§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. H. H. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
, who on rising to move, the Second Reading of the Established Church (Wales) Bill was received with loud cheers, said: Mr. Speaker, the time has now come when, in accordance with our ordinary practice, the great issues of principle which are raised by this measure can be appropriately discussed, and it is my duty, in fulfilment of the promise I have made more than once, to state, on behalf of the Government, the grounds of policy which have led to its introduction. Sir, the questions involved in a proposal of this kind must, under all circumstances, be questions of the utmost delicacy and gravity. But in the present case the difficulty of dealing with them is greatly enhanced by the extreme and, at the same time, the perfectly intelligible sensitiveness of feeling which this controversy with respect to the Welsh Church has aroused, both upon the one 1575 side and upon the other. On the one hand, we have the, overwhelming majority of the representatives of Wales, who see in this measure the means, long delayed, ardently, and I think I may say passionately, desired by the vast bulk of their people for the removal of what they conceive to be a grievous and glaring injustice. On the other hand, we are confronted by those who look upon this Bill as nothing better and nothing worthier than a veiled attack upon the Church of England, promoted, as they tell us, upon false pretences and for sordid reasons, and fraught, if it should ever succeed in passing into law, with injurious, and even disastrous consequences, as well to the spiritual as to the temporal interests of the Church. Sir, no wonder that in an atmosphere charged with these currents of feeling, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) the other day, lamenting, as he said, that we seemed to be divided from one another by a distance as great as that which separates the poles, should almost have despaired of even a common meeting ground between us for argument. For my part, Sir, I desire, and I am certain that all who are responsible for the conduct of this Bill desire, to avoid, as far as we can, the importation into the discussion of unnecessary heat. I shall endeavour, to the best of my ability, to do so, and I trust that I may appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who feel so strongly and so sincerely upon the subject, at any rate to give me a forbearing and an indulgent hearing, while I on my side will ask from them in advance forgiveness if unwittingly, by any phrase or argument of mine, I give offence to a sentiment which, whether I share it or not, I at any rate understand and respect. Now, Sir, the object of this Bill is to terminate the legal Establishment of the Church of England in Wales. That is its central and its essential provision. Everything else in it is subsidiary to that main and governing purpose. I think, therefore, before I come to deal with the special circumstances of the particular case of Wales, it may be useful, even at the risk of repeating facts which are familiar to the House, if I ask and if I attempt to answer the question, in what does 1576 Establishment by law of the Church consist? Sir, as we are all aware, the relations between the Church and the State in this country are very different at the present time from what they were in the earlier stages of our constitutional history. In those days, and down to a time which is comparatively recent, the Church and State were co-extensive in area. They were different aspects, or to speak more accurately, different organisations, of one and the same society. No man could be a citizen unless he was a Churchman. Heresy was a crime punishable by law, and dissent in those who avowed it exposed them to every kind of civil and political disability. That was Establishment in the strict and full sense of the term. As we know, by the operation of forces with which the student of history is familiar, at first in the guise of toleration, then in the more formidable shape of a demand for religious liberty, that complete and logical system of Establishment was slowly undermined; and it is instructive to observe, and not at all irrelevant to the question now before the House, that at every stage and every step of that process champions of Church Establishment resisted the change on the ground, for which, in my judgment at any rate, there was a much greater logical foundation in those days than there is for the corresponding argument to-day—that if you once admitted to civil and political rights, to a full share in the making and administration of the law, men of all religions and of no religion, the national profession of religion embodied in the Established Church would cease to have any meaning or reality. We listen to the same arguments to-day; but they are arguments advanced in the defence of what, though it is still, as I shall show, a very formidable framework of legal protection, is after all only a meagre and attenuated remnant of the Establishment of the past. For what is the Establishment of the Church by law to-day? In the first place it means the incorporation of the law of the Church into the law of the land. It means that the Courts of the Church in ecclesiastical matters have, a coercive jurisdiction, which, in the last resort, the civil power will enforce. It means that the Bishops of the Church functions in the 1577 House of Lords. It means that the legislature of the Church, Convocation, is summoned by the Crown and is constituted according to law, and that without the license of the Crown it has no power to make any enactment which has any binding effect. It means that the doctrines and the ceremonies of the Church, whatever other sanction or authority they may have, have also the statutory authority of Acts of Parliament behind them. As to endowment, it means that a large number, a very considerable proportion of the benefices of the Church, are at the disposal of persons who for the time being hold important offices of State; and as to that which is in Wales, at any rate, the main source of the revenue of the Church, the tithes, it means, in contradistinction to every other form of religious endowment possessed by other religious sects, that in the last resort the machinery of the law and the arm of the law will be brought into operation to enforce them. Sir, if that be so—and I do not think I have stated anything that will be controverted—the Established Church has privileges and obligations to which no other religious denomination in this country is entitled or subject, and which have this common characteristic, whether they spring from the common law, or whether they are derived from statute—that they were conferred and are maintained by the State. I have dwelt upon these facts, familiar as they undoubtedly are, because I wish at the outset of the argument to dispose of two familiar fallacies. In the first place, I say, the statements I have made show conclusively and bring out in the clearest possible light a distinction which is obvious enough, that if the Church is a spiritual body, which is one, which is identical, which is continuous, and which does not change, the Church is also a State establishment, which is subject, as to all its forms and all its laws, to the shifting currents of public opinion, which is at one time protected by Parliament to a certain extent, and which at another time is protected by Parliament within, much narrower and more contracted limits. There can be, in my judgment, no delusion more injurious to the true interests of the Church, or more fatal to a true understanding of our Constitution, than to confuse these things, which are 1578 separate, in their origin, separate in their purpose, and have absolutely no necessary connection between each other. But, Sir, there is a second and an equally fallacious argument which is often introduced into these discussions, and which, I think, is shown to be equally untrue by the short summary with which I have troubled the House, and that is, that the State, by altering the condition of establishment, or by getting rid of the establishment altogether, is in some way or other making a formal repudiation on the part of the nation of its religious character. Sir, upon that point I will not use any language of my own, because I am glad to be able to appeal to a much higher authority, one of weight and eminence, who will be recognised by hon. Gentlemen opposite; one of our principal opponents in this controversy, one of the ablest and most distinguished lawyers this country has produced—the Earl of Selborne. I quote the words which he used in this House on March 22, 1869, upon the Second Reading of the Bill for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Irish Church. Sir Roundell Palmer, as he then was, used these remarkable expressions:—I cannot agree with those who say that the severance of the political relations of the Church with the State is, and necessarily must be, an abnegation of national Christianity or an act of national apostasy. It appears to me that such a view is founded upon an entirely false notion of the vocation of Civil Government and the nature of national religion. … National religion is not any profession embodied in laws or forms and ceremonies made by those at the head of the Government, but it is in the religion of the people who constitute the nation. … Therefore we must approach the question of any political privileges given to the Church by considering whether the privilege is for the public good.That, Sir, is the test laid down by that high authority, which I propose to apply to the case of Disestablishment in Wales. Before I proceed to the particular facts of difficulty—I mean that class of questions sometimes raised as to the right of the State to interfere with the Establishment or Endowments of the National Church. I assert that from the earliest times in this country the State has claimed and exercised a controlling voice in the civil government and regulation of the 1579 endowments and privileges of the National Church. I hold very strongly that it is an historical fallacy to represent the Church of England as ever having been a mere offshoot and dependency of the Church of Rome. I think the whole of our mediæval history shows, first of all, that our kings, then our Parliaments, as soon as they acquired a dominant position, kept a tight grip of the government of the Church, refused to allow the intrusion of any foreign Power or any outside ecclesiastical authority in the regulation of our National Church, and, as you see in the Constitutions of Clarendon, the Statute of Provisors, and a hundred other Acts of Parliament, the State in this country has insisted that the position of the Church, its status, privileges, and endowments should be kept constitutionally within the control of the supreme authority of the Crown and Parliament. We are often referred on this question to the legislation of the Reformation. It follows from what I have already said, that I am not one of those who think, as used to be currently assumed, that the legislation of Henry VIII. transferred the privileges and endowments of a National Establishment from the Church of Rome to the Church of England. I believe that view rests upon imperfect historical information. I am quite prepared to admit what I believe the best authorities of history now assert, that there has been amidst all these changes and developments a substantial identity and continuity of existence in our National Church from earliest history down to the present time. But that does not in any degree affect the importance of the legislation to which I am referring. What was that legislation? It was the [...]ssertion of a claim upon the part of the Crown and Parliament first of all to establish and define the royal supremacy over the Church; next to confine the Church, even in purely ecclesiastical matters, as its final Court of Appeal, to a Court of secular Judges appointed by the Crown; to change the doctrines, modify the ceremonies, taught and practised by the Church; at one moment to prohibit and at another moment to permit, and then prohibit again, such an institution as the marriage of the clergy. I defy anyone who has studied with an impartial mind 1580 the legislation for the 40 years between 1530 and 1570, who has followed the course of the revolution in the reign of Henry VIII., the counter revolution in the reign of Queen Mary, the restoration of the pre-existing state of things in the reign of Elizabeth—I defy any fair-minded man acquainted with that history to dispute the proposition that Parliament did at that time assert and exercise the right to prescribe the conditions of tenure upon which every ecclesiastical benefice of this country was to be held. I am not saying that in many respects the time of the Parliament at that period was usefully employed. Many of these Statutes we can only read with amazement and consternation that a body of laymen should have deemed themselves qualified to deal with that subject-matter. But this is the price which the National Church pays for the so-called privileges of Establishment. It is for them to consider whether the privileges and disabilities which result from that status are worth the price which, as history shows, they have always had to pay, and which they will always have to pay for that state of things. The result is this: the Church of England here and in Wales at the present moment is a Church which is absolutely without either judicial or legislative autonomy. It is a Church as to the interpretation of whose formularies, not merely in matters affecting property, but in matters affecting ecclesiastical doctrine, in the last resort the appeal is to a secular Court. It is a Church which is impotent to alter a single form or ceremony or line of its doctrines or service without first of all obtaining the licence of the Crown, which may be given upon the advice of a Minister who is not even a Christian at all, and without further obtaining the assent of a Parliament which is open to men of all creeds and of no creed. I am not going to enter into the question—which is not relevant to my argument—whether or not that is a desirable state of things in the interest of the Church, though I will venture to protest respectfully, but, at the same time, very strongly, against some language which was used by the right hon. Baronet the Member for West Bristol upon the First Reading of this Bill. He quoted a passage in a speech of mine somewhere in the country in 1581 which I had ventured to express the opinion that the Church might be a better Church in Wales, and would be better and more capable of discharging, with general acceptance and real effect, its spiritual mission, if relieved from the privileges and disabilities of Establishment. The right hon. Baronet, temperate and fair-minded controversialist as he usually is, has not found any better terms in which to describe that language of mine than that of political cant. Are we to assume that it is impossible for any man, however highly and strongly he may value the teachings and traditions of the Church of England, honestly and sincerely to entertain the opinion that these series of chains and fetters, which I have been describing, are not a help but a hindrance to her in the discharge of her mission? It augurs very badly for the conduct of this controversy if motives of that kind are to be so rashly and lightly imputed. It follows, from what I have said, that it is impossible to say that, in regard to such an Establishment as I have described, Parliament has not now the same right, which she claimed and exercised a hundred times in the past, to deal with its civil privileges and pecuniary endowments on grounds of public policy and in accordance with its own will and discretion. It is not necessary to labour that point. We have placed on the Statute Book within the lifetime of the present generation, and within the memory of most of those whom I have the honour of addressing, in the Irish Church Act, the most complete assertion which this or any other Legislature has ever made of its power to do as it pleases with the status of an Established Church, and to divert the endowments of such a Church, if it likes, to purely secular uses. There may still be differences of opinion as to the policy of that Act, and I believe there are abundant grounds for asserting that there are differences of time and circumstances, and of local conditions, between the case of England and Wales. But all that is not the point. Morality does not change its colour when it crosses St. George's Channel. That which Parliament assented to in the measure for the Second Reading of which, I believe, Lord Salisbury gave his vote in the House of Lords in 1869—a measure which now, at any rate, 1582 stands upon the Statute Book with the assent of the Queen, Lords, and Commons, has never been in any way repealed; and that measure may surely be pointed to as a sufficient justification and precedent when we are assailed with these charges of sacrilege and plunder. Having, I hope, cleared the ground of these preliminary objections, I now proceed to consider the special case of Wales. It follows from what I have said, that the existing Establishment, both in England and in Wales, represents the remnants of far larger privileges and powers which she once possessed. It is equally true that the State has always claimed the right to deal, on grounds of policy, with this Establishment; and it is further true that this Bill, whether it be politic or impolitic, raises no new question, either of constitutional practice or of the limits of what I may call the moral competence and the moral authority of Parliament. What is the case of Wales? What is the Establishment in Wales? Is it a National Church in the sense of the definition that I have read from Lord Selborne? Is it the Church of the nation? Is it, by its history and by its present position and prospects, the natural organ and vehicle of the religious sentiments either of the whole or of any considerable majority of the Welsh people? Is its ascendency and position of privilege among the other religious sects of the country admitted or acquiesced in by the bulk of the Welsh people? I am aware that we are told that we have no right in this case to separate Wales from the rest of England. From the formal and technical point of view, it is perfectly true, as has [...]n said, that these four Welsh dioceses are parts of the Provi[...] of Canterbury. The argument, I understand, is that, however strong may be the case in these four dioceses for Disestablishment and Disendowment, even though it went to the point that there was not one single Welshman who was a member of the Established Church, yet, inasmuch as you cannot separate dioceses from the province of which they form part, you must not treat Wales separately, but must take the question as affecting England as a whole. 1583 To that I entirely demur. The President of the Board of Trade, in his speech on the First Reading of the Bill, explained, as it seemed to me with admirable force and cogency, what we mean when we speak of Wales, not as a mere geographical expressson, but as the home of a people. I know this is called Separatism. In the opinion of some hon. Gentlemen opposite, it is Separatism to recognise that there are such things as separate nationalities the combination of which goes to form the United Kingdom of which we are all a part. We take a different view. We believe that the best way of recognising and consolidating the true union of the kingdom as a whole is to recognise, and within the limits of Imperial unity to defer to, those separate national sentiments which have their root in the history of the past and which form the salt of the life of our local communities. In that sense I assert—the Government assert—that the Welsh people are a nation. Whether you look to race, language, literature, to their temperament and genius, to their national memories and traditions, there is as clear a case for maintaining the distinctively national and corporate individuality of the people of Wales as of the people of England, Scotland or Ireland. If you look at the ecclesiastical history of Wales, the case is still stronger. Why? The Welsh Church is sometimes described, and, in my opinion, justly described, if you have regard to its later history, as an alien Church, because just as a thing that is imported from abroad may become acclimatised, and in the truest sense, national, so a thing which is indigenous, if it is distorted and adulterated may become in the truest sense alien. What is the origin of the Welsh Church? Here I am sure I shall have the entire assent of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Welsh Church, as they are fond of telling us, existed before the English Church existed. It was founded before the Mission of Augustine to the Saxons. There is a tradition in Wales—I do not know whether it is still alive, but it used to be very vivid—that there was a time in the golden past when the See of St. Davids was a Metropolitan See. I do not believe that the Welsh people have ever lost the sense that, instead of borrowing their religion 1584 from England, and instead of being dependent upon a mission from here the introduction of Christianity into their country, it was in the true sense of the word a spontaneous and a native growth. The case of Wales is the case of a Church which in its origin and inception was national, which was separate entirely from the Church of England, but which by incorporation into the Anglican Church, and by the subordination through long centuries of its interests and its needs to the interests and needs of England, has become denationalised. Is that statement true, or is it not? It is a fact which rests upon indisputable authority that certainly from the time of Henry II., Onwards, down to the Tudor and Stuart period, the Welsh Church was treated by our Norman and English Kings as an instrument for the Government of the Welsh people. They appointed Norman Bishops, who did not understand the language, who were hostile to the temperament and to the sentiment of the nation. And an eminent authority declares that during these centuries the leading clergy in Wales were a kind of ecclesiastical police sent by the Kings and Parliaments of England to keep watch and ward over an unruly race. There is a very remarkable circumstance in that connection which may perhaps not be familiar to all hon. Gentlemen, and that is an incident which occurred, I think, in the reign of Henry II. or King John, when Giraldus Cambrensis, an eminent Welsh writer and historian of that time, was elected by the Chapter to the See of St. Davids. The King of England disapproved of it, and insisted on the Chapter taking a nominee of his own. Giraldus, who was a man of considerable enterprise, went on a pilgrimage to Rome, in order that he might solicit the intervention of the Pope, and obtain, a favourable recognition of his claim as against the Royal nominee. He took with him a petition from the Princes of Wales, which is very interesting and so relevant to the question which the House is now discussing that I will trouble them with one or two citations from it. This is the petition of the Welsh Princes as far back as the end of the 1585 twelfth century, to Pope Innocent III., and what they say is this:—Be it known to your fatherly goodness the great sufferings and the danger of losing souls that have fallen upon the Church in Wales since by kingly oppression, and not by the authority of the Bishop of Rome, she became subjected to the authority of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury.Now the right hon. Baronet opposite told us the other day that it was in the 18th century that the State and the King by this course of neglect and abuse lost the hold which the Welsh Church had previously possessed upon the affections of the Welsh people. Let me read the description by the Welsh Princes of the state of things in the 12th century:—The Archbishop of Canterbury sends us English Bishops, ignorant of the manners and language of the land, who cannot preach the word of God to the people, nor receive their confessions but through interpreters. And since these Bishops that are sent to us from England do not love us or our land, they do not seek the good of our souls; their ambition is to rule over us and not to seek our benefit, and on this account they do not but very rarely fulfil the duties of their office among us. And whatever they can take from its by just means or unjust—" [that sounds like a description of the Irish Church]—"is carried away by them into England and squandered in the monasteries that are given to them by the King of England. And like the Parthians who shoot backwards from afar as they retreat, so do they from England excommunicate us as often as they are ordered so to do.That is the description given by the Welsh Princes themselves, on the authority of Giraldus, of the state of things which prevailed in the twelfth century; and I assert that, with rare intervals, that represents fairly the history of the Welsh Church and of its treatment by England during the period of six-centuries. There were times, I agree, in the reigns of the Tudor Kings, and even in the reigns of the Stuart Kings, when a better state of things prevailed, but, upon the whole, I do not believe I am exaggerating when I say that from the beginning until a very recent time the Welsh Church has been treated as a kind of annexe of the Church of England—a convenience for the disposal of offices and benefices among persons who have no claims upon the Welsh people, who did not understand their language, and who are out of sympathy with them and their temperament. And where that state of things has prevailed, just 1586 as it prevailed in the case of Ireland, you cannot wonder that, the Church has ceased to have any hold on the real affections of the people. I do not wish to dwell too long on merely historical matters, although until you realise the history of the question it is impossible to understand fully the feelings of the Welsh people. I pass now to say one or two words with respect to the growth of Welsh dissent in the 18th century. The Welsh people, in spite of all the abuses to which I have referred, were a people who had a natural affection for their national form of religion. The Reformation, it is said, took but slight hold on them, and we know that Puritanism never got any great lodgment in Wales. At the beginning of the 18th century, and after the Revolution, there are said to have been not more than 100 Dissenting congregations in Wales. Very shortly after the beginning of the 19th century there were nearly 1,000 Dissenting congregations in Wales. What was the cause of this change? The cause of the change was this—that there sprang up in the Welsh Church, by way of protest against its lukewarmness, its rigidity, and its narrow Anglican character, a body of men whose names are cherished in Wales—men like Griffith Jones, Rowlands, and others, all of whom were members of the Church of England, all of whom started within the bosom of the Church their great work of reformation—[An hon. MEMBER: "And stayed there."]—and some of whom, I agree, died in the religion of the Church, but who were the founders—against their will and in defiance, I will not say of their convictions, but certainly of their desires and hopes—the reluctant and unwilling founders of Welsh Nonconformity. What became of these men? They were driven away, and what was their crime? These men, who introduced education as well as religious faith among the great mass of the population in Wales, had committed the unpardonable, enormity of preaching the Gospel in unconsecrated places—in the streets, upon the hillsides, and even in Nonconformist chapels. The Bishops of that day, supported, as they appear to have been, by the opinion and the sympathy of the great body of their clergy, declined to ordain men who were guilty of practices such as these, with the result that these apostles, as they may 1587 truly be called, of the revival of Welsh religion were driven out of the so-called national Church of their country, taking with them whatever was real, vital, and progressive within that Church. That is the history of the foundation of Welsh Nonconformity. An hon. Gentleman thought it expedient to remind me just now that some of these men died in the Church. So they did, and that is a proof of how eagerly they tried to reconcile the claims which the Church had upon their allegiance and loyalty with what they conceived to be the still higher and still stronger claims of their religious faith. It was not until 1811—until this movement had been going on for nearly 70 years—that, finally, the the Bishops absolutely refusing to ordain fresh ministers for their work, these men were compelled to separate from the Church and found the sect of Calvinistic Methodists. That sect was founded as a separate body in 1811. In 1816 it already numbered some 900 congregations. At the present day it contributes a considerable proportion of the 4,000 and more chapels belonging to the different dissenting communities. Let me read one more passage on this question. It is from the well-known work of an ardent Churchman, entitled—A Prize Essay on the Causes which have produced Dissent in Wales from the Established Church,by Arthur James Johnes, published in 1831. I quote from p. 25 of the first edition:—On putting to a gentleman, upon whose accuracy I can rely, the following question— 'What proportion of the collective income of the Welsh Church is held by Englishmen?' I received the following answer:—'Four bishoprics'—I suppose that is all there are—'a great portion of the deaneries, prebends, and sinecure rectories, and many, if not most, of the canonries. During the reign of the Houses of Tudor and Stuart several Welshmen were mitred; but not one since the accession of the House of Brunswick. The consequence was that the prelates brought into their respective dioceses their sons, nephews, and cousins to the ninth degree of consanguinity; the next consequence was a change of service (on the borders) from Welsh to English; and a third and important consequence was the desertion of the Church. Conventicles were erected in every direction.'That is the opinion of a friend of the Church as late as 1831. The right hon. baronet, the Member for Bristol, took me 1588 to task with some severity for having said that the National Church in Wales was associated in the minds of the people with injurious and humiliating memories. Does not the story, the bare outline of which I have given, amply justify that statement? Here is a Church which I agree in its origin was of native and spontaneous growth, but which for centuries was used, with rare and brief intervals, not merely by the State—the blame must not all be thrown on the State—but by the Church of England as a dependency of its own. It may be said this is ancient, history. It is not so very ancient after all; but even if it were, that does not affect the question. There is no truth more legible on the page of history than this, that for institutions, as for individuals, there are opportunities and chances which, if they are neglected and abused, never recur. There are times of probation, which, if they have once expired, cannot be renewed or enlarged; and, if you want to find the secret of the comparative weakness of the Anglican Church in Wales, if you want to understand why it is that 31 out of 34 of her representatives have conic to this House pledged to have that Church disestablished and disendowed, you have only to look at the history, the mean and ignominious features of which it has been my painful duty to bring before the House. You find there the reason and justification for it. I now pass for a moment to the existing state of things. I do not deny—no fair-minded man would deny, nor is it to our interest to do so—that since 1831, when the passage I have quoted was written, there has been a large and a most beneficial change in the spirit and temper of the Anglican Church in Wales. The State, on the one hand, has appointed Bishops, deans, and canons who knew the language and understood the people, and the Church, animated by a new spirit, has developed a beneficent spiritual activity in many parts of Wales. Still, when, every allowance has been made, when everything that can be done has been done, what is the state of affairs? It is not disputed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, as I understand, that the Church in Wales is still the Church of the minority.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The right hon. Gentleman says nobody knows. I will try and give him some materials for judging. I do not want to dwell again on the question of Parliamentary representation, and I should not now touch on the point but for the efforts of the most militant of the Welsh Bishops to endeavour to get rid of facts and figures which he had better have left alone. The Bishop of St. Asaph has been at the pains to calculate the votes given for and against Disestablishment. He brings out—and I have no reason to doubt his figures—that 145,000 persons voted for Disestablishment, and 86,000 against it. If you take a total electorate of 340,000, that brings out that only 47 per cent. of the electorate voted in favour of Disestablishment, and the proportion who voted against Disestablishment was26per cent. Then, says the Bishop, as it is clear that only 47 per cent. of the registered electors voted for Disestablishment, you cannot claim to have a majority of the Welsh people on your side. You have only got to add the 26 per cent. who voted against it to the 27 per cent, who did not vote at all, and you get 53 per cent. not in favour of it. I do not know whether this is a fair specimen of episcopal logic. I do not think it is necessary, at any rate in this House, to attempt to demonstrate the fallacy of it. The truth is, it is quite enough to dispose of the Bishop and his logic to state that in 18 of these constituencies the majority in favour of Disestablishment ran into four figures. When people know that they have a majority of 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000, you feel there is a strong temptation, if not a justification, for some of them to stay at home and not trouble about going to the poll. Passing to the question of actual numbers, the House has never approached this question without our being taunted with unwillingness to expose the question to the test of a religious census. But I confess that the more I have considered the matter the more unsatisfactory and inadequate has it appeared to me that a religious census would be. What is it? It consists of a man writing in a column of a census paper what is his creed or what is the particular denomination to which he 1590 belongs. Is that, in itself, any test whatever of whether he actually belongs to one Church or another? The real question that you want to ascertain is, what is the actual working strength and living membership of the different communions in Wales. I will venture to quote on that point a passage, which seems to be peculiarly relevant, from Lord Macaulay. In his history (edition 1858, vol. IV. chapter 13, page 272), he writes regarding the comparative strength of religious parties in Scotland in 1689:—The effective strength of sects is not to be ascertained merely by counting heads. An Established Church, a dominant Church, a Church which has the exclusive possession of the civil honours and emoluments, will always rank among its nominal members multitudes who have no religion at all; multitudes who, though not destitute of religion, attend little to theological disputes, and have no scruple about conforming to the mode of worship which happens to be Established; and multitudes who have scruples about conforming, but whose scruples have yielded to worldly motives.I think these considerations are equally applicable to the numbers in a religious census in Wales. But, apart from the question of a religious census, we have means of testing the comparative strength of the real, living, active membership of the different religious communities in the Principality. By looking at the numbers of communicants which are regularly published we find that, taking the four leading Nonconformist bodies, they number 381,000, against 118,000 in the Church. In other words, the Nonconformist communicants are in a majority of 263,000. If that is to be regarded as a fair test—[An hon. MEMBER: "No!"] Why not? I do not like to discuss these questions with too much acerbity, or to go too closely into them; but is it to be supposed that the Members of the Church are more lax in this matter than the members of the different dissenting bodies? If not, where does the inaccuracy of the test come in? I should have thought that we might take it as almost exactly the opposite, and might have considered that the Church of England, in proportion to its actual adherents, would have a larger number of communicants than the Dissenting bodies. I find, however, that the Calvinistic Methodists and Congregationalists alone have each a larger number of communicants than the Church of England in Wales. Exactly the same lesson is taught by another 1591 test—namely, the attendance at the Sunday schools. The total attendance at Church Sunday schools is 145,000, while in the Sunday schools of the Nonconformist bodies the attendance is said to be 515,000. Therefore, whichever of these tests you apply, you find that the proportion of Nonconformists to Churchmen in Wales comes out at something between three and four to one. Another argument that is often used is in relation to the difference of the two systems with regard to the residence of their ministers. We are constantly being told that, although the Church may be in a minority, yet that its national mission is vindicated and its national character demonstrated by the fact that every parish has a resident minister, whereas in many parishes the Nonconformists have none. According to the Bishop of St. Asaph, whose figures I am content again to take, says that out of 1,000 parishes there are 520 with a resident Nonconformist minister and 480 without. Is the Bishop so ignorant of the actual facts of the religious organisation of the Nonconformists of Wales? Is he so ignorant of the great Calvinistic Methodist movement, and of the fact that in the Nonconformist churches the system of itinerancy early took root and was found to be most effective for religious propaganda? I am informed that of the 4,000 Nonconformist chapels in Wales there is not one among them destitute of Sunday service, sometimes conducted by the minister residing in the parish or in charge of two adjoining parishes, sometimes by laymen who are qualified for the duty. In the large majority there are two preaching services and a Sunday school as well, and in most of the remainder there is one preaching service, one Sunday school, and one prayer meeting. I am told that there is not one of these chapels in which the Sacrament is not administered once a month. Now, let me ask, How does the Church stand in this respect? Is it very important to have a resident minister in a parish when he has no congregation? I am not going to weary the House, but I wish to go into one or two details. I will take the case of the county of Anglesey. I am told, and I invite inquiry, that there are 76 parishes, and out of these 27, or more than one-third, are without rector, vicar, or curate resi- 1592 dent in them, In three of these parishes there are no buildings of any kind where the service of the Church of England can be held—the churches have been demolished. In several of the parishes service is held only once a month. In one case the service was attended by 11 persons, including the minister, the sexton, the gamekeeper, and the servants of the squire. The tithes of these parishes which I have been describing, I am told, amount to more than £7,000 a year. This state of things is not due to the religious apathy of the people. The Nonconformist bodies are strong and flourishing in these parishes. The Calvinistic Methodists have in Anglesey 84 chapels and 34 school-rooms, and their communicants number 11,000. Therefore, I hope we shall not hear much more about the necessity of a resident minister. I must not de ain the House more than a few minutes more, but I must answer the question put to me the other day, in view of the fact I have been describing. The question was put by the right hon. Baronet opposite, What is the reason of the hostility of the Welsh people to the Established Church? What was his answer? The right hon. Baronet said the best answer he could discover was that it was a social grievance. A social grievance! He said the Church attracted the most educated classes, and that that was the reason there is this feeling of animosity. Was there ever a more impotent view taken of such a state of feeling—a feeling amply justified by the past history of the Church, and deeply ingrained in the hearts of the great masses of the Welsh people? I can easily make good our proposition. This is not, in the sense of the definition of Lord Salisbury, a national Church. It is not the Church of the Welsh people. It is not the Church which, whatever may have been its origin, for six centuries past or at the present day is looked to by the Welsh people to give natural expression to their religious sentiments and their religious feelings. I shall not again go into the general details of this Bill, which I have twice—once at great length—explained, and before I sit down I will only deal with two or three of the main objections which have been taken. One of the objections urged by the hon. Baronet, and stated with great force, 1593 was that in her new status the Church will be left in a state of ecclesiastical anarchy; that, every clergyman will be a law unto himself, free from jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts, which would be gone, or from any other jurisdiction. I confess I listened to that argument with surprise. The clergyman of the Church will be bound by contract to fulfil the duties of his office, and if he violates that there are abundant remedies. But surely our experience of the Disestablished Church in Ireland, and of episcopal churches in America and the Colonies, shows that these are difficulties not likely to arise. Then, as to the property of the Church, we are accused of dealing with the Welsh Church in a less liberal spirit than was displayed in the case of the Irish Church. Well, we propose that the Disestablished Church shall retain the churches and parsonage-houses and modern endowments, following the precedent of the Irish Church. We propose that the glebe, which in Ireland was sold, shall be transferred to the Parish Council for the benefit of the parish. As for the burial-grounds, I agree that in Ireland the great majority were handed over to the representative body, whereas here we propose to vest them in the County Council. Why do we make that provision? I heard with great admiration the speech of my noble friend, the Member for West Edinburgh, on this point, and I entirely appreciate his position; but the burial-ground cannot be regarded as the property of any particular religious body. By the common law everyone who dies in a parish has a right to be buried in the parish churchyard. Everyone has now the right given by statute to be buried according to the rites of his own denomination. It is impossible to leave these burial-grounds, in which many painful scenes of great intolerance have taken place, to the care of the representative body, and to say that the common law right is not to be maintained. Then, as to the cathedrals, until a time within the memory of many of us, they were scandalously neglected. The Llandaff Cathedral is a case in point, with regard to which, as late as 1854, the Royal Commission reported that it was in a ruinous state, and without any adequate provision for public worship. It 1594 is quite true that this state of things has changed, and that this cathedral has been restored and embellished. [An hon. MEMBER: "Who by?"] By subscribers who were by no means all Churchmen. I do not think that any man acquainted with the great national work of the restoration of cathedrals would pretend that it was confined to any particular sect. What do we do with the cathedrals? We place them in the hands of the Commissioners, subject to the obligation to maintain them and keep them in repair, and they are to be held in trust for the continued performance of the same service as hitherto. I believe that to be a liberal and even a generous arrangement. I know very well that it has excited a good deal of hostile criticism, but I do not think that that hostility will be maintained. I have confined myself to what may be deemed the grounds of principle on which the Bill may be attacked. Sir, the Leader of the Opposition, in the Debate on this Bill a year ago, expressed the belief that the democracy of this country would hold with him that, for the welfare of the community, the presence of a standing witness to great spiritual forces in every parish of the land was a vital necessity. I agree so far with the right hon. Gentleman that I believe that the succession of the democracy to supreme authority in this country has not meant, does not mean, and will not mean the enthronement of a merely material ideal of social life, or the banishment or weakening of those great spiritual forces to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and which in days gone by moulded and coloured the whole fabric of English society. There are needs, as we all recognise, which are as old and as deep as human nature itself, and which no change in the distribution of political power and no rise in the general level of comfort can either satisfy or suppress. But is it necessary that this standing witness should be an officer of the State as well as a minister of the Church? What, as is too often the case in Wales—what if his message is unheeded, if his church is empty, if his mission is futile? Not, be it observed, because of the apathy of indifference, not because the parishioners are torpid or perverse, but because they find satisfaction and stimulus for their religious 1595 wants in unconsecrated buildings and in the services of an unauthorised ministry. The people of Wales have shown in days gone by that they can and will provide for their own spiritual needs; and it is in the sincere belief that this measure will minister as well to the religious as to the social welfare of the Principality that I ask the House to affirm it to be both politic and just.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
Whatever our opinions may be on the principle or the details of this Bill, I think we may congratulate ourselves upon three things on the present occasion. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman has, I cheerfully admit, redeemed his promise to provide some argument in defence of the policy of Her Majesty' s Government. In the second place, he has given us in his speech an intellectual treat of no mean order. And in the third place, I gladly recognise an important change in the manner in which he has approached this question; for he has expressed his desire not to offend what he admits to be the natural sentiments of those who entirely disagree with him. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to complain that I did not give him credit for the sincerity of his motives. That was very far from my intention. I cannot question his motives; I do not know what his motives may be. I can only judge of them from his speeches, and what I intended to convey to the House was that the motive which he has recently assumed of a desire to benefit the Church in Wales by this policy does not appear in his earlier speeches, and that his assumption of such a motive, having regard to the notorious origin of this Bill and the views of those who have pressed it on the Government, is felt to add insult to injury by those who attempt to the best of their power to defend the Church. And if I used any language which he thinks too strong, I would say this—let him go to the managing body of any Nonconformist community with which he is acquainted which possesses endowments; let him tell them that he proposes to deprive them of their endowments in his earnest desire for their good; let him see what they will say, and if they do not use language very much stronger than 1596 any I have used, I will my tender to him my most humble and sincere apologies. Now, I should like first to inquire what is the ground on which Her Majesty's Government base the proposals in this Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. I know there are many persons who believe that the establishment of a Church is in itself, under all circumstances and in any country, contrary to the principles of religion. That view is not only absolutely opposed to the opinions and the practice of every country in Christendom from the time of Constantine the Great to the beginning of the present century, but is also inconsistent with these arguments about majorities and minorities which formed so large a part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. But I am not quite sure what the view of the right hon. Gentleman himself may be. His whole argument, especially his argument with reference to the advantages of autonomy to the Church, was an argument for the Disestablishment of the Church in England as well as in Wales. That may be the opinion of individual Members of Her Majesty's Government; it is not the view which has been accepted by that Government as a whole. They have attempted, and are attempting to attack the Church of England under the disguise of yielding to what they call the national demand of Wales. Wales is to be treated in this matter as a separate nationality, contrary to history, contrary to geographical fact, and I believe, contrary to what would be the legitimate conclusion from those principles which Her Majesty's Government have adopted. If we are told that in such a matter as this Wales is entitled to be treated as a separate nation because 31 out of 34 Welsh Members demand it, I should like, to ask, how far Her Majesty's Government are prepared to go in the way of concession for this reason? If on these Home Rule principles—which are dear to Her Majesty's Government, and which were eloquently expressed in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—31 out of 34 Welsh Members were to go to the Government and say, "We insist on a separate Government and separate Parliament for Wales," what would be their answer? Would they grant that demand? I am very confident that just at the present moment they would 1597 decline to comply with a demand which, if made by Brittany to France, would be simply laughed out of court. Surely therefore the mere fact that this demand has been made is not sufficient. Surely we must consider the question on its merits, and we must be satisfied, the Government must be satisfied, and the country must be satisfied that the demand is just and right in itself. I understand the view of the right hon. Gentleman to be that the Establishment of the Church in Wales is unjust, because it confers ascendency upon the Church of a small minority, which is contrary to religious equality. Well, if there is any force in that argument, it will carry the right hon. Gentleman a great deal further than this Bill. If it is an injustice to those who are not members of the Church that the the Church should be established, it is equally an injustice whatever may be the numbers of the Church and whether those who dissent from it are in a majority or minority. In fact, you may go further. If you were to disestablish the Churches in Ireland, in Scotland, and in Wales, you would really be creating a greater injustice than at present exists, from this point of view, with regard to Nonconformists in England. But I demur altogether to this argument. I entirely deny that it is based upon any true conception of what Establishment means. Establishment does not mean that the State has brought a Church into existence. It does not mean that it has selected a particular denomination out of many to be the Established Church of this country. At any rate, that is not the meaning of Establishment in England or in Wales. In England and in Wales, as the right hon. Gentleman admitted to the full, the Church and the State from the earliest ages have grown up together, and, in fact, I think it could truly be said that the State has grown up under the shelter and counsel of the Church. The Church was the State in its spiritual aspect, and the Church was naturally the organ which the State utilised in the war against ignorance, vice, and crime—a war which cannot be so effectually waged by any other agency, and, to descend to a, mean argument, cannot be so cheaply waged by any other agency. I admit 1598 that circumstances have changed; the whole people no longer belong to one religious denomination. But the Church still occupies the same position, not of privilege but of duty; on it falls a duty which no other denomination can perform, and if it be relieved from that duty no other denomination will perform. The right hon. Gentleman discussed at some length the advantage which we believe to result from the existence of resident ministers of the Church in all the parishes of Wales, and compared their position with those ministers of other denominations. I think he has been misinformed with regard to Anglesey. I dare say there are some parishes which have been united and churches which exist no longer; but the theory and, as a rule, the practice of the Church is that there shall be a resident minister in every parish. That is, not a matter merely of Sunday services, not even of week-day services, but of general ministration to the spiritual and temporal welfare of the people. I venture to say that is a work which cannot be performed by the ministers of any denomination, at all if you relieve the Church of the duty which is imposed upon it by Establishment. But why are we to make this great change upon what may be and seem to us to be purely ephemeral grounds? It is admitted even by the right hon. Gentleman that for many centuries the Church was not only in theory but in fact the national Church of Wales. He referred to the Norman period. I readily agree with him that in the Norman period the Church in Wales was treated as unfairly by the Norman conquerors as the Saxon Church in England was treated by them. But she revived; and the right hon. Gentleman passed very lightly over her flourishing condition under the Tudors and the Stuarts. The Church was persecuted most of all in Wales under the Commonwealth. There were atrocious Acts passed at that time by the Puritans for Disendowing and putting an end if they could to the very existence of the Church in Wales. But those Acts failed because throughout all that period the Church in Wales was the National Church; and, so far from it being the fact that there were only intervals during which the Church in Wales was a National 1599 Church, I contend that there were only intervals when she was anything else. After the Reformation, for 250 years, as the right hon. Gentleman himself has admitted, the Church in Wales was the National Church. She was the Church of the great leaders who gave rise to the Nonconformist movement, and only within the last 60 or 80 years has she ceased to be the National Church in Wales in fact as well as in theory. During the last 10 years her growth and aggressive vitality is admitted by everyone. Having regard to these facts of history, surely it is monstrous that, because just at the present moment she may be the Church only of a minority, we are by the Bill now proposed to declare that she has not only lost all claim at the present time to be considered the National Church of Wales, but can never be in the position, to reassert it. Surely at this moment, when something like a wave of secularism is passing over the world, it is not the time when any man believing in Christianity should wish to deprive the State of that connection with religion which has formed part of her organic life during so many centuries, and to weaken the most capable antidote to that evil gospel of individual selfishness which is doing so much injury to the very foundations of our modern society. The right hon. Gentleman professes—and far be it from me to say that he does not profess it with sincerity—the desire to do good to the Church. He says that in his belief the Church is hindered and fettered in her work by the fact of her connection with the State. I am sure that the members of the Church in Wales are only too anxious to live in peace and good will with their neighbours. I am convinced that if they could see that the provisions of this Bill really would put an end to bitterness and animosity in Wales—that, hurtful as they might believe those provisions to be to their own position, they would cease to oppose them. But they ought to be better judges of the needs of their Church than the right hon. Gentleman; and almost unanimously, I believe, the members of the Church in Wales disagree with his view on this subject. They are referred for consolation to the result of Disestablishment to the Irish Church. I admit, and every one must admit who has considered the 1600 question, that it has been of advantage to the Irish Church to secure freedom from interference in her ecclesiastical and spiritual affairs by those who do not belong to her community. I admit that it has been of advantage to the Irish Church to secure the representation of the laity in her legislative assemblies; but there are matters which Churchmen in Wales may consider, and rightly consider, even of greater importance than those things. What about their connection with the Church of England? The right hon. Gentleman said that there was ample provision for maintaining ecclesiastical and spiritual discipline in Wales after the passing of the Bill. If it be so, there is only one way in which it can be secured? I expect the members of the Church in Wales value, perhaps above everything else, their ecclesiastical connection with the rest of the Church of England. I am quite sure that the rest of the Church of England values its ecclesiastical connection with them, and I entirely demur to the view which was expressed by the President of the Board of Trade the other day, that the Church of England in her ecclesiastical and spiritual life remains untouched and unharmed by the Bill. But how about the members of the Church in Wales in this matter? I contend that it is absolutely impossible, under the provisions of this Bill, whatever kind of future organisation they may select and adopt for themselves, for the members of the Church in Wales to remain in the same ecclesiastical and spiritual connection with the rest of their Church as that in which they are at the present moment. They may form a separate Church, no doubt, just as the members of the Church in Ireland did; but as a Disestablished Church it is impossible for them to maintain their present connection with the rest of the Church which will remain established in England. They might well think—and I believe they do think—that this disruption, this wicked and cruel disruption, is a far worse thing to them ecclesiastically than any benefits such as have been gained by the Church in Ireland. There is another point of view from which the members of the Church in Wales may also regard this question. They may view it not only as Churchmen, but as members 1601 of the State. They may consider, and ought to consider, what effect this Bill will have on the future of Wales. What affect has the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Irish Church had on the condition of the State in Ireland? I think he would be a very rash man who would assert that it had done the faintest good. I hold that it has done a great deal of harm. As an eloquent prelate said, in speaking on the Irish Church Act—the revolution in Ireland began with the Church and has gone on to the land; since the passing of that Act, political differences in Ireland have been deeper and more bitter; and divide, just as completely as over before, Protestants and Roman Catholics into two different corps. Since the passing of that Act the movement for separation, or, at least, for an alteration in the Union between Great Britain and Ireland, has certainly gained increased strength. Churchmen in Wales see these things. They may dread the effect which a similar policy will have on their position as members of the State in Wales, especially if they bear in mind a definition which was given to the House in the Debate on the First Reading of this Bill by the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Denbighshire, and the view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman himself. The Church in Wales is called an alien Church. Why is it called an alien Church? The right hon. Baronet told us the other day that it was because the laity and the clergy of that Church were aliens in their attitude towards the great national movement now going on in Wales. That view has been reaffirmed by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman tonight. What does that mean?
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS- BEACH
The right hon. Gentleman did not say so; and this is not the first time on which his own recollection of what he said has differed from that of other people. But I do not lay stress on anything he says. The same sentiment was expressed by the Home Secretary. What it means is surely this. The members of the Church in Wales are just as much attached to their country as any other persons. They are just as proud of their race and history. 1602 But, perhaps they are more, educated and move intelligent, and possess broader views of patriotism; and, therefore, they know that what is called "the national movement" leads directly to Home Rule, and that what Home Rule for Wales means is a separate Government and Parliament for Wales; and they realise that there could be nothing worse for Wales than such a thing as that. I think I may find some confirmation of that view in the speeches of the hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs and other hon. Members from Wales. Whether there are or are not religious motives for the support which is given to this Bill, in my belief there are certainly strong political motives; and there are political motives of another kind. The Prime Minister, with reference to the Church in Scotland, made a very remarkable statement some little time ago. He said—In Scotland nearly every manse is an agency for the Tory party and the continuance of the Establishment and the Liberal Party side by side in Scotland is coming to be inconsistent.Is there no feeling of the same kind on the other side of the House with reference to the Welsh Church? Are we absolutely sure that even the right hon. Gentleman himself has no hidden sympathy with these feelings in his attack on the Church in Wales. If it be so, I can only say that such a motive is utterly inconsistent with his self-congratulation upon the thought that in this matter the Liberal Party are engaged in the pursuit of absolutely disinterested aims. I am afraid that, as in Ireland, so in Wales, the Disestablishment and the Disendowment of the Church proposed by this Bill, the manner in which they are to be carried out, and the reasons by which they are justified, will give a distinct impetus to the policy of Home Rule. But I turn from Disestablishment to Disendowment. They are coupled together in this Bill, and they must be coupled together, because I do not believe there is a single. Welsh Member out of the whole 31 who would support Disestablishment without Disendowment. Now, how did the right hon. Gentleman attempt to justify the policy of Disendowment? Any real justification was singularly absent from his speech; but he tried to justify it on the ground of 1603 attempts which have been made by Parliament in past generations to legislate on matters connected with the government, discipline, and doctrines of the Church. With the exception of the Irish Church Act, he never quoted a single instance in which—whatever other Legislation in regard to the Established Church may have been attempted—Parliament had sought to deprive the Church of those endowments which maintain her Bishops and Clergy. The right hon. Gentleman calls the endowments of the Church national property. He asserts that they are the special patrimony of the people, which has been enjoyed for a time by the Members of a particular religious community. If that is so, there must have been a time when they belonged to the people. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me, when that time was? I defy him to prove that there was any such time at all. Take tithe, which is, of course, the main part of the endowments. Does the right hon. Gentleman contend that tithe over belonged to the people? He does not venture to say so. I will give him two authorities to the contrary, which I think even he will not dispute—Professor Stubbs, Bishop of Oxford, and Professor Freeman, two of the greatest historians of our time. Professor Stubbs says:—Tithe never belonged to the nation, and was not the gift of the nation.Professor Freeman says:—The Church preached the payment of tithe as a duty. The State gradually came to enforce that duty by legal enactment.But is every source of income, the payment of which is enforced by legal enactment, therefore the property of the State? That will carry the right hon. Gentleman a great deal further than the endowments of the Church. It is a fact that until very modern times the suits for non-payment of tithe were of ecclesiastical cognizance only. I contend, in spite of anything which the right hon. Gentleman has said, that, with some small exceptions, not a penny of the endowments of the Church, whether in England or in Wales, ever belonged to the State, was ever given by the State, or was ever voted by Parliament. With these small exceptions every penny was given by individual 1604 donors. We are often told that we ought to maintain our Church by a voluntary system. The Church was the original founder of the voluntary system. The Church has been maintained by the voluntary system for centuries. She is maintained by the voluntary system now. I admit that there might have been a certain process in the dark ages—a kind of spiritual distraint—which aided the voluntary system. But that process is not absolutely unknown in the present time, and the only difference between the mode in which the Church has been maintained and the mode in which Nonconformist communities are now maintained, is that the voluntary system has gone on for centuries with respect to the Church, and only for a few generations with respect to the Nonconformist communities. The right hon. Gentleman told us something of the, injury done to the Welsh Church by the Norman Conquest. I can tell him something more. The See of Llandaff was almost as completely disendowed by the Norman conquerors as propose by this Bill. Out of 24 canonries only two escaped. But it was re-endowed by donors whose gifts may be seen recorded in ancient charters which still exist. The see of Bangor was endowed by-Bishop Amian in the time of Edward I. The very ancient see of St. Davids and the see of St. Asaph were endowed in the reign of Henry VIII. I could go on to parochial benefices; but I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman did not venture to touch upon this question. Charters may be found which show beyond dispute how these endowments have been brought about. If it is true, as the right hon. Gentleman alleges, that all this is national property, why has he taken the date of 1703? Why are not gifts given to the Church after 1703 just as much national property as those given before? The only reason that the right hon. Gentleman has given is, that only from that year (1703) it became possible, through the machinery of Queen Anne's Bounty, for private persons to invest in landed property for ecclesiastical purposes. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that this does not apply to tithe. Lord Selborne says:—For perpetual grants of tithe no licence in mortmain or other temporal confirmation was ever necessary. They were deemed in law to 1605 be things mainly spiritual and to be held by no feudal tenure.Then, why should tithes granted before 1703 not be respected as much as tithes granted after 1703? And with regard to lands? Lands have been granted before 1703 by private donors to the Church—private donors of all kinds, kings, queens, princes, nobles, bishops find commoners—as can be proved by charters. Why are these things to be taken away if granted before 1703? I have two instances here to which I will refer. I hope I am not wearying the House, but these are matters with which the right hon. Gentleman absolutely neglected to deal, and which must be enforced upon the attention of the country. Here is a case. In a charter of Bishop Bernard, of St. Davids, it is recorded that William Reval endowed the Church of Hay, in Breconshire, with land and tithes, which are specified in the charter. This was between 1115 and 1135. Afterwards, before 1154, this church, with others, was granted to the Priory of St. John of Brecon, and by a subsequent charter it was stipulated that there should be a vicar of the parish, who should receive the whole revenue of the church, paying the monks five silver marks per annum. The charter is now preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. I have no doubt that this endowment is amongst those ancient endowments of the Church of Hay which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to confiscate. By what right does he propose to take them away? I have another instance. The vicarage of Slebech, in Pembrokeshire, was endowed about the year 1640 by George Barlow by a deed preserved among the parish papers. The words of the deed are:—I, George Barlow, of Slebech, finding it an ancient institution of primitive times to make, consecrate, and endow vicarages with tithes, the patrons reserving power to themselves of presentment, and holding it also unjust, and a principle in conscience not to perform the same accordingly, do make, a perpetual vicarage endowed with cure of souls in Slebech, presentative by me and my heirs, and do also freely give and for ever grant unto the said parish church of Slebech and vicars the house lately by me to that purpose built and lands thereto belonging near the churchyard, together with all tithes within the parish of Slebech, township of Priston, and Milhill in the parish of Boulton, except Sheaffe, and all manner of tithes of what, nature and kind soever issuing within the demesne lands of Slebech now in my tenure and occupation.1606 And then we go on to some remarkable words. They may seem strange, but they were written in the simple faith of those days:—If any shall take away from the holy Church of God the premises in part or in all so by me given (which I hope no man ever will) let his account be without mercy at the dreadful Day of Judgment, when he shall come to receive his doom at the hands of the Judge of heaven and earth, to whom I dedicate the same.Of course I know very well that the right hon. Gentleman and those who support this Bill do not think they are doing what would bring them within the terms of this curse, but surely this shows that this man, George Barlow, believed he was giving his property to God, and surely it shows also that others who made similar gifts did the same. What I again ask is. What right has Parliament to take away property so given to the Church in Wales in the year 1640 any more than it has to take away property given to any Noncomformist community last week. We are sometimes told that in early days there was only one Church to which persons could make gifts; but can any one argue that, if those who made the gifts had not agreed with that Church, they would have given them at all? It was also said that the property of the Church was transferred at the Reformation from the Church of Rome to the Church of England. The right hon. Gentleman and the President of the Board of Trade agree, with me in holding that that view is absolutely erroneous. I hope they will press their opinion, upon their colleague, the Prime Minister, because at Cardiff in January last the noble Lord said:—We all remember what the State once did with the endowments, how it took them at the time of the Reformation from the old Church.He went on to say it was not wise for the defenders of the establishment to rest too much upon the right of property, because the indefeasible right to this ancient property rested not with the Reformed Church but with the Roman Catholic Church. There is, I know, a small part of the endowments of the Church in Wales which was given to the Church by Parliament. In the early part of this century Parliament made a grant of a million and a half towards building churches, and I think of 1607 £1,100,000 towards aiding Queen Anne's Bounty in augmenting benefices. Of these sums £9,440 was given towards building churches in Wales, and £168,000 towards augmenting benefices there. But the College of Maynooth received Parliamentary grants for building purposes; Noncomformist communities in England in those days received Parliamentary grants. I am sure no member of the House would be so mean, as to ask the Church of Wales to give back the few thousands received in building grants when they remember that during the last 50 years, in sums of £500 and upwards, Churchmen in Wales have spent no less than £2,216,000 in building and restoring churches. The operations of Queen Anne's Bounty have been referred to, but all Queen Anne did by her bounty was to restore to the Church property that had previously belonged to it but of which it had been despoiled, first by the Popes and then by the Kings. Therefore, I assert that, with the slight exceptions to which I have alluded, all the endowments of the Church in Wales are as absolutely the property of that Church as the endowments of any religious community in the kingdom can be. I care not what was done in Ireland—I never assented to the Irish Church Disestablishment Act, but voted in every division against it—this House has no more moral right to take one single penny of those endowments than it has to take the property of any corporation, any trade union, any society in this country. There is no property which is devoted to higher purposes, there is none that is devoted to objects more in accordance with the wishes of its donors, and with the spirit of our present day, if we may judge from the enormous increase made to those endowments continually by voluntary contributions, and, last of all, there is no property, corporate or private, which does so much good. I hope; I have said something to show that justice, at, any rate, does not demand that the Church in Wales should be despoiled of her endowments. I would now like to say a word upon another argument. It is said, and it, is true, that these endowments are the accident and not the essence of the Church, that if they were taken away the Church would continue to exist. 1608 No doubt, she would, as she existed before them. It is said they are very small in amount. That is true. The right hon. Gentleman estimated the total annual value of the ancient endowments of the Church in Wales which he proposes to take away from her, at about £280,000 a year. [Mr. ASQUITH: "Gross."] Gross, quite so. I have calculations, and I believe they are true, looking to the present very depressed value of the tithe and land, which make the net annual value of these endowments no more than £157,000, and of that amount £7,000, at least, would have to be expended in salaries and cost of the Welsh Commissioners. Then, what we are dealing with practically, so far as any benefit to Welshmen who are not members of the Church is concerned, is the sum of £150,000. It is said that the Church in Wales can afford to lose this, that it will be replaced by new endowments. It might be replaced by new endowments, but it is for those who would take those endowments away and at the same time profess their desire that the work of the Church in Wales should be efficiently carried in to show how that work can be efficiently carried on all over Wales without these endowments. Three arguments are used in support of this view. The first is that the growth of the Church in Wales is mainly in the large towns and more populous neighbourhoods, and that there she is practically working on the voluntary system alone. Now, that is not correct. Take the county of Glamorgan, the most populous county in Wales. The gross endowments of the Church in Glamorganshire are £26,327 a year. The net annual value of those endowments, I take it, would not be more than £15,000. But that is not all that the Church receives at the present moment by way of endowment in Glamorganshire. In these populous and mining districts she receives from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in annual grants to incumbents and curates no less than £13,119, almost as much as is derived from the ancient endowments of which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to deprive her. Therefore there is in these populous centres a substantial nucleus of endowment round which these volun- 1609 tary offerings centre. If you were to take this nucleus away, if you were to deprive Wales, as you must deprive Wales, if this Bill becomes law, of the grants made by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners which are provided from Church property in England, you would deprive the Church in Wales in these populous centres of much more than her ancient endowments. Then we have been told that the voluntary system has been, successful in the Colonies. Now, the Church in the Australian Colonies was endowed by grants of Crown lands, some of them situated in the cities and towns, and those lands have now become of considerable value. The Australia Government gave to the Church in these Colonies complete powers of self-government. They never touched her endowments, which were State endowments if ever there, were State endowments in the world. The result has been—I state it on high authority—that the Church in Australia is reasonably well off and successful in the cities and towns; but is half-starved in the country districts. Let us take the Church in Ireland. The Church in Ireland after disestablishment was left with a capital endowment of rather less than a million; which has been very considerably increased by the voluntary contributions of her members and by the able management of her financial advisers. But, in spite of that, churches have been closed, large parishes have been thrown together, and stipends have been reduced. I admit that her general condition is certainly not unsatisfactory from a financial point of view for a Disendowed Church. Why? Because Parliament dealt with her fairly. Parliament was not generous to the Irish Church; it was just. But the Bill is not just to the Church in Wales. It is simply mean. Surely it is mean to deprive Incumbents—who after Disestablishment resign their charge with the consent of the representative body of the Church—of a very large part of their life interests. The result of this must be to hinder the Disestablished and Disendowed Church from sending her ministers to those places where their services may be most required—to impose a heavy fine upon promotion to Bishoprics or other important positions in the Church in Wales, and a temptation to revert to 1610 the objectionable practice of looking outside Wales for Welsh Bishops, and, lastly, to prevent any re-endowment of the Church by her own clergy. There is no provision in this Bill, as there was in the Irish Act, for the commutation of life interests by the Commission. By the provision which diminishes life interests on resignation the right hon. Gentleman has made it impossible that any life interests should be commuted in any other way, because the uncertainty of the amount of those interests would be so great that no life insurance company would undertake the transaction. Still meaner is the treatment of curates—men who have gone through a long and expensive education on the faith of the existing law, and whom you refuse to recognise as entitled to any compensation at all when they lose their curacies on the death or the resignation of their existing Incumbents. But what is meanest of all is the treatment of Churchmen in Wales with respect to their cathedrals and churchyards. The right hon. Gentleman attempted to excuse and justify this; but I cannot help thinking that when we come to the discussion of the Bill in Committee he will be induced to change his views on the point. Cathedrals are of no money value, but they are of incalculable value to the members of the Church in Wales. The proposals of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to them have neither the courage of confiscation nor the grace of liberality. He does not venture to take away the Cathedrals as he would take away the churchyards. He gives Churchmen the right to use them, but they are to belong to the Welsh Church Commissioners. Why? In order that there may be an opening for some future scheme for the use of these Cathedrals— which belong to the Church, if anything ever did belong to the Church—by the members of other religious denominations. The right hon. Gentleman said that the members of the Church have no special claim to the churchyards. Nonconformists are and were buried in them, but mainly before burial grounds were attached to Nonconformist chapels, as is now commonly the case; but Churchmen have always been buried in them. In these churchyards lie their nearest and dearest, and they have been added to by the gifts of Churchmen. Why, 1611 then, should you take them away? By doing so you are taking away from the Church something which is infinitely more valuable to her than it can be to anybody else. In 1844 there was a Debate in Parliament on the Dissenters' Chapels Act, when it was proposed, and rightly so, that the possession by certain Unitarian congregations of what were formerly Presbyterian chapels should be confirmed by law. In the House of Commons, on that occasion, Lord Macaulay said, with regard to the proposal that these congregations should not be allowed to retain the Chapels:—You are robbing us of what we consider invaluable, to bestow it in a quarter where it can have no other value than as a trophy of a most inglorious war, and as an evidence of the humiliation of those from whom this property has been wrested.Those eloquent words are exactly applicable to the proposals of this Bill with regard to the Cathedrals and the churchyards. The spirit which has dictated them is not the spirit of generosity; it is the spirit of persecution. Persecution springs from fear. I do not know whether Her Majesty's Government are afraid of the Church in Wales; but I do know they are afraid of the Church in England, and what they desire to do by these proposals is to establish a precedent in respect to the Church in England. Before I sit down I should like to say a few words upon the purpose to which this revenue of £157,000 a year is to be devoted by the Bill. I have no doubt this has been the most difficult—and will be the most difficult—part of the right hon. Gentleman's task. This revenue mainly consists of tithes, and in speaking of it I shall allude solely to tithes. I observe that last night the right hon. Gentleman, in addressing another audience, said something on this point which, I think, deserves notice. He drew a picture, of the feeling of a small Nonconformist freeholder in Wales, who, having to maintain his own chapel, is compelled to pay tithe issuing out of his land to a Church in which he does not believe, and the right hon. Gentleman impressed this on his audience as a hardship. I admit that I think if I was in the same position I should feel it something of a hardship myself; but what is the conclusion to which this argument leads? 1612 The great bulk of the tithe in Wales is paid, not by small Nonconformist freeholders, but by landlords who are members of the Church. They willingly pay this tithe for the maintenance of their Church. The right hon. Gentleman would give them a grievance instead of the small Nonconformist freeholder, because he proposes to compel these Churchmen to maintain their Church and to pay the tithes to something else. If the small Nonconformist freeholder is sufficiently honest—and I have no doubt he is as honest as his richer neighbours—he will feel that he ought not to put this tithe into his own pocket, or to apply it to relieving himself of rates. But he would, doubtless, like to apply it to the maintenance of his own chapel. That, however, is not an argument for this Bill; it is an argument for concurrent endowment. I suppose I am one of the few remaining Members of the House who voted in 1869, when it was clear that the country was determined that the Irish Church should be disestablished and disendowed, that the funds should be applied by way of concurrent endowment. If and when it is clear—thank God it is not clear yet—that the country has made up its mind that the Church in Wales shall be disestablished and disendowed, I should hold the same opinion still. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to carry his argument to its logical conclusion, and instead of devoting the tithe in Wales to hospitals, infirmaries, musuems, and higher education, to allow the small Nonconformist freeholder to devote it in future, after disendowment, to the purpose to which it is alleged he desires to apply it—to the maintenance of his own form of religion. In the present scheme there is an immense difficulty in the proper allocation of this money. I do not refer to the central fund. That is a small matter—in the gross only £46,000 a year, and in the net it will not amount, I believe, to more than £29,000 a year. It will have to bear the £7,000 a year, or thereabouts, which must at the very least be the cost of the Welsh Commissioners, judging from experience in Ireland. It will also have to bear the accumulated interest on the large advances which it will be necessary for the Treasury to make in the 1613 earlier years of the working of this scheme. Therefore, there will be little or nothing for a long time available from the central fund for the purposes named by the right hon. Gentleman—for an academy of art, for a museum, and for higher education. What I refer to mainly are those revenues which are derived from tithe and are the property of the incumbents. They are to be handed over to the County Councils; but in framing schemes for their disposal, the County Councils are to have regard to the needs of the parish from which they arise. I maintain that, by the scheme of the Bill it would be impossible for the County Council to have regard to anything else. These parochial tithes will only fall into the possession of the County Council by the gradual cessation of separate life interests in each particular parish, and the County Council cannot deal with them until they do. The fragment, which would be all the County Council could take in any one case from the claims of the parish, would be absolutely insufficient to be utilised by the County Council in a scheme for the general needs of the county. The County Council could not retain these fragments, as they came in, in order to utilise them for county purposes, without settling the definite object to which they should be applied, and it could not settle that object beforehand. Let hon. Members think with what enormous tenacity the inhabitants of the smallest rural parishes of England have, in late years, clung to their charitable endowments, and how they have refused, where they could possibly avoid it, to allow one single penny of those endowments to be expended beyond the parish itself. Let hon. Members consider how these views are growing, and how they are certain to be impressed by parochial influence on the County Councils, and then ask themselves whether it will be possible, under the circumstances I have described, with these endowments only falling in at intervals, for the County Councils to do anything else but to keep the endowments in the parishes from which they spring. What, will be the result? In one parish you will have tithe belonging to a layman, which, therefore, will continue to be paid after the pass- 1614 ing of this Bill. In the next parish you will have tithe payable to the central fund, and land also belonging to that central fund. In these two cases the parish will get nothing from these tithes mid these lands. In a third parish you will have the incumbent living perhaps for 50 years, and retaining his life interest for the 50 years, during which the parish will derive not a single penny from these funds. In the fourth parish, perhaps the smallest of all, perhaps the richest of all, and perhaps least in need of such aid, you will have the tithes falling in at once, and the County Council will have to devote them to the demands of that parish. Sir, there never was a, scheme framed to promote, such envy, hatred, malice and uncharitableness between the inhabitants of unlucky parishes and the inhabitants of lucky parishes as the scheme proposed in this Bill. I do not know whether I might venture to make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. He told us he was in a dilemma on the First Reading of the Bill. He argued that if he gave these funds according to population, the result would be that populous counties like Glamorganshire would mainly benefit, and the places from which the tithes issued would get next to nothing. I think I have shown that under the scheme of the Bill the tithes will be frittered away for the benefit of these places where they are least required. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should take the bold course that was take in regard to the funds of the Disendowed Church in Ireland. Let him say:—My Bill is a good Bill; it does not need to be recommended by local bribery; I am bound to take those funds; I consider them national funds, and I will apply them to the national benefit of the people of Wales.I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will take that course. I will give him an alternative. Suppose he drops this scheme altogether. I admit that some of the purposes, perhaps all of the purposes, to which he could apply this money are good in themselves; but they are not so good, or nearly so good, as the purposes to which it is applied at the present moment. Hospitals and nursing institutions can only be of real benefit to the neighbourhood in which they are 1615 situated when they are managed by persons who are imbued by that true spirit of self-sacrifice, that charitable desire to relieve the wants of suffering humanity, which flow from, and can only permanently flow from, definite religious belief. The right hon. Gentleman is doing his best, by depriving the Church of those funds, to diminish the teaching in Wales of definite religious belief. Sir, it has been said by a very eminent person abroad that if the policy embodied in this Bill were to pass into law, it would be felt as a blow at Christianity throughout Europe. But it will not pass into law; because it is not seriously intended. If it were seriously intended, Her Majesty's Government, would have pressed it forward last year. If they had been defeated, either in this House or in another place, they would have taken the verdict of the electors upon it, and would have abided by the result. If the verdict had been, unhappily, in favour of the Bill, it would then, as in the case of the Irish Church Bill, have become law. But the Government have not dared to take that course. And why? because they know very well that their cause is losing ground even in Wales, and that England is hostile to their proposal. Sir, this Bill is now merely a feint against the Church. It is a move, and a feeble move, in the half-hearted game of attack upon the House of Lords; but its real use is to enable right hon. Gentlemen opposite to delay the Dissolution of Parliament until what they hope may be a more convenient season. Sir, there is one case in history in which the civil power broke up a Church for political objects; but I have never heard that the result of that proceeding was considered so successful as to challenge imitation. I refer to the story of Jeroboam, son of Nebat. But the Government are not strong enough to imitate that powerful king. A Government with a majority varying from 12 to 15 is incapable of so altering the Constitution of such a country as this as to break up the relations between the Church and the State. Sir, I am convinced that Englishmen will never permit their Church—for she is their Church as well as the Church of Welshmen—to be despoiled of the means by which she does so much good; or their country to re- 1616 nounce that recognition of religion which has made her not merely a colonising and a civilising, but a great Christianising agency throughout the world. I beg to move that this Bill be read this day six months.
MR. J. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
said that, as a Welsh member, he gave the Bill a very hearty support. If he did not do so it was perfectly certain he would not be in the House of Commons. For the last 25 years a thorough advocacy of Disestablishment was the one indispensable condition for entering Parliament, so far as a very large majority of the seats in Wales were concerned. The question of Disestablishment had been during that period the ruling factor in Welsh politics. The history of the question, as it affected the Parliamentary Representation of Wales, during the past 15 years was very important. In 1880, there were returned from Wales 29 members in favour of Disestablishment, and four against; in 1885, 30 for Disestablishment and four against; in 1886, 29 for Disestablishment and five against; and in 1892, no fewer than 31 for Disestablishment and only three against. The Conservative Party was fond of boasting that the last Administration, which carried out a bold coercive Irish policy, was an exceedingly strong one. But the majority of the whole electorate of the United Kingdom which returned that Party to Power in 1886 was only 82,000 Votes—not much more than the majority which returned the present Government to Power in 1892—and if the Conservative Government thought, thought themselves justified in carrying out their Irish policy, how much more were Welsh Members justified in asking the House to sanction the present Bill; with a majority at its back of close upon 60,000 Votes from Wales alone. He expressed his satisaction at the fact that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol had taken a prominent part in opposition to this Bill because, although they could not agree with him, they recognised that they had in him a fair and honourable opponent. The right hon. Gentleman had said that there was a feeling that the country recognised to the full the unreality of the proceedings in which they were engaged. He respectfully but 1617 strongly joined issue on that statement. So far as Wales was concerned there had never been a more real issue than this. He instanced the attitude and spirit of the Welsh Parliamentary Party; it was this question of Disestablishment which had made the Welsh Party, and during the last Session they as a Party had advocated their claim to the time of the House in regard to this question with great persistence. It might be said that this was not true with regard to England; but he maintained that no distinction could be made in a question of this kind between the view of England and the view of the whole country. The House of Commons had already practically sanctioned the principle of this Bill by a majority of over 50 Votes on a previous occasion. The unreality of the proceedings, if such there was, did not consist in any lack of interest on either side of the House, but in the fact that there was not a single representative of Wales who had either the inclination or the courage to stand up in the House in defence of the Church to which, it was alleged, the country was so attached. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol a few days ago made a very valuable admission when he said that among the Welsh-speaking population the Church was in a minority—possibly a small minority—and that Nonconformity was in a large majority. The right hon. Gentleman might have said that Nonconformity was also in a large majority—perhaps a still larger majority—in the English-speaking districts. It was found, on examination of the poll in 1892, that the average majority in favour of Disestablishment in purely Welsh constituencies was 1,811; in districts where the English and Welsh population were fairly equally divided the majority was 949; but in purely English-speaking districts the majority was no less than an average of 2,250. Welsh Nonconformity had a vitality about it which he thought was very clearly exemplified in the history of the growth of Welsh dissent outside the boundaries of Wales. He was informed that there were in London to-day belonging to the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists nine chapels, with 4,000 members, having a property of the approximate value of £97,000; Welsh Congregationalists in London had five chapels, 1,400 members, and valuable 1618 property; Wesleyans, three chapels, with 200 members, and property of £4,000; and lastly, Welsh Baptists in London had two chapels, 450 members, and a property of the value of £7,000 or £8,000. The result was that there were in London at the present day 19 Welsh Nonconformist chapels, with 6,000 members, and a property, mostly paid for, of the value of £127,000. There was, however, only one Welsh Church in London, with a membership of 500 or 600. If it were argued that when Welsh Churchmen came up to London they forgot their language and went to English Churches, that, was a valuable argument in favour of the national character of Welsh dissent. Before leaving this argument, he had once more to refer to a statement made upon the First Reading of the Bill by the hon. Member for the Tunbridge Division, a statement of which he seemed to be particularly fond, for he referred to the identical point in his speech upon the Bill last year. He said—The Bishoph of St. Asaph had pointed out that the four leading Nonconformist sects in Wales numbered only 47 per cent. of the population, and the late Mr. Dilwyn had estimated the minor sects and Roman Catholics as 3 per cent. of the population. It followed, therefore, that the Nonconformist Christians in Wales amounted to only 50 per cent. of the population. Then the hon. Member for Carnarvon had declared that the adherents of the Church only numbered 10 per cent. of the population. 'It followed, therefore,' reasoned the hon. Member, 'that only 60 per cent. of the Welsh population went to places of worship'—which was a libellous suggestion. Now let them look at this a little more closely. He would, for the sake of argument, accept the hon. Member's figures as correct, but let him point out (1) that 30 per cent. of the population belonged to Glamorgan and Monmouth, and was massed in the large, seaport towns of those counties. The character of these town populations, and its ever-changing condition, could not but swell the percentage of those who did not attend places of worship; (2) that, without making allowance for this consideration, was it the fact that the statement that only 60 per cent. of the population regularly attended religious service in Wales was a libel upon its religious character? How did the country generally compare with this state of things? It was estimated that there were in England and Wales some 38,000 churches and chapels, with a sitting 1619 accommodation for 10,000,000. He believed this to be a liberal estimate, but what followed? This: that if every seat in every church and chapel in the country was occupied next Sunday—which, he was sorry to say, would not be by any means the case—there would be less than 30 per cent. of the population of the country within places of worship; and yet the hon. Member for Tunbridge got up in his place and said that to admit that only 60 per cent. of the population of Wales regularly attend places of worship in Wales constituted a libel on the character of the country. It was not a libel, but a high compliment to Wales, to prove that at least twice as many of the people of Wales were as religious as the people of England, and it was a valuable tribute to the strong, uplifting influence of Nonconformity. He wished to say a word about the money argument. The noble Lord, the Member for Edinburgh (Lord WOLMER), in a speech which they on that side warmly appreciated on account of its unmistakable sincerity, and the fair and liberal tone which animated it from beginning to the end, referred at some length to the pecuniary aspect of the question. He said that Welsh Members had boasted of the triumph of the voluntary principle, and went on to show that the Church members in Wales subscribed voluntarily the sum of £250,000 last year to religious objects, whilst the voluntary donations of Nonconformists only reached the sum of £400,000. He (Lord WOLMER) went on to say that it was no extrication from the dilemma to say that the members of the Church of England were so much richer. But was not this consideration very material to the issue? Might he remind the noble Lord of the following facts? Almost all the land of Wales was held by Churchmen. He need not remind the House of the influence this gave to the Establishment. A very large proportion of the quarries and mines and industrial undertakings were also in the hands of Churchmen. The main bulk of the wealth of the country lay in the hands of the supporters of the Church. Was it to be wondered that at a crisis like this the gifts of Churchmen should amount to £250,000? But he would point out that as the supporters of the Church possess at least three-quarters of the 1620 wealth of the country, their subscriptions to religious objects should be at least three times the amount given by the Nonconformists. So that, if the Nonconformists subscribe £450,000, their subscription should be not £250,000, but £1,350,000. But he would advance the argument a step further by pointing out that the pecuniary argument was not by any means summed up by quoting the total sums given by Nonconformists on the one hand in 1894 and the Church of England on the other. In order to appreciate its value they must take a far wider survey; they must go back 100 or 150 years, to a time when the Church, as a spiritual force in Wales, was practically dead, but was in possession of the same funds as it was to-day, and with its members as rich in, worldly goods as happily they were to-day; they must note the fact that from that day to this the Nonconformist faith had been the faith of the poor of the country; yet, in spite of this, they had built thousands of chapels and schools, and maintained a ministry which had been and was an honour to the religious character of the country. The real value of these voluntary donations depended on the capacity for giving which lay behind them. Upon this point he recognised that there was a great gulf fixed between himself and hon. Members opposite, which could be bridged. He believed in voluntary contributions, and voluntary contributions only for the furtherance of religion, and he thought that the history of the past, as well as the experience of the present, confirmed that belief. Much had been said as to the Irish Church Act of 1869. He had only to state his strong opinion that that measure was a clear precedent for the measure dealing with the Church in Wales now before the House. And he would go further and say, that if the Irish case for disestablishment was a strong one, the Welsh case was a still stronger. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol said the other night—That the Irish Church Act is a precedent at all. The circumstances of the Irish Church were, unfortunately, in the year 1869, absolutely different from that living and growing condition in which the church in Wales is now. The endowments of the Irish Church were to a large extent Parliamentary endowments, taken from the majority of the population and given to the creed of the small minority, as part of the English settlement in Ireland.1621 Taking Ireland in 1869, how did the religious communions compare as to number with those of Wales? There belonged to the Irish Church in 1869, 693,000 members; to the Roman Catholic Church 4,505,000; to the Presbyterian Church 523,000; and to other bodies 72,054. In other words, the Establishment in Ireland laid claim to 693,000, but the unestablished churches in Ireland claimed 5,100,548 members. That was to say that the Church of Ireland only claimed 13 per cent. of the whole population of the country. What was the case in Wales in 1892? Taking the communicants of the Church of England at 114,000 they had the fact that the Church of England in Wales could claim, not 13 per cent. of the population, but only 6 per cent. He was willing, for the purpose of his argument, to assume that the communicants were double the number he had stated, and even then the percentage was lower than that claimed by the Church of Ireland in 1869 as belonging to her. Again, the Members returned from Ireland to the Parliament of 1868, which passed the Act Disestablishing the Irish Church, were 65 for Disestablishment and 40 against, or a proportion of 8 to 5, whereas the Members sent from Wales in 1892 were 31 to 3, or over 10 to 1. He, therefore, thought he had proved that in these respects the claim of Wales for Disestablishment was quite as strong as the claim in Ireland was in 1869. It might be said that Ireland was a nation and had a right to call itself a separate nationality, and Wales had not this right, and that, therefore, although opinion in Wales upon this question preponderated much more largely in favour of Disestablisment than it did Ireland, they could not take that into consideration, because, whereas Ireland was distinctly a nation, Wales could not be regarded as such. The Home Secretary had already proved that, from many points of view, the Welsh had every right to consider themselves a separate nationality. The people of Wales had clung to their language with much greater tenacity than the people of Ireland did to theirs. There had recently been a language census in Wales, from which it appeared that those who spoke the Welsh language only numbered 508,036; those who spoke English and Welsh, 402,253, and those who spoke 1622 English only, 759,416. In other words there were in Wales to-day 910,289 of the population speaking Welsh, as against 759,416 speaking English, or 55 per cent speaking Welsh, as against 45 per cent. who spoke English only. If they were to exclude from the population the large towns of Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire, which, as he had already shown, ought to be treated differently from many points of view in reference to this argument, then three-fourths of the people of Wales spoke the old Welsh language. Granting that Wales had the right to be treated as a separate nationality, the only remaining question therefore was: Did the Church find itself to-day in harmony with the national sentiment of the people? The hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight argued the other night that Dissent could not represent the national sentiment, because the Church had, from the time of Elizabeth, patronised the Eisteddfod, and because he had been informed that only 18 out of the 31 Welsh Disestablishment Members could speak Welsh. Such arguments, he asserted, were not worthy of the great ability of the hon. and learned Gentleman. Did the Church of England in Wales to-day find itself in harmony with the national feeling of the, country? Did it represent the nation? Archdeacon Howell, one of the very foremost Welsh clergymen—["Oh!"]—said in 1890 that it was an. unquestionable fact that the majority of the people of Wales were not found within the pale of the Church, and under the recent alternative Disestablishment Scheme promulgated by a number of clergymen in Wales, emphasis was placed upon the fact that the present conflict going on in Wales was disastrous to national unity, and seriously impaired the spiritual life of the country. One of the objects of this scheme was "to restore to their beloved Church her ancient national character." If they had to restore that, how could it be said that the Church at present was in harmony with the national aspirations of the people. The unwillingness which was found in Wales among Welsh Churchmen to incur much pecuniary sacrifice in the defence of the Church, was to be found in the fact that before Members of the Church of England could be induced to come forward in Wales as candidates in defence of that institution, it was necessary to have recourse to 1623 what was known, as the Grosvenor House Fund. That fund had been provided at the instance of the Duke of Westminster for this specific purpose. If the English Church were really a national institution, and the people of Wales were so attached to it, why should it be necessary to go outside for English gold. They had, as Nonconformists, reversed this order of things, and had raised among themselves a large fund for the purpose of carrying the war into the enemy's camp. On the one hand there was the reluctance on the part of Churchmen in Wales to subscribe towards the necessary expenses of defending their own Church, and on the other hand there was the willingness of Nonconformists to do this, and further to provide means to convince England of the strength of their case and the justification for the demands they made. Why was Wales so attached to Nonconformity?—and why had it so strong and deep a hold upon the Welsh people? In the first place, Wales had received its most precious possession through the channels of Nonconformity and the spirit of religion, which had raised the country from the depths of ignorance and superstition, and made it what it was to-day. It was Nonconformity which had quickened and fostered national life, which had taught the country the invaluable lessons of self-respect and self-reliance. In education, in temperance reform, and in the right of the people to exercise local self-government in purely local affairs, in all these things it was Welsh Dissent which had inspired and guided the efforts of the people in the past. He believed there was a bright future for Wales, but they could not make any real progress so long as this bitter controversy remained. He appealed with confidence to the wisdom and justice of the House to give this measure its emphatic sanction. He believed it would result in untold benefits, not only to Dissent, but to the cause of the Church also. It would remove that touch of discord which had been so long flung into even nook and cranny of Welsh life; it would heal this bitter controversy; and, what was more important than all these considerations, he believed firmly it would enable all religious bodies in the future to address themselves unitedly, and with 1624 new vigour and whole-heartedness to the high task which had been committed to their charges.
§ MR. R. U. PENROSE-FITZGERALD (Cambridge)
said, that nearly all the previous speakers had attended to the former Established Church in Ireland, as being more or less in a straight line with the present Church in Wales. Having himself been, since the Disestablishment of the Church in Ireland, a member of the representative body there, a similar body to that which the Home Secretary proposed to set up in Wales, perhaps the House would allow him for that reason to give a few experiences of the question of the Church in Ireland. Let them see in the first instance how these two Churches had been attacked? He remembered well when the Bills were brought in for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Ireland, and the three strongest reasons given in this House and the country, in favour of the measure were these:—It was said, rightly or wrongly, that the Church in Ireland was an alien Church, a badge of conquest, and (with absolute truth) that it was the Church of the minority, and in many districts of a very small minority. Were any of these three points the case with regard to the Church of Wales? Unless we could disprove all history, the Church in Wales could not be called an alien Church. It existed before there was any conquest or annexation of Wales, and it was only a play upon words to say that it was in any sense alien to the country or people. Was the Church in Wales a badge of Conquest? It was not imposed on a conquered nation by the conquering nation. It was there before any such conquest took place. Whether it was or not the Church of the minority there were no definite means of finding out, for they had been refused the only possible means of finding out, namely, a Religious Census. Let him call the attention of the House to the way in which it had been proposed to deal with these two Churches. As to the Church in Ireland, there was an official inquiry into the number of persons in Communion with the Church in 1834, in 1841, and again in 1851 there was a census. But in neither of these was there any return of religious profession. In 1861 was the next census, and in this 1625 people were required to state the religion they professed, and the result, the number of Roman Catholics were 4,505,265; members of the Established Church, 693,000; Presbyterians, 523,000; other dissenting bodies, 76,000; and Jews, 393. In 1867, three years after this census, Earl Russell in the House of Lords moved for a Royal Commission to inquire into the Church in Ireland, with a view to making its property more productive, and "in order to its more equitable application to the benefit of Irish people." This, with the omission of the reference to "a more equitable application," etc., was acceded to by the Government, and later in 1867, Commissioners were appointed to inquire on the whole organisation and property of the Church in Ireland, its bishoprics, emoluments, dignities and benefices, and the number of members of the Church of Ireland inhabiting the parishes attached to the Churches. In 1868 the subject of the Irish Church again came up, and much attention was given to it, and resolutions in the first instance, and then a Bill for the suspension of appointments in the Church of Ireland were submitted to and passed by the Commons, but rejected by the Lords. Then later in 1868 the Commissioners made a long elaborate and searching Report. They made suggestions for the internal management of the Church and its property. In 1868 was a General Election, and in 1869 the Government introduced their Bill for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Ireland, which with some slight alterations, ultimately became law, It was perfectly certain that none of the three reasons which were given for the Disestablishment of the Church in Ireland would hold good of the Church in Wales. In the case of Wales there had been no religious census; and there had been no inquiry as to property such as there was in Ireland Therefore they were without the information which the House ought to have before it proceeded to deal with this question. In outside controversy there had been persistent and almost malignant misrepresentation about the Church in Wales. All corporate property was easy of attack, and therefore the House ought to be more than ordinarily careful in dealing with it. There was no corporate pro- 1626 perty more easy of attack than ecclesiastical property. The question of dealing with the Church in Wales was one of importance, not only to the dioceses in Wales, but also to the Church in England. On the First Reading of the Bill very little information was given to them by the Home Secretary. The Bill, he said, was brought in to satisfy the desire of the Welsh people, with the smallest amount of hardship and the least detriment to the spiritual interests of which the Church would continue to be the guardian. If the Bill were brought in to strengthen the Church in Wales that would be another reason; but he did not think that was the real or true reason. There could be but one strong reason for a measure of this description—and that was that it was just. Had the Church in Wales been unfaithful to her trust? Had she been teaching false doctrine? If she had these might be fair and just reasons for the revolution proposed! but no such reason had been given. There had been arguments based on numbers and on language! but there had been no argument showing that injustice was done by the maintenance of the dioceses in Wales. In Ireland, unfortunately, since Disestablishment, there had been more crimes and worse crimes, and there had been an increase in the worst of crimes, those against dumb animals. If there had been any improvement in the Church herself, it was not to be put down to Disestablishment, but it was rather in spite of it. He did not think there was any greater amity between separated religious communities than there used to be. This could be tested by referring to the claims now made as against Church people by other Reformed Communions and by Roman Catholics in regard to educational endowments. In illustration of the claims of the former, the Bishop of Derry said:—An eminent professor of Church history in a theological college of the Presbyterian Church, examined before the Educational Endowments (Ireland) Commission, October 8, 1886, laid down, 'as a matter of simple justice,' that 'all moneys which had been paid in past centuries by any non-voluntary contribution or taxation from bodies or estates which had a Roman Catholic or Presbyterian population, were subject to the religion of those on whom payment was levied.' Consequently, whatever money that came to a school or college from other than Episcopalians, should be taken into account subtracted from the 1627 Church's holding, and handed over to Presbyterians and Roman Catholics. In regard to the grammar school in question (maintained in great measure for over two centuries by an ad valorem tax upon the livings of the clergy of the diocese), this meant a claim to an amount in excess of the value of the school buildings and all other property connected with it.To show how things stood as between Roman Catholics and Protestants, the Bishop of Derry said:—In the case of a 'Royal School,' a witness of singular ability—a professor in the College of Maynooth—argued very much upon the same lines as the Presbyterian professor. He said that even the transference of the buildings of the school neither would satisfy nor ought to satisfy the Roman Catholics, and that £200 a year over and beyond the fabric must be assured to them as compensation—the net income of the place being £190 a year clear.These two cases showed that Disestablishment had not brought about the millenium in Ireland which it was said would be brought about in Wales by the passing of this Bill. Before Disestablishment the priest and the parson used to live on good terms; in many parts of Ireland they were ex-officio dispensary officers and relieved the wants of the people socially as well as religiously. Whatever might have been the effect of Disestablishment, in regard to the growth of the Church of Rome, it had not had the effect which it was said this Bill would have in Wales. The Episcopal Church had grown in spite of our Legislation. In carrying the Irish Church Bill we missed a glorious opportunity—that of levelling up, which we had it in our power to do. We ought not to have devoted Church property to secular purposes, but what we took from one religion we ought to have given to another. We had lost that opportunity for Ireland, but we might do something in that direction in Wales. He hoped that before the Bill got into Committee, if ever it did so, the Home Secretary would earnestly [...] whether he could not avoid the mistake committed in Ireland, and, while providing for the life interests of the clergy in Wales, and leaving their successors livings, though it might be impoverished livings, any money that they might take from the Church should be used for religious purposes of some kind.
§ MR. T. PHILLIPS PRICE (Monmouth, N.)
said, although he very seldom addressed the House, yet he felt 1628 constrained to do so on the present occasion, because this was a question on which his constituents felt more deeply than perhaps on any other. This, too, although they did not belong to any one of the 12 Welsh counties. There was no doubt very great irritation existed in Wales, and it was not likely to diminish in force until the question was settled. It was a genuine people's question. It had not reached its present position by reason of agitation, but as the result of a spontaneous movement on the part of farmers and artisans, and labourers of Wales. How had the demand for Disestablishment been met? He recollected some years ago the late Mr. Raikes, on being put up to reply to the case for Disestablishment met it by denying the nationality of the Welsh people. He said the Welsh were not a nation, because they were numerically small. That was an absurd reason altogether. For the same reason it might be said that Greece, or Denmark, fir Montenegro was not each of them a nation. It was as absurd as the theory of the Third Napoleon, who said that small nationalities had no right to exist. The Welsh had all the marks which differentiated a nation. Above all they had a distinct language, and unlike the Irish and the Gaelic, the Welsh language was gaining ground year by year. There were more people speaking Welsh now than in the reign of George III. It was more popular. He could recollect the time when the better classes did not like, their children to learn Welsh. Now the better classes were only too glad to get their children taught Welsh. England in the past had treated Wales as she had treated Ireland, and not considered the wishes of the people at all. Her conduct was unsympathetic. What suited England was held to be good enough for Wales. The same spirit is still alive. In a parish in my own constituency, with a large and growing population, many of whom are Welsh speaking, the patron has just presented the living to a young man only six months in priest's orders, who does not understand one word of Welsh. Mr. Lecky had said in some of his writings that State Churches, although they might have many merits were not schools of heroism, and certainly the treatment of Wales by England had not been very heroic. Spiritual governors 1629 were sent to govern the people, but they governed without the consent of the people. Why was it that the Scotch people preferred Presbyterianism, the Irish Roman Catholicism, and that the English people were more or less Anglican. The reason was that one nation and one race preferred one religion and another a different one. He did not believe it was for the general good that all these active and distinct spiritual forces should he crushed into one dead level of uniformity. He admitted England's power to deal with this question, but he respectfully asked her to listen to the demands of a nation which, though small and comparatively poor, had national feelings and aspirations.
§ MR. GERALD LODER (Brighton)
could assure hon. Members from Wales that there were many Members on the Conservative side of the House who had had strong mandates from their constituents to oppose the Bill. How different was the position of the Government from that of the Government which introduced the Bill for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church! The latter were strengthened by Resolutions which had been passed in the previous Parliament and by having been to the country on the specific question, whereas the present Government were returned on one predominant question—namely, to carry Home Rule. Though the Government might be able to carry the Second Reading by more than their small nominal majority, still, when the Bill got into Committee, they would be at the mercy of the Welsh Members. He disliked questioning the motives of men but it had been said that the motive for the introduction of this Bill was jealousy rather than justice At all events, then was one curious fact that had not been noticed in the Debate, and that was that the movement for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales has been almost contemporaneous and simultaneous with the growth and revival of the Church in that country. A hundred and fifty years ago there would have been more reason for the introduction of a Bill of this sort than to-day. As the Church had grown stronger and purer, as she had become more able to minister to the wants o the people, the feeling had grown for robbing her of her endowments and 1630 depriving her of that pre-eminent position to which, through her antiquity, and the work she had done in the past, she was so eminently entitled. It was sufficient for their purposes to be able to show that the members of the Church of England were larger in number than the members of any other sect in Wales, and undoubtedly that Church had done more for the people of Wales than any of the other sects now existing. If a Church was to be disestablished, they ought to look to the majority of the people who lived under the rule of that Church. When they spoke on Disestablishment in Ireland or Scotland, they looked to the majority of the Irish or Scotch people, and when they spoke of the Disestablishment of the Church of England, why should they not look to the majority of its supporters? Even granting the arguments of hon. Members opposite, he did not believe that this Bill would meet their expectations or fulfil their wishes. What sort of a feeling would be engendered in Wales if they robbed the Church of endowments which had been enjoyed for centuries, and turn away large numbers of curates who were pool enough already? He believed the Bill, if carried, would be not only a great wrong to that Church, but a great loss to the community. Disestablishment would be a national disaster, and Disendowment nothing less than a crime.
§ MR. ALBERT SPICER (Monmouth District)
said, that for many years he had given a great deal of spare time in the interest of free churches in this country, and therefore he knew something of their temper and spirit in this connection, and in listening to the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down, he could not help expressing the hope that, knowing the intensity of feeling in regard to this subject which entered on both sides of the House, they would avoid imputing motives. He could readily understand those who had been brought up in the Church of England feeling displeasure with those who take a view favourable to Disestablishment. But let him say that they on his side felt equally intense. They appreciated generally the work the Church of England was doing in many parts of the country. They appreciated the men that it produced, but at the same time they 1631 had their opinions as to what constituted a Church. Let him remind them that they could produce evidence showing that so far back as 1652 there were movements in Wales with regard to Disestablishment. The oldest Baptist Church in Monmouthshire is Llanwenarth, near Abergavenny, founded in 1652. Its pastor, William Pritchard, was not allowed to receive payment from the State. His Church passed this resolution in 1655—And also that they do withdraw (i.e. the Baptist Church) from all such ministers that do receive maintenance from the magistrates, and from all such as consent not to wholesome doctrine, or teach otherwise.In the same way he could produce evidence to show that in the later part of the 18th century there was an agitation going on among many of the Dissenting Churches in connection with this question of Disestablishment. He admitted that the Church had been trying to do, and had done, a great deal, but after all, the progress that Nonconformity had made in the same time was marvellous. Take the great Rhondda Valley; in 1879 the Church of England had seven churches and the Nonconformists 30. In I884 the Church had 16 and the Nonconformists 115. The average attendance in the 16 churches was 3,200, whilst in the Nonconformist chapels the average attendance was 57,000. So that, looking at it whatever way they pleased, he did not think the Nonconformists in Wales had anything to dread by a full disclosure of the figures He had listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Baronet, but he failed to realise not only the intensity of the feeling amongst Nonconformists, but even the state of things in Wales. Reference had been made to endowments. Had they not made some progress as regards public opinion with regard to the dead man's hand? When talking of these endowments he could not help remembering that a few years ago he was invited, though a Nonconformist, to become a Churchwarden, and he had to administer funds originally left for the burning of heretics. If he had lived in those times he should have been burnt himself. He thought it was a mistake on the part of the Opposition not to recognise in this question 1632 the principle of nationality, for when they came to deal with the English Church they would be justified in claiming the support of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales against the people of England. Then they had the argument as to the census. He believed that a religious census such as had been suggested would be a sham, and that was why he would not accept it. In regard to the Irish Church religious census he would point out that there wasan immense deal of difference between the lines which separated Protestantism from Roman Catholicism and those which divided the different sections of Protestants. In many branches of Christian service Nonconformists were united with members of the Established Church. As an illustration of his meaning, when he said that a religious census on this question would be a sham, he might mention that when he visited the county gaol in Essex a few years ago, the inmates, with a single exception, described themselves as members of the Church of England. He did not suggest that the Church had all the black sheep, but it showed that those who belonged to no particular Church, and who had no religion, described themselves as members of the Established Church directly it came to a question of religious census. Any genuine census, if taken, for instance, on the basis of the number of communicants or of the attendance at church, would be frankly recognised by the supporters of the Bill. Another argument that their opponents made use of was that it would be an extreme injustice to touch Church endowments and to leave Nonconformist endowments intact. Their opponents seemed, however, to forget the fact that endowments to Nonconformist Churches or denominations were subject to special trusts, not only in connection with doctrine, but also with Church government, and that it was impossible for these endowments to be held unless the trusts were, properly executed. The Bill recognised Church endowments since 1703 as modern, and therefore to remain the property of the Church of England. He could have wished that the date had been carried back a little earlier. He would have preferred the year 1662, when 2,000 clergy were ejected from their livings; after which it was impossible to doubt that anyone who left money to religious bodies knew and 1633 appreciated the particular body to which he was leaving his money. He maintained that the Church to which the ancient endowments were given was not the same as the Church of England of to-day. He was aware, of course, that different opinions were held in connection with this matter, but he believed that the Church in England prior to the reign of Henry VIII. was not the same Church as the Church of England of to-day. The Church was then subject to the Church of Rome; the Pope was the supreme head. If the endowments of the Church had been held in a similar way to the endowments of Nonconformist Bodies, they could not, in his view, have been held after the Reformation. There was another question. The motives of himself and his friends had been criticised, but he would remind the House that after all the whole Disestablishment question had been pushed into its present position from the deep religious conviction as to what constituted a Church. He held that a Christian Church could only consist of Christian people, who alone have the right of control. It was a fact that the Church of England in the past had shown an utter neglect of the wants of the people; and this was also, to a certain extent, the reason for the present position of the Disestablishment question; and they also had to consider the want of national sympathy on the part of the State Church. He did not think, moreover, that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite realised the political injustice that was inflicted when a sort of hall-marked teacher of religion was placed in a large majority of the Welsh parishes. They all knew how this rankled in England, and by it Nonconformist Ministers and teachers were made to feel that they were looked upon as false teachers. If this feeling rankled in Englishmen, how much more so in the Welsh people, who, if they had been left altogether to the Church of England in the past, would have lapsed practically into a state of heathenism. It was said that Nonconformists were unable to do the work of the Church in Wales. He admitted that possibly they were unable to do the whole of the work, and that even if they could undertake it while, in the language of the 1634 Education Department it might be sufficient, it might not be suitable. Though he, himself, preferred the more simple ministrations of the Free Churches, he recognised that those who had been brought up hi the Church of England preferred their more elaborate and beautiful service. But he thought the opponents of Disestablishment went too far when they argued in reference to the parishes in Wales that were not provided with residential ministers. After all, if they could have amongst all sections of the Christian Church a greater amount of ministration from laymen, if Christian men would make their influence felt, and if they could get rid of the official element, Christianity would be infinitely more powerful than it was to-day. Some of the best Christian work in England and Wales was now being done by those who were not paid for their services, but who simply gave their spare time in trying to advance the highest interests of their fellow men. Then it was said the Bill, if passed, would spoil the splendid service the Church was doing at the present time. If he believed that Disestablishment would spoil the work of the Church, he would not vote for it. But he did not believe that, because he saw that in countries where Disestablishment had taken place, the interests of religion were in many cases better cared for than in countries where there was an Establishment. The right hon. Member for Bristol said that in the country districts in Australia, religion was half starved. But one of the things that he had noticed more than another in the Australian Colonies was the splendid supply of religious services in the country districts. In some places it was really overdone. He recollected one place in South Australia where there were five churches, three houses, a bank, and an hotel. Of course, the five churches supplied the district around; but hon. Gentlemen would go away with a very false impression if they thought that Disestablishment, at any rate so far as Australia was concerned, had led to any want of provision of church accommodation. In his own constituency, the town of Newport had a very small endowment. Yet there were few towns where the work of the Church of England was being 1635 better or more effectually done; and, so far as he had been able to gather, the churches that had no endowment whatever were doing work of the greatest advantage to the town itself. Take again the Metropolitan district of the county of Essex, where there had been an enormous growth of population. The best work there was being done in churches that were practically as voluntary as the bulk of the Free Churches. He, therefore, believed most honestly and sincerely that, instead of being a disadvantage, Disestablishment in Wales would give a new motive power to the Church. It would give a new meaning to the work the Church was doing, and that work would become infinitely more powerful and infinitely grander than it had been in the past.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE ERESBY (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
said, the Home Secretary spoke of the provisions to carry out Disestablishment as the essential provisions of the Bill, and said the other questions were subsidiary. That was not his view. He held that the portion of the Bill dealing with Disendowment was equally important. He did not intend to follow the Home Secretary as to the meaning of Establishment in the past. He had no doubt that those who went before us several centuries ago had very excellent reasons for what they did, and little would be gained by discussing the motives which urged them in the course they pursued. With regard to the meaning of the Establishment at present, the chief points brought out in the Home Secretary's speech were that Bishops sat in the House of Lords, and the State held patronage and the right of presentation to livings, and that the arm of the law could enforce the payment of tithes. The question of patronage and the Bishops sitting in the House of Lords, were, he considered, open to argument, and he did not hold any very decided opinion upon them. But when he came to the question of the enforcement of the payment of tithes, he asked whether the Bill would deprive the State of any of its powers in that respect. From all he could see in the Bill, everybody subject to the payment of tithe at present would have to pay them just the same after the Bill passed. He himself might some day have to be a large payer of tithe in 1636 Wales, and he should be extremely pleased to hear that if he refused to pay tithe he should not be forced to do so by the constituted authorities. With regard to the question of the State dealing with the endowments, the only valid reason advanced by the Home Secretary was the precedent of the Irish Church. If they allowed the right of the State to take away the Endowments of the Church in Wales, when the time came for dealing with the Church in England, the Welsh precedent would be quoted in the same way that the Irish precedent was quoted now. He considered that the endowments both in England and in Wales belonged to the Church, and that there was not right of confiscation in the State. It had been said by the Prime Minister that the State endowed the Church, and that which the State had given the State could take away. He believed that bubble had already been pricked, and that that doctrine could not be supported by any historical argument. Even if it was admitted that the endowments were given to the Church at the Reformation, he held that as they had remained the property of the Church for so long there was not title to take them away from the Church. There was one question to which he should like to call attention—namely, the question of how this Bill was going to be carried through the House of Commons, as he had on doubt it would be. There was no doubt that this Bill was supported by the representatives of Wales; and he considered this to be a very strong reason indeed in favour of it. But he should like also to draw attention to this other question. There was another Church, the Church of Scotland, and as long as the question of Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales was supported by the argument of the enormous preponderance of Wales in favour of Disestablishment, the House could not lose sight of the fact that in the case of Scotland the Prime Minister had given as a reason for the application of a similar policy to the Church of Scotland, that every manse was an agency of the Tory Party. If they carried this argument to its logical conclusion, those who wished to defend the Church were placed in a difficult position. If they combined together, and the ministers of the Church tried to call 1637 their adherents together to defend the Church, then they were to be Disestablished because they prostituted the cause of religion by introducing politics; but if, on the other hand, they did not take a part in politics, then they were to be Disestablished because they did not send representatives to Parliament to support the policy of Establishment and Endowment. The representation of Wales was largely due to the fact of the great agitation on the question of the payment of tithes. He believed that several persons had stated that there was a very strong belief in Wales among Nonconformists that they would receive some share of the Endowments of the Church. He now believed that by this Hill no one would get off without paying tithe, and that no religious body would receive the Endowments of the Church. He did not believe that hon. Members who supported Disestablishment and Disendowment would receive such strong support in the future as they had in the past. He maintained that if this Bill were passed into law and the tithes were taken, say, for higher education, the establishment of museums, and art galleries, a good many persons would object to pay tithe even for these objects. There was another Party who, no doubt, would assist in the passage of this Bill through Parliament—the Members from Ireland. He could understand hon. Members from Ireland supporting the Bill. If Disestablishment were carried out in Wales and England, it would have the effect of driving a large number of persons who belonged to the Church of England into the Church of Rome. That was not his own view alone, it was the view of an eminent authority on the subject—the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith)—who, in December, declared that this would be the effect. There was another body of persons, anxious to support this Bill—those who held no religion at all, but were simply Atheists and Agnostics. He asked the keepers of the Nonconformist conscience whether they believed that when they allied themselves with Atheists and Agnostics those men held the view that they were going to benefit religion? What, in short, would be the effect of the Bill? There, could be no doubt that in many towns and in richer districts of the country the voluntary subscriptions would be kept 1638 up for the benefit of the Church and the maintenance of ministers; but there were also many villages and districts in which, when the tithe was taken away, the subscriptions would not come in, and when there would be no minister resident in the neighbourhood. The first result of this policy would, therefore, be that, when the tithe was taken away the Members of Parliament would be appealed to in order to provide a chapel or a church for their constituents; and the next person to be applied to would be the landlord. He did not believe that in these days of agriculture distress, when the people of the country by their votes said that they no longer cared to have a minister of religion, the landlords would be very ready to provide ministers when the people said that they no longer wanted them. So far from doing any good to the Church, he believed that this Bill struck a most severe blow at the Establishment; and he looked upon the measure as a robbery for the benefit of no one, and without justification or excuse.
§ MR. J. LAWSON WALTON (Leeds, S.)
said, that the hon. Member had followed the example which had been set him by some of his predecessors in the Debate, by dealing with this question as one which was not confined to the Principality, but as involving equally the Establishment in England. The right hon. Member for West Bristol (Sir M. E. Hicks-Beach), on the First Reading of the Bill, defined some of the principles which he said this Debate would settle, and which would involve certain results to the clergymen of the Church in England. Although they accepted the view of the President of the Board of Trade that the Welsh question was capable of separate treatment, they were not afraid to encounter discussion in the wider field which the right hon. Gentleman had opened up. What were the principles which the right hon. Gentleman had enunciated? According to the view of the right hon. Gentleman, and those who agreed with him, the recognition by the State of some form of religious belief was essential to its political completeness. On the other hand, they held the view that in a democratic community, with full religious equality among the members of it, such a recognition was inconsistent 1639 with the principles of democratic Government. If they turned to the United States they saw no Church Establishment, and yet there was ample political completeness on the part of the State. If they looked at the Colonies of the, British Empire there was no indication of either civic or political incompleteness on the part of those communities; and yet there was an absence of that political recognition which the right hon. Gentleman said was essential to the civil completeness of the State. If they took Ireland, the last of the enfranchised communities connected with the British Crown, he did not, know of any evils of Government in that country which had been attributed to the Disestablishment of the Church, yet civil troubles had often been attributed to the Establishment which had been removed. The right hon. Gentleman further averred that the diversion for religious uses of funds which had been so consecrated was a moral wrong. On the contrary, he should say that where the primary object of the Endowment was the advantage of the people as a whole, and where, in its modern application, that main object could not be fulfilled, the diversion of that Endowment was not a moral wrong but a moral duty. The whole point of the case in favour of Disendowment had been neatly avoided by every supporter of the Establishment who had addressed the House from the other side. They had lost sight of the fact that those were not Endowments of the Church as such; they were an appropriation of funds to religious uses. In the days of these appropriations, religious uses and Church uses were identical. But, in our day, what was intended as a national advantage connected with religion had become the advantage of a sect alone. Consequently the moral justification—in fact the moral duty—had arisen for the State to interfere.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Edinburgh, W.)
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman tell us the date when the dividing line is drawn?
§ MR. LAWSON WALTON
said, that he would take it any period at which it could be shown that the identity between religious and ecclesiastical uses was destroyed. Once let it be established that in appropriating a fund to a religious use it was appropriated to a sectarian 1640 use, and the occasion for drawing the line had arisen. Until a certain period of our history, a religious use meant something administered by the Church; but in the present day it might mean something administered by one of a score of sects. The distinction had grown up co-equally with the recognition of Nonconformist civic equality. By the growth of time, the Church had ceased to be a national body. That was the answer to the argument of the hon. Baronet. He was surprised to hear the right hon. Baronet address the same argument to the House, and in the same language and spirit as had been used in the Debates of 60 years ago. Those who had read the speeches of Lord Derby in 1834 might have thought that "the Rupert of Debate" had come back, when the hon. Baronet told the House that for the State to lay its finger on religious endowments was to violate the moral law. But when the right hon. Baronet travelled into the, sphere of morals, it was hard to challenge his propositions, because it was hard to find any common standard by which the validity of those propositions could be tested. What test did the right hon. Baronet take in order to determine the moral character of this Legislation? Did he take the approval of the Church itself? The Church had disapproved of every attempt to curtail its privileges, to limit its powers, or to enfranchise the people outside its own pale. And in the light of the lessons of history the supporters of the Bill looked on the disapproval of the Church as an augury of success, and as an assurance that their views were right. Did the right hon. Baronet take as a test of morality the conscientious convictions of the majority of the people of this country? If so, the right hon. Baronet's opponents would look to the result of the Division with confidence; and it would probably be found that more than the normal majority of the Government, thus challenged on matters of conscience, would give their support to the Bill. But the right hon. Gentleman might appeal to a third test—the verdict of history; and, as he would not be accepted as a true prophet of the opinion of the future, he would take that test on this footing. He would assume that posterity would look upon the present proposals in 1641 the same why as that in which the present generation looked upon former struggles for religious equality against Church privilege and supremacy. Tried by none of these standards did he fear the censure which the right hon. Gentleman had passed upon the Bill. It was rather strange to hear proceeding from the right hon. Gentleman's mouth the objection that this Bill was piecemeal Disestablishment. Those who objected to Disestablishment at all would presumably prefer it piecemeal to wholesale. It might well be that those who wanted Disestablishment altogether should complain of what was, after all, only a small instalment of the concession of a great right. But there was some advantage in taking, by instalments, a concession which was open to great doubt and controversy. The experiment would prove the benefits arising from the application of the principle; and experiments had hitherto made many Converts to the cause of Disestablishment. The vigour and energy of the Disestablished Church in Ireland; the activity of the non-Established Anglican Church in the United States; and the extraordinary strides of the non-Established Episcopalian Church of Scotland had made many converts to Disestablishment. He would not object to see the principle applied still further by instalments, and having won the cause of Disestablishment for the four Dioceses of Wales, one would next be quite reconciled to tin proposal to apply the same principle to the Dioceses of the Northern Province of England. If the principle be a sound one, and if the principle be capable of graduated application, one failed to see any difficulty in the application he had indicated. The right hon. Gentleman told them that the pretence that Disestablishment would confer an advantage upon the Church was the merest cant. If that were true it was cant of which the right hon. Gentleman's political oppenents were not alone guilty; if it be mere cant, it was cant of which many of the most sincere and devoted adherents of the Church of England were guilty. He respectfully resented the accusation that an argument of that kind was an insincere argument arising from political exigencies, and was not attributable to a conscientious view of a great religious question. The right hon. Gentleman said this was a social grievance: and a social grievance 1642 which did not depend upon the, official position of the Church, but upon the fact that she in wealth and culture excelled the Churches of Nonconformity. What was the answer to that contention? Did the right hon. Gentleman admit that the social schism caused by the presence of the Establishment could be bridged by equal culture or by equal wealth? Let him ask some of the cultured ministers of Nonconformity whether they had full and recognised equality with their fellow-clergymen of the Establishment? Did the right hon. Gentleman say that equal wealth would entirely efface this social schism? Let him ask the wealthy members of Nonconformist communities if they were not conscious of the estrangement, although social conditions, measured by wealth, were precisely equal. Let the right hon. Gentleman try another test. In places like Bath. Cheltenham, Leamington, and Brighton—places largely peopled by the retired well-to-do, and largely dominated by clerical influence; where, in all respects of wealth and culture, conditions were equal, would the right hon. Gentleman not find that this social schism existed? He challenged with confidence such an investigation. [Mr. CARSON: "What effect had it in Ireland?"] His hon. and learned Friend had more experience of Ireland than he could have.[Mr. CARSON: "There was not the slightest difference;" and Mr. MACNEILL: "Oh, oh!"] The hon. Member (Mr. MacNeill), who represented an Irish constituency, and who had a large knowledge of that country, differed diametrically from the hon. and learned Gentleman. At all events, he (Mr. Lawson Walton) knew enough of the social life of this country to accept for good or ill the test he had indicated. The. right hon. Gentleman said that this was a trivial grievance. ["No"] Well, at all events, a grievance of sentiment. It might be a grievance they could not measure by any financial scale or in any material sense, but if it be a, grievance of sentiment it was none the less a grievance which statesmanship, was bound to recognise and respect. It might be naturally said that such a line if observation involved a degree of blame being cast by the speaker upon, the members of the Church of England. He would be sorry to cast the slightest reproach upon the Members of the Church 1643 of England of the generation in which they were living. The Acts of Uniformity had gone, and the Bills of Pains and Penalties had gone, but the social stigma they created in the relations between Church and Dissent still lingered, and although Parliament was not now giving effect to the views of the Church in this matter, the spirit which inspired that legislation was still living, and many of the members of the Church of England had their own mode of giving effectual expression to that spirit. If this social schism existed they were bound to do away with it. On what did it depend? It depended, and must depend mainly upon the connection existing between the Established Church and the State. The whole fabric of ecclesiastical exclusiveness and social supremacy was founded upon the State recognition of the Church. Until that foundation was removed there could never be that equality of social conditions between the various Churches of the country which he submitted was essential to a perfectly harmonious intercourse between every portion of the community of the country. He had one other observation to make before he left this matter. It had been suggested on the Opposite Benches that the only motive for this measure was the cupidity of the Welsh people; it was said to rest upon a wish to plunder the National Church in Wales, and to share the pelf which would follow Disestablishment. That argument was, curiously enough, destroyed by the very speakers who urged it. For instance, one hon. Member said that the individual advantage to the Welsh people consequent upon Disestablishment would be 1s. 8d. per head of the population. Then it was said that if they did not get the advantage in money they would have it in national institutions which appealed to the avaricious instincts of the people. What were the institutions that were to appeal to the greed of the Welsh people? They had been lured on by the prospects of museums, of hospitals, of nursing homes, and it was by such institutions conferring such great and alluring advantages to the advocates of this measure that Disestablishment was to be brought about. Such an argument had only to be stated in order to be covered with ridicule. But there was another motive—the only motive which 1644 could support a movement of this sort. The exceptional character of the movement had been pointed out by many speakers, and it was acknowledged by all. He doubted whether such a preponderance of the representation of any section of the country was ever found united in any common cause in an equal degree. A well-known thinker on political questions once formulated the proposition that you could never unite a great mass of a community, consisting of all classes, in favour of any one movement, except from a common sense of justice; and if they destroyed, as they must destroy, the suggested cupidity of the Welsh people to explain their action, they could only fall back upon this common bond of union throughout all classes of the population. They had, therefore, a common sense of justice in this case. What was the position then? Was it defensible in relation to the spiritual basis on which it rested? Had the administration of the spiritualities of the Welsh Church in regard to the Welsh people given her a ground from which she might appeal with confidence to the forbearance and consideration of the Welsh people. He could quite understand that, even if the position of the Church was indefensible on political grounds, they might still have a Church living for centuries depending upon the good-natured forbearance and indulgence of the people, who recognised the great services rendered to them through long periods of history. But that position was abandoned by the advocates of Establishment in Wales. It was stated that for long periods in the history of the Welsh Church her records were indefensible—that her services were neglected, that her ministers were either absentees, or pluralists, or profligates. Her altars were cold, and under that condition of things the Welsh Church lost to a great extent her hold upon the affections of the Welsh people. The bulk of the people grew up outside the pale of the Church, and created for themselves churches for the ministration of those spiritual wants which the Established Welsh Church neglected and ignored. In these circumstances how could hon. Members opposite appeal to the consideration and the forbearance of the Welsh people? It was admitted that the past history of the Church would not 1645 bear examination, but hon. Members opposite pointed to the future. [Several hon. MEMBEBS: "To the present."] Well, to the present, as an earnest of future vitality, and he acknowledged that there were now signs in the Church in Wales of a revival of activity such as must, no doubt, give great encouragement to its adherents. Bnt was this the hour for repentance and retrieval? Hon. Members on his side of the House thought that another hour had struck—the hour of retribution. It might be said that the history of the Church to which he had been alluding, was ancient history; but the ecclesiastical doctrine of retribution was that it handed on its legacy to the third and fourth generations. While a promise of future retrieval on the part of the Welsh Church might be given, still that Church must stand or fall on the judgment of its work in the past, and if the Welsh people asked that House to give them the remedy which the Bill accorded for generations of injustice and neglect he did not think the Liberal Party would fail to respond to the appeal.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
said, the Government knew quite well that this Bill would not pass into law—that there were other Members of the Constitution who would take good care that this great and signal injustice was not inflicted upon the Church in Wales. He sincerely hoped that would be the case. But he spoke there as a Member of the House of Commons, and he earnestly and sincerely appealed to hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House to consider well before they did, on this occasion, what he thought they had done before on some other great occasions, abandon the exercise of their own independent judgment upon the ground that the Bill would be thrown out in the House of Lords. No doubt the Bill would be thrown out by the House of Lords, but they had nothing to do with what might happen in another place. They had to consider the Bill on its merits, but hon. Members opposite were entirely in error if they thought the friends of the Church came there as suppliants to defend her. In the exercise of her spiritual work in Wales the Church deserved well of the country; she was essential to the higher interests of the people of Wales and of England; and they were very far from admitting that 1646 she had failed in her duty. At one time no doubt, with other religious communities, and certainly with the Church in England, she was in a condition of less activity. But those times were passed in England as in Wales, and in Wales as in England. They, therefore, defended the Church, not as suppliants, but because they believed that, without the Church, Wales would fail to obtain that spiritual perfection which they hoped was in store for her. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had last spoken argued that it could not be said that the religious Endowments of the past could be maintained for the Church in Wales, because when the Endowments were made the Church was the only religious community, and, therefore, as other religious communities had since grown up the money ought no longer be left to the Church in Wales. That appeared to him to be a very amazing argument. If a rich man, who had no direct heir, left by will a largo sum of money to his niece, and if after his death, the niece had a sister born, could it be argued that because the man had only one niece when he was alive, the money he left her ought to be divided between her and the niece who was born after his death? But the argument of the hon. and learned Member had no application to the Bill, because it was not proposed to divert the money of Wales to any religious uses at all. The Home Secretary had advanced the amazing argument that an academy of arts was a form of religion. He believed that argument was advanced at the spur of the moment, and that the right hon. Gentleman would not adhere to it in his calmer moments. Therefore, the whole of the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman broke down. It was perfectly certain that the pious founder did not leave his money to establish academies of art in Wales, but that he left it for the more solemn purposes of the service of religion and the service of God; and to divert it to museums, allotments, and academies of art, on the ground that they were religious was a misuse of terms, of which the right hon. Gentleman himself must now be a little ashamed. The Home Secretary had adduced a large number of statistics in support of the proposals of the Bill. He was amazed that the Government could appeal to statistics at all after having resisted the proposal 1647 of a religious census. Of course, the real reason for the opposition to the, religious census was that the Government were afraid of the result. The Home Secretary had said that the census would not be a fair test, because a great many people would put themselves down as Churchmen who were not Churchmen. But there was no real reason for believing that the people of Wales were intimidated. Indeed, he had heard that a certain amount of strong influence was exercised by the Nonconformist ministers. He did not complain of that, but he referred to it to show that the influence ascribed to the ministers of the Church of England, could be exercised in an equal degree, to say the least, by Nonconformists Ministers if a census were ordered. The Home Secretary quoted some statistics which he had derived from private sources.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, the right hon. Gentleman's statistics were not derived entirely from that source; and what he had quoted from the Bishop of St. Asaph was not always correct. The right hon. Gentleman estimated the numbers of the Church of England in Wales by the communicants of the Church. That was a delicate subject to deal with; but hon. Members who had any knowledge of the actual facts of the Church of England, knew that an enormous number of persons made use of the services of the Church; attended the worship of the Church, and conformed in every way to the Church, and yet, partly from good motives, and partly from bad motives, were not Communicants. Were those people to be shut out from consideration when the question of the retention of the Church in Wales had to be decided? He said no, why should they? The Communicant test was altogether fallacious. He was told that there was not the same amount of solemnity or the same amount of awe attached to the Sacrament in the Nonconformists' Chapels as was in the Church of England, and, therefore, there was in Nonconformity a much less number of people than in the Church of England who thought themselves unworthy and unfit to partake of it. The. Bishop of St. Asaph said that 47 per cent. of the electors voted for Disestablishment candidates and 27 per cent. against, 1648 and the conclusion which the right hon. Gentleman drew was that there was a majority in favour of Disestablishment.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, that was not so, and he thought, in justice to the Bishop of St. Asaph, he ought to point that out. The Bishop of St. Asaph, after saying that 47 per cent. voted for Disestablishment candidates, added that that could not be described as practical unanimity. That was very different from what the right hon. Gentleman said—[Cries of "Read on."] He did not mind reading on. The Bishop continued by saying that on the other hand the number of those who recorded their votes for Establishment candidates, together with those who did not go to the poll, numbered 53 per cent. of the electorate. The fact remained that only 47 per cent. of the registered voters in Wales had recorded their votes for Disestablishment candidates, and that was the only conclusion which could be drawn. It was as plain as a pikestaff. Turning to the question of resident ministers, it was rather a curious thing that when he asked a question about resident Nonconformist ministers last Session, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think it was of very small importance; but now, it seemed, he had changed his opinion. When he asked the question last Session the right hon. Gentleman said he had no means of ascertaining the facts. He had now found some means of ascertaining them.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, the right hon. Gentleman evidently entirely trusted the Bishop. He thought it would have been far more satisfactory, though personally he had every confidence; in the Bishops figures, if the right hon. Gentleman had found out these facts officially. He had, on the former occasion he had referred to, put the following supplementary question to the right hon. Gentleman: "Would it be an exaggeration to say that in half the parishes in Wales there is no resident Nonconformist minister?" the right hon. Gentleman said he believed it would be a great advantage if there were. It turned out that the figures that were quoted, so far from being an 1649 exaggeration, were under the mark. There were 1,081 parishes in Wales, and, according to the right hon. Gentleman, there were 500 of them in which there were no resident ministers.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, the figures he had quoted were from the Bishop of St. Asaph, who only obtained his returns from 1,016 out of 1,081 parishes. He had assumed the figures to be accurate.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, that at any rate there were, as nearly as possible, half of the parishes in Wales which had no resident Nonconformist ministers, and that appeared to him to be of capital importance. The right hon. Gentleman said he thought itinerant ministers were as good. Of course there were very small parishes in Wales within a short distance of each other which were served by one, clergyman. The Bishop of St. Asaph said that at the present time the Church provided for every parish in Wales a resident minister; and that even in the case of small benefices held in plurality the law pro vided that the distance between the churches should not exceed three miles, and that there were in his own diocese only one or two instances of benefices held in plurality. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not in future try to induce the House of Commons to believe that the Church in Wales was in any material degree unprovided with sufficient resident ministers to do the pastoral work. He did not know if the right hon. Gentleman had ever really considered of what enormous importance the resident pastoral work was, but did he suppose that an itinerant minister could be the almsgiver of the parish, the visitor of the sick, and the comforter of the dying? In every one of these 500 parishes throughout Wales, but for the services of the Church which they were attacking and the existence of these resident ministers, the unfortunate people would be entirely without pastoral care. [Cries of "Oh!"] If there were any moderate Liberationists sitting opposite who thought that by Disestablishing and Disendowing the Church in Wales after the manner proposed in this Bill they would arrive at some kind of tranquility in this religious question they were very much mistaken. There were many particulars in which the right hon. Gentleman had shown more moderation than many of his 1650 extreme followers would have had him show. He did not himself say that the movement for Disestablishment was largely due to the cupidity of the Welsh people, but he thought the motives of a great number of persons interested in it, if not dictated by cupidity, were dictated by envy and a certain jealousy of the position of the parish clergyman of the Establishment. Anybody who listened to the hon. and learned Gentleman must have been convinced that that was the motive which was present to his mind throughout the whole of his speech, and that he felt there was an injustice in the superior position which clergymen occupied in the parishes of Wales. Were they going to destroy the position of the clergyman by this Bill? He doubted it. They would not destroy his position immediately. There were the life interests of the clergymen; there were the edifices they had built and the parish Church in Wales would still be the Church belonging to this one denomination. The Disestablishment of the Church in Wales was quite evidently only the first step towards the Disestablishment of the Church in England. That was not concealed by hon. Gentlemen on the back Benches opposite; it was hardly concealed by right hon. Gentlemen themselves. Now that the right hon. Member for Midlothian was no longer leading the Party opposite, it was clear they looked to nothing but the ultimate Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in England. By this Bill, therefore, they were not approaching the end of this question, but were opening up long years of struggle upon religious and ecclesiastical issues which would end in the complete maintenance of the Church and the defeat of those who were opposed to it. But such a struggle must occupy the time of Parliament and the mind of the country to the exclusion of almost everything else. He desired to say one word about the reasons which had been put forward by the supporters of this Bill in favour of the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church. He observed that the right hon. Gentleman said a great deal more about Disestablishment than he did about Disendowment He was not surprised at that. He believed that Establishment was an advantageous system both to the State and people, but Disendowment involved 1651 far more even than Disestablishment, and it would be a crying injustice if the property of the Church which those who preferred her services held inviolably to be her property was to be taken from her. The Church in Wales was attacked for two separate and inconsistent reasons, one that it was national and the other that it was not national. He would deal with the latter reason first. The right hon. Gentleman had said it was an alien Church. He could not make out how hon. Gentlemen opposite put up with Christianity at all. Why, it was not even European. Was it not obvious even to the mind of the most extreme Liberationist that all Churches were in that sense alien? The right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, seemed to think that the Church ought to be national, and there was quite a poetical passage in his speech the other night in which he spoke of the Welsh people, their separate language and customs. He thought the right hon. Gentleman said the Welsh had mountains, and this fact seemed in the right hon. Gentleman's mind to constitute a special privilege to their having a National Church. But were the Welsh the only people who had a special language and mountains? Take the Highlands of Scotland. Did the Highlands of Scotland put forward any claim to have a special National Church separate from the National Church of the rest of Scotland? And yet the Highlanders had certainly a separate language, special customs, and most delightful mountains. He confessed he thought this claim to have a National Church because of the mountains was rather an exaggeration. Again, the inhabitants of Wales did not all speak the Welsh language but English. Not only was this so but a large number of the inhabitants were Anglo-Saxon by descent. One hon. Member had, that evening, made a most extraordinary use of statistics. He said that the Welsh speaking people were in a large majority, and the way the hon. Member made this out was this: He took the people speaking Welsh only, and those who spoke both English and Welsh, and adding the two together he said there were more people in Wales who spoke Welsh than there were who spoke English. As a matter of fact, there was a very large number of monoglot English 1652 in Wales, and in their case the whole argument of the President of the Board of Trade broke down because they would have no title on the grounds of separate customs or separate language to a National Church. Then there was the other argument used by the supporters of this Bill, who said that the Church in Wales ought to be Disestablished because it was national. They said that what was national belonged to the nation, that therefore the nation had a right to do what it liked with it, and that, a Liberal Government being in power, the Church ought to be Disestablished. That, he thought, was a most extraordinary misuse of terms. It was perfectly true that the Church was national, but that did not constitute a reason for its Disestablishment and Disendowment. What was precisely the position of a National Church? It served a great national purpose. It was a corporation or number of corporations, with special laws and some—very few—privileges. It was in a special way under the control of Parliament, and the whole public had rights in it. It all these senses it stood in a special position, and people seemed to think that for this very reason it ought to be Disestablished and Disendowed. Was it the only great corporation in England standing in that position? To compare small things with great, let them take a railway company. That served a great national purpose; it had special laws, special privileges: it was under the control of Parliament, and Parliament often interfered with its methods, and altered the law by which it was governed, and the whole public had a right to use the line. Was this a reasonable ground for confiscating the property of the shareholders? A railway company might be said to be private property. But on what principles was private property more sacred than Church property? In a great crisis of a man's life—when he was dying—which was most sacred to him, his private property or the consolations of his religion? What did the Home Secretary mean by saying that public rights in connection with the Church in Wales were to be maintained? Was the right of every subject of the, Queen to enter the parish church and of parishioners to appeal to a certain ecclesiastical court with regard to misfeasance in matters of ritual to be main- 1653 tained? Would all the parishioners have the right to elect church wardens after the passing of the Act as before? Clause 15 said the representative body might be elected by the Bishops, clergy, and laity of the Church. What were the laity of the Church in Wales?
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
The Irish Church Act was preceded by a religious census, a preliminary which seemed to have been omitted in the present case. It would be extremely difficult for the Home Secretary to arrive at what the laity of the Church were. In the Debate on the religious census the objection made to the census in England was that every member, even of the Nonconformist bodies, would put himself down as a member of the Church of England, because every subject of the Queen was a member of the Church of England. That was the view expressed by Mr. Picton, then a prominent representative of Nonconformity in this House. Who were to be the laity who would have the control of the representative. Body? The, Bill provided a way out of the difficulty. "Her Majesty" in this case would mean the Home Secretary. He would be the Minister who would advise the granting of the charter under which this representative body would be constituted. What he proposed was, first, to Disestablish the Church and then himself do decide who should constitute the laity. This was of the points on which something would have to be said if ever they got into Committee. A good deal was said about the trammels, chains and fetters which were supposed to hang around the Church. Was it true that there were chains and fetters? It was said "Oh, you cannot change your doctrine or your ritual without the leave of Parliament." But did they want to change doctrine or ritual? The doctrines of the Church were constant and did not change; and, as far as they could, they desired that the ritual should be constant too. Moreover, if the right hon. Gentleman would study "The Case for Disestablishment," published by the, Liberation Society, he would find that in the course of the last century many fetters and chains had been struck off. Personally he admitted that he was astonished to find how many useful 1654 measures had been passed by Parliament during half a century on ecclesiastical subjects and to promote the better government of the Church. He was sorry for the author of the "Case," because, after eloquently denouncing one evil after another, he had to append footnotes stating that what had been wrong had been set right. Between 1832 and 1882 there were as many as 229 Acts of Parliament relating to Church affairs. That was at the rate of four a year. They included such subjects and measures as pluralities, on which there were several Acts of a useful kind; the creation of new bishoprics; the resignation of Bishops when they were past work; cathedrals, as to which many evils had been remedied; Sir R. Peel's Act to provide for the spiritual provision of large parishes; and the Clergy Discipline Act of the last Parliament, which was loyally supported by the right hon. Member for Midlothian. Other measures might, yet be required; and there was one as to which in the present Session he hoped he should not appeal in vain to the public spirit and real religious feeling of the House. He would not enter into all the measures that were necessary to be, passed, but there were many for the better government of the Church which would be with little trouble assented to by the justice of this Parliament, even by those who did not agree with Churchmen in religious matters. The fact was, a great revival had taken place, in the Church, not in Wales alone, but just as much in England. This revival was started about half a century ago in the great Oxford movement, which gradually extended itself to all parts of the country. That great revival had called into being a most fervent and earnest Church sentiment, and in face of that he did not think the Home Secretary and his colleagues had any conception of the work they had undertaken. They had passed from purely political matters, and had come down to this question upon which the people really cared deeply. The sentiment was not confined to any class or Party; it had got such a hold in every parish throughout the country that the, right hon. Gentleman would find his task exceedingly hard. There was not a parish, there was not a cottage where the clergyman visited, there was not a family which had had occasion to value the ministry 1655 of the church, that would not resent the attack that was being made upon it. God forbid that the Church should ever become a political engine, or belong to a political Party; but if it were, attacked it would, of course, defend itself; and the result could be but one—it could end in nothing but defeat of the attack and the ejection from power of the Government that leant upon it.
§ MR. HERBERT PAUL (Edinburgh, S.)
said, he was sure the Church of England, in Wales and out of it, had every reason to be grateful for the championship of the noble Lord. He knew very well the intensity of the feelings of those whom, in this matter, the noble Lord represented, and in everything he said he should endeavour to show for those sentiments the respect he sincerely felt. He was glad the noble Lord did not follow the example of another noble Lord who had addressed the House In the Debate, and anticipate his removal to another place, which they all trusted might be long delayed, by telling them authoritatively what, would happen to the Bill when it got there. The noble Lord the Member for Rochester addressed himself to the House of Commons, and he should address himself to that audience, and no other. The noble Lord would excuse him for saying that he appeared to be a little in doubt as to the identity of the Church of England, for at one time he compared it to a railway company, and at another time confused it with Christianity. He reminded him of the Rev. Mr. Thwackem, who said:—When I say religion, I mean the Christian religion, and when I say the Christian religion. I mean the Protestant religion, and when I say the Protestant religion, I mean the religion of the Church of England.Might he turn to a speech which—and he hoped the noble Lord would not think him discourteous for saying so—was more important, the speech of the right hon. Baronet who moved the rejection of the Bill. The right hon. Baronet, referring to the statement of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, that he believed the result of this Bill would be beneficial to the Church herself, described it as political cant of the most nauseous kind. He thought it was as well that the right hon. Baronet should know that there were men who were as much members of the Church of England as he was, who seriously believed that 1656 the result of severing the connection between Church and State would be found more beneficial to the Church than to the State. He was rather interested in the description the right hon. Baronet gave of the sentiments of his right hon. Friend, because he remembered that those sentiments were uttered by another right hon. Gentleman with whom the right hon. Baronet was in closer political agreement than he was with the Home Secretary. It was not very long since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham wrote a letter in which he expressed the opinion that the result of Disestablishment in Wales would be to make the Church stronger, healthier, and more vigorous. The right hon. Baronet had aimed at one object and hit another. The right hon. Gentleman would doubtless remember the old Greek story of the man who threw a stone at a dog and killed his mother-in-law, and remarked that it was a fortunate act. The right hon. Baronet asked, what was Disestablishment? He did not reply that the State Church was the creature of adulterous, nay, of incestuous birth, though that was the language of one of the greatest men who ever sat in that House—Mr. Bright; but he thought it was important that they should remember that what they were discussing was not the Church, but the partnership of the State and the Church, and in that partnership there must be a predominant partner. The right hon. Baronet thought that it was possible at this time of day to make the State subordinate to the Church. The only alternative was that the Church should be made subordinate to the State. With regard to the Church in Wales, the right hon. Baronet had enunciated three propositions, first, that Wales was not a nation; second, that that region had a national Church; and third, that that National Church, belonging to a place that was not a nation, were part and parcel of the Church of England. He was not a metaphysician or a theologian, and he was unable to reconcile those three propositions. He held quite contrary views which were, at any rate, consistent. He held that Wales was a nation, that the Church of England in Wales was not a National Church, and that although it was now ecclesiastically part of the Church of England, and would remain 1657 in spiritual communion with the Church of England after the passing of this Bill, it was expedient that the legal part of its connection with the Church of England should cease. The admission made by the right hon. Baronet that certain advantages had resulted from the Disestablishment of the Church in Ireland was remarkable, coming from such a quarter, for there was no stauncher opponent of the proposal to Disestablish the Irish Church than the right hon. Gentleman himself. If he mistook not, after the Bill for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church had become law, and when the Conservative Party returned to power, the right hon. Gentleman said that it would be desirable to restore the Church of England in Ireland.
§ MR. HERBERT PAUL
, of course, accepted the right hon. Gentleman's correction. At all events, the right hon. Gentleman admitted now that advantages had accrued to Ireland from the severence of the connection between Church and State in that country. The right hon. Baronet, had referred to the political motives which he alleged actuated the supporters of this Bill. But what would be the result of passing the Bill into law? Would it be to strengthen the Liberal Party in Wales? For his part, he did not believe that the enormous majority of ten to one that supported Disestablishment in Wales presented the normal strength of the Liberal Party in Wales, and he was of opinion that from a purely Party point of view the passing of this Bill would be a disadvantage and not a benefit to the Government that had brought the measure forward. The right hon. Baronet's speech showed that he had formed a curious misconception as to the real reason of the unpopularity of tithes. He assumed that the grievance was that the tithes were not paid for the maintenance of Nonconformist churches. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH: "Excuse me, I was quoting the Home Secretary."] At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman put an interpretation on the words of the Home Secretary which he understood that his right hon. Friend repudiated. [Mr. ASQUITH: "Hear, hear."] He understood that the feelings of Nonconformists were, as a matter of fact, entirely repugnant to the acceptance of public money for the pur- 1658 poses of their own religion. The grievance was not that tithes were not paid to Nonconformists, but that Nonconformists had to pay tithes for a Church to which they did not belong. The right hon. Baronet had quoted from an old will a very curious curse, which the testator thought, and ho was afraid hoped, would rest upon anybody who should divert, what this testator called "The property of God." It was very much to be regretted that language of that kind should be referred to, not by the right hon. Gentleman who quoted it, but by inferior disputants in this controversy. Such language, he ventured to describe, as language of blasphemous imbecility. This talk about the property of the Deity, and about robbing the Deity was language for which he could not find sufficiently strong epithets. Whilst the right hon. Baronet was quoting those words there sat beside him the right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, who was instrumental in the passing of a Bill to which such words as "robbery from God" ought to apply, if language of that kind could ever be really applied to any act of theirs. The Duke of Devonshire had also a part in passing that measure. Did he deserve to have such language applied to him? Then the Marquis of Salisbury voted, he believed, for the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords. Did the right hon. Baronet think that this language ought to be used with reference to Lord Salisbury? He, supported the Bill now before the House on the broad principle of religious equality, the principle that the State ought to be absolutely impartial and neutral between all religious bodies in the land. They were taunted with not consenting to a religious census in Wales, and he would give the House three reasons why he thought such a census would not be useful or desirable. The first was that it would be irrelevant, because what they wanted to ascertain was how many people desired the Church to be Disestablished. There were, he believed, many Churchmen in Wales in favour of Disestablishment, and he dared say some Nonconformists opposed to it. The second reason was that it would be misleading, for as long as there was an Endowed Church with special rights and privileges people who were indifferent to all religions and who 1659 had no particular religious opinions of their own, would readily subscribe themselves members of the Church of England. His third reason, was that it was inquisitorial. It was a question which the State had no right to ask, and which every good citizen had the right to refuse to answer. It had boon said that you had as much right to maintain an Established Church as a standing Army. That was a proposition from which he respectfully dissented. A standing Army was kept up for the benefit of all classes; an Established Church was kept up for the benefit of members of a particular denomination. As a clinching argument, it was said that the Church in Wales was part of the Church of England. Precisely the same argument was used when the right, hon. Member for Midlothian proposed to Disestablish the Irish Church. On that occasion the Duke of Rutland, then Lord John Manners, said there was no such thing as the Church of Ireland, and that great Constitutional authority was right. For what were the words of the 5th Article of the Act of Union?The Churches of England and Ireland as now by law established shall be united into one Protestant Episcopal Church, to be called the United Church of England and Ireland.Therefore, the Disestablishment of the Irish Church was a precedent for the Disestablishment of what was by Law and the Constitution part and parcel of the Church of England. In reading Lord Selborne's book on "The Defence of the Church of England," the conclusion at winch he arrived was, that in the judgment of that great authority, there was no national Church at all, that there were a number of small corporations dotted up and down the country, "corporations sole" they were called by lawyers, "parsons" they were termed by laymen, who held property that was as much their own as the hat he were was his. And he observed this peculiarity in these controversies—that when one proposed to Disestablish the Church, it it was always a national institution, but when one proposed to Disendow the Church it was always a private corporation. Tithes, it was said by the late Mr. W. H. Smith, were national property.
§ MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, that as the hon. Member appealed to him, he must say that Mr. W. H. Smith afterwards explained that 1660 he did not use the expression in the sense attributed to him.
§ MR. PAUL
said, he quoted Mr. Smith as authority for a plain proposition. Tithes, no doubt, were intended for the religious purposes of the whole nation: but, unfortunately, there were no longer any religious purposes which were common to the whole nation. The noble Lord, the Member for Rochester, was extremely sarcastic about the idea of art galleries having anything to do with religion. He was not going to inflict on the House a lecture on the works of Mr. Ruskin, but he, would like to ask whether lunatic asylums were more a part of religion than art galleries, because Lord Salisbury undoubtedly voted for the Bill which took away the property of the Irish Church and applied it, among other purposes, to the maintenance of lunatic asylums. They had been told in the Debate, and in stronger language outside, that in favour of the Bill were rallied the forces of Atheism and Infidelity. That was an easy thing to say, but history did not show that Freethinkers, or even Atheists, were hostile to ecclesiastical establishments. Very much the reverse. Gibbon was a great defender of the Established Church of England, and he showed his reverence for it by calling it his dear mamma. It was a very favourite opinion among men hostile to religion that religious establishments kept religion in its proper place—in the words of a former Archbishop of Canterbury they kept down the enthusiasm. There were two I principles, one of which, conseiously or not, every man must hold on this subject. The one was the voluntary principle, of which they on that side of the House were for the most part the exponents; the other was the Erastian principle, of which he made a present to the High Churchmen on the other side. Either religion was wholly and absolutely independent of the State and of mundane authorities, or it was subject to and controlled by these authorities. In the words of a very great philosopher, who gave a very terse definition and a very striking contrast:Superstitution is tales and fables disallowed by the authorities religion allowed.They were told that Bills of this kind—attacks on the property of the Church, were a scandal to religion. Were there no scandals under the present arrange- 1661 ments? Was the sale of the right to present to the cure of souls not a scandal? When he heard objections to the small amount of compensation allowed under the Bill, he remembered that the measure introduced last Session by the hon. Member for North Islington took away the right of selling the next presentation, which was usually the only part a private individual could sell at all, without a penny of compensation. Was there no scandal to the Church in the judgments of Lord Westbury? Was there no scandal to the Church in the bringing before a secular tribunal questions of the most sacred kind? They had seen in recent years even the very elements of the Sacrament submitted to a Court of Law and handled by counsel and witnesses. Was there no scandal in the Dean and Chapter meeting after a solemn religious service and going through the form and the farce of electing a Bishop—a father in God—who was the nominee of the Minister of the day—a man who might be of any or no religion, provided only he was not a Roman Catholic? He was very much struck with an expression in the speech of the hon. Member for St. Albans, who said, "We now have a Disestablishment by the grace of Lord Rosebery." Was that the principle which was set up in opposition to this attempt to free religion for the control of the State. Lord Salisbury said the other day that if the Bill passed the consequence would be that many districts in Wales would be left without pastoral supervision and spiritual assistance. As a member of the Church he repudiated that as a scandal. He did not believe that the richest religious body in the world would fall so far short of its duty as that. Where is the Church strongest now? In the towns, where to all intents and purposes, it is a voluntary body dependent on the contributions of its members. The Duke of Westminster was busily engaged in getting up a fund to fight the next Election in Wales. If, instead of sending round the hat, the Duke of Westminster would put his hand into his pocket he could relieve the necessities of all the poor clergy in Wales without feeling it. Welsh Churchmen were deterred now from doing their duty by the fact that the interests of the Church are provided for at the public expense. So far from 1662 the passing of the Bill resulting in a triumph for Nonconformity, it would, in his opinion, result in the death of Nonconformity, for the vicious would then be the only enemies of the Church, and the result would be a triumph for the Church itself. Churches were not strongest where they were endowed. Was the Roman Catholic Church stronger in France, where she was endowed, or in Ireland, where she was not? In conclusion he ventured to state to the House these two propositions as confirmed by the judgment of history and supported by reason—first, that religion never leant with immunity upon the secular arm; and that a State Church had never without injury attempted to curtail the religious liberties or to violate the religious equality of any nation in the world.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, that the Home Secretary in his I speech dwelt on the points which were strongly in his favour and passed over very lightly the more sordid and grosser parts of his scheme. The right hon. Gentleman was angry because of the use of the word "cant." According to Webster's Dictionary that word meant "empty, solemn speech implying what is not felt." That definition did apply I very much to what the Home Secretary stated. The point of the word "cant," as applied to him, was that, while despoiling the Church in Wales of her property, he spoke as if he was benefiting her. That was properly termed "cant." He would illustrate it by the reverse mode of argument. Suppose that the Conservative party were preposing some plan whereby a great Nonconformist community was to be deprived of its endowments, and in support of the proposal were to put forward the argument that that community would be benefited, by being relieved of the burden of its property, the Home Secretary and his Friends would describe that as Tory cant. Why, then, should the word not also apply in the present case? He went with the Home Secretary in his historical argument right down to the 19th century, when it was true that the Church played her cards badly; but in the middle of the 19th century he was obliged to part company with the right hon. Gentleman. There could be no doubt if left to herself the Church in a generation or two would win over the vast majority of the Welsh 1663 people to her fold. How came it, then, that this was the time chosen for her Disestablishment? How came it that at the time she was gaining ground in every direction she was to be deprived of her advantages? And she was to be disestablished not for any faults committed now or in this generation, but for something that went wrong during the last century, and for this she was to be deprived of her ancient property at a time when she was regaining her old position. What was the nature of the measures to be undertaken? She was not only to be disestablished, she was to be robbed of all her property. There was one point with which the Home Secretary had not attempted to grapple. The Church was a Corporation. A Corporation could own property. The tithe and the endowments were the property of the Church. To take the property from her by force of law was to commit a legislative wrong. There was no greater instance of public plunder by Act of Parliament. Then, further, it this was the property of the Church it was the property of a sacred body. To rob sacred property was sacrilege. Thus, they got by steps which could not be refuted to this conclusion, that the present measure was nothing short of public plunder and sacrilege. The Home Secretary made merry over the statistical arguments of the Bishop of St. Asaph's. The Bishop was quite as intellectual a man as the Home Secretary, and it might be that his contentions was not so weak as the Home Secretary seemed to suppose. Those who voted for Disestablishment were only 47 per cent, of the whole, and it might be assumed that they were the most aggressive, whereas of the 53 per cent. there would be many quiet people who would not take the trouble to vote, but who if roused would vote against Disestablishment. He thought that was a fair assumption, and he, firmly believed it to be the case. Knowing this to be the case they could understand why there was an unwillingness on the part of the promoters of the Bill to go to the plain statistical test of a religious census.
§ It being Twelve o'clock, the Debate stood adjourned.