§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Edinburgh, W.)
said, that the Home Secretary had promised to go into the principles underlying the Bill on the occasion of its Second Reading. There were one or two points to which he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would devote his attention when that time came, and explain how it was that the Bill would affect the spiritualities as well as the temporalities of the Church. The Church of England was an indivisible whole, but this Bill practically proposed cutting off a limb. What would be the position of the Welsh Church in the future in regard to her Parliament—Convocation; and what would be the position of her Members in regard to that body? They 84 would sit only as guests, and not with the legal rights they now enjoyed. Supposing they sat in Convocation in those circumstances, and a Motion of some kind or another were carried by their aid, would the carrying of such Motion be legal or otherwise? That was one point upon which he hoped the Home Secretary would give the House some information. According to the present law any question involving the ritual of the Church went through a series of courts, ending finally in the Privy Council; but under this Bill a change would be made in so far as the Church in Wales was concerned, by which the final court would be, not the Privy Council, but the House of Lords. Now if some case wore to arise, say, analogous to the celebrated Lambeth Judgment, which was upheld by the Privy Council, and taken to the House of Lords, there might be brought about an absolutely conflicting judgment with regard to a great question of rites which would lead to grave complications; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not overlook the necessity of making some statement upon that view of the matter also. He remembered the eloquent way in which the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill last year, and the indignant terms in which he asked his opponents to believe that he and his Party were not actuated by any feelings of malice towards the Church. Were they not entitled to take the pronouncements of the Prime Minister as the basis on which the Government were proposing to act?—that the State could deal with the Endowments of the Church now because the State had taken them from the Old Church mid given them to the Reformed Church at the Reformation.If they took up that attitude, surely what was now proposed was spoliation—the taking away from the Church all benefactions which had been given to the Church prior to 1703, which included the benefactions from the Reformation to 1703—say 150 years—all given, on Lord Rosebery's own showing, to the same Church as now possessed them. They were told that the funds which were to be taken away were still to be devoted "to religious purposes." He thought that was a paltry attitude to assume, and not worthy of his right hon. Friend. The 85 purposes were good purposes, no one would deny that, but it was playing with words to pretend that they were religious purposes. When they spoke of religious purposes, they meant something containing the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, but the funds were to be devoted to purposes which would commend themselves equally to Christians and Atheists. They had had several speeches from the Welsh Members, and he must say that he did not think the Church had any reason to complain of the tone of those speeches. They were characterised by a fairness which had not always characterised speeches which they had heard even in that House. Differing as he did from those hon. Members, he paid that tribute to them. But what had been their general tone? The Welsh Members had spoken of the triumph of the Voluntary principle. One hon. Member boasted that while the Church contributed voluntarily only £250,000, the Nonconformists contributed voluntarily £400,000. Was his hon. Friend then prepared to admit that the Church contained 5–13ths of the population? ["No."] What then became of his argument? If it did not contain 5–13ths of the population, the Church contributed voluntarily more than the Nonconformists. It was no extrication from the dilemma to say that Churchpeople were so much richer. No doubt that was an important consideration, but the fact remained that, richer or poorer, the Church did give more per head than the Nonconformist bodies. His hon. Friend, the Member for Carmarthen, paid a generous tribute to the life of the Church in Swansea and Cardiff, and he asked how it was that it was so vigorous, and he replied: "Because there are no Endowments." He had heard that before. In Cardiff the Endowments of tithes were £370 only, and in Swansea, £204 only, but that did not exhaust the Endowments affected by that Bill. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners contributed £470 to Cardiff, and £999 to Swansea, so that the amount which would be affected by the Bill would be respectively £840 and £1,183. He maintained that, noble as Voluntaryism was, as a sign of life and energy in a Church, it was incapable itself of doing the necessary spiritual work properly. Nonconformists 86 all through the country were endeavouring to supplement their voluntary contributions by permanent Endowments The number of schemes submitted during the last ten years, 760 in all, to the Charity Commissioners, showed that the Nonconformists were feeling the want of Endowments, and were trying gradually to build them up. But it was not only a question of Church or Nonconformity. Take the case of hospitals. Had they not proof positive that the conviction that Endowments are necessary in regard to hospitals had made progress? In fact, the principle had made such progress, that the London County Council had proposed to give them one of the most stable of all Endowments—the rates of London. The hospital fund collected in London for 1894, amounted to £35,400. The amount obtained by collections in churches of the Church of England was £28,500; and the collections of other religious bodies outside the Church amounted to £7,000. Next to the Church stood the Congregationalists, whose collections amounted to £1,500. He did not suppose for a moment that £1,500 was the measure of the generosity of the Congregational body, certainly not; he would be the last person to suppose that it represented the full measure of the sympathy of that body. It was the duty of the Congregationalists, as of all other bodies, to think of their own denomination first; and it was because the Church had the privilege and the advantage of large Endowments from deceased Churchmen and Churchwomen that she was able to spare for great national purposes a part of the funds which, in the event of Disendowment, she would be obliged to devote to purely Church purposes. An attempt had been made to explain why the Voluntary system did not succeed in planting a resident Nonconformist minister in every parish in Wales; it was said that many of them were so small in area and population that there was no necessity for a resident minister. In this respect Wales did not differ so very much from England; but in Wales, out of a total of 1,081 parishes, there were 485 in which there was no resident minister except the clergyman. In the face of these figures it was impossible to say that Voluntarism had covered the ground and provided all 87 that was needed. An to the number of hearers in the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist body, the alleged total of 292,000 included 25,000 resident in Manchester and Liverpool, so that the smaller total of 268,000 was the more correct. Objection had been taken to the citation of election statistics because it was said Unionist candidates supported Disestablishment; but it was overlooked that the three seats for Anglesey, Carmarthen, and Cardigan wore contested in 1892 by avowed supporters of Disestablishment, and Disendowment in 1885 and 1886 by avowed supporters of the Church; and, whereas the aggregate poll for the Disestablishment candidates in 1892 was 7,203, the total poll of avowed supporters of the Church at the previous elections was 9,186. Thus there was a loss of votes to the disestablishing Unionists; Churchmen could not vote for them, and personally he did not wonder. In commencing the struggle he would ask opponents, once for all, to realise the position of Churchmen. They held that the Church in England and in Wales was one and indivisible, that it had existed since Christianity was introduced into these islands—the English branch from St. Augustine and the Welsh from the earlier missionaries; and the Endowments of the Church, without exception, had been voluntary gifts to the Church; and that there was no difference in principle between a sixpence put into the offertory next Sunday and tithe granted by pious Churchmen or Church-women 800 or 1,000 years ago. That was their position; and opponents would spare themselves trouble and avoid wounding the feelings of Churchmen unnecessarily if they said nothing more about adopting a timely compromise. The right hon. Member for Denbighshire said that this was the best offer the Church was likely to get; and he talked about the Sybilline Books, which was a strange reference to make in arguing the question ostensibly on religious principles, as if it were to be determined, not on its intrinsic merits, but by political expediency. To talk in this way was a waste of breath, and, if it were repeated, it would be an insult to those who held the Church to be one and indivisible. To ask them to compromise, was to ask them to lie faithless o their trust. It was said that the flower of the clergy at Bangor proposed 88 that Churchmen should accept Disestablishment without Disendowment; but they did not represent any but themselves. They would not obtain the support of any diocesan conference. And was there, he asked, a single Welsh Member who would accept that compromise? There was no response to that question; then, what was the use of making hypocritical speeches in praise of a scheme which the Welsh Members themselves would not accept? The Bill not only ran athwart the beliefs of Churchmen as to the nature of the Church and as to its future mission, but it wounded them in their reason and in their deepest sentiments. Did the Home Secretary realise the imagination and the sentiment that in the minds of Churchmen hung around cathedrals and churchyards? No other outward and visible signs appealed so deeply to their feelings. For centuries their forefathers had worshipped in these cathedrals, and had been buried in these churchyards, and to hand them over to National Commissioners and Parish Councils would wound Churchmen deeply. It was said the Church in Wales was doomed, but, with the profoundest respect for the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, he did not believe for a moment that she was doomed; but, just as 20 years ago there was no majority against her, so 20 or 30 years hence there might be no such majority; and two generations was but a short time in the life of a Church which had existed thirteen centuries, Believing that the Bill was intrinsically unjust, and that there lay before the Church in Wales centuries of useful work and acceptance at the hands of the people, he would offer to the Bill all the opposition that he could.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, that it was with some reluctance that he rose to take part in the Debate at this stage of the discussion, after having had the privilege of hearing the speech of the noble Lord who had spoken with so much knowledge of the subject, and with so much elevating fervour. He regretted that the right hon. Baronet, the Member for East Denbighshire, was not present on that occasion. On the first night of the Debate, the right hon. Baronet complained of the Church Defence, Institution, on the, ground that that society had insulted the, people of 89 Wales. It had been his privilege to take part in the Councils of that Society for some years, and he denied the charge of the right hon. Gentleman. He trusted that, before the Debate concluded, so grave an accusation would be withdrawn or substantiated. They had, on many occasions, submitted their views to audiences in Wales, and they had uniformly received courtesy and consideration. He was sure, therefore, that no insult could have been offered to the Welsh people by the Church Defence Institution. He had asked the Home Secretary, in the course of his exposition of the Bill, what the scheme of the Government was respecting Cathedrals. He could not believe that the right hon Gentleman, with his forensic skill and ability, could have excepted Cathedrals except by express purpose and design. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Midlothian, in his first scheme dealing with the Irish Church, entrusted a certain number of Churches—he believed there were 12—to the supervision of commissioners, but before the scheme became law these 12 great Churches were placed in the same category as the rest. As that proposal failed in the Irish Church Bill, so he believed that a similar proposal would fail now. It had been well said, that sentiment clustered round Cathedrals; and probably no buildings were surrounded with more hallowed associations than the Welsh Cathedrals. They were founded in the sixth or seventh century, and portions of the ancient structures could still be recognised by antiquaries. Now, after more than 1,000 years, it was proposed by a Government, calling itself Liberal and desiring to be thought enlightened, to hand over these edifices to the County Councils and purely secular authorities. These Churches had been, maintained and restored by the voluntary efforts of succeeding generations, and during the present age £117,000 had been expended on these buildings. Llandaff Cathedral had been raised from a state of ruin to a condition of great beauty and magnificence, and the Church of St. David, once almost desolate, had now been, as regards the more important part of the structure beautifully restored under the careful superintendence of the Dean and the loving guidance of Sir Gilbert Scott. The 90 Government were not only proposing to desecrate sanctuaries, but were violating their own principle that modern Endowments ought not to be interfered with. It was suggested that the Church in Wales was alien because it was opposed, and always had been opposed, to the national movement. Of all Welshmen in Wales who were true Welshmen there were none more true than members of the Church. Those who had the privilege of the acquaintance of the Welsh Bishops must know that each and all of those prelates were thoroughly national in all their sentiments, and as entirely Welsh as any Welshman who could represent Wales in the House of Commons. He regretted very much there was not in Wales a religious census. There was such a census in Ireland, in Australia, in Canada, and in the United States. When he looked to the facts in Wales he greatly doubted whether the census of the ballot-box, as had been contended, truly represented Wales in this matter. He had a growing conviction that the pious and devout Nonconformists of Wales were beginning to look askance at this Bill. They did not believe that this controversy was being conducted in a spirit which would favour the growth of Christianity among them. They believed that in these days' when so many attacks were being made upon Christianity, it was necessary to strengthen every agency for good. They did not believe that the best comfort and hope could be found in removing from their midst those who uttered the words of solace and consolation. The right hon. Gentleman said that the new purposes to which the funds were to be devoted were as much religious as the Church itself. In making that remark he was mistaking the fruit for the tree. Cottage hospitals, trained nurses, convalescent homes, labourers' dwellings, and the rest were the fruits and the results and the consequences of Christianity; and if they were to weaken the forces of Christianity, then they would not have the same sympathy for the poor, the same disposition to heal their sorrows, or to soothe them in their grief. Could anyone say that the cause of religion would be as much promoted by libraries, or museums, or academies of art, as by the preaching of the Gospel and the ministrations from house to house, of a pious priest? It was a mockery 91 to lay before the House an argument of that sort. There was a great contrast between the scheme for the disestablishment of the Irish Church and the plan of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Midlothian, in dealing with the Irish Church, said: "he had a desire that no unnecessary hardship should be inflicted." He went on to say—Every motive that can appeal to the feelings of men of honour and gentlemen must lead us to feel it a duty so to proceed with this measure that it shall carry with it no unnecessary penalty or pain.And then again—All are equally anxious that the Irish Church, at a period when all its Members and Ministers will be called upon to exert themselves to the utmost, should not be subjected to the disadvantages of a cripple ecclesiastical organization.and further—This transition should be attended not with the maximum but with the minimum of change.and then he added that these principles led the Government to adopt—the principle of commutation, so that the clergy might pass from one condition to the other with least possible friction.In this case the Church would be called upon to undergo a process, he would not say of bleeding to death, but of bloodletting which will seriously imperil its vitality. They were told that in the colonies great advantage was gained by the absence of an Established Church. The views of the Bishop of Manchester were not in that sense, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells had borne emphatic testimony that the antagonism, and the disadvantages which arose from sectarian differences, were far more keen in Adelaide than in England. Then they came to the United States. Had the absence of a national church promoted unity? The citizens of that great republic had not shrunk from a religious census. He had in his hand an official report of that census. One of the first questions which might be asked was, What had been the result of the absence of an Established Church upon religious unity? The reporter described the position of an American citizen. He said:—An American citizen may be a member of any one of 143 denominations, or of all in succession. If none of those suit him, he still has a choice of 150 separate and independent congregations, 92 which have no denominational name, creed or connection. In no quarter of the globe have the Lutherans, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, or the Baptists, the Friends, or the Memnonites, separated into so many branches as here in this land of perfect civil and religious liberty.Then came the effect of all these organisations upon the religion of America, and he found these words:—One out of every twelve persons is either, an active or passive opponent of religion; two out of every three members are not members of any Church.He thought he might fairly say that in the judgment of the Americans themselves, as shown in their documents, the condition of affairs in America had not by any means proved that great advantages arose from the absence of a national church. He was tempted to ask, what would be the loss to the people of Wales from Disestablishment? He believed, himself, that a nation derived advantages from the national recognition of Christtianity. He believed it was to the advantage of a people that everyone should have the right to religious ministrations; and why should they take away that right from the people of Wales? He believed the existence of a national church was really a bond of union which drew together all classes in a parish, and the church belonged to the poor man every whit as much as to the rich man. He asked what would be the effect on education in Wales from Disestablishment? The tale of the board schools was a truly melancholy story. Of 300 board schools in Wales (excluding Monmouthshire) there were 123 schools where there was no bible read at all, and 119 where it was read without comment, whilst in 290 cases out of the 300 there was no examination whatever in religious knowledge. Anyone acquainted with the work of schools would agree with him when he said that education to be perfect and sound must be brought, in some form or other, to the test by means of examination. If the Welsh people desired to have Christianity taught to their children in the six days of the week, they must send them to the voluntary schools. He found that in the Church Voluntary Schools, in the diocese of St. Asaph, there were 18,571 children, in the Board Schools 10,766, in the British Schools 3,319. That was to say 93 that the 10,000 children who attended the Board Schools must be transferred to other schools in order to obtain that knowledge in religion which he believed to be absolutely necessary to develop the religious life of a young child. They had not only to deal with elementary education, but also with Welsh intermediate education. What were they told was the desire of the Welsh in this respect? They had had schemes proposed, and only abrogated by the action of the House of Lords, preventing any child of a Churchman receiving instruction in any of the formularies of the Church of England in any boarding-master's house. Amongst the formularies of the Church of England so forbidden, were some of the collects read every day in the House of Commons at the commencement of their proceedings. He thought it was an act of persecution that children of Church people in Wales should not be allowed to learn—not at the schools, but at the boarding houses—the very collects which hon. Members were accustomed to hear read day after day in that House. They came, then, to the effect of endowments on religion. What was the opinion of every Christian body throughout the world which had no Endowments? Were they content to go up and down the world exposed to all the chances and changes of uncertainty? No, in every case they were building up Endowments. This applied to the members of the Free Church of Scotland, to the Roman Catholics, and to the various Nonconformist bodies, and were all these Endowments to be protected by the law, whilst those of the Church were to be pillaged by the law? He wanted to know the reason why there should be this inequality of treatment? With regard to the question of figures, he did not believe the numbers of the members of the Church in Wales could be put at less than 700,000, whilst those of all the other denominations did not exceed 800,000. He was glad to see the President of the Board of Trade present, and he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would pardon his calling attention to some words which fell from him in 1892. The right hon. Gentleman thought it necessary to explain away the force of the numbers of the Welsh Church-goers 94 by condemning their religion, and he said:—It seems to me that those in Wales in whom the spirit, life and conviction of religion is doing work, attach themselves to the Nonconformisits, and only a small proportion to the Church of England.What right and title had the right hon. Gentleman to bring an accusation like that against Churchmen in Wales? He believed the accusation was totally unjust and wholly unfounded in fact. Could people who were liable to such an imputation have spent the magnificent sums which had been expended during the late few years in Wales? They had of late years spent £117,000 on cathedrals, between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 on churches, and upwards of £2,000,000 on schools. Then they were told that all this money had been spent in vain, that their religion was a mere brick and mortar religion, and that they had erected edifices and could find no congregations to till them. His answer to the accusation was plain and simple. He did not believe the Welsh people were such fools. He could not think they attached so little importance to £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 of money that they could squander it without any result. On the contrary, he found that the number of those attending their churches and Sunday schools was steadily and rapidly increasing. The old Church was the Church of the forefathers of the present generation. True enough, there was once coldness, dulness, apathy, and a want of religion, but even in those days pious men hoped for better things, and said that ere long the lamp of religion would burn again with purity and with brightness in the Welsh Church. He thought that Churchmen and Nonconformists alike should continue in possession of their endowments, both of which were the result of voluntary gift. Let both Churchmen and Nonconformists, if not together, at least side by side, continue their holy work of spreading the influences of Christianity throughout the land, bringing comfort to every household, solace to the sick, strength to the feeble, and to the powerful and strong lessons of mercy, charity, and loving-kindness to their weak, lowly, and afflicted neighbours.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY (Kent, Ashford)
had no hesitation in rising to 95 take part in the discussion, because he considered it the duty of anybody who regarded himself as a staunch member of the Church to oppose a political move, as this undoubtedly was. He did not look upon this as simply a Bill for Disestablishing and Disendowing the Church in Wales, but as a Suspensory Bill for Disestablishing and Disendowing the Church in England and Wales. The supporters of the measure themselves supplied evidence as to what was really meant. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Denbighshire speaking a good many years ago, in reference to a Motion of this sort, said, that whilst he was strongly in favour of Disestablishment, he did not like the long agony of piecemeal Disestablishment, which was like putting a man to death by tearing him limb by limb. He noticed that the right hon. Gentleman now objected to being bound to any views he might have held so long ago as 25 years. Only nine years ago, however, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said, the question of the Church in Wales could not really be separated from the question of the Church in England. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, speaking on the occasion of the Introduction of the Redistribution of Seats Bill, said—I wish to point out that Wales never has been dealt with separately, and on any separate principle, in any Reform Bill. The distinction between England and Wales, except in the recital of an Act of Parliament, for the purpose of indicating their unity, is totally unknown to our Constitution.If that were the case, surely he and his hon. Friends were justified in treating the question of Welsh Disestablishment as part of the general question of Disestablishment. And they ought to be able to appeal to hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal Benches, to apply now the same argument which they used two years ago in the discussion on the Home Rule Bill. At that time a small portion, but a very strong and influential portion of the Irish people, appealed to the House, that they might be treated differently to the rest of Ireland, in being allowed to remain united to England. The majority opposite, however, said, "No, you must be bound by the prevalent opinion of Ireland." The Church in England and the 96 Church in Wales was one and indivisible, and he maintained that the same argument adduced two years ago in the case of Home Rule, should be applied in the case of the Church, under which the main body in the Church should rule. In the discussion on the Irish Disestablishment Bill, one of the Ministers of the Crown said—In this question, we have offended a clique, to conciliate a nation.He suggested that they should take care that in this case, in conciliating a clique, they did not offend a larger nation than was concerned in the case of Irish Disestablishment. Hon. Members were referred to the case of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, notwithstanding all the protests of leading men at the time that that could never be taken as a precedent in the case of Wales. The Irish case was cited as a precedent in the Debate last year. It was then stated by the President of the Local Government Board that the Church in Ireland had prospered enormously since her Disestablishment, that greater peace was prevalent among the Sects, and that the Church had enlarged her borders. Such, however, was not the opinion of the Bishop of Deny, or of the late Archbishop Magee. He (Mr. Hardy) did riot think the experience in the Irish case justified Parliament in applying to any portion of the United Kingdom the same drastic remedy which was attempted to be applied to Ireland 25 years ago. If the Church were to be Disestablished and Disendowed, was it not only fair that she should be treated on the analogy of the charitable trusts which were alluded to by Lord Rosebery at Cardiff. The Prime Minister mentioned charitable trusts as rather justifying the application of money to other purposes than it had hitherto been applied to. In dealing with a charitable trust, two things were always considered—namely, whether the trust had failed in its object, and whether the means were too large to fulfil the original object of the Trust. Could it be said that the endowments in Wales were too large? In introducing this Bill last year, the Government confessed that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were giving £40,000 a year more to Wales than they took out of it. As 97 to whether there was still an object to pursue, every sort of statistic could be pointed to, to prove that the Church was still endeavouring to do her duty, and that if she could only be relieved from the necessity of turning her attention to these political matters, she could do more than she was doing at the present moment. Churchmen were most annoyed by the manner in which it was proposed to deal with the possessions of the Church. They felt deeply the Home Secretary's allusion to what he called the religions purposes set forth in the Schedule of the Bill. It was robbery under the excuse of alms-giving. What a mockery it was to take the money of the Church to establish academies of Art; which attained its highest and noblest achievements when it was the handmaiden of Religion. As to whether the Church was dying out in Wales or not, there was plenty of evidence that she was in a healthy and flourishing condition from the mouths, not of her own members, but of witnesses outside her ranks. At the Baptist Union recently, the Rev. Mr. Shakespeare said there was only one word that described the position of that Sect in many of the great centres of population—namely, the word "failure," and he added "the Church of England, at least in the towns, is rapidly becoming the Church of the people." Again, the defeated Liberal Candidate in Worcestershire declared, as his firm opinion, that the reason why the Liberal Party were losing seats in the counties was, that rural Dissent was ceasing to exist. These statements showed that the Church was doing its duty both in town and country. It was said by the opponents of the Church, that the Bill was an attack upon vested interests. But there was one vested interest to which he had heard no allusion in the course of the Debate—namely, the vested interest the poor had to claim admittance to the services of the Church of England at all times. It was only last year that one of the large Nonconformist Sects in Wales sent out a circular to its ministers, saying that they must not cut off people from their membership because they had not paid their contributions, as church people might say that Dissent was not ministering to the poor. At any rate, that could never be alleged against the Church of England. There were places 98 always in her churches for the poor, and her ministers were always ready and willing to help them in time of need. Another great injustice done by the Bill was, that it took from them the burial-grounds surrounding their churches, up to the very doors of the churches. Churchmen in Wales would no longer be able to enlarge their churches when the need for enlargement arose, because the grounds would belong to the County Council. Their tenderest emotions were associated with these burial-grounds, they had possessed them for hundreds of years; and it was hard that they should not have at least the same justice which was done to Dissenting bodies by an Act passed in 1844, which declared that if a burial-ground was attached to any meeting-house for 25 years, it was to be considered as belonging to the congregation of such meeting-house. It might be said that those were matters of detail, but when the Bill got into Committee, they would be fought hard against to the very last.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts., St. Albans)
said that anyone who had listened to the Debate last year, must be struck by the change of tone in the advocates of Disestablishment when referring to the Church. They now had the Welsh Members, with perfect honesty, admitting that the Church was growing and prospering in Wales, and saying they wished her to grow and prosper. He was glad that hon. Members from Wales took that line. It was a much more charitable and amiable line than the line they took last year. But let them consider where this new line landed them. The acts of persecution and proselytism alleged against the Church last year, were untrue. If those acts had been true, they would have afforded considerable justification for disestablishing and disendowing the Church in Wales. But if the Church was prospering in Wales and benefiting the people of Wales, where was the moral justification of the Bill? Hero was a great aggregate Corporation, which, it could not be historically disputed, was the owner of the funds, much of which had nothing to do with the State whatever, and yet the State proposed to deprive that aggregate Corporation of its funds without any justification, for no one now dared to allege that the Church had misused her 99 funds. It might be the hon. Members opposite would say—We do not base our argument on that at all; we do not concern ourselves with whether or not the Church in Wales had misused her funds, but we say we could make better use of these funds.But if that argument were a sufficient justification, why did the Home Secretary stop at the year 1703? If the principle of endowment were bad, why did not the right hon. Gentleman choose the day the Bill became law? It might be said, too, by hon. Members opposite,—"We are friends of religious equality." A pretty religious equality they were going to introduce into Wales. They were going to allow the Dissenting Chapels to retain their endowments and take away the endowments of the Church of England, so that the position in Wales would be, the Church without endowments against Dissent with endowments. But it was not difficult to guess why the year 1703 had been chosen. Because all the endowments of the Church were anterior to that date, and all the endowments of Nonconformity posterior to that date. Hon. Members from Wales also said that they would not have a privileged Church in Wales. But no supporters of the Bill had said what these privileges were, simply because they were non-existent. What were the privileges of a poor parson in Wales, struggling on what would be considered a miserable pittance in any other profession, to do his duty to the people? It was said that the squire often asked him to dinner. Did they suppose they would stop the squire asking the parson to dinner by disestablishing the Church? The only privilege the Church enjoyed was that her bishops were represented in another place. He believed it was an advantage that a religion which was professed by the enormous majority of the people of the United Kingdom should be represented directly in the Legislature. That might be a very silly idea; and if it were, it would be a justification for voting in favour of Disestablishment; but surely it was no argument for Disendowment. He was astonished that the Welsh Members, whose ability could not be disputed for one moment, should be so short-sighted as not to see that by their action in this matter they were 100 playing the game of their bitterest enemy. They plumed themselves on their strong religious convictions; and yet they were fighting against the Church of England which was engaged with them in the battle against Secularism in this country. The religious community that would benefit most by the Bill, if carried, was the Roman Church. It was true the members of that Church in the House were going to vote with the Government, but they would do so in accordance with a pure political bargain, connected with matters of an entirely different character; and without the sanction, or encouragement of the authorities of their Church. It was said in the course of the debate that the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Bristol, had confused the question of Disestablishment with religion. Their position was that the cause of religion would suffer, not irreparably, but a cruel wrong if the Bill were passed. The Church of England must act through human instruments, and it was the most monstrous cant to talk of spiritualising the Church and removing her from the worldly influence of riches by taking away her property. Although they might be a stupid party, they were not so stupid as not to see very plainly that, if the money now spent in giving religious privileges to the Welsh people were taken away, the cause of sectarianism would be advanced, and the cause of religion would retrograde. The Home Secretary asked whether there was no refining influence about art galleries. Was there no degrading influence about offering a bribe to people to sacrifice the money spent on their spiritual welfare for the sake of their material benefit? Was there no refining influence in the religion of which they would be deprived? But the strongest position of the supporters of the measure was that they included 31 out of 34 Welsh Members. Everyone would admit that that was a Home Rule argument. But this was not a Welsh Church that was to be Disestablished as distinguished from an English Church. It was an integral part of the English Church which was being attacked in its weakest part. None of the advocates of the Bill had been dishonest enough to suggest that this was not an attack on the English Church. Everyone knew 101 that this was intended to be the beginning of the end; and that if the Church of England in Wales were Disestablished, the position of the Church in other parts of England would be immensely weakened, as practically the principle of Establishment would be gone. But if this were to be done on Home Rule lines, why not have Home Rule in Wales first? On what grounds was Wales to be treated differently from Ireland? One of the most striking features of the Irish Home Rule Bill, was a clause prohibiting any dealing with the question of an Establishment; and yet Wales, for which Home Rule was not proposed, was to have the power of dealing with the Established Church. The Welsh were to be allowed to inflict an injury on the Church, which by far the largest number of the people of England believed to be the best, while the Irish were not allowed to assist the religion which they believed to be best. How had the National feeling in Wales been produced? Were there not a great many partially educated people in Wales who had been led to believe that the effect of this measure would be to relieve them from what they erroneously imagined to be a burden on the land? [Several hon. MEMBERS: "No."] The reading of hon. Members' speeches delivered in the country was not calculated to contradict the impression. There had been a great deal of indirect bribery. The Welsh people had been told that their material interests would be benefited by disendowment; and that bribery had been increased by the allocation of the funds which the Home Secretary proposed. But the true ground of the attack was stated by an hon. Member last year. He said—The cause was obvious. The Welsh people were Radicals and the Church was Tory.Here was the reason in its most contemptible form. A great political party drove a Church into hostility, and then, because it was hostile, took away its property. Lord Rosebery had given the same reasons for attacking the Scotch Church. As to the question of the census, he knew that hon. Members for Wales did not like public censuses. The 102 right hon. Baronet the Member for Denbigh (Sir G. O. Morgan) had said—What would a census show? It would only prove the number of the members of the Church of England and not their opinions.True, but what objection was that to a census? Why did hon. Members shrink from the results of that census being revealed? If it was immaterial to the issue, why were they afraid of it? (Several hon. MEMBERS: "We are not.") Then what had become of the private census, taken by the Welsh Dissenters at their own time and by their own people? From that day to this they had been, afraid to reveal what the results of that census were.
§ MR. LLOYD GEORGE (Carnarvon Burghs)
The hon. Member is quite incorrect. Those figures have been published. I have them with me.
§ MR. V. GIBBS
said, that the whole of those figures had never been revealed to the public, though they might have been to the hon. Member. No doubt the hon. Member had good reason for keeping them to himself. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Denbigh gave as one of the reasons why Churchmen should accept the measure, that it was the best that they would ever get, and that nothing could avert the doom which was to fall. The Church party might be stupid, but they were not so cowardly as to be influenced by threats of that kind. He would say to the right hon. Baronet, "There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats." The hon. right Baronet the Member for Denbighshire said the Welsh Church was an alien Church, his evidence for it being a statement by Professor Goldwin Smith.
§ SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbigh, E.),
interposing, said he quoted the statements of a number of distinguished Welsh Clergy that the Welsh Church was not a national Church.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
said that, to refresh his memory, he had carefully read the report of the hon. Baronet's speech in the Times. The hon. Baronet quoted as his evidence a remark of Professor Goldwin Smith that the Welsh peasant would never be a fervid Anglican. The hon. Baronet carried loose 103 thinking to the extremest verge consistent with the exercise of the reasoning faculty; but even he would not pretend that a casual remark by Professor Goldwin Smith constituted sufficient evidence. The hon. Baronet referred to "the little rift within the lute" among his opponents. The only evidence of any such rift that he seemed to rely on was that possibly the right hon. Member for West Birmingham would not vote with them on this matter. The manifesto signed by Welsh clergymen to which the hon. Baronet referred was only signed by four. Had there ever been a party or community which had not contained a few men ready to betray the fortress they were maintained to defend?
§ MR. VICABY GIBBS
By the grace of Lord Rosebery we now have a Disestablishment Bishop, but does he represent the voice of the Church and her clergy?
§ SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN
The evidence I adduced was entirely from Wales. [Opposition Cries of "Oh!"] I adduced the statements of five leading Welsh clergymen. As to the evidence of English clergymen or English laymen, who know nothing of Wales, I do not value it in the least.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
said he was not concerned with the value which the hon. Baronet attached to the opinions of the English clergy. All he wished to show was that he had only quoted the opinions of four clergymen from Wales. With regard to the allocation scheme proposed by the Bill, the Conservative Members of the House were unanimously against it. His hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge had been accused of having misrepresented the numbers of the Calvinistic Methodists. Quoting from the Calvinistic Methodist Year Book for 1892–3, he gave them as 268,000. But they were said to be 292,000. Those figures were, however, arrived at by adding all the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists who resided in England. The President of the Board of Trade had said that the Church of England was a new Church at the time of Henry VIII., which had become possessed of property of the Roman Catholic Church. If it 104 was a new Church, it must have had its title by the approval of Parliament and the Crown, but no such thing had taken place. For the sake of argument he would admit that the President of the Board of Trade's proposition, that the Church of England in Wales was a new Church, was correct. What, then, became of the statements that the origin of tithes was buried in the mists of ages? If it was a new Church it must have had its title by the approval of Parliament and the Crown. No such thing, however, had taken place. The hon. Member for Radnor had argued that if the Church were disestablished no harm would be done, and the people of Wales would suffer no loss of their privileges. He had also said, that in one village there were 13 chapels. There was no doubt about the chapels; the chapels had been overbuilt on the assumption that the Church was going to remain in a lethargic condition, but that condition had disappeared. Then there was the question of the resident ministers. Was the qualification for a resident minister merely that he should preach a sermon on Sunday? He ventured to think that was not enough, and that resident ministers should minister both to the bodies and minds of the people. The dissenting ministers in these villages only ministered to the dissenters. There were many places which would be likely to lose their ministers if by this Bill the Church were Disestablished. It had been said, that the people of Wales would get very material advantages from the Bill; he ventured to think they would get very material disadvantages. It had been shown that the Church of England in Wales subscribed the greater proportion of the subscriptions and donations to the Voluntary Schools and Hospitals in the Principality. That was because their purses were released from the primary expenses of their churches. If, however, these endowments were spent on all the fanciful schemes which had been proposed, the churches would be obliged to devote their money to their own maintenance. He did not pretend to any special knowledge of Wales, but he was perfectly justified, as a member of the Church of England, in putting forward his views. Welsh Members knew perfectly well that in the main the clergymen of the Church of England in Wales were an influence 105 for good, but that influence would, in his opinion, be lost in many of the poorer parts of Wales if this Bill became law. The hon. Member for Radnor had said that the English Church in Wales raised £250,000, while the Welsh dissenters raised £400,000. He should have liked to know how much of that £400,000 was spent merely on the interest of the debts on the dissenting chapels. But apart from that, hon. Members could not have it both ways. These figures showed that either the church was in a miserable minority, but was doing its duty munificently and splendidly, or else the supporters of the Church of England in Wales formed a very material part of the community. This was a sample of the arguments advanced by the supporters of the Bill, who did not, he thought, show a proper spirit of fairness in approaching this question. He was grateful to hon. Members for the courtesy with which they had listened to his views, which he had felt bound to express, because he did not think the Church of England in Wales had been justly treated.
§ SIR R. E. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
said, he rose to take part in the Debate with a feeling of considerable regret. He thought hon. and right hon. Members on that side of the House had serious cause of complaint with regard to the way in which the Debate had been conducted on behalf of the Government. There had been, at any rate since last Monday night, a conspiracy of silence on this question, undoubtedly by direction of the Government. It was unworthy of them. Hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, having honestly and fully put forward their views and arguments on the question, reasonably felt that they were entitled to some reply from the Front Bench. [The SOLICITOR-GENERAL: "It is the First Reading."] He would deal with that point in a moment. One of the ablest speeches ever heard in that House had been delivered on the question by the right hon. Member for Bristol, and it was scant courtesy to one in his position that absolutely no answer had been made from the Treasury Bench to that speech, though it was delivered early on Monday evening. As to the 106 interlocutory observation just now of the Solicitor General, he must say that he felt it his duty to protest against the way in which the Home Secretary endeavoured to discount everything that was said on the matter by hon. Members on the Opposition side, in debating the First Reading of the Bill, by telling them beforehand, with scarcely veiled contempt in his tone, that what they were going to do was to be regarded as another instance of the growing abuse of making a First Reading the occasion for a Second Reading Debate. Before the right hon. Gentleman thought fit by anticipation to rebuke his opponents in this way, he might have been, a little more careful to ascertain what was the Parliamentary practice on such occasions. From his own experience of that practice, which was at least as long as that of the right hon. Gentleman, and from careful reading, he could assert that on no single occasion had any Bill of a similar kind, and of equal importance, ever been introduced without the policy of the Government who brought in the Bill being explained to justify their action. It was all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to assume, in his peculiar manner, that the course taken by hon. Members of the Opposition was to be regarded as, to a certain extent, obstructing the course of events, because they insisted on examining the policy of the Government. On not one of the three occasions that the question of the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales had been brought before the House had the policy of the Government been explained, not even in the most casual manner. Was that in accordance with Parliamentary precedent? He challenged anyone of experience sitting on the Treasury Bench to justify that position. Was there anyone who had more respected or regarded the traditions of that House than the right hon. gentleman the Member for Midlothian? What was his utterance? And to this he would claim the attention of the Home Secretary, when lie thought fit to suggest that there was no necessity for him to discuss the policy of the Government in connaction with this proposed enormous constitutional change. 107 The right hon Member for Midlothian said in 1869:—I cannot but be aware that under ordinary circumstances anyone who undertakes to introduce into the House of Commons a subject of grave constitutional change ought to commence by laying his ground strongly and broadly in historical and political reasons.The Home Secretary would observe also that, notwithstanding the extent to which the question had previously been debated, the right hon. Member for Midlothian occupied a considerable portion of his three-hour speech on introducing the fundamental change with regard to the Disestablishment of the Irish Church in laying before the House the reasons which prompted the then Government in the action they took. The same course had been pursued on every occasion when a similar change to that now proposed had been brought forward. The Home Secretary no doubt remembered the Introduction of the Land Bill in 1870, when again three quarters of an hour, or an hour, was occupied by the right hon. Member for Midlothian in expounding the grounds for that change of policy. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman, too, of what his own Leader said, when dealing with the introduction of the Crimes Bill in 1882—a Bill which had not infrequently been discussed in that House. The right hon. Gentleman said:—I shall best discharge the duty I have to perform if I endeavour to lay before the House the nature of the evils with which we have to deal, and the remedies which the Government are prepared to recommend for those evils.Was this not an occasion, then, to inquire into the motives which have prompted the Government to introduce a measure disestablishing and disendowing the oldest institution in the country? The Church was older than the Monarchy, and was more closely interwoven with their rights and privileges, moral and social, than any other institution that existed. He would endeavour to show presently why the Home Secretary had not been able to discuss the policy, and it would be remarkable, unless some Member of the Government rose and spoke after him, that that Debate would have opened and closed without the slightest exposition of the policy of the Government in bringing this question forward being placed before the country. 108 Ay or no—Was this an important occasion? Were right hon. Gentlemen entitled to treat the Church in Wales as though it were an isolated Church which had nothing to do with the Church as established in England? There was no statesman who had considered the question during the last 40 years who had not seen that in talking of the Church in Wales they were also talking of the Church in England, and that the question of the Church in England was vitally involved in all considerations affecting the Church in Wales. Geographically, historically, and spiritually the Church in Wales could not be distinguished from the other parts of the Province of Canterbury. It had no independent existence, it had no organic unity, apart from the Church of England; and those who dealt with the matter must be prepared to recognise that fact on the floor of the House, not on platforms of the country, where vapouring speeches could be made without the slightest probability of a reply. Was he justified in stating that the Church of England was involved in this question? It was not pleasure to quote from the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but in this matter it was important to know whether the right hon. Gentleman had changed his opinion that the Church in England and the Church in Wales were practically the same organisation. As recently as 1886 the right hon. Gentleman, on a Motion for Disestablishment brought forward by the late Mr. Dillwyn, said:—The Church of England in Wales is so much an intregal part of the Established Church of England that it is not merely difficult, but I will say impossible, to raise the question as a separate one, and that you cannot deal with the one question—I do not mean by Resolution, but practically in Legislation without involving the other. I think it is a proposition which will commend itself to every man's mind that if you raise the question of the Church in Wales you raise the whole question.They had a ridiculous protest from the Home Secretary against what he called the abuse of turning the discussion into a Second Reading Debate. Where was his justification on the ground of policy, assuming the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be even to a small extent correct? Had they heard from the Government Bench a single word in favour of Disestablish- 109 ment of the Church in England as distinguished from the Church in Wales? No, they were in this position—that the Government were driven by the force of circumstances to admit that the attack was not one levelled solely against the Church in Wales, but levelled also against the Church in England. They knew that the battle whenever it came would be used as a strong argument in favour of or against the Disestablishment of the Church in England, but, they had not been able to bring forward a single argument in favour of the great scheme they had undertake. He meant on behalf of his friends and himself to put his protest on record and to make it clear that the Home Secretary could not possibly argue the question of policy in that House. If he did so he would have to deal with the question of an alien Church, and if he lent himself to the absurd suggestion that the Church in Wales was forced on an unwilling country by a conquering England he would have to get rid of the historic fact that the four dioceses of Wales had existed for centuries before Wales was conquered by England. Should the right hon. Gentleman attempt to put any other construction upon the word "alien" he asserted that, except from the point of view that there were a certain number of representatives from Wales asking for Disestablishment, no reasonable man would call the Church in Wales an alien Church. ["Oh!"] He would like to hear the arguments of those who shouted "Oh!" The right hon. Baronet the Member for Denbighshire when he referred the House to the testimony of a large number of ecclesiastics, should have told the House that he was referring to some number, less than ten, of Welsh clergymen, who were supposed to have declared against a National Church. But the Home Secretary was in another difficulty. Every lawyer and historian who had examined the question, had come independently to the conclusion that there was not the slightest ground for suggesting that the property of the Church did not belong to the Church, in the same way as the property of every private institution belonged to that institution. And the right hon. Gentleman would have had to make up his mind what case he should present to the House with regard to the property which 110 was to be taken from the Church. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would redeem his promise, and argue these questions in the House, though they were questions that arose on the introduction of the Bill, and not on the Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman was hampered by the promises of the Prime Minister; but the Prime Minister had used expressions for which it was difficult to find justification. The Prime Minister made a speech on March 12 last year, in which he stated that there was a unanimous feeling in favour of the removal of this branch of the Church of England, which was alien to the country, and doing more harm than good to the cause of religion. Who was the slanderer who suggested to him that the Church in Wales was doing harm? Was there a man who valued his word, who would there and then get up and say that the Church had been doing harm to religion? Because, such statements, made on the floor of that House, must be justified by facts. For the last two years he had studied this question closely, and was prepared to assert that anyone acquainted with the facts could not say that injury had been done to the cause of religion by the existence, the growing activity, and the increasing earnestness, of the Welsh Church. The right hon. Gentleman had exercised a wise discretion in declining to justify the policy of Her Majesty's Government, for he would have been involved in difficulties which even his own Party would have made it almost impossible for him to overcome. But there was one argument, and one argument only, which ran through the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman whenever he ventured to approach the question, and the only vestige of an argument which pointed to the question of policy was, that every objection that could be urged against the Welsh Bill had been used before against the Irish Bill, and had then been settled by the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Was there any justification for such a statement? Would the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who was such an accurate historian, attempt to justify such a statement, for no doubt he had studied the speeches of 1869? The distinction between the Churches of Ireland and Wales was over and over again pointed 111 out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian; and the reason which was given for Disestablishing the Irish Church was because she did not fulfil those functions which the Church of England did towards the persons whose interest she had at heart. He thought that some powerful arguments in support of the Welsh Church could be found in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, and however much they might have differed with that right hon. Gentleman, they were satisfied that the utterances he made with respect to the Welsh Church were utterances of conviction and founded upon his personal knowledge of the history of the Church. He said of the Irish Church that it was doing, and only hoping to do, the work of the few; he said of the Welsh Church that it was doing much, with the hope and prospect of doing more. The right hon. Gentleman also said that the Irish Church was severed from the affections of the people; that the Welsh Church was a broad and loving way to the hearts of the people; and, again, the language of the right hon. Member, speaking of the Irish Church, was that 4–5ths of the people supported Roman Catholicism over Protestantism, while in Wales there was constant interchange between the Established Church and the Nonconformist bodies; and that the Established Church was the Mother Church, out of which had sprung the whole of the religious life in that part of the country. He should not have quoted the language of the right hon. Gentleman if he had not satisfied himself that his inferences and conclusions were accurate, and he wished to know whether hon. Members from Wales would be pleased to dispute such statements, founded as they were upon the deliberate opinion of one whose long experience entitled him to their respect. There was one other general argument which had not been referred to in the course of the Debate. Some hon. Members had spoken of the Church as though it had been opposed to the national sentiment, but had the Welsh language done much or little to keep up the spirit of nationality in Wales? It had done a great deal, but he wondered how many of the representatives of Wales were able to speak their own language. If his statement were not correct there would be an opportunity of 112 correcting it between this and the Second Reading of the Bill; but he thought he was safe in saying that only 18 out of the 33 representatives of Wales were able to carry on a conversation in the Welsh tongue. Could hon. Members from Wales deny that the preservation of the Welsh language had been due in a considerable degree to the Church? The Church, in fact, had preserved the Welsh language, and there was no one who looked into the subject who could contradict that. The Church for centuries preserved the Welsh language. They knew as well as he did the names of Davis and Morgan, two Welsh Bishops. Then had the Church done nothing for the national education of the Welsh people? Did the Welsh Members refer to these facts? Not at all. They preferred to observe a judicious silence on these questions. He advised hon. Members to consult the reports of the Charity Commissioners from 1843 to 1881. It was through the Welsh Endowed Schools that the Welsh language was taught. Was that a work directed towards the preservation of the national life of Wales, or was it not? He was quoting simply from his own reading, and he asserted that these facts pointed to the irresistible conclusion that the Church had not only done a great deal to preserve the Welsh language in its purest form, but had, by private education, brought to the front many eminent Welshmen. Not only that, the Church had brought back those eisteddfods for which Wales was well known. So far, therefore, from the Church being an enemy of the national life of Wales it was by that Church that the national aspirations had been fostered. Yes; that was so. Their complaint was that they had not discussed the subject and could not discuss it. They were asked to accept the Bill at the dictation of the Government because, forsooth, the Parliamentary representation of Wales was in favour of it. How far was that question of Parliamentary representation to be carried? They had London, with 4,000,000, against Wales, with 1,500,000. [An hon. MEMBER: "750,000."] 1,750,000 by all means. It was the first time that the hon. Members opposite had been able to correct him in a statement of fact. He asked what was the 113 population of London? Would the representation of London be any justification, any argument, for the Disestablishment of the Church in London? Establishments were not to be blown down or put up again by the dictates of Members of Parliament. No. Let Ministers justify their policy on the ground of morality, but do not let them come forward and say that it was necessary to obey the behests of a certain number of Members, and that if they did not obey those behests they could not remain in power. This question had assumed a position which he never expected it would assume from the extraordinary utterances of the Prime Minister, who, going down to Cardiff, felt it to be necessary to speak on the question of Disestablishment. The language of the Prime Minister was the most extraordinary that could have come from one in his position. He said:—If it is really the national wish to recognise religion in the shape of an establishment, there is nothing absolutely immoral in the carrying out of that wish.Had the discussion fallen so low as this, that a Church which had existed upwards of a thousand years, which had unquestionably done a great work in the past in the building up and fostering of the religious life of the nation, that had been the handmaid of all good work, was to be spoken of as something not absolutely immoral if you allowed it to remain established? It was extraordinary, in the face of these allegations respecting the policy of Her Majesty's Government, they should have had nothing from the Government as to the standpoint which the Prime Minister had taken up with regard to the duty of the Government. He had dealt as clearly as could be with this question of policy, because he was convinced no greater question was ever brought before the House of Commons. Whether the Opposition was right or wrong, whether the question was to be regarded as one which ought to be decided with reference to the Church in Wales or with reference to the Church in England, he was satisfied that it was, and is, incumbent on the House of Commons to have from her Majesty's Ministers a clear exposition of the policy which led them to propose 114 this change; they ought, not to allow their action to be dictated by hon. Members below the gangway, or her Majesty's Ministers to shelter themselves behind the opinions of Members from Wales, who had forced this question upon them. The Home Secretary had indicated that he was abusing the practice of the House by discussing the question of the policy of the measure on the First Reading; but he respectfully differed from the right hon. Gentleman, and believed, from precedent and experience, that his own was the truer Parliamentary position. No doubt he should transgress if he were, to discuss details; but there were certain broad questions that demanded consideration at this stage. First, he entered a protest against the monstrous proposal as to the distribution of these Church funds. On what ground did the right hon. Gentleman abandon the idea of accumulating money or sav-ing it as a central fund out of which national purposes might be met? The right hon. Member for West Bristol (Sir M. Hicks-Beach) disposed of the argument that the Irish Church Fund had heen swamped, and he showed that, so far from its being so, a large part of the capital still existed, although it had been applied to objects of public importance and utility. The course now proposed was to hand over local property as a bribe to local authorities. The question raised with reference to Tithes was disposed of in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition on the occasion of the introduction, of the Bill last year; and he was surprised that the Home Secretary did not think it his duty to make some answer to the objections which the Leader of the Opposition had advanced. Was he aware that exactly the same objections applied to the manner of dealing with the glebes? It was proposed that the emoluments of the Church derived from glebe should be handed over for the benefit of the parish or district. He had not examined the question as fully as it required to be examined, but he had obtained some facts which were worthy of consideration. In North Wales there were 350 parishes; in 1887 there was a population of 200,645 without any glebe at all; in 20 others there was a population of 9,790 with 2,048 acres of glebe. Could anything be more ridiculous than that 115 the parishes with 200,000 people should get no glebe at all and nothing representing the value of it? The House would surely pause before it allowed such a monstrous disposition of glebe to be passed. The non-creation of a central fund could not be justified on any ground of economy or proper application of the money, and it was essential that there should be a strong protest against this distribution of the money. Then were they not entitled to enter a protest against the way in which curates were to be treated? It was all very well to say, in the language of a lawyer, that they had looked for a freehold estate or office, did not find any such tenure, and could recognise no other. Was that the way in which men who had devoted their lives to religious work ought to be dealt with? If the Government justified their action on the ground that the same course was taken in respect of the Irish Church, why did they not also adopt the same course as was taken with the Irish curates? Were the Welsh curates less deserving? Had they not done their work as well? Was it not perfectly well known that hundreds of them had qualified for their duties by proficiency in the Welsh language, and that for many years Bishops had insisted in many districts in Wales that the curates should be competent to speak the Welsh language; yet, notwithstanding all this, these men were to be dismissed with absolutely no notice and no compensation. He also protested against the cathedrals being handed over to a body, no member of which need be a member of the Church of England. Did the Home Secretary know that the Cathedrals of St. David's, Bangor, and Landaff were also parish churches? What justification was there for these churches being handed over to a Commission when all other parish churches were left in the custody of the Ministers? Probably the justification for the scheme of the Government was to be found in the fact that these parish churches had been enriched by upwards of £100,000, the money of Churchmen, in the last 50 years—a circumstance which gave an indication of the way in which this question had been approached. He maintained that these cathedrals should be taken from the Church and treated as belonging to the 116 nation in a sense different from that in which the other parish churches were treated. He refrained from dealing at that stage with the question of the burial grounds, but he failed to understand why the churchyards and burial grounds were to be severed from the church. If it was said that this action was due to the fact that the Welsh people desired to bury their dead with Nonconformist rites, he asserted that every statistic was against them. He thought it was a lamentable fact that the Bill of the right hon. Member for East Denbighshire had been a complete failure.
§ SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN
said, he explained when he moved the Bill that it would be of very slight operation in Wales, because all the Dissenting chapels in Wales had their own burial grounds.
§ SIR R. E. WEBSTER,
in that case, asked what was the reason for handing over the churchyards under this Bill. In this circumstance, as revealed by the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman, the House had an indication of the spirit in which the question of the Welsh Church was being approached. Dealing next with the purposes provided in the Schedule of the Bill, he said that the Home Secretary stated that the purposes to which the Church funds were to be applied were as religious in their nature as those to which they had previously been applied. But whether this was the money of the Church or not, it was to be appropriated to purposes that were certainly secular as compared with those for which it was given. Labourers' dwellings and allotments! That was one of the purposes. Was it not perfectly obvious that a bribe was there? Labourers' cottages and allotments, which would have the direct effect of cheapening rents and lowering rates or relieving the poor landowner of the duty of providing proper cottages for the labourers. It was transparent, it was perfectly obvious, that this was an attempt, first to conciliate the Welsh Members and then to conciliate the constituencies behind them. He did not know what might be the feeling of the House with regard to the course to be taken on the First Reading of this Bill. For himself he thought that, having entered a firm and emphatic protest 117 against the action of the Government, they would not be justified in forcing the Government to a Division, because it was admitted that it was the duty of the Government to lay before the House of Commons the measures indicated in the Queen's Speech. But it must not be suggested that the Opposition were reconciled in the slightest degree, either to the principles or provisions of this Bill. The Home Secretary had said that some day or other, at the time, he was pleased to say, was the proper time, he was going to argue the question of policy and give the House the reasons why Her Majesty's Government had introduced this measure. The House would then have an opportunity of answering the right hon. Gentleman, a better opportunity than they had at present, because they would then know the details of the measure of which they were now ignorant. He declined to take any part or lot in discussing the details of the measure, except subject to the protest which he now solemnly entered against the scheme for disestablishing this part of the Church. He declined to join in enfeebling an institution which had for centuries been the guiding light of religious education; he declined to appropriate to selfish and secular purposes property which had for centuries been devoted to religious work, he might say to God; he declined to take part in that which he believed to be a purely political agitation, without any foundation of justice or equity to support it, and would to a large extent destroy those springs of morality, religion, and truth which had, through the Church, existed for centuries.
§ MR. ABEL THOMAS
wished, with the leave of the House, to make a personal explanation. His hon. and learned Friend earlier in the evening had called his attention to something he had said in correction of the hon. Member for Tunbridge. He found that the hon. Gentleman was right and he was himself wrong. The hon. Member had said that the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists in Wales numbered 267,000, and he had corrected him and said that they numbered 292,000. His mistake was that 118 he had taken the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists in England as well as in Wales. The hon. Member for Tunbridge was right and he was wrong, and therefore he thought he ought to mention the matter to the House.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. J. BRYCK, (Aberdeen S.)
said, he would be very sorry if it were supposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, or any one who opposed the Bill, that the silence observed on the Treasury Bench since his right hon. Friend had introduced the measure, had been due to any want of respect for the arguments addressed to the House, to many, indeed to all, of which they had listened with attention. The reason of the Government was that having, as they conceived, sufficiently stated the general ground of the policy on which they introduced the Bill, and also stated the details of the scheme, they thought it better that their fuller arguments of policy should be reserved for the usual stage of Second Reading, and that the justification of the particular measure should be reserved partly for that stage and partly for the Committee stage. He must enter his protest against the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member that his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary treated this matter or the feelings of those opposed to the Bill with indifference in making a comparatively short statement as to the scope and ground of the Bill. What were the facts? This was no new matter. The hon. and learned Member referred to previous occasions in the last Parliament when this matter was before the House. Everyone would remember the speech if the right hon. Member for Midlothian in which he explained with great force the reasons which had convinced him that the views which he had formerly held with regard to the Established Church in Wales could no longer be maintained. Even in the present Parliament the subject was now being debated for the third time. In 1893 the Home Secretary introduced the Suspensory Bill in a long speech, and last year, in introducing the measure then brought 119 forward, he delivered a speech that occupied nearly two hours. In these circumstances the Government was perfectly justified in adopting the views that the House knew quite well what were the grounds of their policy. Hon. Members also knew that this discussion was merely the precursor of a larger Debate on the Second Reading, when the selfsame arguments would be adduced, and when the Government would be able to meet them with a greater fulness than was possible now. The hon. and learned Member who had just sat down said that the Church of England was vitally involved in this measure. That, in fact, had been the chorus note of the Front Opposition Bench. No right hon. or hon. Member, however, had pointed out any particular respect in which any clergyman or layman of the Church of England in any diocese in England would suffer. [Several Opposition MEMBEES— "Monmouth."] Monmouth, as hon. Members must know, was virtually part of Wales, and had been treated as part of Wales under statute: for example, Monmouth was included in Wales under the Intermediate Education Act. He was entitled to say, until the contrary should be proved, that the Church in England in her spiritualities and temporalities, in her ecclesiastical and spiritual life, remained untouched and unharmed by this Bill. Nor could it be alleged that the Bill was levelled against the Church of England. On the contrary, every argument which the Government had used in support of the measure had been an argument which was confined in its application to the case of Wales. What was the principal ground upon which the Home Secretary founded his Suspensory Bill of 1893? He founded it upon the demand of the Welsh people; upon the fact that there came from Wales a demand which was not made in England, and which was based upon grounds that did not exist in England. The hon. and learned Member might have quoted that significant passage in the speech of the right hon. Member for Midlothian in the Debate of 1891—the passage in which he declared that this 120 question in Wales had attained the proportions of a national demand. No one who had watched the way in which the Welsh majorities in support of this policy had gone on increasing, and who realised how this one question covered the whole sky of Welsh politics, could doubt that the Welsh Members, in making this demand, were speaking the voice of the whole Welsh people. The hon. and learned Member compared the case of Wales with the case of London, and asked whether the opinions of the people of London or of Yorkshire were also to be taken as conclusive in matters of this kind. The hon. and learned Member said that if London or Yorkshire, through its representatives, were to make such a demand as this it would certainly be refused. But did not that point to the great difference between the position of Whales and that of any other part of the United Kingdom? The Welsh people were the remains of of the most ancient inhabitants of these islands. They were excluded from the rest of what was now England by the incoming of a foreign and heathen people. They were driven into the fastnesses of their western mountains, and there they preserved their national habits and customs, their language, poetry, and literature, and a character which was in many respects fundamentally different from that of the English people. It was not surprising that a people so circumstanced, by the misfortunes and oppressions to which they were at one time subjected, by the very poverty and hardships of their lot, cherished their own literature and national recollections; it was not unnatural that they should have followed the teachings of ministers who preached to them in a way which suited their character, their feelings, and their temper better than the ninisters of the Established Church; that they should have formed themselves into different religious communities, and should have been drawn away from that which he admitted was their original National Church. But they had been drawn away. He defied anyone who had studied their history, lived among them, and understood their character, genius, and 121 temper, to ignore the fact that they were now for many purposes so entirely different from the population of any circumscription of England that they were entitled to be called a nation, and that no argument drawn from any equivalent circumscription of England was of any effect in reply to their national demand. Of course the facts of the Irish Church were in many respects different from those of Wales, but he would call attention to one remarkable point on which the two cases did agree, and that was in prophesyings and arguments. The prophecies of evils and the arguments used to show that Disestablishment in Ireland would be a wicked thing, spoliation and robbery, were exactly the same arguments as the House heard now. Then, as now, they were told it was sacrilege to lay hands on the property of the Church. But the House of Commons of that day did not yield to those arguments, nor even the House of Lords. The House of Lords, under the wiser guidance which it had in those days, yielded to the express will of the nation, and that Act, in spite of all the cries of plunder and spoliation, took its place upon the Statute Book, and everybody who knew the country would admit that Ireland had been better for that Act. ["Oh!" and cheers.] It was said then that the Disestablishment of the Church of Ire-was the first nail in the coffin of the Church of England. Twenty-five years had passed since then, and would any hon. Member say that at this moment the Church of England was any weaker or any nearer to being disestablished, had any less stronghold on the affections of the people, than she had in 1869? The fact was, Disestablishment in each country must be judged, and ought to be judged, upon the circumstances of the country only, and the ground upon which Her Majesty's Government put this case was that there was in regard to Wales a national demand. They had not said a word about England, because they did not say there was a national demand in the case of England. Those hon. Members who appealed to the case of Ireland must feel that not one of the doleful prophecies 122 foretold in 1869 had been fulfilled. It was said then that religion would not support itself, that Ireland would become a lawless country, and that it was only with State recognition that a nation retained the right to consider itself a God-fearing nation. Would anyone say that in Ireland religion had suffered since 1869? They knew, on the contrary, that the Protestant Episcopal Church in Ireland was in no respects weaker, but was in many respects stronger than she was in 1869. They knew that the ecclesiastical and spiritual life which freedom had stimulated among her members had been of the greatest possible service to her; and he would go further and say he thought there was no evidence whatever that the contributions which her members had made to various philanthrophic objects since her Disestablishment in 1869 had been, considering the impoverishment of the country, land depression, and other difficulties, at all less than before Disestablishment. On the contrary, that which was to be expected had happened, and the stimulus which was given by Disestablishment and by throwing the Church upon the liberality of the believers who attended its ministrations had done good to the Church, and instead of weakening had strengthened it. He passed over several points in the speech of the hon. and learned Member as not calling for serious reply, and he came to one or two points in which criticism had been made upon particular parts of the Bill. It was said that they did not propose to deal with the case of curates in the same way as they were dealt with in Ireland. There were some examples to follow and some to avoid, and if ever there was an example to avoid it was the example of that provision for Irish curates under which such an extravagant amount of compensation was paid to persons, many of whom entered the ministry for the express purpose of getting compensation. He hoped they should not follow any such example. He was sincerely anxious that no curate should suffer, and he would venture to point out there was no reason to think there would be 123 any substantially less demand for curates in the future than there had been in the past. His own belief was, that it would be found in 20 years that the parish churches in Wales would be quite as well endowed, and the ministers quite as well paid, as at this moment; and the very fact that the process they proposed to start was to be a gradual process, under which incumbents would retain their cures as long as they chose to do so, would prevent any sudden cessation of employment of curates. He did not see any reason to apprehend that the position of a curate would be substantially worse after this Bill passed than it was now. He was reminded that their plan for the Disestablishing Fund, was not the same as was followed in the case of Ireland, but he thought that the Irish plan was again an example to avoid. In the Irish case all the money was collected in one large central fund, which became a sort of mark at which everyone aimed an arrow; and, although a certain part of the fund had been still reserved in capital form for public purposes, a great deal had gone for purposes which could scarcely have been originally contemplated. He thought it would be a great pity if the fund in the case of the Welsh Church should be exposed to the constant attacks which were made on the Irish Church Fund. He would put it to the House whether it was not better that these emoluments, arising from tithes which had a purely local origin, should prima facie be spent and applied to the benefit of the place whence they came? That, he thought, was a principle which commended itself as having some reasonable and historical justification. It would be open to the House at any future time to capitalise the fund. The Government thought it better that, in starting, the money should be spent where it arose, and subject to proper provisions for enabling money in some cases to be spent over the area of a county instead of in one place, where it might not be so largely needed. It was alleged that the purposes contemplates were secular purposes. The Irish Church money was spent on equally secular 124 purposes, and he claimed the Irish Church case as a Parliamentary precedent. What Parliament did in 1869 it might do in 1895; and that which Parliament thought was no robbery or plunder 26 years ago was no robbery or plunder now. As to the cathedrals, some hon. Members seemed to suppose that the cathedrals were going to be withdrawn in some way from what he might call the Unestablished Church of the future. Nothing of the kind was proposed. The Bill proposed to vest the cathedrals in the Welsh Commissioners, and the obligation and duty was laid on those Commissioners of allowing the cathedrals to be used, as heretofore, for the public worship of what would be the Protestant Episcopalian Church of Wales. He could not see what there was to complain of in that. In addition a fund would be placed at the disposal of the Commissioners out of which they would keep the fabrics in repair, the duty being imposed upon them of keeping the fabrics in proper repair. He could not refrain from referring to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol made upon what he called this piecemeal method of Disendowment. Objection might be taken to any method adopted in a large and difficult enterprise of this kind, but the Government hoped to be able to convince the House that, on the whole, the advantages of what the right hon. Gentleman called a piecemeal method—that was to say, of letting the incumbent retain a vested interest for his life and discharge his duties—were greater than those of the course followed in the case of the Irish Church. As to discipline, it would be found that the Bill made ample provision for the maintenance of the discipline of the Disestablished Church. He could not conclude without making a few observations upon the reference which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol made to some remarks of his upon the Reformation in England. Nobody who had followed even in outline the history of the 16th century would say there was a pulling down of one Church and the setting up of another, and he had never 125 thought of conveying any such view. [An hon. MEMBER "Lord Rosebery did."] Nor did Lord Rosebery. He had the pleasure of listening to Lord Rosebery at Cardiff, and he asserted with confidence that no such interpretation could be put on the word of the Prime Minister. Everyone knew that the legal and historical continuity of what was called the Roman Catholic Church and of the Protestant Church was complete. The argument was that the changes which were made at the epoch before the Reformation were so great, consisting in a complete change of doctrine, in the ejection of a great many ministers and bishops, in compelling the supremacy of the Sovereign instead of the Pope to be accepted, of the passing of statutes which they all regarded as intolerable and harsh and which completely revolutionized the religious condition of England, that the dealing with endowments was a matter of far greater importance than anything that was being attempted now. He was much surprised to find that so many hon. Members had spoken as if in this matter the Government were dealing with the life of the Church in Wales. The noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh, for instance, spoke throughout as if he thought the life and being of the Welsh Church was at stake; he spoke of them putting an end to an institution which had 1,300 years of life in hand. They were going to change a Church that had hitherto been Established, into a Disestablished Church. That was to say, they were going to put that Church into the same position in which many of the most prosperous Christian Churches of the world were at this moment. How could it be suggested that that was putting an end to the Church? How could it be suggested that the life of a Church which had lasted 300 years was threatened by a change of that kind? Did any one say that the Protestant Episcopalian Church of Ireland had suffered by being Disestablished in 1869; or that the Protestant Episcopalian Church of America, which was a growing and nourishing Church, had suffered by being disestablished more than 100 years ago? Did 126 any one say that the spiritual life of the Protestant Episcopalian Church of the Colonies came to an end when that Church was disestablished? He could not express the astonishment he felt that hon. Members like the noble Lord, who were so devoted to the Church, who had such faith in the power of the Church and in her spiritual claim and title, should be able to regard for a moment with alarm and despondency the change contemplated by the Bill. It was with no such feelings that the Government introduced the Bill, They should not have brought forward the Bill; and he could not be a party to it, if he did not believe that 20 years hence every member of the Protestant Church in Wales would thank the Government for the Bill; and that the Church in Wales would have a career far brighter, far purer, and far more useful than she had at this moment.
§ MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, the noble Lord the Member for West Edinburgh never said, and never intended to say, that the spiritual life of the Church could be done away with by any Act of Parliament.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Secretary Asquith, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Bryce, and Mr. Solicitor General.