had called on him with reference to changing their faith. If the Bishop had had nothing to give away, neither privilege nor patronage, there would have been no slur cast upon the whole Nonconformist ministry of his diocese. But here the Bishop was placed in a position of rewarding change of faith in the ministry, which they held was a most undesirable one. One Bishop had publicly repudiated militant proselytism, but another had boasted of a form of proselytism that was peculiarly cruel. He had boasted that the majority of children whom he confirmed were those of Nonconformist parents. Now, the people of Wales had not the command of elementary schools they ought to have—and there were thousands of Nonconformist children in Church-managed schools. The Bishop did not state whether or how he obtained the consent of the Nonconformist parents to the confirmation, and, considering the age at which children were confirmed and the scale of the proceeding, he (Mr. Rendel) looked on the proceeding as a kind of kidnapping.
§ MR. V. GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)
Does the hon. Member suggest that these children were brought forward for confirmation witfihout their parents' consent?
§ MR. RENDEL
could only say that no statement was made that the consent of the parents had been obtained. What 234 was stated was that the parents were Nonconformists; and knowing the tender years at which children were now confirmed, it was not unreasonable to characterise with a strong word the taking of such children for confirmation. If it were not for the dire necessity which assailed the Church in Wales for proselytising, so as to say that it was gaining ground on Nonconformity, no such attempt would be made by what they considered to be an unfair method. They had heard that this outcry about proselytism simply amounted to a confession on their part that the Church in Wales was recovering spiritual possession of Wales, and that they were merely wincing under defeat. He must say that they were entitled to protest against this proselytism upon one plain and incontrovertible ground. In a competition between religious sects the State ought not to take sides. If there was to be this unhappy rivalry between the religious denominations in Wales, at any rate let the most powerful Body— the Church—fight fair, and let not the State take one part, and that the part of the rich, the few and the English in the competition. The Church, if it is to fight the religion of the people of Wales, must surrender its State aid and subventions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University spoke about the doings of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; but if the right hon. Gentleman were present now, he would ask him about the £30,000 or £40,000 a year given to the Church in Wales by the English Ecclesiastical Commissioners in order to fight this cruel battle with the denominations. They in Wales were to submit to such modes of attack, not for the sake of England, not for the sake of Scotland and Ireland, least of all for our colonial Empire or Dependencies, but because the Established Church in England chose to regard the four Welsh dioceses as an outwork of the Establishment to be defended by all the resources of the great English Establishment. The answer, so far as they could gather, of the Church to the argument for Welsh Disestablishment, was the old ecclesiastical answer—non possumus. We cannot disestablish the Welsh Church because there is no Welsh Church to disestablish. What is called the Welsh Church is simply four of the dioceses 235 of the Province of Canterbury. It had been said that they would be cutting and carving the English Church. But out of the 24 dioceses of England six new dioceses had been cut and carved already; they had been added to the Establishment, and now all that Wales asked was that four should be subtracted from the Establishment. Be it remembered that the Church of England and Establishment were not one and the same thing. The Church was far wider than Establishment. Of its 120 dioceses only 34 were within the Establishment. What harm could it do to the Church to transfer four dioceses from the smaller and more sterile side of the Church to the larger and more growing side? What had the Church to answer to that? If it could be shown that it was for the good of Wales as Wales that Disestablishment should not take place, and that the Suspensory Bill as a preliminary to Disestablishment should not pass, then let the House of Commons give judgment to that effect. Wales would then consider that position with respect, but no attempt had been made to show that. What Wales with practically one voice now demanded was that the House of Commons should now record its verdict that the time had come when the English Church should no longer continue to impose upon Wales the burden of Establishment in the interest—not of Wales, or of the religion of Wales, or of the Church in Wales, but of the Establishment in England. The Welsh were a law-abiding people, but they suffered a cruel injustice in this matter. Their religious, social, and political life had been poisoned by it, and they asked the House of Commons that not merely for the interest of the Establishment in England, not merely in order to give a little longer lease of life to a system of State intervention in religion, which was tottering to its fall—to a system which was repudiated by the English-speaking people of the Empire and of the world—should England impose upon Wales a continuance of the present evil, or perpetuate in Wales an alien domination which he believed, so far from being a bulwark of the Church in Wales, was, in truth, its bane?
§ MR. V. GIBBS
said, the Home Secretary had introduced an unprecedented measure committing them to the principle of Disestablishment, and it would not be 236 reasonable if Disestablishment were not to follow. The Prime Minister told them that it would not be during this year that that measure could be dealt with; but if it could not be dealt with then, who could say what Government might be in power, or what opportunities there might be for introducing the measure? He, for one, was of opinion that the Suspensory Bill would inflict an injury on the Church of England in Wales during the period of its existence. By way of reconciling them to the introduction of the Suspensory Bill, the Home Secretary told them that they would be able to give effect to their opinions in the Lobby, but in the present state of Parties that was not a very satisfactory position. The Home Secretary had said that they wished to hand back to the nation national property, which was now enjoyed by one particular Body only. But that was an argument which they altogether denied. They said that the nation held that property as Trustees for the Church, and that the Church received it from pious sons of its own for a particular purpose. That being so, it was not a sufficient argument, even if it were admitted that the majority of the Welsh people were against the continued existence of the Church of England in Wales, to make them give up the money which was provided for a particular purpose. Although the Prime Minister might not now accept the doc trine that the nation held the property of the Church as Trustee for the Church, during a great many years of his life the right hon. Gentleman would have agreed that this property belonged to the Church and not to the State. The Home Secretary further said he supposed they would admit that those who belonged to the English Church were certainly not more than a quarter of the population of Wales, but Census after Census would show that the position of the Church in Wales had improved, and that the position of the Nonconformist Bodies had fallen off. The Home Secretary also dealt with the question of Scotland; but it did not compare in any way with the position in Wales, because the right hon. Gentleman said, "The Church in Wales is an organic part of the English Church." But the right hon. Gentleman said, "Do not press that point too far." How far would 237 they carry it? He had confidence that if the Church felt it could not properly administer the funds in its hands for the religious benefit of the people in Wales, it would itself define an alteration of that condition of affairs. Another reason given by the right hon. Gentleman was that the Church would recover from the staggering blow of the loss of its endowments. But why should a man in good health submit to a serious operation such as having his leg taken off? No doubt he might live after it; but he would not be so useful a member of society. And if the Church in Wales were crippled by this Bill, which would deprive it of the best and most educated young men who were willing to come forward and enter its ministry, it would be less useful than it was now. It was said that they ought not to consider filthy lucre; but, in his opinion, a man would be a fool to accept a living from which he was liable at any moment—after the Home Rule Bill had been passed and the Prime Minister had had time to give his attention to this matter—to be removed, in which case he would find himself thrown on the world without means of support. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire had treated them to some interesting antiquarian reminiscences concerning the Church in the 12th century, and his argument was that it did too little in the past and too much in the present. The hon. Member rather represented the position as if the Nonconformists and the Church were rival traders doing business in a restricted area, and it was desirable to get the Church out of the way because it was taking away business from the opposition trader. The hon. Member said the Church was showing far too much activity; but that was their argument for its existence as a Church in Wales, and if English money was used to help the Church in Wales, it was a proof that the Church was one in the two countries. The hon. Member had attacked the Bishop of St. Asaph very severely, and it was perfectly clear that if there was one person the Welsh Members disliked it was that Bishop. It was said that his appointment was a "political and polemical" one, but no one would believe that Lord Salisbury had appointed him for a political purpose. He did not believe that any Prime Minister for many years had allowed 238 political considerations to govern such matters. The dreadful charge brought against the Bishop of Asaph was that 16 Nonconformist Ministers had applied to him to be admitted to holy orders. Was it suggested that the Bishop went about canvassing for these men? The suggestion that these Nonconformist ministers went into the Church for the sake of the loaves and fishes was an insult so gross that no Member on the Opposition side of the House would have dared to make it. Another charge had been made that children were brought forward for confirmation who were of Nonconformist parentage. The hon. Member was a little disingenuous in that matter, for he said the Bishop said nothing as to whether the parents' consent had been obtained. He interrupted the hon. Member, and asked him whether it was suggested that the parents' consent had not been obtained, and the hon. Member did not answer that question.
§ MR. RENDEL
said, he had replied that he did not know whether the parents' consent had been obtained. What he wanted to show was that the children of Nonconformists had been brought to confirmation.
§ MR. V. GIBBS
said, he did not think the position was very much altered. Of course, the Bishop had the consent of their parents. It was this Bishop who had made the Church popular amongst the people, so much so that it was felt that the Church would get such a hold upon the people that it would be impossible to injure it; therefore, in order to tie a rope round the neck of the Church, or to knock it on the head, there was this hurry and bustle to introduce an unprecedented measure. It was asked why they supported the Establishment in Scotland as well as in Wales. What sympathy had they with the Presbyterian Establishment? His answer was that the Church Party sympathised with the recognition of religion throughout every part of the British Empire such as was involved in an English Establishment. They felt that the Scotch Church did recognise the principle of religion, and that in poor and scattered districts it provided for religion in a way that Nonconformity could not do. There was another reason why they supported the Establishment in Scotland, a purely selfish though 239 highly sensible reason. They knew that paries cum proximus ardet their house would soon, too, be burning, and they believed the Scotch would help them if they themselves were assisted. It was said this was not a battle against unbelief at all, but really a battle to secure greater advantages for religious sects. He believed it was a desire to get hold of the money of the Church, and this really was at the bottom of the Bill, of the Home Rule Bill for Ireland, and was at the bottom of alterations of the government of the City. The allegation was that the government in these places was bad, but the fact was that they had revenues or funds under their control which would fall into other hands if the Government fell. What was called the predatory instinct had been appealed to throughout the country. The suave and dulcet tones were left for this House, but outside the people were constantly reminded of the fact that there was a lot of money about, and some of it would fall to the share of the people if they only burst the thing up. Of this he was perfectly certain: that the question of the funds—the loot as he might call it—that was to come out of this was at the bottom of the matter. They would never hear about Church Disestablishment or Suspensory Bills if it were not that Disendowment was bound to follow.
MR. A. G. BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
said that though he represented an English constituency, he had lived all his life in Wales, and he claimed to know both the strength of the Church and Nonconformity, and having seen how the Church had gone ahead during the last few years, whilst Nonconformity had declined, he ventured to ask the indulgence of the House whilst he made a most emphatic protest against the Bill. The Bill was absolutely unprecedented. The Bill of 1868 had been quoted as a precedent, but that Bill did not pass; and the Irish endowments stood upon a very different footing, inasmuch as they were not given to the Irish Church, as were the Welsh endowments, by pious members of the Church, consequently the State had no right, as they had with the Irish Church, to take them away. They had been told this was national property; but he would ask hon. Members if they would set up their opinions 240 against the opinions of Lord Seldon, Professor Freeman, Professor Stubbs, and against the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Gladstone). He did not wish to misquote the right hon. Gentleman, but he was of opinion he had said the difference between Church and other property was this: that other property was devoted to persons, and Church property to purposes—to sacred purposes—which was an additional reason why the State should not interfere to rob the Church. He would ask if there was any adequate reason for this Bill? He thought the real reason was to be found in the speech of the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith). It was necessary that the Church in Wales should be done to death by this slow process in order that the wheels of Home Rule should be greased. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway who wanted Disestablishment said that if the Government would support them they would support the Government. That might be a pleasant system of Party politics, but he strongly protested against it in the name of his constituency and of Protestantism; he was strongly against the Church being robbed for a purely political object. He had already said that every living authority except the Home Secretary had declared that the Church property and tithes were not national property. Professor Freeman said, "Church property is not national property, except in the sense that all property is national property." The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said, "The question was settled by the Act of 1869." He (Mr. Boscawen) said, if Parliament then transgressed its moral right, that is no reason why it should do so again; two blacks did not make a white, and because Parliament acted wrongly then there was no reason why it should do so again. The argument that Church property was national property was an argument against the Bill, because, if so, the English Church property was also national property; and why should the Church in Wales be treated differently from the Church in England? This Bill aimed at separate treatment, and what arguments had they for that? Only two: the historical and the statistical. As to the historical argument, they did not hear so much now about the alien 241 Church; the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian pricked the bubble of the alien Church when he said—So far from being an alien Church, the Church in Wales is the oldest Institution in the country, the oldest branch of the National Church. It has grown up from generation to generation with the people of this country, the old British Church that was established there in the second or third century after Christ.And the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Stuart Rendel) would have them believe that was not the case. The Church in Wales had been in existence for eight centuries before the date to which the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire referred as its origin. The historical argument could not possibly be brought forward. As to the statistical argument, that could not be brought forward as a reason for the Bill; there had been many assertions similar to that which the Home Secretary had made as to the number of Churchmen and Nonconformists in Wales, but it was an extraordinary thing that these assertions did not agree. In 1871 Sir Watkin Wynn stated that the Church was only one-sixth of the population. In 1886 Mr. Dillwyn put it at one-eighth of the population; in 1891 the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire said it was one-sixth; while in 1892 the hon. Member for Flintshire said that it was one-fourth, and in the same year the hon. Member for Carnarvon said that he could prove, and that he had proved, that it was one-tenth of the population. As the population was 1,700,000, there was a large discrepancy between one-fourth and one-tenth of that population. Under these circumstances, the onus probandi lay with the Home Secretary when he told the House that the members of the Church in Wales were a small minority. It was said that the result of the elections proved that the Church was in a small minority in Wales. He was surprised to think that, when a dozen questions were jumbled up together, as they were in the Newcastle Programme, with the question of Home Rule at the top, and the majority of Members from Wales were returned upon that Programme, it should be said that was any test of the number of people who attended the Church in Wales. In order to get at the views of the people, there must be taken not the 242 aggregate number of Members returned, but the aggregate number of people who voted on each side. There voted for the Unionists at the last Election 63,892,and for the Gladstonians 106,504—that was to say, there were two Church people to every three Nonconformists. Two to three was a very different matter to one-tenth, one-sixth, or one-fourth, or whatever the figures might be. He ventured to say that before long the two and the three would change places, and instead of the supporters of the Church being two-fifths and the Nonconformists three-fifths of the voters, the supporters of the Church would be three-fifths and the Nonconformists two-fifths. This was a very rough test; but when the question of a religious census was brought forward, there were no more bitter opponents of it than these very people who claimed they were the vast majority; and he would like to ask the House if they were to accept the assertion of men who dared not put the thing to a fair test and yet brought nothing forward but assertion and the rough test of an election, the figures in regard to which disproved the assertion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian said, "The Church in Wales is an active, living, and progressive Church," and the right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Gorst) who moved the Amendment distinctly proved to the House the wonderful increase that had taken place in the Church in the last few years. That was an absolute fact that could not be contradicted; and he said when they had this remarkable improvement going on this certainly was not the time to strangle the Church, which was the object of the Bill. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway saw this wonderful improvement going on, and they wished to check it, and they knew no better way than to take away the vested interests, and thus prevent the best men from going into the Church; and then hon. Members would turn round and twit the Church with the decline that was going on in consequence of this very Bill, and use it as an argument for further measures. But if they wished to talk about decline, he would venture respectfully to refer to the decline that was manifest on the other side, the extraordinary and undoubted decline of Nonconformity. He would not enter 243 into the figures, but would do what he thought was better—he would quote from a Nonconformist newspaper. He had two quotations from a paper called the Golenad, one of the organs of the Welsh Calvinists. This paper said—There has been a fearful falling off during the past year. Scarcely one-third of the members attend the Church meetings. The number of candidates under the charge of the ministers is small and becoming less. It is useless to conceal the fact that the state of the Association is very unsatisfactory.Two years later the same paper had the following:—One matter we have to complain of in Cardiganshire is the weakness of many of our Churches. The chief evils that afflict us are unchastity, drunkenness, and a spirit of disputation. The Churches have gradually sunk into a state of indifference.Only a fortnight ago the same paper wrote as follows:—One of the greatest gifts of God is a true leader. The absence of Moses was a serious period to the Israelites, and it was shown that Aaron could not take his place. We do not suggest for one moment that our Connexion is without a leader; we believe that there are as good leaders as we ever had. But there are times when a leader is specially wanted, and we are in that condition now. We have many an Aaron glib of tongue; we do not allege that we have not a Moses; but we ask the question, lest he may be among us and we cannot see him.He commended that quotation from the Golenad to the House, and asked whether they were to rob the National Church of Wales in order that they might set up the Golden Calf? He said that no reason could be given for the separate treatment of Wales in this matter. Both the historical and the statistical argument failed. The Church had grown and Nonconformity was declining. For all these reasons he entered his emphatic protest against the Bill. It was cruel, unjust, unfair, and absolutely unprecedented, and there was no valid reason on the merits that they could bring forward for passing it. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Stuart Rendel) said Wales would not suffer because Ireland did not suffer. He ventured to traverse that statement. He had answers that were given to the Bishop of St. Asaph by nearly every Bishop in Ireland on this subject—the Bishops of Tuam, Killaloe, Meath, Ossory, and Derry. The Bishop of Killaloe said— 244On the whole, the blow dealt to us, however softened, has been the most lamentable, and I fear is likely to be still more so as time goes on.He goes on to say—The man must be an idiot, I think, who does not see that the attack on the Welsh is just to seize an outwork so as to ensure the most successful assault on the central citadel of the English Church.He appealed to the House to consider the Bill in all its aspects, and to say that it was a Bill for which there was absolutely no valid reason; therefore, he asked the House to take the extreme step of rejecting it upon the First Reading.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said that he felt so desirous of taking part in the Debate that he rose at a period of the evening (8.35) when the appearance of the House was most unattractive. He wished to make some remarks with reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Stuart Rendel). The hon. Member was in a historical vein, and dealt with the history of the Church not during a century, but during 1,000 years. He had told them in a melancholy tone what was the state of the Church in the Principality during a long period of time. He (Sir F. Powell) ventured to say, however, that with an Institution of such an age there were necessarily periods of decay and seasons when reforms were required. That had been the case with the Army, the Navy, and our Judicial Establishments. Then the hon. Member had made another complaint of proselytism on the part of the Church of Wales at the present moment. The time was not so far distant in history when the great bulk of the people of Wales belonged to the National Church, and he had never heard the Nonconformists charged with proselytism because the Welsh left the old Church and joined the modern Nonconformists. The same causes which brought about the change then were bringing about the change now. The Welsh people turned from the Church to Dissent because the Church was worldly, and they were now turning from Dissent to the Church because Dissent in Wales had become increasingly political. A religious people such as the Welsh would never belong to a Church which was worldly or political in character. The accusation 245 was made that the friends of the Church in Wales desired to have a spiritual monopoly. Well, he knew many of the Welsh clergy, and never heard of anyone who sought a spiritual monopoly. They desired, and as sincere men they were bound to desire, an increase of religious influence, but there was no desire to act in the spirit of monopoly. They rather desired to see members of other denominations working heartily in a self-sacrificing spirit in the sacred vineyard. Some reference had been made to the large number of benefices in the Welsh dioceses compared with the population; but it ought to be remembered that Wales was a mountainous and agricultural country, and that where that was the case a larger number both of benefices and clergy were necessary for the scattered population. It was a calumnious accusation to say that the 16 Nonconformist ministers who sought ordination for the Church did so for the sake of filthy lucre, and were animated by a mere worldly and selfish ambition, He would also say, in reply to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire, that no child in Wales could go through the course of instruction preparatory to confirmation, and be confirmed without the full knowledge and consent of the parents. They were told that if the Church were disestablished and disendowed there would be an increase of energy and new life in it. He presumed that that would lead to an increase of proselytism. Those who brought this charge now were, therefore, strangely inconsistent in recommending a measure which would largely increase that proselytism of which they now complained. He had the fortune, which was not shared by any hon. Member but one, of being able to remember the discussion in 1868, and he was much struck by the contrast between the two cases. In 1868 they were told by the Prime Minister that the Irish Church only numbered amongst its adherents one-eighth of the population. No one would venture to say that so small a proportion would be an accurate representation of the Church in Wales. It was stated also there were no poor belonging to the Irish Church. No one would venture to say that of the Church in Wales. On the contrary; it was impossible that the 246 figures they had as to the confirmations and communicants, and as to the numbers attending, the rites of the Church could apply to other than the humbler classes. He thought the Opposition had a right to complain that they were without figures in this matter. In 1891, on the Census Debate, many of them desired a religious census, but it was defeated because of the great irritability and alarm shown by the Nonconformists; and those Liberals who now made allegations in regard to Members were not entitled to bring them, because they refused to secure accurate information. Since 1873, there had been spent in the building of churches in Wales £639,000, and in the restoration of churches £488,000, the two sums together amounting to upwards of £1,100,000. It was said that the churches were built by the wealthy and not frequented by the poor; but he could not believe himself that any person, however wealthy, would be so foolish as to spend that large amount of money in the erection of churches except they believed those churches would be resorted to by the population. He thought this was one of those charges which entirely refuted itself. It was perfectly clear there was a large increase in the number of those who desired to attend the services of the Church in Wales. He had before him some figures which would be of some interest, as they related to the Diocese of St. David's. St. David's had been referred to in the course of the Debate as a model diocese. From 1846 to 1888 131 parsonage houses had been built, and the number of non-resident incumbents had fallen from 174 to 7. During 12 years the confirmation candidates had increased 25 per cent., rising from 7,000 in the period ending 1883 to 9,000 in the last triennial period. In 1881 there were 16,000 children in the Church schools of the diocese, and in 1888 there were 63,000 children. The hon. Gentleman opposite had said that religion was safe with the Welsh people. He did not traverse that allegation; but he would make this remark: that he would not trust religious education to the people of Wales. And his reason was this: In examining the statement made with reference to School Board schools in the Municipality, he found that according to the reports there was 247 a most lamentable and distressing absence of instruction on religions subjects, which was a matter of ill-omen and sad promise for the people of Wales. Comparing this Debate with the Debates on the Irish Church, there was this great difference: that now nothing was said about the alien character of the Church in Wales, and they had not heard that it insulted the Welsh language. The history of the Welsh Church was known to those who investigated these matters, and there could be no doubt that the Church in Wales was really and veritably the ancient British Church. They heard it from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster a year or two ago that "The Church in Wales is the legitimate historical successor to the Church of St. David." They had it on the highest House of Commons authority, therefore, that the Church of Wales could not be said to be an alien Church as was said of the Church of Ireland. He had been rather struck himself by finding how in poetry as well as in history this fact was believed. Chaucer, who, as they all knew, was an accurate describer of the times in which he lived, in "The Man of Lawes Tale" of the Canterbury Pilgrimage, wrote "To Wales fled the Christianitic of Olden Britons dwelling in this Isle." As to insulting the Welsh language, it must be remembered that it was under the roof of a former Dean of Westminster that the Bible was translated into the Welsh language. There was another circumstance which he had not seen alluded to in the Debate, but which was full of interest—namely, that in the time of Henry VIII. it was decreed that the Welsh language should be used in public services in Wales. That Statute was to be found in the Library. It was framed in strong and emphatic terms, and left no doubt whatever as to the intention of the Legislature. After all that had been said, he could not separate this attack on the Church in Wales from an attack on the Church of England. The Irish Church was separated from us by the sea. Wales was not separated from England by sea, and there were places where the boundary between England and Wales was not distinguished even by a hedge. The more they examined the map or the countries the more they felt the absence of any demarcation between 248 them. If, then, there was no geographical distinction, he might claim that there was an identity in the Churches. The Prime Minister in 1868 had said of the Welsh Church—I suspect that it will be found that it is tied and knotted and tangled—I might almost say in such a multitude of legal bonds and meshes with the general body of the Church of England that it would be a very formidable matter, indeed, to accomplish this purpose.This was really an attack on the Church of England, and he did not believe that hon. Members opposite would show such a desire for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in the Welsh dioceses unless they knew that both must stand or fall together. When the Prime Minister introduced his Suspensory Bill in 1868 he proposed to give it effect in 16 months. He described in terms of great eloquence and force the inconvenience of the transitional period. His words were:—There will be a very general, or at all events a very extended, opinion among our opponents, as well as among those who support us, that it will be for the interest of all Parties to accelerate the final settlement of the measure.If that was true then it was true now. They were entitled to know what the interval between the passing of the Suspensory Bill and the Disestablishment of the Church was going to be? What was the transitional period going to lead them to? What was the full flower of which this Bill was only the seed? He would like to ask whether the Government were perfectly sure that their life would exist long enough to enable them to carry a Bill for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales? For unless they were, then this manner of procedure was cruel and almost persecuting, and full of hardship, tyranny, and wrong. Then he desired to ask another question with all respect. If the Church in Wales was to be removed who was to succeed it? No one could doubt that the Church in Wales, although perhaps not ministering in one sense to the majority of the population, was doing a good and useful work in Wales; and he wished to know who were to succeed and who were the coming prophets—who were to be the teachers of the people? He did not wish for a moment to use language which would give pain to any one of his hon. Colleagues on whichever 249 side they sat; but he hoped he might be allowed to give utterance to the anxiety which he felt as to the future religion of the Principality if the Church was Disestablished and Disendowed. His fears arose from the demeanour of the Members for Wales during the discussion of the Clergy Discipline Bill. Those hon. Members, in a manner which drew forth the censure of the present Prime Minister, endeavoured to fix upon the parishes in Wales immoral clergy contrary to the wishes of this House. He could not trust the people of Wales in this matter. Judging the Welsh politicians in this House by their political action, by what he had seen them do, and what he had heard them say, he did not think that any wise or prudent man could close his eyes to the alarming picture of the future which was presented. It was a more happy, and he ventured to say a more holy, duty to fix their eyes upon the increasing good work the Church was now doing in Wales, to observe the causes which were leading to her increased usefulness, and to desire that those works might become more and more abundant; that those causes might receive new force and new power from day to day, and that this ancient Church in Wales might at no distant period number among her devout disciples the majority of the Welsh population, to whose spiritual wants that ancient church had ministered, not always with equal success, but still had administered during many centuries of revolving time.
§ COLONEL SIR E. HILL (Bristol, S.)
said, that although not a Welsh Member, nor a Welshman, he had resided for 35 of the last years of his life in Wales, in the old City of Llandaff, and had always worshipped in its venerable Cathedral, and as he naturally took a great interest in the Church in Wales he wished to offer his testimony of the great devotion to the cause of religion he had seen during those years. It appeared to him one of the most extraordinary things that people like the Welsh, who had so much sentiment for their nationality and for their race and descent, should not be proud also of the high position they held in Christianity. Many parts of Wales bristled with the remnants of the old British Church, and why the Welsh should look down upon it and call it an alien Church 250 it was impossible for him to imagine. So far from being alien, the present Bishop of Llandaff was the ninety-third in direct descent, and tradition carried the sites of the Cathedral to A.D. 50. He freely admitted there had been in times past a great neglect of the Church in Wales, which, for a time perhaps, did not fulfil its functions in the way it might have done, but the same observation would apply in England. What the Church in Wales had been during the 12th century, or during the 15th century, or during the 17th century, was not what they had to consider. What they had to consider was the position of the Church of Wales in this latter part of the 19th century; and he did not hesitate to say there was no religious community which had ever shown a greater desire and activity to perform its high functions properly than the Church in Wales was showing at the present moment. It had been said that it was the Church of the wealthy and not of the poor. But the Sunday evening services in the Llandaff Cathedral were attended in large numbers by the poorer people, many of whom walked several miles. Dealing with a quotation which had been made from a speech of Dean Vaughan, the hon. Gentleman said he considered the statement attributed to the Dean was a misquotation. What the Dean intended to say, he had no doubt, was that there was no Church in Wales which was separate from the Church in England, but that the Church in Wales was always part of the British Church, and therefore they had no Church in Wales to Disestablish. He ventured to hope that this Bill would not pass into law. He regarded it as an attack upon the British Church; an attack which if it succeeded could do other denominations no good, while it would do the Church itself a good deal of harm. What was more, he believed if it were possible to Disestablish the British Church and separate this nation from all connection with Christianity, a very serious blow would be dealt at the prosperity of the nation, and a serious blow at that religion which, he hoped, was dear to them all.
§ SIR T. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
said, he was glad to see the President of the Board of Trade on the Treasury Bench. The emptiness of that Bench during the 251 last half hour had seemed to show that the enthusiasm of the Government for this Bill was not as great as that of the Welsh Members, who, however, had themselves given evidence of their enthusiasm by taking no part in the Debate. He differed from the hon. Member who had just sat down, and the hon. Baronet who had preceded him, on the question of principle. Twenty-five years ago he voted in the Opposition Lobby to the hon. Member for Wigan (Sir F. Powell) on the question of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, and he was not prepared for a moment to admit that a mistake was made on that occasion. He was constantly hearing that the Church in Ireland had derived strength from its Disestablishment, and he was not prepared to say that the Welsh Church would not also derive strength from its Disestablishment. It was said that the Church of England and the Church in Wales were so closely united that Disestablishment was impossible. He did not agree with this. He remembered that the same arguement was used in 1868 with reference to the Irish Church, and he therefore put it aside altogether. Nor did he agree with the hon. Member who had just sat down with regard to the activity of the Welsh Church. He did not see why, if the Welsh Church were set free, it should not continue its increasing activity until it would in time out-number the Nonconformists. But this was not a Disestablishment Bill. Had it been, he might have felt some difficulty as to what he should do. It was extremely probable that hon. Gentlemen from Wales had demanded from the Government that the Church in Wales should be disestablished before the Home Rule Bill became law. Those hon. Gentlemen were wise in their generation. They had carefully totalled up the numbers of the House, and had found that if the Irish Members were not allowed to vote on Welsh questions the Government of the day would be in a decided minority, and they might say farewell for ever to Welsh Disestablishment. As they were forcing this Suspensory Bill on the Government, it seemed to him that there was some bargain between them and the Government on the Disestablishment question. He himself was a Nonconformist. But he disliked to see injustice done to any Church from which he differed. 252 The hanging up of this question because a Disestablishment Bill could not be passed was, in his opinion, an in justice to the Church in Wales to which Welsh Churchmen ought not to be compelled to submit. This was a view which he knew was shared by a considerable number of Members who held his political faith, and he should, therefore, vote against the Suspensory Bill, as he believed it would be likely to inflict injustice on the Church in Wales.
§ MR. G. T. KENYON (Denbigh, &c.)
said, he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that it had been too much the custom to attribute plunder and robbery to political opponents on this question, and no words which tended in that direction would fall from his lips. He thought, however, he might fairly ask the Home Secretary why, speaking as a great lawyer, he had not given a single precedent for the introduction of such a measure as this, a measure which threatened the whole existence and the whole ratio vivendi of the Church in Wales. Of course, he could not com pare the humble legal knowledge of a non-practising lawyer with the know ledge which the Home Secretary possessed; but he thought he might fairly say that the reason why no precedent had been produced was that the Home Secretary had been unable to find one. It was stated on good authority that there was no precedent for the course now being pursued by the Government. The differences between the present circumstances and those which surrounded the Irish Suspensory Bill were sufficiently obvious. What was the reason given for the introduction of the Irish Bill? The late Lord Granville, who introduced the Bill in the House of Lords, said—The outbreak of Fenianism, its attacks on Canada and its extension in this country, have caused the people of this country to reflect more calmly and dispassionately on the state of Ireland than perhaps at any former period.The noble Lord distinctly stated—and the statement was confirmed by many other speakers in both Houses—that the reason for bringing the Bill prematurely forward was the existence of a criminal conspiracy in Ireland. He (Mr. Kenyon) was thankful to say there was no reason to think that anything of the sort existed 253 in Wales at the present time. The present Prime Minister, speaking with reference to the Irish Suspensory Bill, said, "The House has been asked to vote, and has voted, that the Church in Ireland now established should cease to exist as an Establishment;" and the right hon. Gentleman asked how, when such was the case, it could be expected that the Government would not endeavour to give effect to that decision at the earliest opportunity? Such was not the condition of the question with reference to the Church in Wales. Upon no occasion had any Resolution been carried in the House of Commons affirming the necessity or desirability of Disestablishing or Disendowing the Church in Wales. On the contrary, whenever a Motion to that effect had been submitted in the House of Commons it had been rejected, and rejected by increasing majorities. While in 1886 it was rejected by a majority of 12, in 1889 it was rejected by a majority of 35, and last year it was rejected by a majority of 47. It was said that the opinion of Wales was distinctly in favour of Disestablishment. How was this statement to be substantiated? Was the proof to be found in the amount of room given to the question in the election addresses of Welsh Members? He held in his hand a couple of the election addresses of one Welsh Member who devoted three lines to the subject, and two whole columns to the Newcastle Programme and other matters. He also had the address of the hon. Member for the Swansea District (Sir H. Hussey Vivian), and he said nothing at all about the question of Disestablishment. He only said he was "an animated Liberal," and that he supported the whole policy of Her Majesty's present Government. The right hon. Member for East Denbighshire (Sir George Osborne Morgan) had given some very good advice to his colleagues in Wales, and showed them the advantage of holding themselves close together, asserting their nationality, and proving to Her Majesty's Ministers that they were not to be trampled upon, but were capable of showing their power. What did my hon. Friend say? He said— 254To those who can read between the lines it has been apparent that upon this, as upon other questions, the Opposition are relying less on the strength of their own case than on the embarrassments of their antagonists.… The question for Welshmen is not whether the Disestablishment Bill should have a place among the active objects of the Liberal Party,… but what that place is to be … to those who, like myself, have listened to 25 Queen's Speeches, and have found that, on an average, not more than half of their promised measures have got beyond a Second Reading, the fact that a 'Suspensory Bill' for Wales has found a place side by side with some dozen others among the proposed Bills of the Session, is not as re-assuring as it would seem to be to some more sanguine but less experienced observers. Now, there are, no doubt, in the present House of Commons many English and Scotch Representatives, whether members of the Liberation Society or not, who desire to establish religious equality in every part of the United Kingdom, and who would warmly welcome a Bill disestablishing and disendowing the Church in Wales, as an instalment of a much larger measure. To these may be added a few stray Liberal Unionists who have not entirely sacrificed their most cherished political convictions to hatred of Mr. Gladstone and of Irish Home Rule. But there are in every Parliament and in every Party a certain number of 'weak-kneed brethren' and of Galios 'caring for none of these things,' who have to be perpetually kept up to the mark either by pressure of their constituents or by the pressure of the Whips. Many of these men are disposed to regard Welsh Disestablishment with something like the listless indifference which (as Mr. Wallace so feelingly complains) is apt to steal over the House when Scotch measures are discussed, and perhaps they would say there is not much to choose between a 'haggis Debate' and a 'leek Debate.'Were the hon. Members (the Welsh Liberals) not using their adherence to the Home Rule Question to bring their own little matters into prominence? And would not the Treasury Bench swallow their measures in return for the support of hon. Members to the Home Rule Bill? Was this Suspensory Bill meant to pass? If it was, he declared it was the grossest attempt to damage the Church, which many hon. Members in their election addresses said they did not wish to damage, that could be conceived. It would be far better to disestablish and disendow them to-morrow than to hang them up for a period which might be limited or which might be unlimited. It would be far better to put them at once under the executioner's knife than to put them in a position which practically cabined, cribbed, and confined all their efforts. Anything in 255 the nature of a Bill which practically stopped the operation of the work of the Church in Wales must seriously hamper and damage the cause of religion in the Principality. He was inclined to think the Bill was not intended to pass, but was meant as a sop. He looked upon it in the nature of a bagged fox which was to be turned out whenever they wanted it, and to run which ever way they liked. The only question was whether the hounds would follow it, and his impression was that it would be so deeply tainted with insincerity that when let loose the hounds would throw up their noses and have nothing to do with it. Suppose they carried this Bill, what would be the position of hon. Members opposite when the Home Rule Bill was carried? Where were the supporters going to be obtained to then carry a Bill for Disendowment and Disestablishment, for after getting Home Rule he was sure the Irish Members would not remain in sufficient numbers to make a majority in favour of such a Disestablishment and Disendowment Bill. What would be the position of the Church in Wales if this Bill were carried? Why, the good work which had been done and which was still going on would be hampered and prevented. He admitted that the Nonconformists had done good work in Wales, but surely the Church people were also entitled to some little credit for what they had done in regard to religious effort. He said with reference to this measure what the late Bishop of Peterborough said of the Bill for disestablishing the Irish Church—namely, that justice did not demand this measure; secondly, that policy did not require it; and, thirdly, that the verdict of the country had not been given in its favour. The Home Secretary had told them they were to have generous treatment. He should like the right hon. Gentleman to remember some further words of the late Bishop of Peterborough. They were these—The endowment given to a Religious Body is not given for the benefit of that sect, but of the State. It is not given with the view of making the sect richer, but to make the State religious.If these were true and living words, as he believed they were, he would venture to ask the House to consider the deep re- 256 sponsibility they would incur by accepting this Bill. It might be that the Bill would pass this House—it might even be that it would become the law of this laud—but he would earnestly ask his Welsh friends, if they indulged in this happy hope, if they seriously imagined this was the end of a great controversy? It was impossible it should be so. By the passing of this Bill they were kindling a flame of discord and animosity which must react on all other legislation affecting the Principality. He, for one, would have no part in this responsibility. It was as alien to his nature, as he believed, if they thoroughly grasped it, they would feel it to be to theirs. Since he had had the honour of a seat in this House, by mutual compromise, by happy accommodation, they had been able to do something (more, per haps, than in days gone by) for the amelioration of the social welfare of the people. To-day the prospect was fair; the possibilities were yet with them. Do not let them be overclouded by this un-necessary, this cynically cruel and pre mature proposition. Pause, if it need be, only for a year, before you cross the threshold of a new departure. Take stock of what had been accomplished, and of what still remained to be accomplished, in a common programme untainted by any political aims, and realise to-day, what he honestly believed to be true, the fact that Wales desired more than any Party triumph or Party ascendency that peace and unanimity which was in accord with her own natural beauties and the prevailing temper of her inhabitants, and would secure to her the greatest amount of liberty consistent with the existence of an Imperial Government.
§ SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
said, that speeches had been made by the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Sir J. Gorst)—who for clearness of statement and preciseness had not a rival in the House—and the Member for the University of Oxford, one of the oldest and most respected Members in the House. But what had they to do with Wales? They were not Welshmen, neither did they represent Welsh constituencies, and there was the width of the poles between the conditions of the places they repre- 257 sented and those of Wales. As to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he had quoted a letter which he (Sir G. Osborne Morgan) had written to the Manchester Guardian, for what reason he knew not. He had only to say that he adhered to every word of it. The hon. Member had spoken of the dwindling minorities of the Nonconformists. He would tell him what was the dwindling minority—that was the word—of Welsh Conservative Members. It was said in 1886 that they could all come down to Westminster in a four-wheeled cab, but now they could be accommodated on a double bicycle. One of the arguments urged against the Bill was that it was unprecedented, but that was not the fact. It followed the precedent set by the Prime Minister in 1868, with the difference that it was not preceded by a Resolution, while another precedent was to be found in the Endowed. Schools Act of 1869, brought in by Mr. Forster, which was preceded by a Suspensory Bill in 1868. The Bill under discussion could do no harm. If the Church were not disestablished nobody would be the worse for the Bill; and if it were, it would only be right that clergymen who took benefices under this notice should not receive the same compensation as clergymen who took benefices before the notice was given. What was unprecedented was opposing the First Reading of a Bill. He had been in the House nearly a quarter of a century, and the only instance he could remember was on a Bill brought in by Lord Albemarle 24 years ago, dealing with the question of the necessity of Ministers being reelected on taking office, and that was thought to be so important a constitutional question that it was opposed on the First Reading. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir J. Gorst) said the Church in Wales was doing good work, and they had no right to resist it in its course. Well, he admitted that the Church was doing good work, but it was only in those places where it relied on the piety of its sons and daughters —where, in fact, it was to all intents and purposes a voluntary Church. What was the Church of Wales doing in the rural districts? He did not speak of the work of the Church in the large 258 border towns, but if they went into the country parishes what did they see? They saw—The bee kirk, the free kirk,The kirk with the steeple—The auld kirk, the cauld kirk,The kirk with the people.It was said that the Church in Wales was not an alien Church. But could it be denied that at the present time the Church had lost its hand on the people of Wales? and as for the argument that the Church in Wales and the Church in England were so inextricably bound up together that they could not disestablish the one without disestablishing the other, that was a very sharp two-edged sword to use; and if he might be permitted to say so, it seemed to him a poor piece of strategy to defend their own citadel at the expense of imperilling the existence of an ally outside. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Sir John Gorst) referred to the number of parishes in which churches had been built by voluntary contributions. The Church of England clergyman in one of these parishes sent round a circular asking for funds for the erection of new churches in the parish, saying that as there were 13 or 14 Nonconformist chapels and only one church, it was the blackest spot in Wales. The rev. gentleman had managed to build two new churches, but whether they were ever filled or not was a matter he would not enter on. He wished to point out, however, that if the Church in Wales were disestablished and disendowed at the present moment not one sixpence of the cost of building these two churches would be confiscated. One great Unionist Leader, then the Marquess of Hartington, had declared, speaking of the Church of Scotland and the question of its Disestablishment, must be decided by the votes of the Constitutional Representatives of the people of Scotland. Well, the Constitutional Representatives of the people of Scotland in the House were three to two in favour of Disestablishment. Lord Derby had also said—The Disestablishment or the maintenance of the Welsh Church ought to depend on the wishes of the Welsh people when authoritatively and clearly expressed.Who could deny that the wishes of the Welsh people were not now clearly 259 disclosed in the matter? Then it was said that the Welsh Church was gaining ground, but let them look at the result of the last General Election. The majority of Members in favour of Disestablishment had gone up from 46 per cent. to something like 66 per cent., for out of 30 Members no less than 28 were pledged to Disestablishment. The Bishop of St. Asaph had contended that the religious census showed that the numbers of Nonconformists in the Principality only amounted to 48 per cent. of the population, and he claimed all the rest of the people as members of the Church of England. The Bishop might as well have counted the members of the Blue Ribbon Army in England, and claimed that every other man, woman, and child in the country were drunkards. The only true religious census was the Ballot box, and there was no doubt whatever of the evidence the Ballot box had afforded. If they wanted another test of the feeling in Wales they should look at the number of newspapers which advocated Disestablishment in Wales. There were 15 newspapers in favour of Disestablishment, while on the other side there were no more than two, and one of these was on its last legs. Well, in spite of all this, it was said the Church in Wales was gaining ground. Considering the enormous prizes the Church had to offer to those who fell down to worship it, he would not be surprised if it had gained ground. But Nonconformity had none of those prizes to offer. As had been well said—Nonconformity can offer nothing but a clear conscience and the privilege of paying for it. If the Church of England was gaining ground in Wales, it was gaining ground only in those places where it was to all intents and purposes a voluntary Church. Let them also consider the advance of feeling in Wales on this question. In 1870, when Mr. Williams moved his Motion for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, he had only seven of the Welsh Members voting for it—Lord Kenyon and himself were the only two survivors—while 13 voted against it. The opponents of Disestablishment were at that time absolutely two to one, but now they were only one to nine. That did not look as if the Church was gaining ground in Wales. It 260 would be said that this was all owing to the fictitious agitation got up by the efforts of agitators in Wales and by the efforts of the Liberation Society. It was nothing of the kind. The fact that the Church was losing ground was not due to the efforts of the agitators—as they were called—or to the efforts of the Liberation Society; it was simply and solely due to the Welsh clergymen themselves, and, above all, the person who had done most to hasten the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales was the Bishop of St. Asaph. When he went down to Wales he found society divided into two opposite camps on the question of Disestablishment. How was it all going to end? It could only end in one way. ForFreedom's battle once begun,Though baffled oft, is always won.They were threatened with many rocks ahead. He admitted that they had many difficulties to meet. No doubt the multiplicity—the vastness—of the Newcastle Programme was one of their difficulties. Then there was the proposed exclusion of the Irish Members, which it was said would be fatal to them, but that measure was not yet passed; and, last of all, there was the House of Lords, the last ditch in which the Conservative Opposition was resolved to die. With all that the Welsh Members had nothing to do. The Welsh Members had a mandate to fulfil, and a duty to their constituents to perform. Please God, they meant to perform that duty, strong in the justice of their cause, strong in the support of the Liberal Party, which had never put its hand to the plough, and then turned back; strong, above all, in the sympathy of the overwhelming majority of their countrymen, they awaited the verdict of the House that night, confident that what Wales thought to-day England would think to-morrow.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
Mr. Speaker, I have listened to this Debate, and to the portion of it which I heard, with the greatest attention, and I had hoped that there might have been advanced in support of the proposals before the House some argument and proposition which would merit our most serious attention. But, Sir, in that expectation I have been quite dis- 261 appointed, because there have only been two speeches delivered on that side of the House, with the exception of the speech of the Home Secretary. Of those two speeches, one consisted almost entirely of assertion—and of assertion, so far as I know—founded on a very slender basis. The other speech has just been delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for one of the Divisions of Denbighshire (Sir G. Osborne Morgan); but owing to my own aural imperfections, a great deal more than to any imperfection of the vocal organ of the right hon. Gentleman, I regret to say I was quite unable to follow it, for I hardly heard a single word of it. The House will admit that I am placed in a rather difficult position in endeavouring, as it is the duty of some one on this Bench to do, to carry on this Debate. I think we might have had more assistance from the Home Secretary, who introduced this Bill, and possibly from some of the able Members of the Party who sit behind the Ministry, who ought to be enthusiastic supporters of the project of Disestablishment in Wales. Sir, I will make one or two remarks, if the House will permit me, on the speech of the Home Secretary in introducing the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman asserted the intense desire of the Welsh Members for Disestablishment, and he did me the honour to put to me a question across the Table to the effect that Welsh Members cared more about Disestablishment than Home Rule. The right hon. Gentleman is possibly correct in his interpretation of the desires of the Radical Members for Wales. But I do not understand so unconscious an admission from the Home Secretary, for it has been dinned into our ears for a long while that far overtopping all other topics in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, followed by an enthusiastic Party, was the portion of liberty and justice to Ireland, and that the country had given a great mandate on that question, and that it was the duty of the Government to press forward that question with all the energy of which that able group is capable. The admission of the Home Secretary throws a curious light on the truth of this pretence, for he tells us bluntly and with that candour we have reason to expect from him, that the object of the Welsh people is not so much 262 the passing of Home Rule as it is to obtain Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. This is a candid admission for which I tender him my best thanks, and of which I will endeavour in the future to make the best possible use. The Home Secretary went on to say—or I understood him to say, and he will correct me if I am wrong—that the question of the Welsh Church was an extremely small one, that there was no difficulty in it at all, and that really the question had been settled by the precedent set when the Irish Church was disestablished. Sir, it is perfectly obvious that the Home Secretary has enjoyed the advantages of a brilliant education, but in that education I find one great defect for the position he now holds—he has altogether omitted to study the speeches of his great Leader the First Lord of the Treasury. He said that any Member of this House who imagined that the case of Wales was not completely covered by the case of the Irish Church, and who went back to the old exploded arguments which were used against the Disestablishment of that Church, was a person who ought to be banished to some museum of political antiquity. I am afraid in that museum the right hon. Gentleman would occupy a very prominent place; but it is the last place to which I, at least, or to which any Member of the Party which sits behind me, would consign the speeches on Church Disestablishment made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. But did the Home Secretary favour the House with any argument for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales? I could hear nothing—it may be due to some personal defect on my part—but I could hear nothing except denunciation of the Church in Wales, which at times seemed to be almost furious. The old accusations of the Nonconformists against the Church in Wales were delivered with a kind of Nonconformist flavour which I did not expect from the right hon. Gentleman. He assumed a tone in this Debate I did not expect from him. He was not argumentative, he was didactic; he was not persuasive, he was dogmatic; and I do not think that any Nonconformist Representative who speaks on this Bill will be more aggressive and, apparently, more 263 anxious to light up the flames of religious' discord than was the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. I may just notice one point in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Denbighshire, where I should like to correct his usually infallible Parliamentary erudition. I understood him to say that there was no precedent of a Bill being rejected on the First Reading.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
The right hon. Gentleman is nearly right, for the case took place exactly 23 years ago. It was the case of a Bill which was brought in by Mr. Taylor—a gentleman whom some of us knew very well—and was to provide for the payment of Members of Parliament.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
Then, again, I must blame my aural defect. But I will leave that case, remarking that curiously enough the Bill was rejected on the Motion of the present First Lord of the Treasury, and it was defeated by a large majority. I confess I do not expect a similar good fortune will fall to us on the present occasion. Now, Sir, I turn to the grave question raised and the position in which those who differ from the Party opposite find themselves with regard to this Bill. Sir, the Home Secretary said the procedure adopted on the present occasion was a perfectly regular and natural procedure. I take leave to traverse that statement. These questions of Church Establishment, when they are raised in Parliament for discussion with the object of change and modification, are, I think everyone will admit, the gravest questions which can be raised, for they affect so deeply and permanently not only the political, but also the social, condition of the State. I think you cannot be too careful, in dealing with such questions, to adhere to the old traditions of Parliament and to all the customs of the House of Commons, and to see, if you mean to deal with an Established Church, what precedent you can most safely follow. I will put the great precedent which I think interposes between the course which the Govern- 264 ment wish the House to pursue and the adoption of that course by the House. In 1868 the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister moved a Resolution in Committee in reference to the Irish Church, which was—That it is necessary that the Established Church of Ireland should cease to exist as an Establishment, due regard being had to personal interests and individual rights of property.The House debated that Resolution on the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair for four nights, and in Committee for three nights more. Let me read to the House what the present Prime Minister said in pressing these Resolutions on the House of Commons, and I particularly draw the attention of the Home Secretary to it, for he said that the right hon. Gentleman being then the Leader of the Opposition it was necessary to move a Resolution, but that to do so now would be a waste of time. If I go into the question of a waste of time, I am not at all clear that this Suspensory Bill is not a waste of time. It would, at any rate, have shown more sincerity in their policy if they had outright introduced a Disestablishment Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said—I should not be justified in endeavouring to shelter myself under the freedom of a Member of the Opposition from distinctly intimating to the House and to the country the general basis of the measure I wish to suggest.And the right hon. Gentleman went on to say—He would recognise in his measure every vested interest, would preserve to the Church her sacred fabrics and the residences of the clergy, would compensate fully the proprietors of advowsons, and respect recent endowments,He said that—Probably three fifths, possibly two-thirds, of the entire possessions of the Irish Church would remain in the hands of the Anglican community.That was the way—the cautious and the just way—in which the right hon. Gentleman in those days approached this great question of Disestablishment. That was the treatment he meted out to Ireland. But on what grounds does the Home Secretary say there is no difference between the case of the Irish and the case of the Welsh Church? There is a very great difference indeed, as I shall be able to show the Home Secretary, 265 and the difference is entirely in favour of the Welsh Church. I would again refer to the speeches of the First Lord of the Treasury—those speeches which the Secretary of State has, I think, most unfortunately, and to his loss, neglected, because, Sir, this is the merit of those speeches, and the right hon. Gentleman is probably the only man in this House who does not set a proper high value on them. The merit of those speeches is this, that they certainly come from an authority than whom there was no higher in this House at that time on ecclesiastical questions. Whatever the circumstances were in 1871, when the speech I am going to quote was made, the circumstances are infinitely stronger now in favour of the contention of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said—I would not say what it would be right to do provided Wales was separated from England in the same way as Ireland, and provided the case for Wales stood in full and complete analogy to that of Ireland in regard to religious differences, but the direct contrary of this is the truth. It is practically impossible to separate the case of Wales from that of England.'And the right hon. Gentleman went on to say—and the Home Secretary will be surprised to hear—that the difficulties of Church Disestablishment were great, and that he knew them well. He said—I know the difficulties, and I am not prepared in any shape or form to encourage the increase of expectations which it would be most unworthy, most guilty, most dishonourable to entertain on our part lest we should convey a virtual pledge. We cannot go in that direction, we deprecate it, and we should regard it as a national misfortune.That was in 1871, three years after the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. The Home Secretary says that the Irish Church covers the case of the Church in Wales. Against the authority of the Home Secretary, which I admit is great, and which I expect will become greater, I now confidently set the authority of the First Lord of the Treasury. What does the First Lord of the Treasury, through his Home Secretary, ask Parliament to do? He asks Parliament to do, in this year of grace 1893, what he would not allow either himself or his Government to do in 1871. I venture, with great respect, to remind the right hon. Gentleman that if he condescends to enlighten our ignorance on this side 266 of the House, there is this point he must get over: he must state what particular circumstance alters the strength and truth of the doctrine he laid down in those days. But now the right hon. Gentleman not only departs apparently from his opinion as to the state of the case of the Irish Church when contrasted with the Welsh Church, but so far as I could judge from the attitude of his own Home Secretary, apparently also with pride, and certainly with most perfect unconcern, he proposes to subject the Welsh Church to much more cruel and unjust treatment than he ever dreamed of in the case of the Church of Ireland. He asks Parliament to give what amounts to a pledge, that at such and such a time in the future the Welsh Church shall be Disestablished and Disendowed; and Parliament is to give that pledge without any proper inquiry, without knowing in the least degree how the Welsh Church is going to be dealt with, and with no information as to the position of that Church and the policy of the Government. The House of Commons is asked practically to say this: We will pledge ourselves by the strongest action in our power—that is, by passing a measure into law—to disestablish the Church in Wales; and we pledge ourselves, if that measure for Disestablishment is not carried out, at any rate the Church in Wales shall be gradually starved, and shall be killed virtually by inches. That is really, in plain English, the interpretation of the step which Parliament is asked to take. I ask the House, did they ever hear such — I cannot call it anything less than—arrant folly? Do they consider what an unholy oath the Parliament is asked to take? Sir, does the right hon. Gentleman, or do his Colleagues and do his Party, seriously consider the circumstances of the present Parliament? If they do, would they not say that the arrogance of demanding such a pledge from Parliament is intolerable? Sir, I cannot comment on the action of the Welsh Members in this matter, which seems very extraordinary. I cannot, if I would, call then stupid; I cannot, if I would, call them ignorant; but how can I call them sincere? They know that, if the Home Rule Bill is passed into law, the cause of Disestablishment will be in 267 a minority in this House. They are going, I believe, to give to the right hon. Gentleman their strong and united support on the Irish Question; they are trying, at the same time, to pass a Bill which is to lead to the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. And, Sir, how those two objects can be reconciled no Irish, no Scotch, no English intellect can possibly fathom, and only a Welsh intellect can put a common-sense interpretation upon the problem. For that reason I own I am content to believe in their insincerity. Does the House think that in taking this step which they are invited to take they will at some future time destroy the Welsh Church? Where does the House think Parties will be next year? I have no doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite will be confident; but can they be quite sure what Government will be in Office? If they are not quite sure, is it right from a Parliamentary point of view, is it right from a political point of view, or is it right from a moral point of view, to take the step which they now propose to take? How can any one anticipate what will be the verdict of the country with so much certainty that they can actually frame and call upon Parliament to assert a policy which, under certain circumstances, will be carried out in another Parliament? The verdict of the nation, you will agree, must be taken on another issue before this particular pledge which you are invited to give can be redeemed. I pass away from these large political grounds, and I ask you to admit that the situation of the Welsh Church may be one of very great embarrassment and misery. It has been well argued by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Sir John Gorst) that the Welsh parishes and benefices, and other higher places in the Church, may become vacant during the interval, which may be long or short, that may elapse between the passing of this Bill and your power to carry the Disestablishment of the Church. But I suppose it is said by the Home Secretary and other Members of his Party that it is very easy to fill the Welsh benefices and curacies and other offices in the Church. I do not know how you are going to fill them. I do not know how you are going to get incumbents for the 268 vacant benefices. There are many curate s in Wales who undoubtedly, under the system of Disestablishment, would be entitled to some compensation, and I do not think that even the moderate Liberal Party will altogether scout that proposition. You will not get curates to fill up these vacant benefices, because they would be entitled to some compensation if they lost their curacies, and no man in his senses, not even a Christian, would sacrifice his principles for worldly considerations of that kind. The House will admit it is impossible to say how long it will be before you can redeem that pledge or before the remedy can be applied. It would be impossible to say how many benefices might fall vacant, and what does that mean? It means that, so far as the Church in Wales is concerned, no marriages can take place, no burials can take place. [Laughter.] I cannot see why my reference to the non-ministration of these rites in any part of England should excite the merriment of hon. Members opposite, and all the ministrations of the Sacraments, according to the rites of the Church of England, would be absolutely arrested. If such cases should arise—and I see no precaution to prevent their arising—the result would resemble the proceedings of the Church of Rome in mediæval days, when it laid an interdict upon the country. These are arguments which you may choose not to answer in this House, but they are arguments which must be answered somewhere or other. It is much better that right hon. Gentlemen opposite should make their case in this House, where the public can follow their proceedings, than be too contemptuous to notice the objections. If it was necessary for the House to be very careful under the guidance of the First Lord of the Treasury in the case of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, à fortiori the House of Commons must be careful in dealing with the case of Wales. I have shown that the two cases are by no means analogous. It is hardly denied—even the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire was obliged to admit with the utmost chagrin and displeasure that it is really hard to find—that the position of the Church in Wales is advancing, and that its power is growing stronger and stronger as the years roll by. In 1871 269 the First Lord of the Treasury distinctly inclined to the opinion that the Church at that time possessed a quarter of the population. No one who is in a position to judge will say that a quarter of the population, which might not have been inadequate in 1871, is not grossly inadequate to describe the state of the Church now. I will engage that the figures I put before the House as to the position of the Church in Wales are more in accordance with commonsense and human reason than are the statements with which Nonconformists overwhelm us. I say that in 1871 it was admitted that one-fourth of the Welsh people supported the Established Church. The increase made since then is on record in the statements of Mr. Gee, the editor of a newspaper the name of which I do not know how to pronounce—I think it is the Baner, although it does not mean banner, but means something else. Well, Sir, in the Baner some time ago, 18 months or two years ago, Mr. Gee, who is undoubtedly competent to speak of the Nonconformist position and strength, made a detailed estimate of the number of the Nonconformists in Wales, and he could not put it higher than 50 per cent. of the population. That is an authentic statement, and I challenge anybody to contradict it. In the face of that statement, and later we shall have to consider the composition of that 50 per cent., what becomes of the 600,000 people mentioned by the hon. Members for Montgomery and Denbigh as belonging to the Nonconformist churches? Will hon. Gentlemen get up in this House and deny the authority of Mr. Gee? I turn to another interesting and curious question which sounds a curious question, and I do not ask it disrespectfully. What is Wales? Is it a geographical expression, or is it a well-defined country inhabited by a separate race? ["Hear!"] Some hon. Gentlemen seem to think it is the latter designation. Then I have another question. What is the Established Church in Wales? I maintain that Wales is very difficult to define specially for any religious purpose. Wales is marked off from Great Britain by boundaries joined arbitrarily. The difference between the populations of England and Wales do not at all coincide. The English have migrated very largely across what I may call the Welsh 270 frontier, right into Wales. Along the whole Welsh borders there is a great fringe of English people who do not necessarily share the views of the Welsh people. It is a remarkable fact, and shows how right I am in my criticism of the valuelessness of the geographical boundaries, that Knighton, an important town in Radnorshire, is in the English Diocese of Hereford; Montgomery is also in the Diocese of Hereford; Breconshire, Pembrokeshire, Flintshire, and Denbighshire, are almost mainly inhabited by people of English extraction ["No!"] No, Sir; what will you say to Monmouthshire, is that in Wales? But what I say is, that it is not possible to draw a line and say you will deal with Wales on the one side of the line and England on the other. It is so impossible to draw a line and say that the people on one side shall have an Established Church and the people on the other side shall not. That is a distinction which you cannot carry out on account of the mixture of the population, on account of the intermixture of motive, object, and idea which results. What does the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury say now as to the unity of the English and Welsh Churches? That is another point on which the Home Secretary shows great ignorance. In 1871 the Prime Minister said, and he amplified and intensified it in 1891, only two years ago—There is really no Church in Wales; the Welsh Sees are simply four Sees held by Suffragans of the Province of Canterbury, and form part of the Province as much as any other four Sees in that Province.And in another portion of his speech he said, and I draw the Home Secretary's attention to this—There is complete ecclesiastical, constitutional, legal, and, for every practical purpose, historic identity between the Church of Wales and the rest of the Church in England.That being so, it is not untrue to say you cannot define Wales for the practical purposes of Establishment and Disestablishment, and it is also perfectly true to say there is no Church of Wales. That being so, Sir, the House of Commons being absolutely without information on those points—points which lay at the very root and meaning of the Established Church in Wales—I say it is impossible, unless the House of Commons is 271 going to follow mere Party prejudice and be guided by mere Party politics, for the House to pass a Suspensory Bill. In 1892 the right hon. Gentleman said in this House—You might speak with as much justice of the Church in Wales in England as the Church of England in Wales.Could you have a stronger expression; and I ask, are you going to blame us and try to treat our arguments on this subject—on which, I think, the whole Tory Party agrees—with derision and contempt, when the sense and the merit and the scope of those arguments come from the speeches of your Leader and your own side? And do not Members for Wales see what position that lands the Tory Party in—that definition of the unity of the Church of England and the Church in Wales? Sir, of course we cannot stand by blind, like the ostrich; we must at once see that, if you disestablish in Wales what is portion of the Church of England, you may proceed to disestablish in other portions of the country other portions of the Church of England. Remember the statement of the present First Lord of the Treasury, that there is no difference between the Welsh Sees and any other four Sees in the Province of Canterbury, and if that is correct you may apply the same treatment to the one four Sees as you apply to the other; and can you be surprised that we are on our guard when a Suspensory Bill is proposed for the Welsh Church, and when we are not told what are the intentions of the Government with regard to the treatment of the Welsh Church? We are given no information by the Government as to how they look upon the Welsh Church, and we are left completely in the dark as to what use might be made if the Tory Party did not render a strenuous opposition to this proposal. We are not dealing to-night with the Church of Wales only; we are dealing with the Church of England. I would ask the House to consider what has not been alluded to at all, but what is a most important feature in Welsh society, which is affected greatly by the proposal of Disestablishment. Has the House considered the extraordinary progress and development of the English language in Wales? It has been stated 272 in the Nonconformist Year Book that over 500,000 people require religious services in English. This paper states that the Nonconformists can only maintain their hold on the country through the English language; that a large proportion of the rising generation are being transformed into English - speaking people, and that, like the flow of the tide, the English language is advancing into the Principality. The main body of the Nonconformist section minister to the people in the native language, and it is a fact that only one-fifth of the present Welsh population habitually speak and use the Welsh language, so great has been the progress of the English language among them. So great has been the migration of English people into Wales, and so remarkable has been the effect of the dealings of the Church with the Welsh people, that Welsh is undoubtedly being superseded by the English language. How does that act upon the Nonconformists? Sir, the Nonconformists have made great efforts in Wales to start English chapels; they have made great efforts to supply English services required by more than 500,000 Welshmen. The result has been, so far as I can get any correct figure, that English communicants at Nonconformist chapels, where the services are performed in English, number 4 per 1,000. An Independent minister wrote the other day a letter to the newspapers in which he makes this curious statement: that his denomination was failing altogether to provide the necessary funds for conducting the services in English, and that of £700 a year which was collected towards English services in Wales over £400 of that sum was collected in England. That is a consideration which you cannot pass over in connection with a topic which I will dwell upon for a moment, which is the question of how the Nonconformists are going to provide for the spiritual needs of the country now supplied by the Welsh Church, if it is disestablished and disendowed? It is alleged as a sort of accusation and a sort of contention in Wales that it is a poor Church. So it is. I admit that; it is. But, Sir, is it a cause of reproach to a Church to be a poor Church? I never heard it treated in that way before. But, Sir, if it is a poor Church, what has that poor Church 273 done within the last 25 years or more? May I read to the House an extract from the Quarterly Review for January, 1890? [Some cries of "Oh!"] I daresay some gentlemen do not agree with the policy of that journal, but you must admit that the Quarterly Review, like the Edinburgh Review, is conducted with the greatest care, and any statements of fact they may make one may rely very confidently upon for their accuracy. Here is an article on the Church in Wales, and it alludes to the poverty of the Church in Wales. The writer says that it ought to have a double endowment instead of it being an impoverished Church. The writer goes on to say that what the Church in Wales had done was really marvellous. English services in her churches, he says, have increased by 100,000 in 35 years; that she has added to her staff 700 additional clergymen; expended on her buildings upwards of £2,500,000; increased the annual number of her candidates for confirmation by thousands, and that she educated in her schools 46 per cent. of the children under education. I think that is a tribute to the growing power of the Church. It is a proof that while her poverty and endowments might give you a cause to attack her, they are no cause of reproach to her. And are you sure, when speaking of the poverty of the Church in Wales, that the Nonconformist Body are better off? Does it lie in the mouth of the Nonconformist Bodies to call the Church of Wales a poor thing and a beggar? [Some hon. MEMBERS: We do not.] What is the debt on the Calvinistic Methodist chapels in Wales? That debt has been estimated as exceeding £300,000. But the Calvinistic Methodists are only one-third of the Nonconformists in Wales. There are the Baptist sects and the Independent sects which would outnumber the Calvinists by two-thirds to one-third, and there is no doubt there is a debt on the property of these three sects amounting to nearer £1,000,000 than £800,000. I do not think that with that tremendous debt it is in the power of the Nonconformists to reproach the Established Church in Wales with poverty. [Some hon. MEMBERS: We do not.] Notwithstanding the poverty of the Church in Wales she has made marvellous efforts 274 and accomplished marvellous results. The question I would like to ask is this—and it is a question which may fairly be considered: Are you sure that if you disestablish and disendow the Church in Wales the Nonconformists can properly provide for the religious requirements of Wales without the aid of the Established Church, when that Established Church is left in a state of utter ruin? Are you certain about that question, because surely it is a question you ought to be certain about before you proceed to this tremendous change. This is certain: that Nonconformist ministers do little of what is called pastoral work. The Nonconformist ministers are preaching ministers. All the good they accomplish—and that good is undoubted—is done by preaching. There is, on the other hand, a work which the Church of Wales does and which the Nonconformists do not do—and that is pastoral work. A learned divine, speaking on this subject in 1891, said—I have already told you that last year in nearly half the parishes of this diocese there was not a single resident Nonconformist minister; therefore this work of education, with its care for the young, its systematic visitation of all classes alike, especially the sick and poor, with its solicitude for those whom others pass by as hopeless or indifferent, is left entirely to the Church. Without the settled ministry provided by the parochial system of the Church some of the rural parishes would be in danger of relapsing into Paganism.The same divine says in another quotation—It is a truism which every parish priest in Wales will confirm, that in hours of trial and distress it is to the clergymen that the poor, be they Church or Nonconformist, always turn.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
yes; it is the favourite friend of hon. Gentlemen opposite, the Bishop of St. Asaph, a Prelate who is, perhaps, as highly respected as any other Prelate; and although he may not carry much weight with hon. Gentlemen opposite, I can assure them he is a Prelate who will carry a large amount of weight with the great body of public opinion in England, which hon. Members opposite will be 275 very foolish altogether to despise. I pass on to ask the House to consider a very curious fact. The Nonconformists are very vicious and spiteful against State endowments and against the parties who have benefited by these endowments. But they are not above taking advantage of State endowments themselves. In the early part of the century a portion of the Presbyterians adopted the doctrine of the Unitarian Church, and by so doing they were held by law to have forfeited the trust property which they held, consisting of chapels and other buildings connected therewith which had been bequeathed in trust for the dissemination of the Presbyterian doctrine. A decision was given taking away the property from the Unitarians. In 1844 Sir Robert Peel, a Tory Minister, was in power, supported by a Tory majority. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was his colleague then—[Mr. GLADSTONE was understood to say he was]—but the action of the Tory Party at that time was certainly most generous and most liberal. They turned a ready ear to the demands that came before them, and they passed an Act securing to the Unitarians the possession of these chapels which had been forfeited by a breach of trust, and decided to be forfeited by Courts of Law. Thus a Tory majority and a Tory Government settled them absolutely on the Nonconformists in Wales, and the Nonconformists accepted what I say was practically a State endowment with the utmost gratitude. I feel I cannot longer detain the House, though there is much I should like to bring before it, but this must keep for a future occasion. It is very difficult to decide what motive can have led the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to propose this measure to the House after the position which the right hon. Gentleman had taken up on the question of Welsh Disestablishment, and in the absence of any proof that any circumstances have occurred, except one, to alter this opinion. Sir, I admit one circumstance has occurred, but it is totally inadequate to recommend the House to agree to the change which the right hon. Gentleman proposes. He has changed, Sir, and why? Because he said in his speech in 1892 that a majority of the Welsh Re- 276 presentatives desired the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. So they have, I think, for many years—the majority of them; but it was not till 1892 that the right hon. Gentleman admitted the validity of the mere force of numbers in such a question as the connection between Church and State. Sir, there is no doubt about it the motive of the Government is this: it is not what my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford said in his most interesting and telling speech; it is not what is called "plunder." That is the local motive. The political motive is widely different. The object of introducing this Suspensory Bill to the House and pressing it on is undoubtedly to secure votes for their Irish policy. For the Irish policy of the Government the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are prepared to sacrifice anything, to abandon all former opinions, and to violate all former pledges. Sir, to carry that Irish policy nothing must be spared; never such a trifle as the Established Church in Wales! Votes! Votes! Votes! That is the great cry of the right hon. Gentleman, and that is the political morality which he preaches. Votes at any cost; votes at any price: "Hæc Janus summus ab imo Perdocet; hæc recinunt juvenes dictata senesque." Adhere to nothing which can cost you votes; refrain from nothing which can cost you votes, and the political salvation of the Liberal Party is accomplished. I see before me a distinguished group of right hon. Gentlemen, many of them as able and as calculated to administer Public Departments as there exist in this country. But do you call yourselves a Government? Whom do you govern? One day the Government are at the mercy of the Irish Party, another day at the mercy of the Welsh Party, and on a third day, yet to come, they will be in the power of the Scotch Party. Sir, this Government, for the first time, I think, in the history of English Governments, is absolutely in the power of any three sections of its majority. It must concede when any section makes a demand that it is determined to enforce. The Welsh Party are now coercing the Government. We have not been perfectly unobservant of the meetings of the Welsh Party and of the negotiations which passed between that 277 Party and Her Majesty's Government, and I venture to say that we are not ignorant of the ultimatum the Welsh Party gave. English government has never yet been conducted on such principles. The English people, when they understand the principles upon which the right hon. Gentleman is now conducting the Business of Parliament and managing all the great interests of the country, I am certain will never consent that that Government should be carried on upon principles more suited to a Whitechapel auction than to the conduct of a State. I think it must be our duty—and the House will perceive it is our duty—it is the duty of the Tory Party while resisting in this House foot by foot, inch by inch, this Suspensory Bill; it is incumbent on the Tories to explain and make clear to the English people the iniquitous nature of the resources which the Liberal Party now resort to to carry out their politically infamous aims.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
Mr. Speaker, the noble Lord has certainly put heart into this Debate, which in an earlier part of the evening, under the guidance of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Sir J. Gorst), it very much wanted. He has converted his argument on the Suspensory Bill into a general attack upon the Government. This Government, which has been in contact with Parliament for three weeks or a little more, the noble Lord is already able to bring to the bar of his impartial judgment. He says that they have developed a system of policy the most scandalous ever known in this country. The noble Lord has taken the best of all precautions — the precaution of the clock [Cries of "Order!" and "Adjourn!"] Gentlemen who appear to have come recently into the House are still further abridging the modest half-hour in which I have to answer a speech three or four times as long.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
I beg pardon; I did not rise till after a quarter-past 10. [An hon. MEMBER: 10.20.]
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
It is impossible for me to traverse the wide 278 field of the speech of the noble Lord, but this I will do; I will accept the challenge of the noble Lord, and I will say that the arts and resources of the present Government consists in this—in bringing forward while in Office measures which they approved in Opposition, in endeavouring to redeem the pledges which they have given to the country; and while the noble Lord tries to play Welsh Disestablishment against Irish Home Rule, and Irish Home Rule against Welsh Disestablishment, I tell him plainly that I am not ashamed either of the one or of the other proposition, and I am quite prepared to adopt his monosyllabic exclamation and to say Vote! vote! vote! Vote both for Welsh Disestablishment and for Home Rule. Now, Sir, while listening to the noble Lord's instructive references to Welsh history and circumstances, I must confess I had a great desire to reply to them in detail, because they appear to me to have been derived from some authority bearing an aspect very different from that of an original knowledge. There is one to which I will refer, because there the noble Lord might have acquired an original knowledge. He says that in 1844 a Tory majority passed a most liberal Bill to secure to Unitarians their endowments. The noble Lord is totally mistaken. The Tory Government which was at that time of a very liberal character as to its measures—[An hon. MEMBER: "Oh, oh!"]—Is the hon. Gentleman who jeers unaware that it was at that time that Mr. Disraeli began his famous attacks on Sir Robert Peel? The Tory majority which had seriously impaired its command over its followers by its measures did introduce that liberal Bill. That liberal Bill was supported by the whole Liberal Party in the House of Commons, and was opposed by a powerful minority of Conservatives Such, Sir, is the historical accuracy of the noble Lord. If he is not the mere tool of somebody who has supplied him with a parcel of what he calls facts, he might, by the simple process of reference to Hansard, have placed his feet upon sure ground. The noble Lord talks much about the difficulty of finding a frontier for Wales. He thinks it is impossible to have separate legislation for Wales. Impossible! Why, we have already begun that separate legislation. 279 We have had Welsh Sunday Closing and Intermediate Education Bills.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
In this case it so happens that the frontier for which we have to legislate is just as definite—down to the minutest inch of territory—as it would be if we were legislating for any diocese throughout England. What we propose to do is to legislate for the four Welsh dioceses, and their frontier is defined, and the jurisdiction within them is defined, with the same rigour as is the case elsewhere. He says we are going to treat the Welsh Church with extreme severity—with much greater severity than the Church of Ireland. Let us pass judgment by examination upon the justice of his imputations. He refers to the Irish Suspensory Bill of 1868. To bring that into comparison with the present Suspenory Bill I will point out the differences: The Irish Suspensory Bill, which the noble Lord says was so humane, actually put a stop to appointments to vacancies in Ireland. It destroyed the machinery of the Church for making use of the public means and carrying on its work as an Establishment when a vacancy occurred. Is that the case here? Is there any putting a stop to any appointment whatever? There is nothing of the kind; and there is not a single act that would be done under Ecclesiastical Law in the maintenance of the operations of the Welsh Church which might not go on just as legally and just as fully after this Bill has passed as now before it has become law. The noble Lord apparently believes—such is his acquaintance with ecclesiastical matters on which he has undertaken to speak—that when a benefice falls vacant in this country the services are to be put a stop to, the Sacraments are not to be administered, and the rites of the Church are to cease to be known. Why, in every vacant benefice in this country it is the duty of persons properly appointed, and so it would be under this Suspensory Bill, to make provision for the conduct of these services. Let the House understand what the object of this Bill is. It has a very limited object. 280 It is simply to prevent the growth of new vested interests, and in every other respect to leave the machinery and the action of the Church as free and as effective as they are now. How has the Bill been met? The official Representative of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, met it with an elaborate argument, and what was the summit of the claim that the right hon. Gentleman set up for the Church in Wales? It was this: that it was capable of being made useful to the Welsh people! Was there ever a defence offered by a skilled advocate so fraught with the most fatal imputations?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The right hon. Gentleman said it was useful. He may have said it was useful to its members, but as to the Welsh people what he said was that it was capable of being made useful, just the same as if the right hon. Gentleman, speaking of this House as a great Institution of the country, had said it was capable of being made useful to the people of England. Now, there is no doubt at all that a very large proportion of the Welsh people are out of relation to the Established Church of that country. It is idle to talk on this question about a census. The Nonconformists may be right or they may be wrong to resist a census, but there is no question about the matter in Wales. A very large majority of the people are beyond all question out of communion with the Church. The 50 per cent. to whom the noble Lord has referred is not a representation signifying that the other 50 per cent. are in the Church.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
It is a statement that 50 per cent. of the people can be accounted for as Church members and Church-goers among the Nonconformists, that a smaller proportion is in the Established Church, and that there is a margin even in 281 Wales that cannot be accounted for in connection with either one Body or the other. As regards the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, I cannot say that it was pervaded by any political spirit. It was an able argument, quite devoid of all Party complexion; neither was it in any degree tainted with religious or ecclesiastical animosity. It was a most temperate defence of the Establishment; so temperate was it that it was cool, and so cool that it was cold. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that there was a novel situation which required him to assume a new individuality, and his speech was like a suit of clothes which is new, which hangs loosely about the wearer, not having yet acquired a perfect fit. When listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman I bethought myself of the fact that in our great sea-going ships there is always an apartment known as an ice-chamber, and I could not help wondering whether his speech had not been composed in an ice-chamber. He argued that the Church in Wales was capable of being made useful to the Welsh. I quite agree with him. I quite admit that the Church of England in those four dioceses makes great exertions, and progress in consequence of those exertions. That is what the Nonconformists have been doing for several generations. The Church has entered into competition with them. That competition is going on. There are various Bodies doing good work, and the Established Church is exerting herself in doing it with the Nonconformists by her side. Why is the Established Church to be supplied by the State with funds to carry on that work and the Nonconformists to be left to their own modest resources? The noble Lord, with his second-hand information, tells us that the Nonconformists in Wales have reproached the Established Church with her poverty. I know something of Wales. I have been connected with it for more than 50 years, and I never heard anything so absurd proceeding from the mouth of a person in the noble Lord's position. Though it is true that there are parts of Wales where the Church is poor, yet in a very large portion of Wales she is endowed quite as amply as the Church is 282 in rural portions of this country. In the diocese of St. Asaph, for instance, the Church is rather rich than a poor Church, and with regard to that the noble Lord is as totally ignorant as he is, indeed, upon the whole case. Now, I want to deal with the effect of the Suspensory Bill. It is not denied that the Church in Wales will be left in possession of her temporalities for the purpose of prosecuting her work. But it is said that the Bill deals with parishes which fall vacant. The noble Lord says, "You will never get a curate to accept a parish which falls vacant, because he will not get a vested interest." But is it not a fact that a great many professions are carried on without vested interests? The Nonconformist chapels are filled by men content to rely upon their own talents and their own exertions, and, humble as they are, upon their own resources, and there should be no difficulty in finding ministers to give satisfaction to the congregations who have for a number of years done a great part of the work of a Church in Wales. There are many learned professions — the medical profession is a case in point—carried on almost entirely without the support of anything that can be called a vested interest. Large numbers of churches themselves, in Wales and elsewhere, have no vested interest whatever. The minister takes his position on the faith of the congregation, and relies on his own judgment and exertions. I believe that is the universal custom. But what is to be the amount of disadvantage to which the Church is to be exposed by this Bill? The noble Lord says that if there is Disestablishment the Church in Wales and its organisation will vanish, and will leave the Nonconformists to complete a work for which they would not be strong enough. There is this to be said; that if the Established Church were to vanish, all that the Nonconformists of Wales would have to do would be to complete a work which they have already largely achieved, and of which they have accomplished the most difficult part. That work is dealing with the poor and providing for those who are destitute of spiritual instruction. I say that the vast bulk of that work has been accomplished for years past by the aid of the Non- 283 conformists. The noble Lord said that if a benefice fell vacant a curate would not accept it if this Bill were passed. I think I know something more of Welsh curates than he does, and believe there would be scores of curates who would be delighted to accept it. Now, the noble Lord quoted from a speech I made about 1868, I think, with regard to the way in which we ought to proceed then in the matter of Disestablishment. I accept every word, every syllable of that passage. Nothing, however, can be more improbable, I might say impossible, than that I shall ever be concerned in such a work. However, the noble Lord, I admit, made one good point in his speech, and that was the allusion to the time of life at which I have arrived.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The noble Lord said "senesque," and pointed to me. Yes; and I thought it was the best point in the whole of the speech. The only case that can be put is this: There might be an instance where there is a gentleman in possession of a benefice of £300 with a vested interest. It might be desirable to remove him to a vacancy worth £500, and he might not like to run the risk of the translation. That is the whole objection; he might not care for the change. Does the noble Lord not see that that is a very small question, and one which is open to discussion in Committee—that is, whether we should not try by this Bill to keep alive old vested interests? The purpose of the Bill is not to dispose of old vested interests, but to prevent the creation of new vested interests, which constitute a very heavy burden on the people. The noble Lord says he has listened in vain for arguments in support of the Bill, which he calls a Bill for the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I make this confession, to which I think the noble Lord is entitled, and that is that this Bill is a Disestablishing Bill in principle. I go further, and state that we cannot recommend hon. Gentlemen to 284 vote for this Suspensory Bill unless they think that the facts within their knowledge justify our undertaking the project of the Disestablishment of the Church.
§ MR. W.E. GLADSTONE
Disestablishment of the Church demanded alike by policy and justice, although attended by not inconsiderable practical difficulties. The noble Lord said that I never recognised the voice of the Welsh people until 1892. I have an old Parliamentary habit which the noble Lord has not yet acquired—I do not mean it as a reproach—that of looking to the constitutional representation of a country as the proper and legitimate organ of the expression of public opinion. The declaration of the Welsh people for Disestablishment is comparatively recent. In 1871, when I made a speech quoted to-night by the noble Lord, only seven Welsh Members voted with Mr. Watkin Williams for Disestablishment, and 13 voted against it. Let the noble Lord show me a similar state of facts among the Welsh Members now, and I will re-consider my position. I do not want to force Disestablishment on those who do not want it. I am disposed to give it in answer to the reasonable, persistent, and unequivocal voice of the people, who are entitled to speak and judge for themselves, and who do speak and judge for themselves through the medium of their Constitutional Representatives. The noble Lord says that no argument has been advanced for Disestablishment. I will not say that there is an absolute argument, but there is a strong presumptive argument for Disestablishment wherever the adherents of Establishment are in a small minority. That argument is greatly enhanced and fortified when it also so happens that in the division of the classes of the community those who belong to the Establishment are the wealthier, and those who dissent are the poorer. Both these circumstances concur in the case of Wales. It may be said this is a momentary sentiment. No; it is not. It is a sentiment which year after year, and at election after election, has grown with a rapidity not less than its vigour, and has manifested itself through the most authoritative organs of 285 the people. I do not say that those two circumstances constitute an imperative call to Disestablishment in themselves. But I say that when those two circumstances concur, and are backed by the unequivocal declarations of the people of the Principality, through their Representatives in this House, that is an argument of enormous strength—and I do not understand how the noble Lord considers it is not. If the noble Lord has any room at all for popular principles in his creed—sometimes it has been supposed that his creed has been rather tainted with popular principles—he must admit the force of that argument. But the noble Lord says that the best points are to be made against us out of our own mouths. Then I will go in defence to the mouths of the great authorities on the side of our opponents. Does he remember the declaration of Lord Hartington? "The voice of the people adequately expressed ought to carry it." Does he remember the declaration of Lord Derby in complete conformity with the declaration of Lord Hartington? How is he to tell us, when the Church is in a small minority, and that only of the rich, while the Nonconformists provide for the poor—when the people have taken the matter into their own hands, and have for some years indicated, by an approach to unanimity which is almost unexampled in our Parliamentary history, that they intend to have Disestablishment carried into effect; and when we crown this state of things by citing the highest authorities among our opponents—how, I ask, is it possible for the noble Lord to treat as insignificant and as not amounting to an argument a combination of circumstances which, as a political demonstration, imposes on the House the duty of looking for the first opportunity which the state of Business will permit to carry through the entire work of Disestablishment? Let us be permitted—I do not doubt we shall be permitted—to proceed to the judgment of this House on this mild and moderate Bill. We do not aim at interfering with the work of the Church; but in passing this measure we shall best prove our intention to go steadily and boldly forward towards the completion of the task which we have set before us.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 301; Noes 245.—(Division List, No. 11.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Question put, "That the Main Question be now put."
§ The House proceeded to a Division.
§ Mr. Kenyon was appointed a Teller for the Noes, but no Member being willing to act as the second Teller, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.
§ Main Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Secretary Asquith, Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Henry H. Fowler, and Mr. Thomas Ellis.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 225.]
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
I would ask permission to make an explanation somewhat of a personal nature. When I rose it was with the intention of saying that, although several hon. Members on this side of the House, including myself, were extremely anxious to address the House on this question, yet I hoped that no further Debate would be taken before the First Reading of the Bill. My reason was entirely misinterpreted by the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and, if I may say so, also by yourself, Mr. Speaker. I would only add this: that although it had been my intention to make that statement to the House, and although I am very glad that the House has agreed to the First Reading of the Bill, in order that its provisions may be before the country, yet we intend on this side of the House to insist to the utmost—[Cries of "Oh!" and"Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is scarcely in Order for the right hon. Gentleman to address the House, as there is no Question before it. In regard to the Closure 287 Resolution, I am bound by the Standing Orders. When a Member rises, if the Motion is made, and it is not inopportune, I have no alternative but to put it.
§ MR. ASQUITH
announced that the names on the back of the Bill were those of Mr. H. Fowler, Mr. Gladstone, Mr. T. Ellis, and himself.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
I shall be in Order now. I think we have done our utmost to facilitate the Business of this House by assenting, without further debate, to the First Reading of this Bill to-night. We shall do our utmost—
MR. T. M. HEALY
I rise to a point of Order. I wish to ask whether, on the Question of the fixing of a day for a Bill, anything is in Order except the date?
§ MR. SPEAKER
No; nothing is in Order, except it be to show that the Bill ought to be taken at a later date than that proposed.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
We shall do our utmost to insist on full and ample notice being given of the Second Reading of this Bill, and on its being fixed at a time when the fullest Debate can be taken upon the measure, which in our opinion is fraught with danger to England as well as to Wales, and which has been carried only by the Irish vote.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
There was no occasion for the right hon. Gentleman to insist on having adequate notice and a convenient time. That will be freely granted without any insisting at all.
§ MR. KENYON
This matter being one of such urgency, we demand its immediate consideration by the House. I beg to urge, therefore, on the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that this Bill be proceeded with de die in diem.