§ Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to question, 21st March, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—And which Amendment was to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now,' stand part of the Question."50
§ Debate resumed.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
said, that when the Debate broke off last week he was endeavouring to explain why he could not agree with those who contended that the Reformation had effected no organic change in the Church of England. If a change in constitution, in ritual, in doctrine was not an organic change, it was difficult to see what was meant by those words. No doubt there was before the Reformation, an Anglican Church as there was a Gallican Church and a Hungarian Church, and, in a certain sense, the present Church of England was a continuation of that Church, but only in the sense that the present House of Commons was a continuation of the Saxon Witenagemote. Would anyone deny that before the Reformation the Pope not only claimed, but exercised, jurisdiction over the Anglican Church? If he did, let him read the story of Thomas a'Becket, or, better still, the famous letter of Henry VIII. to Leo X. denouncing the Protestant heresies of Luther, which earned for him the title, still enjoyed by the Queen, of Defender of the Faith, and which recognised to the full the Papal supremacy in spiritual matters. No doubt a change came over the theological views of the King. There was "a lady in the case," and the result of his conversion or apostasy was a series of legislative enactments, interrupted by the short interlude of Mary's reign, which culminated in the two famous Statutes of Elizabeth, which might be called the Deed of Settlement of the English Church. Those Statutes Disestablished and Disendowed the pre-Reformation Church and handed over all its revenues to the post-Reformation Church—at least, if they did not Disestablish and Disendow the Church, they Disestablished and Disendowed every Bishop of that Church except one—Anthony, Bishop of Llandaff—for they were all deprived of their sees as a consequence of the passing of those two Statutes. Coming to the Bill itself, the discussion of its details would be more conveniently deferred to a later stage, including the allocation of the revenues of the Church. But he might say that where those revenues had a local origin, it seemed only just that they should be 51 applied for the benefit of the localities from which they were derived. [A voice: "No."] A good deal had been said about the injustice inflicted upon curates. But they remembered the scandals to which compensation given to Irish curates had led. He held in his hand an advertisement in the Belfast Advertiser of December 28, 1870, which was as follows:—Curates wanted—wanted immediately. Annuities almost certain. Apply by letter on Wednesday, December 28, or Thursday, December 29, 1870, or by telegraph.Why by telegraph? Because the Bill became law on the Monday following. The result was, that the compensation paid to Irish curates, estimated at £800,000, was swelled to £1,800,000. He might mention, too, that curates in Wales were chiefly employed in populous districts, where the Church was now practically unendowed, and where the Bill would make little or no change in their prospects. He had listened to almost every speech made during the Debate, and it seemed to him that the objections to the measure resolved themselves into five, which he would proceed to consider seriatim; for he thought that the suggestion that the movement had been prompted by cupidity and greed was one which they could afford to treat with a silence which was the best answer to such unworthy insinuations. The first objection to the Bill was that the maintenance of the Establishment in Wales was necessary to the maintenance of the Establishment in England, and that, if the one fell, the other must fall with it. That was an argument which bulked largely in the innumerable petitions presented against the Bill. For the "drum ecclesiastic" had been beaten in every parish. The Measure had been preached against, prayed against, petitioned against by men and women, by boys and girls, who knew about as much of the inhabitants of Wales, as they did of the inhabitants of Jupiter and Saturn. Stripped of all disguise, what did this argument come to? It came to this—We in England don't want Disestablishment; therefore, you in Wales are not to have it, whether you want it or not.Was there ever a more monstrous contention? But then they were told that they were only four dioceses of the Province of Canterbury, that Wales was an 52 integral part of England, an appanage of England, a "parish" of England, and no more entitled to distinctive treatment than Yorkshire or Kent. It was rather late in the day, after Wales had been so often dealt with by Parliament as a separate country, to raise that objection. Yet it was the whole gist of the best speech against the Bill which he had yet read. That speech was the speech of a lady, Lady F. Cavendish. Far be it from him to say a disrespectful word of one who bore that honoured name; but, when Lady Cavendish said she was "a Home Ruler, but not a Heptarchist," he could not help remembering that Wales never formed part of the Heptarchy, and that their Celtic nationality was centuries older than her Saxon Heptarchy. If they had not been strong enough to retain their own laws, they had been patriotic enough to retain their own language, their own literature, and their own national traditions and aspirations. An hon. Member had said that there were in Wales several hundred thousand persons who spoke English only. But what of that? A Welshman did not cease to be a Welshman because he learnt to speak English, any more than it could be said that Mr. Parnell was not an Irishman because he did not speak Erse. This, at least, he could say, that there were far more persons in the Principality who spoke Welsh now than did so when he was a boy. And now he was approaching a somewhat delicate subject. He could not forget the storm which he had once drawn down upon his head by saying in that House that Scotchmen were less national than Welshmen because they had not a distinct language, but only a distinct brogue. But, if his Scotch and Irish friends would forgive him, he would say this, of all the four nationalities into which this Kingdom was popularly divided, the most distinctive—certainly the most compact—was the nationality of Wales. She had no Ulster, like Ireland; no division of Highlands and Lowlands, like Scotland. Indeed, if ever there was a people who, by right of race, by right of language, by right of national character were entitled to be called a nation, that people was the population of Wales. Did hon. Gentlemen opposite not see what an enormous injury they 53 were doing to their cause in the Principality by pressing that argument to its legitimate conclusion? It enabled their opponents to say, as they did say, that the whole support of the Welsh Church came from without and not from within. For how, and by whom, was the work of the Church defence in Wales maintained? Mainly by Englishmen and with English money. Why, they could not even get a Church Defence candidate to stand unless his expenses were guaranteed by the "Grosvenor House Fund." During the last few days he had witnessed a spectacle absolutely unique in his long experience of the House of Commons. When the Speaker looked to the right he saw at least a dozen Welsh Members eager to catch his eye. When he looked to the left he could not single out one solitary man who was representative of the Principality in any sense whatever. To be sure, such men were not largely represented on the opposite Benches. Out of the 300 Conservatives there were but three Welsh Members. But where were the three? He felt inclined to cry out with Byron in his famous poem—Of the three hundred grant but threeTo make a new Thermopylæ!Talk about the nakedness of the land. What would have been said if on the Irish Church Bill or the Irish Home Rule Bill not a single Irishman had been found to raise his voice against the measures? There was the great Albert Hall meeting, conspicuous for the absence of elected Welsh Members and for the presence of rejected Welsh candidates. Then there was the recent meeting at the Queen's Hall, where they could not even get a rejected Welsh candidate, though, Heaven knows, there were plenty of them. They did, indeed, get a gentleman, a Mr. Permewan, who said he had lived in Wales when he was a baby, but they had to fish him out from the farthest recesses of Cornwall. Now, did not all this prove what he had been much abused for saying—that the Establishment in Wales was defended, not by native levies, but by foreign auxiliaries? He now came to the second, or what he might call the historical, argument against the Bill. It was said that the Welsh Church was the elder sister of the Church of England, and that she existed long before 54 St. Augustine landed upon these shores. Well, that was true enough; though it must be confessed that the traditional position of the sisters was reversed, and that in this case the Ecclesiastical Cinderella was the Welsh and not the English Church. But it was equally true that until Wales was overpowered by her stronger neighbour, the two Churches were not only distinct, but hostile. He had once heard a most interesting lecture from his learned Friend—learned in every sense of the word—Mr. Justice Vaughan Williams, on the old Welsh Church, from which it would appear that the origin, ceremonials, and doctrines of the two Churches were entirely different. Indeed, it would appear from other accounts that they led a sort of cat and dog life, and that the Archbishop of Canterbury was occasionally in the habit of excommunicating his Cambrian brethren. But, after all, this was rather a matter of academical interest, for the questions which, as practical men, they had now to consider were not the relations of the Welsh Church to the English Church 500 years ago, but the relations of the English Church to the Welsh people at the present time. But then it was said that they were "estopped" from going into those relations at all until they had taken what was called a "religious census." You might as well say that you were estopped from saying that it was hot or cold until you had looked at a thermometer. But did anyone who knew Wales, who knew how in that country the power of the purse and the power of exercising social pressure in such matters lay with the class which owned five-sixths of the land and at least four-fifths of the wealth of the country, really believe that such a census (if taken) would be worth the paper on which it was printed? Besides, a religious census would not tell you what you wanted to know, which was, not the proportion of Welsh Churchmen to Welsh Nonconformists, but the proportion of Welshmen who favoured Disestablishment and of those who opposed it. And for that purpose what better census could you have than the ballot-box? And what answer did the ballot-box give you? Thirty-one out of 34 Members returned to support the Bill by an average majority of 2,000. Such a majority was 55 absolutely without parallel in Parliamentary annals. The Bishop of St. Asaph's figures had been literally riddled by the Member for Mid Glamorganshire (Mr. S. T. Evans). He had shown that the Bishop had claimed for his side 17,328 votes given for Unionist candidates who declared themselves in favour of Welsh Disestablishment. He might have added that one of the candidates whose votes he claimed (Sir R. Cunliffe) actually took the chair at an annual meeting of the Liberation Society, and made one of the most effective speeches ever delivered against the Welsh Establishment. Besides, the Bishop counted every man on the Register as a potential voter, whereas it was well known that, as a rule, owing to deaths, removals, and other causes, not more than 75 per cent. of the electors registered in the constituency actually went to the poll. With these corrections it would appear from the Bishop's own figures that the majority of voters who favoured Disestablishment, instead of being five to three, was more like four to one. So much for the Bishop's figures, which he had repeated in The Times that morning, without taking the slightest notice of the Member for Mid Glamorganshire's corrections. But it was said that the Bill would be hurtful and even fatal to the cause, not only of the Church, but of religion itself. Here, happily, they had some experience to guide them. It was common ground to them all that in the last century the Church of England had a free hand in Wales. This was what he meant when he had said, some twenty-five years ago, that "Dissent in Wales was a modern growth." The Member for West Bristol (Sir M. Hicks-Beach), had charged him with saying it was "a plant of foreign growth." He had never said anything so foolish. But then the right hon. Baronet had been courteous enough to add that he "laid no stress on anything which he—"(Sir G. O. Morgan)—"said." He could only express his surprise that the right hon. Gentleman should have wasted any part of his precious time in quoting the opinions of so unimportant an individual as himself, especially when those opinions were expressed a quarter of a century ago. But it was agreed on all hands that up to the end of the last century the Church was almost the only spiritual power in Wales. 56 And what was the result? Under her fostering care Wales was rapidly becoming a heathen land; when the fathers of Welsh Nonconformity—men whose names were still enshrined in the hearts of their countrymen—stepped into the breach. They were persecuted, hunted down, imprisoned. They had to preach in barns, by the roadside, on the mountain top. But they left their mark upon the men and women among whom they laboured. They made this nation of heathens the most religious and the most law-abiding people in the whole world. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Let them point to a country where the places of worship and Sunday schools were so full, where the gaols were so empty, where education was so highly prized, where the amusements of the people, according to Montesquieu the best test of national progress and character, were so pure, so refined, and so elevating. Why, if you looked at the judicial statistics, you would find that England was, in proportion to her population, twice as criminal as Wales. Here were the results of the last Summer Assizes in six counties of North Wales: Three maiden assizes, one in which no true bill was found, one in which a prisoner was found guilty and ordered to come up for judgment when called upon, and one in which two prisoners were convicted—so that six counties gave two convicts. And yet it was said that in this, the most religious country in the world, Christianity would die down like a withered plant unless, among other things, four Bishops were paid £17,000 a year for keeping it alive. The fifth and last argument was that the Church had made such progress of late that it would be a culpable, indeed, a criminal, act to do anything which would interfere with that progress. But if the Church had made progress, and he was very glad to think it had, the Nonconformists, whose three principal bodies had in the last 20 years increased their Comimunicants by 46 per cent., had made even greater progress. Moreover, the progress of the Church had taken place in those populous districts where she was practically unendowed at present, such as Glamorganshire, which, with a population of 600,000 inhabitants, could only boast of Endowments amounting to 57 £13,000 a year, or 4½d. for each inhabitant. And surely it was most illogical to vote against this Bill because it would compel the Church to rely every where on those voluntary efforts by which alone she was at present holding her own. But one thing was certain. If the Church had made progress, the Disestablishment movement had made greater progress. Twenty-five years ago seven Welsh Members voted for Mr. Watkin Williams's Resolution, and 13 against. The seven had grown to 31— the 13 had dwindled down to three. Indeed, for one Welsh Churchman who was in favour of Disestablishment 25 years ago, at least 20 advocated it now. The Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir R. Webster) had twitted him with the small number of Welsh clergymen who supported what was known as the "Bangor Disestablishment Scheme," but in such a case Ponderantur non numerantur sententic, and these men had been truly described by their own Diocesan as "all first-class men." And what did these first-class men say? That the situation was intolerable, that the Established Church of England was not the National Church of Wales, that—The present disastrous conflict was destroying their national unity and impairing their spiritual life.Did they hope by prolonging that "disastrous conflict" to bring back the erring sheep to the fold? When he addressed the House on the First Reading of the Bill he had warned his opponents that every year would make their chances of a satisfactory settlement worse and worse. To-day he desired to take higher ground. No one who had impartially studied the question could believe that the Church Defence Institution could arrest this movement any more than the Danish King could stay the rising of the tide. No doubt they could raise still higher "the barrier laid across their national life, which," in the eloquent words of Canon Fremantle, "now prevented the co-operation of good men in a common cause." They could embitter still further the relations between Nonconformists and clergy in Wales; they could make the Church itself the narrowest and straitest of sects. But the movement itself they could not kill, because it was born, not of cupidity and greed, not of envy, hatred, 58 and uncharitableness, but of that love of freedom and justice which was the hardy growth of their mountain soil—because it owed its vitality and its strength to that craving for a higher, and a fuller, and a purer religious life, which was one of the happiest omens of our age, but which was nowhere to be seen in such fulness and in such intensity as in the land which, in the most popular of their national songs, they still loved to call "The Old Land of their Fathers."
§ *SIR EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth)
I have listened with much interest and with great respect to the speech which has just been delivered. The right hon. Baronet is a Welshman of high cultivation; he is the chairman of the Welsh Party in this House. I believe that within the last five years he has made an attempt to acquire the Welsh language.
§ *SIR G. O. MORGAN
I acquired my knowledge of the Welsh tongue many years before the hon. and learned Member was born.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
I think I ought to have said that, by later tuition, he has endeavoured to improve those early studies. I gather, however, from documentary evidence, that the right hon. Gentleman has taught history to the Prime Minister and that he has given statistics to the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary has dismissed the history of the Prime Minister, and I hope before I finish to show that the statistics of the Home Secretary are as bad as the Prime Minister's history. If I should reach that judicial position which the right hon. Gentleman thinks I am fitted to occupy, I do not doubt that I shall, if I have the opportunity, and in a pleasant season of the year, take one of the Welsh circuits, if crime is very scarce there. I join with the right hon. Baronet in rejoicing at the scarcity of crime in Wales. I did not hear from him, however, that it was a very recent condition, say, dating from 50 years ago. I think the truth is, that the Welsh people for the past two or three centuries have been law-abiding and respectable; and I attribute the character of the Welsh people, upon which the right hon. Gentleman plumes himself, to the influence of that Established Church, whose influence we do not desire to withdraw from its effect on the Welsh 59 character. But we are here dealing with large issues. We are called upon to disestablish and disendow an integral portion of the Church of England. I know that some few of those who were most closely associated with the work of the Church of England had, from time to time, spoken of Disestablishment as if it were a matter of no great concern. I attach a much greater importance to Disestablishment than to Disendowment. There has been much said, in the course of this Debate, with regard to the burdens which fell upon the Church of England by reason of its condition as an Established Church. It is said that the Established Church is limited in its action, that it is controlled by the State, that the headship of the Crown produces certain incidents, in the appointment of Bishops and other matters, which are not matters upon which the Church can congratulate itself. It has been put higher still by Members on the other side of the House, and, indeed, I understood the Home Secretary to say that Parliament had a right to decide and to regulate the doctrines of the Church of England. I absolutely repudiate that pretension. Parliament can no more alter the doctrines of the Church than it can alter the laws of gravitation. It has no more right or power to affect those doctrines than it has a claim to regulate my opinion on a matter of conscience. We should long ago have altered many incidents that attend the relationship of the Church and the State if Parliament had been willing to deal with the Church of England in a sympathetic and kindly spirit, and if we had not had to meet here the rank hostility of those who again and again have endeavoured to prevent the Church of England from reforming its laws and regulating the lives of its clergy, because they preferred to keep the difficulties and the scandals alive in order that they might more easily attack the institution of the Church. It is true that there are burdens from some of which we should have gladly freed ourselves, but those burdens fall lightly on the Church in comparison with that privilege which the Church alone has of being recognised as the universal teacher of the Gospel which it is her mission to proclaim. So long 60 as the Church of England is Established, nobody is without the right to religious ceremonies and religious instruction, and the difference between a country in which there is no Established Church and the place in which happily this Church is established with its authority and its correlative duties is, that in the former you have a number of somewhat narrow sects competing with each other for the influence and revenue they may gain from the community, while in the latter, on every seventh day, at least, the Church doors are opened to all, and the poor man, though his poverty can bring no gift, is entitled to enter and to hear the preaching of the Gospel, and receive the administration of the sacraments. It is his right, and none can bar him from it. But, suppose the Church to be Disestablished, there will be in the parish the old building, it may be with a more ornate service, and a more splendid adornment than it had before; but it will not be his Church. It may be a Church provided for him by the bounty and generosity of people at a distance, who choose to offer him the means of grace, but he would not have the right to sit within its walls or to share in its ministrations. There is a curious provision in this Bill, the meaning of which I have desired to ascertain. It says that when the Churches are handed over to the representative body—every Church, parsonage house, burial ground, and glebe vested under this section shall be held subject to all existing public and private rights in respect thereto.There is no such provision in the Irish Act. Does it mean what it says—that public rights are to remain, that every parishioner is to have the right in that parish church to listen to the teaching of the Word, and to share in the administration of the Sacraments? I do not think it does. It cannot mean that. If it means that, this Bill would not Disestablish the Church, but re-establish it, and be a recognition of its buildings as places into which the people of the nation, as the people of the nation have a right to enter. If it does not mean that, as I am sure it does not, then I am right in pointing out the state of things that exists before Disestablishment and the state of things that would exist after Disestab- 61 lishment, and I say that I attach much more importance to that denial of the general duty and obligations of the Church than I do to the taking away of the rather scanty funds she has now the liberty of enjoying. But, though I feel so strongly on the question of Disestablishment, the question of Disendowment is an important one too. Suppose the Church in Wales were an effete Church to-day, suppose her neglectful ministers had allowed Church life and Church principles to languish, and supposing they were enjoying large incomes derived from the private charity of former times without doing any real work to earn them, there might be something to be said against them, and you might be entitled to say that they had failed to perform the duties of the trust reposed in them, and that others were entitled to a share of the property they had misused. But the property of the Church in Wales which you desire to take away is the smaller portion of the money used for spiritual purposes by that Church. There comes to supplement that provision the large liberality of the people of Wales, and you are proposing to take away those Endowments, not because the Church has failed to do its duty, not because you can point to one single object of human interest on which that money would be better spent, but for reasons which are differently stated in different places, and which have to be examined in the light of speeches somewhat more candid, I think, than the speech of the Home Secretary. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary opened this Debate in a speech of a most judicious character. It was very moderate in tone and very sympathetic in expression. He greatly influenced, I think, the mind of my right hon. Friend who followed him, and he certainly made a great impression on my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University; but I hope the Home Secretary will forgive me if I do not take the programme and outlines of this movement from the speech made by him in the House of Commons, but prefer to take them from a speech made by the Leader of the Government when addressing the Welsh people. A most remarkable difference in tone is observable between the gentle phrases in which the Home Secretary addressed himself to this work 62 of spoliation, and the phrases of the Prime Minister when he was face to face with the people in Wales. Lord Rosebery made a speech before the Liberal Federation at Cardiff, in which he declared to an enthusiastic audience the principle on which he was proceeding in this matter. Referring to the doctrine on which the Irish Church had been disestablished, he said:—It was a missionary Church which converted nobody, it was an alien Church which alienated everybody; it kept for a minority what was meant for the nation, and so, coming as it did, as a stranger to Ireland, repudiated, as it was, by the masses of the nation, it passed away. You now have another Church, another Church Establishment which has embodied these characteristics, and which in like manner is doomed.Now, Sir, what are the characteristics which Lord Rosebery declares to be the characteristics of the Welsh Church? He first said that it was an alien Church which came as a stranger to Wales. Is there anybody who will get up and defend that as a matter of historical knowledge? We had from the Home Secretary the other day a most remarkable exhibition of what he called historical retrospect. Starting with a quotation from Giraldus, he came down to the time of the Commonwealth, and wound up with an extract from a book written in 1831. He might as well have given a description of the characters of the Sovereigns of this country by starting with an exposition of the exploits of Cœur de Lion, followed by a sketch of the domestic history of Henry VIII., and winding up with a few words about George IV. Somebody said in the Debate in 1894 that the Church was forced upon Wales by the Norman Kings. ["Hear, hear!"] Hear, hear! to that! Why, Sir, the Church existed in Wales for seven centuries before William the Conqueror set his foot in this country, and had been a living and advancing Church all those centuries. I know that, under the Norman Kings and their successors, both in Wales and England, there was far more deference paid to a foreign authority than the people of England or Wales desired, but both in England and in Wales that passed away, and if there is any Church in the world which can fairly be called a national Church it is the Church in Wales. The Tudors came, and with them the Reformation, when the authority of the foreign Bishop was 63 repudiated and the Church was released from the corruptions that for centuries had affected it With the blessings of the Reformation there came Welsh Bishops into Welsh sees. Those who talk now about the language of Wales, and are enthusiastic to preserve that language, pass over the New Testament, which was translated into Welsh by one Bishop, the Old Testament, translated by another Bishop, and the multitude of religious books written by the clergy in the Welsh language. Between the middle of the 16th century and the end of the 18th century, it was the Church that founded the grammar schools of Wales; it was the Church—not an alien Church, but the Welsh Church, with Welsh Bishops—that during those two centuries and a half raised and purified the character of the people of Wales. There has been no departure from that. It has been suggested that this was not a Welsh Church. Well, Sir, in the year 1863, it was necessary for Parliament to pass an Act in order to have English services in the Churches in Wales, because it was the law of that time that, where-ever the Welsh tongue was commonly spoken, the whole service must be performed in the Welsh tongue. I venture to suggest, with regard to this matter, that the Home Secretary is right in his contention, and that he has very properly dismissed from our consideration the ideas of Lord Rosebery with regard to history. But, Sir, Lord Rosebery went on to say that this is a Church which, like the Irish Church, converted nobody and alienated everybody. Nobody has denied—the right hon. Baronet who has just spoken has admitted—that the Welsh Church is a living and advancing Church. When you find Churches being multiplied; when you find the ministers of those Churches increasing largely in numbers; when you find schools filling up, and when you find much larger congregations and a larger proportion of communicants coming to the services, what is that but evidence of growth? If it be true that the Church has alienated everybody ant converted nobody, though I do not wish to make a sectarian controversy of this, I would ask how is it that one of her Bishops has ordained 21 Nonconformist ministers within some years gone by as ministers of our Church? Surely 64 it is hard to speak these words of a Church which is living purely and living well up to the level of its responsibility. If it alienates everybody, what about the statistics of Church membership? When I spoke in this House some two years ago upon the question of the Welsh Church, and had to deal with the subject of its numerical strength, I expressed the opinion, which I still hold, that the Church in Wales represents one-half of the population of the Principality. I appreciate that there are some fair reasons as well as some Party reasons for the refusal to take a census of religious opinions, and I am quite prepared to say that if you could get the facts without taking a religious census, it would perhaps be better to leave that step alone. I will say a few words about the statements of the Nonconformist bodies in Wales, though I do not myself, in regard to the question of Disestablishment and Disendowment, attach very great importance to the less or more of numbers. I argue this matter upon other lines, and upon other principles. But, as the matter is suggested, let me just say this. Our opponents refuse, it may be for good reasons—I do not mean for good reasons as a matter of tactics, but for fair reasons—to have this census taken; but in the absence of this religious census what are we to do? There are in Wales definite religious bodies which are not at all backward in claiming the membership, the allegiance, of the people of the Principality. They have their roll of membership and they have their roll of adherents. The members are persons, as I understand, who give some practical testimony, by contributing to the funds or taking some part in Church work.
§ MR. ABEL THOMAS
They conform. It has nothing to do with paying so much to the Church, or anything of that kind. They conform and become members.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
I did not put it as the only test that they paid money to the Church. I said they either paid to the Church or took some active part in the work of the Church. I suppose the term conform in that sense means that they are in some sense real and effective 65 members of the Church to which they belong. If they neither paid any money nor attended the services of the Church, I confess I do not see why they should be put down as members. I believe that these bodies, with a proper generosity, do not exclude those that are too poor to contribute to the affairs of the Church, but, with a proper and a large generosity, bring within the privileges of her membership all they can, all who are inclined to join in their worship, and they add to the list of members the list of adherents, and in their list of adherents they include all the living persons, young children even, who belong to the families of those who are members of those bodies. I am not complaining, at all, that they claim too many. I am not criticising the standard which they set up for the membership or the adherency of those bodies; but what I say is that if they have taken that view of membership and adherency, and issue a statement as to their adherents and members, one is entitled to say that you have there the full roll of the body to which they belong. Now, what is the result of that? There are 1,775,000 people in Wales, and only 832,000 persons are either members or adherents—that is to say, are in any way connected with the four great Nonconformist bodies which are the mass of the Dissenting population. Taking the statements of these Dissenting bodies, and allowing those statements to be in the fullest degree accurate, I believe it certainly would not be too much to say that the Nonconformist bodies cannot claim one-half of the population of the Principality. But it was said, when I last spoke on the Welsh Church, and it is said now, that you must not count all the others as being members of the Church there. Why not? [Laughter.] This is a serious question. They are members of the Church of England in this sense—and I am quite sure that the hon. Gentlemen who laugh do not mean to treat a suggestion of this kind with ridicule, or as a jest—that they have the right at any time of their lives to join and to partake in the services of the Church.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
I agree; but that makes my point the stronger. That is 66 precisely the splendid, the grand privilege of the Church, that whether they bear or forbear, the Church doors are open, and the Church teaching is given, and they have the right to come within its walls. Though I would not press these matters too far, no one on the other side will deny that the poor, who too often take little heed of Church, or of any religious observance, and the careless, who, for the greater part of their lives may be indifferent to these considerations, do, again and again, in the time when trouble and the anxieties of life fall upon them, turn to that Church to which alone they belong, and thorugh whose ministers they can fairly and rightly claim the consolations of the Christian religion. Since I made that speech to which I have already referred, there has been a language census. It does not prove very much, but, as far as it goes, it supports the conclusions that I then arrived at as to the members of the Church in Wales. It is admitted by the representatives of the Nonconformist bodies that their ministrations only touch with comparative lightness the purely English-speaking population of Wales. In that census it appears that there were 760,000 persons in Wales who cannot speak Welsh at all, and the existence of that number of people is another indication of the validity of those statistics which I referred to when I addressed the House before. But the Home Secretary had two matters upon which he commented. He spoke of the number of Communicants, and also of the number attending Sunday school. Now, with regard to communicants, I believe that in the number assigned to the Nonconformist bodies many people are included who are not communicants at all. The total of the members of the Nonconformist bodies is 381,000, who may or may not from time to time become communicants. But the number of 114,000 given as that of communicants in the Church in Wales represents those present at the administration of the Sacrament upon a single day in the year, and it is impossible to say by what figure this number should be multiplied in order to learn the total of the effective members of the Church. The test of the Home Secretary is a somewhat erroneous test. Then he 67 gave 515,000 as the number of persons attending Sunday Schools. That figure is wrong by 80,000, the actual number of Calvinistic and other Methodists said to be attending these schools being 434,000. I wonder the right hon. Gentleman did not suspect his figures himself. When he represented that five-eights of all Nonconformists of all ages attended at Sunday Schools, it must be remembered that Sunday Schools in the Welsh Nonconformist bodies are very different from Sunday Schools in the Church. A Nonconformist Sunday School partakes of the nature of a general service which adults attend, whilst our Sunday Schools are confined almost exclusively to young children. The adults attending the Nonconformist Schools ought not to be counted twice over. The Home Secretary gave us some extraordinary figures respecting Anglesey. He said that out of 76 parishes 27 had no resident pastors, and that the tithes of those 27 parishes amounted to £7,000. Some one has given the right hon. Gentleman some strangely wrong information, and the real facts are as follows:—The population of Anglesey is just over 50,000; there are 76 parishes and 67 resident clergymen in these 76 parishes; there is Church accommodation for 20,382 sittings; the average income of the 67 clergymen is only £117 each; and the tithes are only £10,000 in the gross and under £8,000 net. It is probably in this part of Wales that the Calvinistic Methodists are strongest and the Church of England weakest, and yet here 56 out of the 83 Calvinistic Methodist Chapels are without a resident pastor. These facts are capable of verification, and they go far to refute the inferences which the Home Secretary asked us to draw from the figures which he gave. We are told that the reasons for this proposed Legislation are reasons which do not involve hostility to the Church. The Home Secretary not long ago spoke of the "outworks of these crumbling citadels where the Church was intrenched," and suggested that the defenders of the Church would fight much better if they were relieved from the burden of defending these outworks. I confess that I hesitate to accept such expressions of sympathy. It is the people who are fighting behind the outworks who know best the value of those 68 outworks, not the people who, from conscientious or political reasons, are seeking to dislodge them from the camp which they are defending. I am aware that, according to the ripe wisdom of Lord Bacon, "Adversity doth best discover virtue," but I never realised until this Debate that one could claim credit for reducing another man to poverty because it would enable him to display virtue. We have heard that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church, but I am not aware that in any Christian country a memorial has yet been set up to Diocletian in commemoration of the services he rendered to the Christian religion. But I will take another and still more apt example. There is a narrative in the Gospel of St. Luke which describes the doings of some men who haunted the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, and there robbed a traveller. Until I heard this Debate, I had no idea how admirably those men could have justified themselves for engaging in such work. Judging from what has fallen from the Home Secretary and the Secretary for Scotland, and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, I can imagine one of these men saying—This man has been much too wealthy for his soul's health. I am sure that poverty is the provocation of many virtues, and if I take away his property he will be able to show a virtue, a resignation, a patience, for which he has unhappily never had an opportunity before.That would be in the Home Secretary's manner. And I can fancy his companion taking the other branch of the argument—as the Secretary for Scotlanddoes—and saying:—I shall put this money to very useful purposes, and no one can possibly contend that it is wrong in me to take it, because I happen to know that the good Samaritan is coming along the road.After the Debate that we have heard I assume that such arguments must be held to be reasonable in the region of Christian ethics; yet if they had been addressed to the unhappy traveller by the persons actually engaged in despoiling him, whom the inspired writer somewhat harshly describes as thieves, I think he might have been forgiven if some such offensive words as "hypocrisy" and "cant" had issued from his protesting lips. Spare us the insult of your 69 sympathy. I very much prefer our franker and more straightforward opponents. We had a speech last year from the hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs, and he said what he meant in a straightforward way. He asked:—Was it a matter of surprise that Nonconformist farmers, whose lot was hard enough, should object to be forced by law to contribute £200,000 a year towards subsidising a horde of raiders who were invading their territories and trying to capture them?The hon. Member denounced the Church in Wales as an anti-national institution which had been forced upon Wales by Norman Kings, and whose whole history had been a history of warfare against Welsh nationality. In the speech delivered on Thursday by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leeds (Mr. Lawson Walton), a speech which was excellent in construction and delivery and was a very interesting contribution to the Debate, there was one sentence which filled me with amazement. My hon. and learned Friend said lie acknowledged—that there were now signs in the Church of Wales of a revival of activity, such as must no doubt give great encouragement to its adherents, but 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.There was a murmur from this side of the House, and the hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say—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.That is a hard saying, and I much prefer these assailants to spare us the insult of their sympathy. When you are attacking that which we hold most dear, let us have the straightforward declarations I have read just now, and then we can meet them. You say that the Church in Wales is an anti-national and a foreign Church; you say that the Nonconformist farmer pays for the services of that Church; you say the hour of retribution has come, and punishment must be inflicted. We answer you that history disproves the first contention, that the facts of the case are inconsistent with the second, and that your doctrine of retribution is 70 not a Christian application of the moral law, is not indeed a reasonable interpretation of the Divine law. I should like now to turn to another set of considerations altogether. Suppose it to be right to Disestablish and to Disendow the Church; suppose it to be decided that for reasons we will assume to be good this proceeding is to take place, there are three conditions I may fairly lay down as conditions which should be observed in the exercise of this business. To us, to many of us at all events, this is a matter of honour and of conscience, upon which we can make no compromise; upon which no expression of Parliamentary opinion, no expression of opinion of constituencies would entitle us to surrender the position which we conscientiously defend. But I recognise, of course, that there are many who honestly take a very different view, and who have been satisfied that it is right that at this time the Church in Wales should be Disestablished and Disendowed. Assuming that the Church should be Disestablished and Disendowed, let me ask hon. Gentlemen, and especially my hon. and learned Friend, who, I believe, is to follow me in this Debate, to consider the stipulations which I am going to make as to the way in which this change should be carried out. The stipulations are three; and it is in accordance with them, if they are reasonable, I think this Bill should be judged. In the first place, I think, there should be no more interference than is absolutely necessary with the religious activity and work of the Church. I think, in the second place, there should be as prompt an ending as possible of the causes of hostility which have led to difficulties in Wales itself; and, I think, in the third place, that the most beneficial use which can be made of the property set free for secular purposes should be provided for and secured by the Bill. I declare that each one of those conditions is violated directly and flagrantly by the provisions of the Bill. I can imagine ways of dealing with Disestablishment and Disendowment, against which, however we might attack them on grounds of principle, we might have no valid criticism to offer. There was a Disestablishment and Disendowment 25 years ago of another Church. I looked upon the Irish Church Act in 1869, and I look upon it now, as a national sin; 71 and I believe that in the years that have passed since 1869 that dereliction of national duty has been visited upon us by the troubles we have had in Ireland. I do not propose to discuss the details of that matter, but in the Disendowment of the Irish Church an arrangement was made by which the new Church might find some opportunity for carrying on its work. There was a commutation arrangement. The clergy of the Church, who desired, as all true ministers of the Church would desire, that the work which they were doing should not end with their lives, were able to obtain a bonus by commuting their interest, and that money was serviceable in maintaining and carrying on the work of the Church. That was one way in which the thing might be done. There was another way, and one which I would much prefer to the way suggested by this Bill. It might be arranged that on a given date, say twelve or fifteen years hence, the whole of the property of the Church should be taken from it, and all life interests should be absolutely neglected. I believe, if that were done, within the fifteen years there would be an uprising of spirit and generosity on the part of the Church which would, at the end of that time, enable us to carry forward, with undiminished vigour and efficiency, the work which she is doing in Wales. But what is the way in which it is proposed by the Bill to deal with the matter? There is proposed a prolonged process, which may last 40 years, of the breaking down here and there in different parts of Wales of the Church Endowments, and of the efficient working of the Church. It depends upon the accident of single lives. There is no sense in the arrangement. There may be in one parish some old incumbent who lives on to a venerable age, not very capable of work for the Church, not doing much for the body to which he belongs, secured to some extent in his income by the provisions of this Bill, and living on there, a burden rather than a benefit to the people amongst whom he is. On the other hand, you may have a parish where some active young clergyman has gathered round him a body of working men who are carrying on the work of the Church. A sudden illness of two or three days may take him from their 72 midst, and with his death disappears absolutely the support and endowment of the organisation. I have puzzled to know how it is that anybody has contrived such a process as this. I have I think, found a parallel—it comes from the extremity of torture of an Eastern nation. I believe that the most fearful death in China is death by a thousand wounds. The victim—and the case which I read of was the case of a person who had robbed a Church—the victim guilty of that crime is fastened hand and foot. There stands in front of him the executioner with a pliant sword, and with dexterous hands he flicks from the living body fragments of flesh, thus prolonging the agony. It is called the death of a thousand cuts, because the executioner, if very skilful, may inflict a thousand separate agonies on his victim before he dies. That is what you are doing with the Church in Wales. For 30 or 40 years this Church will be lingering on, breaking down here and there without notice, without warning, without an opportunity of providing for the carrying on of the work. That is what you call a sympathetic and generous treatment of the Church. I agree there is some provision made for the interests of the Incumbents. Is there nobody else to be considered besides the Incumbents and persons drawing incomes from the Church? Some days ago I had delivered to me the Corporate Associations' Property Bill. I will read the names on its back; they are those of seven wise men of the East—Mr. Howell, Mr. Barrow, Mr. James Rowlands, Mr. Benn, Mr. Cremer, Mr. Pickersgill, and Mr. Stuart. By the Bill—It is hereby declared that where a corporate or quasi-corporate association has been, or may hereafter be, established for the advancement of commerce, art, science, religion, or learning, or of the interests of certain trades or professions, or for any other purpose not being a trading purpose, and it appears from the instruments relating to its establishment, or from the fact of its having existed for many years, or from other evidence, that such association was established with a view to a continued existence, in any such case the property belonging to, or held on trust for, the association shall, in so far as the application thereof is not affected by any express trust, be deemed to be, and to have been, held on trust for the members for the time being of the association and their successors.That is admirable. The wisdom of the East helps us in this matter. Let me apply 73 those words to the Church in Wales. The Church in Wales consists of a number of corporations, and this Bill proposes that where a Corporation has been established for the advancement of religion, and established with a view to its continuance, the property shall be deemed to be held in trust for the members of the association and their successors. Property held by an Incumbent is held in trust for himself and his successors in the clergy. But you make no provision for his successors. You only allow the present Incumbent to put in his pocket the income that belongs to him; but his curate, who may have been working with him for years, is sent adrift without one penny of compensation. Who is the successor to the incumbent in the corporation whom the Government is going to compensate? There is no one. We take the view that the clergy of the Established Church hold their income in trust for themselves and the persons who may be appointed to succeed them; but they hold them in trust to do religious services and religious duties to the people amongst whom they are placed, and it is those interests of the people that the Government absolutely refuse to notice at all in their Bill. My next condition is that there should be a prompt ending of those causes of hostility which prevail in Wales. As to that I need only read an extract from a speech made by the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd-George) in reference to this Bill—If the Bill were passed in its present shape, instead of removing the causes of disturbance, it would increase and intensify them, because the people would have an inducement to create disturbances in order to get rid of the clergy.I will illustrate that quotation. Under this Bill the tithes are to pass to the County Council. There is no provision in the Bill that the Incumbent is to receive a sum equal to his income on the average of previous years. The provision is, that the tithes are to be transferred at once to the County Council; that the County Council is to collect the tithes if it can, and if it wishes to, that the County Council is to be allowed such expenses as the Welsh Commissioners may deem necessary for the purposes of collection, and then that what remains of the tithe is to go to the Incumbent. Now, the Home Secretary 74 knows that that there are already two counties—Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire—in which the collection of tithe is extremely difficult, owing to the hostility of the County Councils. On the 15th of last month there were 125 judgments for tithe outstanding in Cardigahshire, which had not been collected because the County Council would not allow protection to be given to the officers of the Court in making the collection. That is the situation of the Incumbent who has to depend for his tithe on the activity and sympathy of the County Council. As the hon. Member for Carnarvon has pointed out, there would be, under this Bill, for the next 30 or 40 years, conflicts in the collection of tithe which would make the relations between creeds in Wales far worse than they have ever been in the past. Again, there are parishes where there is glebe, but no tithe; and those parishes are treated differently. The glebe is to be vested in the Parish Council——
§ MR. ASQUITH
Subject to the life interest of the Incumbent. It is only the reversionary interest that passes to the Parish Council.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
According to my reading of the Bill the glebe is vested in the Parish Council immediately; and what the Incumbent would get from the glebe would depend upon the management of the Parish Council.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The intention, and, as I believe, the effect, of the Bill, as drawn, is not what the hon. and learned Gentleman supposes. The vesting of the glebe in the Parish Council is subject to the existing life interest of the Incumbent. If the Bill has not that effect as it stands I will see that it is amended. The intention is that the Incumbent should remain as he is at present. It is only the reversionary interest that passes to the Parish Council.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
I am very glad to receive that assurance. I think the words of the Bill, as they stand, would have a different effect. Of course, if that is the arrangement which the Government propose with regard to glebe, it must be the arrangement with regard to tithe, because they stand on precisely the same footing. My third stipulation is that the property which is to be taken shall be as beneficial to the public as 75 possible. I think the arrangement proposed is one which defeats the object of the promoters of the Bill themselves. The hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. D. Thomas) said, with regard to this particular part of the question on the First Reading of the Bill:—In his own constituency in the Aberdare Valley, numbering over 50,000 persons, no one would gain anything at all out of the parochial fund. On the other hand, in the parish where he lived, with tithe worth pound;100 a year, a small farmer and a blacksmith were the only other parishioners.I think these inequalities are very striking. On this point a statement was made by the Home Secretary, speaking at Hull, on January 23, which, I think, is so important that it should be remembered. The right hon. Gentleman said:—But I have never put and I never will put the case of Welsh Disestablishment upon the low sordid footing that it will materially benefit the Welsh people. So far as they are concerned—still more, so far as you and I Englishmen and Scotchmen are concerned—it is perfectly true that we shall not be one penny the better when the Welsh Church is disestablished.
§ MR. ASQUITH
That is not a strictly accurate report of what I said. I said that so far as we were concerned—that is, the English people—we would not be benefited; that so far as the Welsh people were concerned, I did think it would be a material benefit to them, but that the question of material benefit was not, to my mind, the governing principle of this Bill.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
Then I take it that Englishmen and Scotchmen will not benefit, and I believe that Welshmen are disputing whether it is 1s. 8d. or 1s. 11d. per head that they will get from this measure. But the curious thing is that the 1. 8d. or 1s. 11d. per head is not to accrue now. It will be accruing during the next 40 years, incidentally, to one part or another of the Welsh people. Surely, that is the weakest way of dealing with a matter of this kind. If you have made up your minds to disestablish and disendow the Church in Wales; if you desire to make a scheme for using, for other purposes which you think better, the money which is now being used for religious purposes, surely the right way is to establish a central fund which shall be applied to deal with these matters, and not to make it a question 76 that when a particular fragment of the Church revenue falls in, it shall be used according to the fashionable delusion of the time, with regard to higher education. I cannot imagine a more wasteful way than that. I find that in one parish in the county of Denbigh the income from tithe is £740 a year, and the glebe is one acre. Within seven miles of it there is another parish where the glebe is worth £450, and there is no tithe at all. The whole result of the arrangement contemplated in the Bill will be that during a long series of years there will occasionally fall in a small scrap of revenue, not sufficient in amount to be of any use to any one, but quite sufficient to keep alive that which it should be our desire to put an end to at once and for ever—the personal hostilities that are now afflicting the Church in Wales. There is one matter upon which I desire to make my protest, because I feel it, and Welsh Churchmen feel it strongly, and that is the treatment they are to receive with regard to cathedrals. In the course of these debates I have heard these cathedrals spoken of as national monuments, and I referred back to the Irish Church Act to see whether there was any mention made there of national monuments. I did there find a mention of national monuments in which the House will be much interested. Section 25 states—Where any church or ecclesiastical building or structure appears to the Commissioners to be ruinous, or if the church be wholly disused as a place of public worship and not suitable for restoration as a place of public worship, and yet to be deserving to be maintained as a national monument,then it is to be held by the Commissioners of Works. Now, they talk about the cathedrals of Wales as national monuments, and I suppose that on the railing round these cathedrals there will be a sort of Board of Works board, with the Welsh Commissioners' names upon them, stating the conditions under which the Church is allowed to use these particular cathedrals. In the Irish Church Act you dealt with disused churches, but it is not to be so in Wales. What are you dealing with in Wales? Take the cathedral of Llandaff. Forty years ago that cathedral was practically a ruin. The nave was grass-grown; the ivy 77 climbed, and birds built their nests in its roofless and unwindowed walls, and at the end of it there was a small choir, shut in by animitation Italian facade. There was a scanty congregation, a poor and meagre service, and a choir in which no anthem had been sung for 200 years. What is the state of things now? During those forty years that church has gained beauty and strength, and it is now one of the finest of Christian temples in Wales. There is a spacious nave, the church furniture is of the best; but the best furniture there is in the men who are ministering the work of the Church and the great congregations that come in to join in the service of prayer and praise. That is a Church that is to be taken away as if it was to be a national monument, and the Church in Wales is to be insulted by being told it has no cathedral of its own, but is, by permission of three Welsh Commissioners, to be allowed to celebrate service there. Sir, it is an outrage. I have said that with us resistance to this Bill is a matter of honour and conscience, and that we could not abate that resistance and could not compromise. I know on the other side that that is not the case, and that it has been taken up as a matter of political expediency for the purpose of getting votes in the constituencies, or in this House. [Ministerial Cries of "No."] I will undertake to prove it. The Solicitor General is junior Member for York; the senior Member for York sits on the Opposition side. The hon. and learned Member would never have been Member for York at all if, in 1885, lie had not made a bargain with the Churchmen of that city, by which for seven years he was bound, not to vote in any attack on the Church of England. When the Welsh Church Question came up in 1886 he did not vote, neither did he in 1890 and 1891. Now he has made a different bargain; he has freed himself from the old arrangement; he is at liberty to vote against the Church, and that is why lie is junior Member for York; and he never would have been Member for York at all if he had not entered into that bargain, which he kept for seven years. Our opinions and beliefs in this matter, Mr. Speaker, are not of that class. We do not put them off or put them on to suit the exigencies of a Parliamentary candidature 78 or of a Ministerial difficulty. We attach a far more serious meaning to this matter. We believe, in the prolonged agony which is to be inflicted upon the Church in Wales, there will be a distinct and serious interference with the welfare of the people of Wales, and we believe, unquestionably, that interfering with the Established Church by Disestablishing and Disendowing it is a far graver and more important question than perhaps any other we are discussing in this Parliament. There are those among us who think they hear from time to time above the tumult of our trade and above the sounding tread of our Imperial progress, discordant sounds which they think are the warnings of a coming storm that will test every fibre of our national character and national strength. I do not speculate upon the future; but, whether it be passed in sunshine or in storm, I am certain of this—it is not by your colossal warships, your spacious commerce, your galleries of art or museums, or even by your crowded schools, that the true greatness of your Empire will be strengthened and sustained. This, you may think, is a small amount you are dealing with, and it is in some respects. It is about as much as you spend on one museum in London. It is about half as much as you propose to vote to yourselves as a reward for enjoying the greatest privilege of your lives. Within the next 12 months we shall spend on the Army and Navy in this country 37 millions of money—as much as would pay the Endowments and income of the Church in Wales for 250 years. Think in what the strength of your Empire really is. It is not to be found in the splendour of material success. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation, and we believe that it will be a dishonour to Parliament, an injury to the people, an offence to God, if, in this hour of your material prosperity, you filch from an ancient and living Church its scanty patrimony, and, if you break down the only system which insures the universal teaching of that Divine faith which has moulded and elevated the character of our race, and which alone, to nations as to individuals, sanctifies prosperity and consoles misfortune.
§ *THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir FRANK LOCKWOOD, York)
I should have indeed been very glad if my hon. 79 and learned Friend had been able to conclude his extremely interesting and, no doubt, very eloquent speech without making the charge, which he thought fit to make against hon. Members sitting on this side of the House, that they were doing this, not from any belief that they were doing what was right and just, but for some low, party, pettifogging motive. My hon. and learned Friend did not stay there, but in order to illustrate that charge, he held me up as the terrible example which was to point the particular accusation, and he exhibited me as being an illustration of that depth of political depravity he was at that time engaged in discussing. Nothing would have induced me in this House to trouble hon. Members with any matter that is personal to myself, because, though I believe I have the good fortune to have in this House many friends on both sides, yet I do not for a single moment believe that they would be willing that the time of the House, and this great Debate, should be consumed with what I will call, in this instance, pettifogging criticisms of personal conduct. What is it the hon. and learned Gentleman has got to say about me? It is true that when I stood for the City of York in 1885 I was asked whether I was prepared to vote for the Disestablishment of the Church in England or in Wales, and the answer that was given by my then colleagues and myself was, that this was not a question which could be entertained by the Parliament to which we were being returned. Those who put the question were not satisfied with that answer. They said:—That is all very well, but, supposing there should be any measure of Disestablishment introduced into that Parliament, will you vote for it?My colleague and I said we would not. When I was returned to represent the City of York in 1886 I gave one pledge in particular with regard to the Irish policy of the Government. With regard to other matters of policy I informed the electors that I had already communicated what my views were, and I did not renew that pledge, but I felt, as a man of honour, that impliedly I had. When these questions came before the House of Commons my colleague and 80 I construed that general statement as excluding us from voting on Welsh Disestablishment; but I took very good care, before the election of 1892, to state to my constituents the action I proposed to take with regard to this matter, and my hon and learned Friend said, What is the result? The result, he said, is that you are now junior Member for York. I have never been anything but junior Member for York. I have always run second, and I do not know that I have ever quarrelled with my place. But when my hon. and learned Friend taunts me with my position, with my declaration, and with votes given in this House on this and a similar measure, I may be permitted to remind him that I have had the honour of being returned unopposed for York. So much for the personal reflections introduced into this Debate by my hon. and learned Friend. Let me now deal as quickly as I can with some of the questions which he dealt with, but without, I hope, occupying anything like the time which he occupied. First, however, let me say that we welcome him back to Debates of an ecclesiastical character. In past times he has made eloquent speeches on ecclesiastical questions, but of late some of us were becoming alarmed lest the ecclesiastical reputation of my hon. and learned Friend should become eclipsed by that of the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir R. Webster). In the speech we have just listened to, my hon. and learned Friend has reasserted his position as the leading ecclesiastical authority on that side of the House, and it will now be for my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight to dislodge him if he can. The speech just delivered may be divided into three parts. In one part my hon. and learned Friend spoke strongly, as he said he meant to do; and I do not know that, holding the views which he does, he spoke too strongly. In another part he put a series of points; and in a third he perorated. I do not propose to deal with his peroration. I propose to deal with his criticisms on the Government proposals. Speaking of the Church of England in Wales, he complains that the Church has come and sought relief from Parliament in respect of its condition; that that relief has been denied; and he pointed to some of my hon. Friends below 81 the Gangway as holding them responsible for that denial of justice. What an extraordinary attitude is thus taken up by my hon. and learned Friend in the inception of his speech! He comes here complaining of the Government measure by which it is intended to disestablish the Welsh Church, and he points to one of those very grievances emphasized by my hon. Friend the Home Secretary in introducing the Bill as a matter of which the Church had a right to complain. I should have thought that anybody who loves that Church, and wishes to see her worked to her best advantage, would rejoice to find, and would accept with pleasure, an opportunity for removing from her that disability, and for making it possible for her to herself effect those reforms without coming to a Parliament which is unsympathetic to her. My hon. and learned Friend said he regarded Disestablishment as a more important matter than Disendowment. I was glad to hear him say so. We have heard so much about the loaves and fishes from that side of the House that it would appear that hon. Members opposite considered the whole essence of the Church in Wales and its power of doing good depended upon its Establishment and upon its Endowment. By far the greater force has been laid upon the latter. [Cries of "No!" from the Opposition Benches] My hon. and learned Friend says that after the Church has been Disestablished those persons who have a right to attend religious services in the Church of England will be denied access to places of worship in Wales. [Sir E. CLARKE: "Will have no right."] But how is it going to be shown that they will have no right? Does he mean to suggest that, merely from a sentimental realisation of having no right, they will abstain from visiting places of worship? ["No."] The House understood him to mean that the Church of England in Wales, when disestablished, would close its doors to all except those who belong to its community.
§ *SIR FRANK LOCKWOOD
I certainly gathered from what he said that he meant to indicate that there would be some denial of admission. He says he did not mean that. Then for what reason was his argument advanced? If he did not mean that which I have 82 attributed to him, it is not necessary for me to occupy the time of the House in further comment on that criticism of my hon. and learned Friend's. In referring to the Prime Minister's speech at Cardiff, I do not know whether it was a wilful misconception of my hon. and learned Friend as to what is the intention on this side of the House with regard to the history of the Church in Wales. An alien Church it is. An alien Church it has become. An ancient British Church existed beyond a doubt. Wales became a conquered country and her Church was taken from her. That Church, which had been the Church of the Welsh community, was taken from the Welsh and was transformed into an English Church; places of profit were filled by Englishmen; and in that sense, and in that sense alone, is it contended that the Church had be come an alien Church. My hon. and learned Friend said that he had stated before, and he adhered to the statement, that the Church of England in Wales contained half the population of that country. We know that it contains a much larger proportion of wealth and influence in Wales. How comes it, then, that so few are brought within its doors? How is it that it cannot hold its own against Nonconformist places of worship, conducted by poor men, and supported by the working classes of the community? How comes it that the results, so far as public worship and attendance are concerned, appear so miserable in comparison with the results which have been put before the House in respect of Nonconformist places of worship? And from another point of view the question may well be asked, How comes it, if the Church possesses half the population of Wales, that they make such a poor show on the question of Disestablishment when election time comes round? We have also been reminded of the fact that, although there are three Conservative Members in the House representing Welsh constituencies, the voice of not one of them has yet been heard in this Debate. Let some of those who come here and talk so glibly about the work which the Church has done in Wales go down into Wales and test the sense of the people there. Let my hon. and learned Friend the 83 Member for the Isle of Wight, for instance, exchange the congenial atmosphere of the Isle of Wight for that of any Welsh constituency at the next election, and we shall see his face no more in this House. My hon. and learned Friend drew a pathetic picture of the influence of the Church with the poor, and he says that in times of sickness and poverty it is to the Church of England that the poor go. What experience has he which enables him to apply that observation to Wales? Can he quote any instance which will justify the application of the statement to Wales? He cannot. The criticism, therefore, is worthless. The House, however, has heard from those who can speak with experience what the Nonconformist Churches are doing for the poor in Wales, and we hear, too, what the poor are doing for these Churches. The hon. and learned Member came to the case of Anglesey, and he quoted some figures which I assume he took from the letter, the supplemental letter, which appeared from the Bishop of St. Asaph in The Times of to-day, and those figures he opposes to the figures of the Home Secretary. I accept his figures for the moment. Let us see what they prove. According to the figures read by my hon. and learned Friend there are some 33 parishes in Anglesey which are grouped together with other parishes. Now, will the House see what follows from that? That there are 33 places in Anglesey without ministers detailed off to attend to the spiritual wants of those parishes. Is not that precisely what hon. Gentlemen opposite have applied in the course of this Debate to the condition of the Nonconformist Churches? Have we not heard over and over again that one of the main charges brought against the Nonconformist Churches is that they do not provide resident ministers in all parishes where there are Nonconformist Churches? I come now to three points which my hon. and learned Friend put to the House. The first was that it was an unnecessary interference with the religious work of the Church, and he illustrated that in a most unfortunate manner. He said he regretted the Irish Church Act as a national sin, and I watched with some interest the effect of that statement upon the right hon. Member for 84 St. George's, Hanover Square, because if that Act was a national sin he is a national sinner. Let me refer to some observations made in October, 1882, by Lord Plunket, who was then Bishop of Meath, and who is better qualified to speak of the effect of that Act than my hon. and learned Friend. In those observations this noble divine called upon his hearers, before they gave way to querulous murmurings, to remember that the dark cloud—the so-called national sin—had not been allowed to break over their country until, in the providence of God and by ways that they should never have selected for themselves, their Church had been prepared for the change. And he pointed out how, had they been called upon to face a Land League agitation at a time when the clergy were the ministers of a State-protected Church, receiving their tithes from the poor or even from landlords, some of them in needy circumstances—how intolerable would have been their position. Now, however, the very disaster which seemed to threaten their downfall had been over-ruled for their good. My hon. and learned Friend says he prefers the scheme followed in that edition of national sin—he prefers the commutation scheme. But the House heard the explanation of my right hon. Friend as to the reason which deterred the Government from adopting the precedent of the Irish Bill. He said the result was that the Church fund was constantly being drawn upon and tapped with no permanent benefit to the nation. What my right hon. Friend had attempted to do, and what I think he will succeed in doing, is to preserve for local communities the benefit of those moneys which have been for so long diverted from the nation who are entitled to benefit by them. ["No."] I never anticipated that the hon. Gentleman who says "No" would agree with me in that observation, so that will release him from the necessity of interrupting me in future. Even if you do not adopt that plan, let us have, says my hon. and learned Friend, at the end of 15 years the whole of this system coming automatically to a close. Upon reflection he will see that that is not a plan which would hold for a single moment. I can imagine his enthusiastic peroration upon such a suggestion—how 85 he would have pictured to us these good men going about their work with the sword hanging over their heads which, at the end of the period, was to fall upon and destroy them. I think he will see that our plan is a plan much more acceptable to the Welsh people, much better for the Disestablished Church, and much better for the clergy connected with that Church than either of the alternatives which my hon. and learned Friend suggests. My hon. and learned Friend wants a prompt ending of the difficulties, causing, as he says, irritation in Wales, and he alluded, in illustration, to the provisions contained in the Bill with regard to the preservation of life interests after the Church is Disestablished. I should have thought this was the last portion of the Bill which would have been subjected to attack or criticism of the kind. My right hon. Friend's intention is to prevent the Disestablished clergyman who is to be paid his life interest being brought into personal connection with the County Council, and therefore he has provided that the County Council shall collect the tithes, that they shall hand the money so collected to the Welsh Commissioners, and that the Welsh Commissioners shall hand it over. But that is not all. It provides that the amount, whether it is collected by the County Council or not, shall be a debt from the County Council to the Welsh Commissioners, and the concluding words of the section provide—The Welsh Commissioners shall pay to each person who at the passing of this Act has any existing interest in any such tithe rent-charge in substitution for and in satisfaction of that interest and as part of the emoluments of his office the amount payable to them by any County Council in respect of the tithe rent-charge.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
said, the 16th Section stated that the County Council was to pay to the Welsh Commissioners the annual amount of the tithe rent-charge, after deducting the sum allowed by the Commissioners for cost of collection, rates, and other out-goings other than Income Tax, and when that amount was allowed the Council had only to pay over the amount they received.
§ *SIR FRANK LOCKWOOD
Yes, there is no dispute on that point; but my hon. and learned Friend has failed to follow the point of my right hon. 86 Friend, which is that he has put the Welsh Commissioners between the clergyman and the County Council, and he has made the tithe a debt to be recovered from the County Council by the Welsh Commissioners, and the amount the clergyman is entitled to receive and to recover from the Welsh Commissioners is the amount payable. To say that this is an irritable condition of things is, in my opinion, an abuse of language. The third point raised by my hon. and learned Friend was as to the use to be made of the property, and I presume his remarks on this point were in criticism of the appropriation of the money by my right hon. Friend to local purposes. This, of course, has been a very difficult matter to deal with, and I suppose no hon. Member would go so far as to say that particular localities ought not in any way to be regarded—that the money should be applied to all districts, and particularly to some large towns. There are some, doubtless, who would say that the money should be applied only to those parishes in which it is paid; but my right hon. Friend had to consider what was an equitable adjustment of these conflicting claims, and in the Bill it is provided that local interests shall be regarded in the distribution of the money that is paid. Although my hon. and learned Friend provided the authors of the Bill with alternatives in regard to other matters, he had no alternative whatever to suggest with respect to this point. I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member was in the House when the right hon. Member for East Birmingham (Mr. Matthews) addressed the House. [Sir E. CLARKE: "Yes."] Then the hon. and learned Member must have been astonished to hear a certain proposition which the right hon. Gentleman laid down. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking as a Dissenter—a position which he had a perfect right to take up—laid down a proposition which, I confess, I was not prepared to hear from him after the character of the speeches that had been delivered on that side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman said that there was no advantage in inquiring into the legal or moral right of Parliament to entertain this question. It is beyond question that we have a legal and a moral right for what we are 87 doing, and our authority for that is the right hon. Member for East Birmingham. He further said that, as to precedents, there were abundant precedents for what was being done.
§ *MR. HENRY MATTHEWS (Birmingham, E.)
What I said was, that there was abundant precedent for dealing with the Church, but not for introducing this Bill.
§ *SIR FRANK LOCKWOOD
My right hon. Friend has not denied the quotation from his speech that—there is no advantage in inquiring into the legal and moral right of Parliament to entertain this question.[Mr. MATTHEWS: "Because it has the power."] Yes, and because it has the legal and moral right. The right hon. Gentleman went on to refer to the necessity of proof that the exercise of this legal and moral right in the present case was just. Well, what is the proof? Is it proof if we are able to show that for years it has been ascertained beyond all doubt that a Church which has existed as a national Church has ceased to be so—if we are able to show that the Church of England in Wales has ceased in any way to command the sympathies of the Welsh nation? I think the right hon. Gentleman will admit that when that is the case the time to act has come. If he is in any doubt I would read to him a statement made in this House in 1850, by Mr. Roundell Palmer (now the Earl of Selborne) on this question. He said:—It appears to me that the only ground on which an Established Church can rest in any country, the only ground on which it is defensible and can be permanently maintained, is that it is the embodiment of the true religion believed in by the mass of the people.I am not going, at this period of the Debate, to go back into the statistics which have been quoted on one side and the other, but we contend that it has been made abundantly clear by statements coming, not precariously from those who hold briefs for the Church, but from those hon. Members for Wales who come direct from their constituencies, that the Church in Wales certainly does not meet that condition. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the question of tithe and to its voluntary payment in the past, but that voluntary action is now utterly lost in obscurity. The debt 88 was recognised, and then enforced by Parliament, and from that time, aye, and long before, much of the land that is now subject to tithe was brought within the area which made it responsible for the charge. Since that time the debt has been recovered, not as an ordinary creditor recovers his debt, but by exceptional means placed at the disposal of the tithe-owner. On another point the right hon. Gentleman, taking the date of 1703, asked what rational explanation can be given for taking that date, and fixing it as the time from which private endowment should be respected. It is not a date that has been fixed as arbitrarily as the right hon. Gentleman thinks; we venture to think, some of us, that it is a very generous date. It is the date of Queen Anne's Bounty, and that is the date from which the machinery was supplied, through which private individuals, without offending against the Mortmain Act or any similar enactments, could constitute endowments for Church purposes. But it is something more than that. Before 1703, if any benevolent person wished to devote his money to the good of the community, he had no choice between these religious communities. There was one religious community, and one alone, that was recognised by law. The Toleration Acts had been passed, if I remember rightly, in 1689; there had been certain proclamations of indulgence, but directly afterwards they had been withdrawn. The Established Church held the field, and no selection or election could be made by the benevolent person. But from that time we have the growth of other religious communities, as time went on, relieving themselves from the thraldom under which they had suffered, and becoming the fit and proper objects of benevolent gifts. So my right hon. Friend, it appears to me honourably and properly, has taken that time as being a dividing line before which no option or selection was permitted, and that, I venture to think, is the very rational reason that can be given for the introduction of that date. Then, says my right hon. Friend, would you take away the property of private persons? Why not, then disendow all round? Does the right hon. Gentleman who makes these suggestions rightly appreciate what will be the position of the Endowments of the Church 89 when she has once been Disestablished? While she has been established and has existed as a national Church, the moneys of that Church have been held by her in trust for the nation, but when Disestablished she ceases to be of a national character, and ceases to be the trustee of the nation. Private individual property stands in no sense on the same basis. The argument of Disendowment all round, is not applicable. These societies are trustees of their money for themselves and are in no sense trustees of these moneys for any other persons than themselves. The statistics, which, after all, are the backbone of the Government case, have been given us by the men who have the means of information at their disposal. What, then, is the duty of any Liberal Government, if the condition of things has been established to which I alluded in the extract from the speech of Mr. Roundell Palmer? Since 1877, when Lord Hartington, representing the Liberal Party, spoke at Edinburgh, there has been no doubt as to what should be the policy of the Liberal Party in this matter of Disestablishment and Disendowment. I ask leave of the House to read his words, because I wish afterwards to call the attention of the House to the construction which was put upon these words in a leading article of The Times newspaper, which was published on the day after that speech was made, and which drew, as I venture to think, the right and the only conclusion from those words as to what was their bearing on the future policy of the Liberal Party. These are the words:—The question—" that is, of Scotch Disestablishment—"has not, so far as I know, been made a test question at elections. All I can say is, that when, if ever, Scotch opinion, or even Scotch Liberal opinion, is fully formed on this subject, I think I may venture to say on behalf of the Party as a whole that it will be prepared to deal with this question on its merits and without reference to any other consideration. I claim for the Liberal Party that its sympathies are all with the Presbyterian Churches, and that when the time comes, as I have said it may come, that Scotch opinion shall be fully formed upon the subject, the Liberal Party in England will do its best to give effect to that Scotch opinion without undue consideration being given to any other circumstances connected with the question.That was the important statement made. What was the construction that was rightly put upon it? On November 7, 90 1877, there was published these words, which are an extract from a leading article in The Times newspaper—He [Lord Hartington] considers that a step has been taken towards Disestablishment in Scotland by the Patronage Act of the present Government. He believes that a growing sense of injustice is felt by the Free and the Dissenting Churches in that part of the kingdom, and if the Scotch like to press the question he will not be deterred by the effect which such pressure might have upon the prospects of the Church in England. In other words, Lord Hartington has plainly declared that he is not in principle in any way opposed to the adoption of Disestablishment alike in Scotland and England as a measure to which the Liberal Party would be pledged.Now, mark what follows—It is evident after this Disestablishment has passed into the category of debatable Party questions, and the speech in this respect constitutes a new departure of the first importance for the Liberal Party.I accept that, Sir, as being an absolutely true criticism upon that speech. We have accepted that responsibility. We have had the case put before us of the condition of the Church in Wales, which warrants us in regarding it again as a case in which that responsibility rests heavily upon us; and I am glad that the right hon. Member has succeeded in laying before the House for its, I hope speedy, acceptance, a Bill which, I venture to think, is a measure of justice which the Welsh people have a right to ask at our hands, and whatever, according to my right hon. Friend, may have been my electoral shortcomings in the past, I shall have great pleasure in voting for it in the present case.
COLONEL LOCK WOOD (Essex, Epping)
said, that in the Home Secretary's speech language served, for the time only, as a mask for the right hon. Gentleman's real thoughts and intentions. Hon. Members for Wales, in listening to his cold utterances, must have longed for the old war cry, "A Church of banded raiders." The real reason for bringing forward this question of Disestablishing and Disendowing the Church in Wales was because the Welsh Members had pressed it upon the Government. The allusions which had been made to the hall-mark that was wanting to the Nonconformist Church, and to social distinctions, showed the real reason why Welsh Members were pressing the Bill 91 forward. He knew of no hall-mark claimed or possessed by the Church of England save that of their great Captain. He had never known, any measure brought forward to deprive the Church of any, even of its minor, rights or privileges, without its being claimed that it was in the best interests of the Church herself. He sometimes wondered at the moderation of hon. Gentlemen. They believed the Church possessed a fund of latent strength to carry her through the storms of the future just as she had braved the persecutions of the past. It had been said that promotion in the past had been tempered by jobbery. This Bill was robbery tempered by politics. The cry of religious equality, which used to be put forward, had given place to that of political necessity. The Government had been induced to reward the industry, patience, and perseverance of a section of their followers by bringing forward a Bill to Disestablish and Disendow a Church which was a standing menace to their pride and political hopes. The opponents of the Welsh Church said they were anxious to do good to the Church. It was not sufficient to do good, but it should be done in a good way. They were not doing good in a good way when they deprived the Church of moneys which lawfully belonged to her. The truth was, it was extremely difficult to find any common ground on which they could argue the question. It was useless to bring forward figures when they had no common basis on which they could start. The Home Secretary seemed to have abandoned the question of an alien Church. With regard to the question of majorities if at any future time when they had Disendowed and Disestablished the Church there should arise another Church amply endowed by pious men, and that Church fell into a minority, would they again apply the doctrine of majority and seize her money because she was no longer the Church of the majority? When they relied on majorities alone it was not an argument which could be accepted by anyone who held religious convictions, as a just reason for Disestablishing and Disendowing a Church. That the Welsh Church was not the Church of the majority they required some proof, because as regarded that census for which the friends of the 92 Church in Wales had always asked, no real argument had been brought forward. If the reason given by the hon. Member for Newport against a religious census was the only one he had to give, it was decidedly a weak one. The Home Secretary said it was only since 1811, the date of secession of Calvinistic Methodists, that the Church in Wales had been any strength in the land. Twenty years later, when the Nonconformists were most friendly to the Church, they declared their teaching identical with the the Thirty-nine Articles, and protested against separation. In 1834, he found that the Nonconformist ministers passed this Resolution—We deeply lament the nature of the agitation now so prevalent in the Kingdom, and which so assuredly has for its object the separation of the National Church from the State.So, only 60 years ago, the Church of England was acknowledged to be the National Church by the unanimous voice of the Welsh Methodists, who formed the large majority of the Nonconformists of the country. Hon. Members opposite might ask why things had changed so suddenly and quickly? He believed it was because Dissent had changed its ground, and had marched pari passu with Radicalism. He took a quotation from an English Nonconformist magazine in 1888. Speaking of Nonconformist preaching, it said—Real preaching has become a relic of the past. Enter into conversation with any minister; it is politics first, politics second, and politics to the end of the chapter.He believed it was politics, and politics alone, which formed the basis of the present agitation against the Church. The belief of its opponents evidently was that the Church was making such strides of advancement in the hearts of the people that if left alone for a few years longer she would completely outstrip them in numbers, and become in numbers and other ways the Church of the people. They found the Church as a whole too strong to attack. They wished to attack the Church in England as well as in Wales. Because they found the Church as a whole was too strong they attempted to attack her in Wales first. They hoped that, by taking a few stones from the foundation, to make her so weak that when the time of real conflict came, the whole fabric might fall about her ears. 93 Laymen of the Church in the past had not been sufficiently on their guard against allowing her to be robbed of her minor privileges. This was no longer the time of loud disputes and weak convictions. They knew what the enemies of the Church meant, and were thoroughly prepared to meet them, and he believed there would be no dissentient voice among those who believed in the Church when a Division was taken on the Second Heading of this Bill.
§ MR. J. H. LEWIS (Flint District)
said, he rose to support the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill, because the Disestablishment of the Church had been for a long time past the one great question in Wales that had overshadowed every other. Its importance, and the strength of the feeling in favour of Disestablishment, was sufficiently attested by the Parliamentary representation of Wales in this House. Let it be taken any way, by the number of Members returned to this House to support Disestablishment, by the number of votes recorded in its favour, by the acknowledged preponderance of Nonconformity, by the results of the last four General Elections, by the steady and unchanging adhesion of all the Welsh Liberal representatives to Disestablishment as compared with the wavering and uncertain adhesion, if not the absolute hostility of some of the Unionist candidates in Wales to the Establishment, the voice of Wales had been expressed with a clearness and an emphasis which could not be mistaken. It was the national demand of Wales. No other important contentious measure had ever received so large a measure of support in the Country which it affected, and it was solely because Wales was a small country and commanded few votes in the House of Commons that this question had not been settled long ago to the satisfaction of the Welsh people. The majority by which Wales had steadily recorded its convictions in favour of Disestablishment was simply overwhelming, and the attempts made to get rid of it were as amusing as they were futile. They could almost pardon their disingenuousness because of their extreme ingenuity, but this stupid obstinate majority would not be got rid of. It stared them in the face at every turn. Even if it did not exist, justice to Nonconformists and to the 94 highest interests of the Church herself would still clamour for Disestablishment. But that permanent solid unchanging majority simply defied contradiction or explanation. It had caused everyone, whatever view they might take of this controversy, to come long ago to the conclusion that the Welsh as a nation were devoted above all things to the principle of religious equality. But they were asked why, if they allowed the local majority to prevail in Wales, should they not allow it to apply elsewhere? The hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight asked would the representation of London be any justification any argument, for the Disestablishment of the Church in London. The circumstances of London in relation to the Church formed no parallel to those of the Church in Wales, but if those circumstances were such as to result in the return to Parliament of ten Members out of every eleven pledged to Disestablishment; if the last four General Elections in London had turned on Disestablishment; if a majority of votes similar to that recorded in Wales had been recorded in London for Disestablishment; if several constituencies had been won by the supporters of Disestablishment without a contest; if the voice of London had been incessantly clamouring for Disestablishment; if the London papers had been continuously agitating for Disestablishment; if the question thrust itself into local elections and confronted Londoners in all their public concerns; if for 25 years it had been the one burning question in London,—then he said without hesitation that London would have had Disestablishment long ago, and what would have been granted long ago to a City ought surely to be granted now to a Nationality with such distinctive characteristics as Wales possessed. It was now conceded that there was such a thing as Welsh nationality. Last year they were told that it did not exist. This year they were informed that the Church had preserved Welsh nationality. The opponents of the Bill having denied in the interests of the Church that there was such a thing as Welsh nationality, and now being obliged to admit its existence, promptly took credit to the Church for having preserved it. At one moment they were 95 told that they were attempting to disestablish the Church of the Welsh nation; at another they were accused of attacking the Church of England, and were informed that there was no such thing as a Welsh Church; that it was merely four Dioceses of the province of Canterbury. If they were simply dealing with four Dioceses, then there was no National Church of Wales, and they claimed accordingly the right to deal with it as an alien institution; but if there was a National Church of Wales then the Welsh nation for whose benefit the Establishment was supposed to exist, had a right to decide whether it should be continued or not. The hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir Richard Webster) brought out an entirely new argument in the course of the Debate. He stated that only 18 Welsh Members could speak the Welsh language. He could not understand the relevancy of the argument from the Establishment point of view. He could understand the argument being used on this side, but not on that side of the House, No one denied the separate nationality of Scotland or Ireland, or their right to separate treatment. Ireland had had Disestablishment, and with Scotland it was only a matter of time. And yet the proportion of Irish Members who spoke Erse, or of Scotch Members who spoke Gaelic, was much smaller than that of Welsh Members who spoke Welsh. The contention was, therefore, in favour of, and not against, Disestablishment. But the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument invited comparison. If there were only 18 Welsh Members in favour of Disestablishment who spoke Welsh, how many Members of this House were there who supported the Establishment in Wales who could speak that language which the Church was supposed to have done so much to foster? Only one! 17 to one! And this was one of the great reasons which the hon. and learned Gentleman, with his immense ability and his two years' study of the subject, gave them for the retention of the Establishment in Wales. The argument which had been most frequently used against the Bill in this Debate had been the absence of a religious census. He should welcome a religious census if it could be fairly taken. He only wished 96 the work could be done by a recording angel, but next to that infallible process, the census of the polling booth, with the protection the ballot box conferred, was the best census, for after all the all-important question was how many in Wales were for or against the Establishment. But supposing they had a religious census, would the supporters of the Establishment accept it as conclusive, and what majority would they require to make it conclusive? So far no majority had been deemed sufficient. The majority at the polls, enormous though that had been, was set aside, the majority of the elected representatives, which surpassed any majority recorded in any part of the United Kingdom for any contentious measure, was deemed insufficient; even a majority in the House of Commons, which represented the whole of the United Kingdom, was not adequate. It was true that there was no majority for Disestablishment in the House of Lords, neither would one ever exist under compulsion. How could they expect it? The House of Lords did not contain a single Welsh or English Protestant Nonconformist, and it was ridiculous to regard that body as an impartial authority on the subject. Every majority they had hitherto obtained had been regarded as insufficient, the truth being that no majority would ever satisfy those who desired to maintain the Established Church in its temporal and official supremacy over other Churches, and they could only regard the demand for a census as a dilatory plea. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol had asked whether the grievance of Nonconformists against the Church was not a social grievance, because the Church of England was the Church of the wealthier and more educated classes. He might observe, in passing, that that contained an admission of one of their cardinal points—namely, that the Church in Wales was the Church of the wealthier classes. Unquestionably when the State granted exceptional privileges and favours to one denomination, when one religious body was the official Church, its social prestige was thereby greatly enhanced. That must inevitably be resented by other bodies who had borne the heat and burden of the day, and had for generations done a great work for the welfare of the people, and therefore for the good 97 of the State, without that exclusive State recognition which was granted to the more favoured body. They were told that after Disestablishment the Church would still possess social advantages superior to those which belonged to Nonconformist churches. They did not expect Disestablishment to put an end completely to social inequality as between Churchmen and Nonconformists—what they did expect was that, as far as Wales was concerned, every Church, whether it were Episcopalian, Independent, Wesleyan, Baptist, or Calvinistic Methodist, should be placed on a footing of complete equality in the eye of the the law, that the law should not single out any Church for preference, priority, patronage, or privilege, or retain any Church in that position. Some had actually gone so far as to say that the agitation for Disestablishment was an irreligious movement, and that it was based on secularism. Those who used such an argument had not the slightest knowledge of Wales or of its people. There was no more religious people in the world than the Welsh. The existence of 4,000 Nonconformist chapels in Wales was due to the deep religious convictions which formed the chief characteristic of the Welsh people. In rural districts in Wales it might be said that the chapel was the pivot upon which the whole of the life of Nonconformists turned. The Sunday School system in Wales was not only the most elaborate and complete known in the Christian world, but it was permeated throughout with a spirit which had made it one of the best and, speaking in the highest sense, one of the most useful educational factors in the life of the Welsh Nation. The Sunday School was not, as in England, attended by children only, but by adults of all ages, and as long as aged people were able to creep from their houses to the Sunday School they continued their attendance at the service, which perhaps they loved best of all. In Welsh Sunday Schools tradesmen, farmers, artizans, agricultural labourers, all sorts and conditions of people, sat side by side as fellow scholars discussing the most important problems that related to the highest interests of the human race; and the influence of the Sunday School in drawing out the intellectual powers and developing the 98 spiritual life of the people was simply indescribable. It was from these people, and not from secularists, that the Disestablishment movement had arisen. To say that the movement was based on secularism was to libel the Welsh people. Much had been made of the argument that the Church procured the translation of the Bible into Welsh. But whose duty was it to translate the Bible? At the period when Bishop Morgan did his work, nearly the whole Nation belonged, at least in name, to the Church. Was it the duty of the great, powerful, and wealthy State Church, or that of a handful of poor Nonconformists—if there could be said to have been any Nonconformists in Wales at that time—to translate the Bible into Welsh? If the Church had not provided Wales with a Bible in the Welsh language she would have neglected the plainest and most urgent duty that was laid upon her. When they saw the performance of this plain and urgent duty blazoned forth, as a special virtue of the Establishment, they obtained some idea of the straits to which its defenders had been driven in their endeavours to find arguments in support of its continued existence. But if a holy and scholarly Bishop translated the Bible into Welsh, how did Welsh Nonconformity set about the all-important work of circulating Holy Scripture? Between the years 1630 and 1680, there was only one edition of the Bible published by the instrumentality of the Church, a large folio of 1,000 copies for pulpit use. But during the same period the Nonconformists published nine editions, consisting of about 30,000 copies of the whole Bible, besides 40,000 of the New Testament alone. They had heard during the Debate that if apathy, sloth, and deadness of spirit prevailed in the Church during the last century, she had in recent years exhibited considerable activity. For every spiritual result which had followed in the wake of that activity he was sincerely thankful, but he ventured to say that the Church owed a great debt of gratitude to the Disestablishment agitation for all that it had done to awaken the Church out of her lethargy, and if the shadow of coming Disestablishment had done so much good, they might expect much more benefit to ensue to the Church when she was entirely freed from State control. But 99 if the Church in Wales had grown in recent years he felt bound to say that in Wales strong objection was taken to some of the methods by which that growth had been fostered. In many parts of Wales the Establishment was regarded as an aggressive, proselytising agency. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol asked: "How can a Church help being aggressive if she is living and growing? She must be aggressive upon sin and unbelief." They had not the least objection to any amount of aggression on the part of the Church on what was really sin and unbelief, but they did object very strongly to aggression upon what was regarded as "the sin and unbelief" of Dissent. But if the Church had grown in recent years, the Nonconformist bodies had, on their side, made immense progress, as had been shown by the Home Secretary, with whose speech the Welsh Members were perfectly satisfied. In the year 1775 the number of Nonconformist congregations in Wales was 171; in 1816 they had increased to 993. That year brought them to within living memory, for the right hon. Member for Midlothian was then a boy of six. What progress had been made by Welsh Nonconformity during his lifetime? In 1861 the number of Nonconformist chapels in Wales had augmented to 2,927, and in 1892 the number had increased to 4,262. They had more than quadrupled within living memory. More than 3,000 Nonconformist places of worship had been added within the last 80 years. Take a specific instance of the growth of Nonconformity in recent years. It showed what was being done for the rapidly increasing populations of the mining districts of South Wales. In 1866 there were four Churches and 11 Chapels in the Rhondda Valley In 1870 there were seven Churches and 21 Chapels. In 1884 there were 11 Churches, 70 Welsh Chapels, and 28 English Chapels. In 1892 the Establishment had 16 Churches, the Nonconformists had 117— 75 Welsh, and 41 English Chapels And this was a district in which the Church boasted of the great progress it had made. What did these figures mean? They meant that Nonconformity had come to stay in Wales. It had struck its root deep into congenial soil. One of the best tests of 100 the vitality and energy of a Church was the amount subscribed by its members for religious purposes. It had been wisely said of Nonconformists by an eminent defender of the Establishment, that "paper adherents do not give money." He would take the figures relating to one of the four principle Nonconformist bodies in Wales—it was doubtful whether that one was the strongest. The collections of the Welsh Calvininistic Methodists in the years 1869 to 1880 amounted to£1,711,401; in the years 1881 to 1892 to£2,204,037, an increase of£492,636. This increase was obtained in spite of the fact that that body was strongest in the agricultural districts where the population, had considerably declined. From 1869 to 1893 that body alone has collected for religious purposes more than£4,000,000; and the other Nonconformist denominations had supported religion with splendid liberality. Could any better proof be given of the wonderful triumph of the voluntary principle? Not a penny of this money had been wrung from a reluctant peasantry by the agency of the tithe bailiffs; it has been the free-will offering of their hearts, and what they asked the House to do was to place the Church in Wales in what they regarded as the same advantageous position as the Nonconformist bodies. She would be more highly respected; she would, in the end, secure an even larger annual income than she at present enjoyed, and income would be derived, not from a coerced and an unwilling people, but from the good will of the members of her own Communion. In conclusion, he asked what was to be gained by prolonging the contest? Those who hold that religion was the supreme interest of the country surely could not approve of a prolongation which might possibly stave off land reform for a while at the expense of some of the highest interests of the nation. To advocate the policy of waiting until the Church obtained a majority in Wales, was to cherish the vainest of vain hopes, and Welsh Nonconformists would never give up the struggle for religious equality. Disestablishment must come, and the contest would be prolonged until it was attained. There would be ceaseless hostility in Wales until the question was settled. Were they going to drive the 101 Welsh people to the conclusion that no justice to Wales was to be expected from the Imperial Parliament, that they could not get what they demanded when a Conservative Government was in power, because the House of Commons would not pass it, and that they were not to have it when a Liberal Government was in power, because the House of Lords would not pass it? When a nation was unable to get relief for a pressing grievance by legislation, what was it to do? Nonconformist Wales was the most law-abiding country in the world. Did they want to inculcate contempt for the law in such a country? What more could the Welsh people do to prove their determination to get rid of the Establishment? They had done all they could; they had done infinitely more than would ever be required of the English people, and the majority of Welsh representatives in this House represented the ripe and settled conviction of Wales. The Welsh people did not accept the Established Church in Wales as the Church of the Nation. They protest against the continuance of the Establishment. They thought it was wrong in principle and injurious to religion to select any denomination for State patronage, or to continue the Establishment of any Church, however ancient, which did not command the adhesion of the people at large. They look forward with hope and confidence to a time when this root of bitterness should have been removed, and when the Church, freed from the mere dross of earthly and temporal privileges, humiliating to other Churches, would unite with those Churches in promoting the highest welfare of the Welsh people.
§ *MR. E. R. WODEHOUSE (Bath)
said, he hoped, while stating the reasons which decided him in giving an unhesitating vote against the Second Reading of this Bill to be as successful as the hon. Member who has just sat down in saying nothing likely to wound susceptibilities in any quarter of the House. The supporters of the Bill had been at pains throughout the discussion to assure the House that towards the Church, as distinct from the Establishment, they entertained only feelings of goodwill; and they commended the Bill to the House because it would release the Church from trammels and 102 fetters which now hampered the better attributes of its life. He did not desire to impugn the sincerity of such professions, but, nevertheless, politics and political exigencies were transparent in every line of the Bill. He did not wish to imply that the good of the Church was a fictitious consideration, but it was a subsidiary consideration The Bill was a political measure, just as the Irish Church Act of 1869 was a political measure. And just as in the Irish case there were two currents of political opinion, blending into one stream, directed against the Established Church. On the one hand there was the objection in principle to the connection of Church and State, and on the other there was the claim of the people in a certain area of the United Kingdom for separate treatment on the ground that they were a distinct nationality. When Disestablishment in Wales was first mooted in the House, 20 or 25 years ago, the movement was animated wholly, or almost wholly, by repugnance to the connection of Church and State. There was no talk then of "an alien Church," or of "a Church of Conquest," and he believed that such phrases would have met with no sympathy from the true founders of Welsh Nonconformity. But in recent years the original movement had been coloured and reinforced by what were called "national" aspirations. Hence it was owing to the contagion of Irish Nationalism which had touched Wales, that they now heard all this talk about ancient wrongs inflicted on Wales by English Kings, Ministers, and Bishops, and that grievances and crimes of long bygone days had been dragged out of oblivion. These grievances and wrongs would have ceased to be felt or thought of had they not been nursed by politicians who had a game of their own to play. Had not some of their own Saxon ancestors suffered harsh usage under the Norman Kings? What was the use of brooding over that? It was monstrous to judge the 12th or 16th or even the 18th century by standards of political morality which prevailed in the latter half of the 19th century. It was quite possible that the 20th or the 21st century, if this Bill passed into law, might look back on this Parliament with a blush of shame and reproach. If 103 Welshmen chose to dwell on the discontent of Wales under Henry II. let them remember also the contentment of Wales under the Tudor and Plantagenet Kings. If Welshmen were attached to their own language, they should acknowledge that it had been saved from possible extinction by its introduction into the services of the Church under Anglican auspices. They ought not to fasten on the evil side of things only, and surely, even in politics, they should be "to faults a little blind and to virtues very kind." It had been said that Disestablishment must come, and that the Established Church had lost for ever the opportunity of regaining the attachment of the Welsh people as a whole; but there was no finality in politics. Measured by the life of nations, Welsh Nonconformity was still a mere chicken, and where there was no impassable gulf of doctrine or creed to perpetuate estrangement, it was better to contemplate ultimate reconciliation and reunion in a brighter future. It was said that the Church in Wales was denationalised. He did not admit that; but, if it were so, why should it not be re-nationalised? He deprecated strongly these antiquarian researches into bygone wrongs, when used only to inflame prejudice and passion in distant generations of men. Reference had been made to the precedent of the Irish Church. He was not going to deal with the differences between the two Churches, but precedents sometimes furnished warnings as well as examples, and instructive warnings could be gathered from the fate of the Irish Church. In the Irish case the Disestablishment of the Church was approved by the Country at a General Election when it was the sole issue before it. It was not muffled up in a multifarious Programme, and it was approved by a majority in every part of the United Kingdom.
§ *MR. WODEHOUSE
thought that there was an English majority, but anyhow the Bill passed through the House of Commons by a majority of about 120. Why had that Bill such a volume of support behind it? Because the public believed that the measure would prove to be a crowning act of conciliation and concord with Ireland, and put an end to such incidents as the Clerkenwell 104 explosion. But what became of those hopes? They were soon shattered in the dust. They were all familiar with recent Irish history, and they knew what years of passionate strife and social disorder in Ireland came after that so-called healing measure of Disestablishment. Then, there was another warning to be drawn from the Irish Church as to the influence of precedents on other Churches. Some Churchmen had publicly advocated the sacrifice of the Church in Wales as a sort of ransom for the better security of the Church in England. Bishop Thirlwall in 1869 derided the notion that Irish Disestablishment could ever be adduced as a precedent for Welsh Disestablishment, but the sequel of events had proved him to be wrong. They were told that this was a question for national option, but if this Bill were passed, and national option no longer served its purpose, some other option, either provincial or diocesan, or even parochial option, would be set up in its place. Then the long agony of piecemeal Disestablishment would set in, unless aggression were resisted at the very outset, and the advocates of Disestablishment were taught by experience that they had undertaken a task beyond their strength. This Bill was a blow aimed not simply at the Church in Wales, but at the whole Church. The general tenour of this Debate had removed all doubts on that point. The main argument in support of the Bill was, that 31 Welsh Members out of 34 were in favour of this Bill. He spoke with all respect of Wales, but he could see no reason for treating one or two millions of people in Wales differently from one or two millions in Yorkshire or London. Excepting in a few Statutes of quite recent dates, England and Wales had long been linked together in legislation and administration, and he trusted that they might ever remain so. As they held the Church in Wales to be an integral part of the Church of England, the English people had a direct and immediate interest in the settlement of this question. If the Bill were passed through the House of Commons it would be carried over the heads of the majority of the English Members. The Solicitor General referred to a declaration of Lord Hartington with reference to the Church of Scotland, which had always been a distinct Church. He 105 knew not what were the views of the Duke of Devonshire on the question of the Church in Wales, but unquestionably there was a very marked difference between the position of the Church of Scotland and that of the Church of England in Wales. He regretted the opposition which had been offered by Nonconformists to the taking of a religious census, and reminded hon. Members that in 1860 a religious census was strongly advocated by the Home Secretary of that day—a Liberal Statesman of dispassionate judgment, rare freedom from prejudice, and great breadth of view, Sir George Cornewall Lewis. A census taken on a specific point must surely furnish a better criterion of actual matters than an estimate gathered from mere conjectures founded on Parliamentary representation, to which many and varied issues contributed. Even if they had been prepared to admit that the demand of Wales for Disestablishment was justified by the great preponderance of Welsh Members who supported it, they could not admit that the Government was justified in undertaking this very serious task, full of far-reaching consequences, either by the magnitude or the composition of its own Parliamentary majority. Majorities were fleeting things; they were here to-day and gone to-morrow; and what was meat to one majority might be poison to its successor; and when they were handling a venerable and majestic institution blended with a nation's entire life, which had called forth from generation to generation some of the best and deepest feelings of human nature, it was not the proper business of statesmen, who ought to look beyond the exigencies of the passing hour, to snatch a decision on the fate of such an institution from the slender and dwindling majority of a moribund Parliament. Where, besides, was the need for haste in this matter, except indeed as to the declared policy "of filling up the cup?" Cup-filling was only an ephemeral interlude in politics, but the issue now before the House concerned the gravest and most enduring of human interests. There was no question of religious liberty at stake in this controversy. Freedom of opinion and freedom of worship in Wales were suffering nothing and losing nothing to-day. They were told, 106 however, that the principle of religious equality was violated by the existence of the Establishment. Then, he asked, if that be so, where was the solid substance of the grievance thus engendered? The position of the Church was no arbitrary or capricious preference by the State of one among several competing denominations. It was an heritage of long descent, the fruit of times when Church and State were co-extensive; and surely such an origin might mollify, if not entirely remove, from Nonconformist breasts the sense of aninvidious preference being manifested for the Established Church. Where did the alleged inequality offer any practical hindrance to the Nonconformist in his own religious work? Then the House had been invited to admire the working of religious equality in the Colonies, but testimony on that point was by no means unanimous. A few months ago he heard a Bishop of an Australian Diocese, just translated to an English See, speaking on this point—a Bishop of Liberal tendencies and democratic sympathies accustomed to cultivate cordial relations with Nonconformists; and what had he to say about it? He stated that, while living and working at Bradford, before he went to Australia, he was assured by his Nonconformist Friends that if the State Church were swept away they would join and worship together. What did the Bishop find in the Australian Colony where there was no State Church? He said that the rivalry and jealousy between denominations was intense and perpetual; and so far from there being peace and harmony between the Church and other denominations the differences there seemed to be greater than at home, and the possibilities of union more remote. Then the Bishop added these significant and emphatic words. He said that, strong Churchman as he was, he would rather see some other denomination established in the colony, and live there himself as a Dissenter, than contemplate a continuance of the existing state of things. There was another element of the alleged religious inequality, about which a word or two must be said; he referred to tithes and other Endowments of the Church. The complaint was that one denomination had the exclusive possession of property 107 which was the common inheritance of all denominations, and of the atheist not less than the Christian; but he must join with other speakers in disputing the contention that tithes were national property in any other sense than other property vested in corporations for specific uses, and that tithes were more national than the property of other religious denominations. He held that the bequests of pious donors, though made centuries ago, if still applied to living and beneficent uses of a kind contemplated by those donors, and neither wasted nor abused, were as much entitled to respect by the Legislature, as the gifts of yesterday. The property of the Church was not expended on obsolete, or trivial, or unworthy uses. He was not aware of any theoretical objections to Endowments; and certainly Nonconformists did not object to them in practice. The Bill did not propose to prohibit the Disestablished Church from acquiring future Endowments, and its authors sought to reassure the Church by saying that all the Bill took away would soon be replaced by the liberality of Churchmen; but where there was an existing fund for spiritual services, accumulated by the piety of successive generations, and still properly administered, it would be suicidal folly (if nothing worse) to deplete and dissipate it by diversion to other objects which, though perhaps good in themselves, were neither spiritual nor religious in any strict sense of the term. Many human wants could be safely left to the operation of the ordinary laws of supply and demand; but among such wants ministration to spiritual needs could not be reckoned. Those who required it most were often the last to crave it, and the least likely to provide it for themselves. The property of the Church was confided to honest and capable trustees. He had not a word to utter in disparagement of other Churches and denominations; but where could they point to any religious community, either in respect of spirituality, care for popular education, missionary enterprise, or active philanthropy in the cause of the poor and suffering which presented higher standards of practice than the Church of England? They heard much in these days about the necessity of the State recognising its obligations and responsibilities 108 to a greater degree than heretofore in respect of the promotion of national happiness and social well being. It was strange, therefore, that this moment of all others should be chosen for breaking up an institution which had been specially identified with the service of the poor, and whose wealth was the heritage of the poor. The Established and Endowed Church of England could not be spared in any corner of the land accustomed to receive its ministrations. There was as much need now, as there had ever been, for its high mission, and for all the resources it could lavish on its work; and, believing this to be the conviction of a majority of the British people, he was not apprehensive that the Bill, even if read a second time, would ever find its way to the Statute Book of the Realm.
§ MR. W. REES DAVIES (Pembrokeshire)
said, the hon. Member for Bath was the first Liberal Unionist who had spoken in the Debate, and he had told them, in language which it was impossible to mistake, what course of action he intended to pursue. Amongst the many extraordinary statements the hon. Gentleman made, he said this Parliament would be looked upon with blushing shame because of this Measure. He was curious to know what the Leader of the hon. Gentleman would have to say of one of his followers who could so speak of a Bill which, as they understood, the Leader was about to support. He did not know whether they would be disappointed with the course of conduct the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) was about to adopt. He hoped that on this occasion the right hon. Gentleman would find no means of escape; if, after his eloquent advocacy of Welsh Disestablishment, he did, not only the Welsh people, but every friend of religious equality would look with some incredulity upon the future speeches and actions of the right, hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. Rees Davies) could not hope to throw any new light on this question. It was not his intention to deal with the historical aspect of the question or to deal with the question from an academic standpoint—from the standpoint of the English Disestablisher—or to go into the matter from a numerical point of view. He would merely offer a few remarks 109 from the broad point of view of a Welsh Member, as one whose privilege it was to represent a large constituency—a constituency which felt very intensely on the subject of Welsh Disestablishment. Remarks had been made by some of his hon. Friends on the unreality of the Debate. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had been disposed to taunt Her Majesty's Government with introducing subjects of an unreal character, and in which no definite issue could be taken. If there ever was a question upon which there was an unreal opposition it was this. The opposition had emanated entirely from hon. Gentlemen who knew nothing whatever of the Welsh people or of their characteristics; it had emanated from English Members. The three Gentlemen who represented in the House Welsh Toryism were not only conspicuous by their silence in the Debate, but by their absence from the House. Now, he conceived that what the supporters of the Bill had to prove or to satisfy the House upon were two things, namely, that there was a real injustice urgently requiring redress; that there really existed a feeling of discontent in Wales which was growing stronger every year, and that the demand for Legislative reform was really Constitutional. There could scarcely be any question as to the just proposition. It was admitted on both sides of the House that there was, to a great extent, a feeling of discontent in Wales at the present time. The only issue between them was as to how they were to meet the grievance. It was unnecessary to reiterate at length the statements which had been made by many of his colleagues as to the protest of thousands of Welsh Nonconformists against the imposition of tithes. Welsh Nonconformists objected, as sincerely as it was possible for any men to object, to paying towards the support of a Church—he would use the expression alien Church since that was objected to—with which they were not in sympathy, the Established Church. Then they objected, and, he thought, very naturally, to what he might call the social aspect of the question; they objected to the ban of religious inequality and inferiority which rested upon them. The fact that 31 out of the 34 Welsh Members had been sent to the House to claim for the Welsh people a measure of 110 religious equality was the strongest possible evidence of the genuineness and intensity of the feeling in the Principality in favour of the Bill. No doubt many subjects were discussed on Welsh platforms during the last General Election, but the question that above all others occupied the attention of the people was the question of Welsh Disestablishment. He had no hesitation in saying that while the Welsh people had returned the Welsh representatives to support Home Rule in the first place, they had returned them in the main to carry out their legitimate aspirations for a measure of Disestablishment. It was said that the State had no right to interfere with the property of the Church. Considerable use of the word "confiscation" had been made in the course of the Debate. But the following passage from Professor Freeman established beyond all doubt that the State had a full right to deal not only with the property of private individuals, but even with the property of the Church—The State has the same power to deal with Church property which it has to deal with any other property, neither more nor less. Whenever the State deems that the rights, either of individuals or of Corporations, ought to give way to the general interest of the whole community, it has a right to decree that they shall give way to it. We talk of the sacredness of private property, and against everything else it is sacred, but against an Act of Parliament it has no sacredness at all. Every day we see private property confiscated for railways or public improvements of any kind.They knew full well that under the scheme of Local Government for England and Wales passed by Parliament last year, so-called "confiscation" might take place in regard to the acquisition of private property for small holdings. But it was said by the opponents of the Bill that the Established Church was a Corporation. He thought the Home Secretary had satisfied them beyond all doubt that the Established Church was not a Corporation. Assuming, however, that they were dealing with the property of a Corporation, the opinion of Hallam would surely be respected on the subject. Writing in his History of England, chap ii., Hallam says:—Corporate property appears to stand on a very different footing from that of parish individuals, and while all infringements of the established privileges of the latter are to be sedulously avoided, and held justifiable only by 111 the strongest motives of public expediency, we cannot but admit the full right of the Legislature to new-mould and regulate the former, in all that does not involve existing interests, upon far slighter reasons of convenience.The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Sir E. Clarke) following the example of the right hon. Baronet the Member for West Bristol (Sir M. Hicks-Beach) had attributed the most unworthy—he might almost say the most diabolical—motives to the supporters of the Bill in Wales. But that was not the view of clergymen in Wales, who, unlike the hon. and learned Gentleman, knew something about the people of Wales and their motives. Archdeacon Howell of Wrexham, one of the most respected of the Church dignitaries, in a sermon at St. Margaret's, Westminster, on Sunday, January 26th, 1890, said:—There was the unquestionable fact that the majority of the people were not found within the pale of the Church in Wales. There was the equally unquestionable fact that her adherents wore largely made up of English settlers and Anglicised Welshmen—not of the Welsh-speaking masses, who held the future of the Principality in their hands. The weakness of the Church in Wales was due to the fact that so much of the best blood of the nation no longer ran in her veins. It was sheer folly to hide from themselves the truth that the most vigorous life of the Welsh people no longer welled forth from the heart of the Welsh Church. And it must not be forgotten that the majority outside the Church were not passive or indifferent, but were banded together for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church. They were men of unquestionable religious character, whose lives bore witness to their piety and sincerity.Again, Canon Thompson of Cardiff, speaking in the Lower House of Convocation, said:—If Members of the House had been present at meetings of Disestablishes as he had been in the course of his somewhat long Ministry, they would know that while certain political subjects such as Home Rule, roused a Welsh audience to a high pitch of enthusiasm, when the question of the Disestablishment of the Church came to be discussed the whole assembly was brought to a pitch of white-heat enthusiasm. They must remember that among the number of those banded against the Church in this matter was a very large number of deeply religious and deeply conscientious people. They would gain nothing by using hard or even questionable language. Those men were the heirs of Nonconformist fathers, who believed that any union or connection between Church and State was opposed to the laws of Scripture and the will of God.With reference to the question of a religious census, he agreed most fully with the hon. and learned Member for 112 Mid Glamorgan that the only fair test of a religious census was the test of Church membership. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth had made statement that night which they ought not to allow to pass without some comment. He said, for instance, that the people who were not classed as belonging to any religious community in Wales should be placed in the category of members of the Church. He did not know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman would say of the people of Scotland that all those who did not attend any particular place of worship should be classed as members of the Established Church or of the Free Church of Scotland. He did not know on what principle the hon. and learned Gentleman drew his deduction. The overwhelming majority of the Welsh people were Nonconformists, but the hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that where they were not communicants of the Church or members of any particular denomination, they should be classed as members of the Church of England merely because the Church of England was the national Church. During the last few days he had, he frankly admitted, received many petitions from his constituency against this measure. He had looked through them, he was acquainted with the districts from whence they emanated, and from his own knowledge he could say that scores of Nonconformists were persuaded to sign the petitions, under altogether false pretences. Many of the petitions, from each district bore the name of the Vicar, his wife, children, and servants; then came the gardener and a number of old women who, at Christmas and other seasons in time past, had been the recipients of a good deal of charity and benevolence, and who were thus induced to append their signatures to the documents. Did hon. Gentlemen consider it right, or even honest, to persuade people to attach their names to petitions in such circumstances? He ventured to say that more than half the people who had so signed would record their votes at the next elections as they did at the last, in favour of this measure. He had been told by many of the signatories that they had attached their names at the earnest solicitation of the parson. That was the system by which it was sought to work up opposition to this 113 measure. For his own part he should be glad if some method of a private character could be devised, and which could be relied upon, which would give the actual opinion of the Welsh people on this question. They had heard a good deal about the question of the resident minister, and he should like to refer to a letter which had appeared in one of the Birmingham newspapers, which was signed by the writer. This gentleman wrote:—I have a farm near my native home, in a parish in Pembrokeshire (Llandeilo.) It is not certain that a Churchman ever lived in that parish, and the church has been in ruins for the last 50 years. Llangolman is the next parish to it. The ruins of the church there have been restored; but seldom, if ever, can any religious service be held there, for no one, except the parson and the clerk, would attend. Maenclochog parish joins on the other side, where there is a considerable village. The church there also has been restored, and regular services are now held in it (composed of a few English strangers), after having been held only occasionally for many yeas. These three livings are in possession of one "parson." His dilapidated rectory house has also been lately rebuilt, as well as many other parsonages in the surrounding parishes, under the direction (it seems) of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Hence they are now ripe and ready for Disestablishment. There are four large and noble Nonconformist chapels in these parishes, well filled with worshippers, supporting the ministers of their own choice. Under the new Act I (who am a Nonconformist minister) have now to collect the tithes of my farm there for the 'parson' who lives in the locality, and is so over-worked that he has no time to collect them himself, as he used to do. He reminds me periodically (through his solicitor) of my legal obligation, and demands his 'pound of flesh,' with the alternative of legal proceedings. This is a true type and specimen of all the rural parish churches of my native country for ages. All the Established Churches that hold their own in Wales are those in towns, ironworks, and watering-places, where they are greatly dependent upon the voluntary system.That letter was signed by a Mr. Maurice Morgan, who was a Nonconformist minister. Even in face of such a condition of things as that they heard hon. Gentlemen opposite say that the poor would suffer if the Church was Disestablished. He undertook to say that if hon. Gentlemen visited the rural districts of Wales and saw how things really were for themselves, they would not repeat such statements. He declared, without the slightest hesitation, that he was opposed to the existence of Establishment everywhere. The conditions of England were, however, quite different from those of Wales. When 114 there was the same overwhelming demand for Disestablishment in England that there was in Wales it would be the bounden and constitutional duty of Parliament to give effect to it. In England the Church had held her own against Nonconformity, but in Wales that rivalry had not been a noble one, in the sense that for the last hundred years had had all the advantages on her side, but had left Wales a vast Nonconformity community. Did those who had spoken so much of the growth of the Church in Wales really believe that alliance with the State could alone save them? He believed, on the contrary, that Disestablishment would strengthen the Church, would give her more vitality, and that the voluntary principle would bind her adherents together more closely. This measure, expedient as it undoubtedly was, and equitable as its principles were, would, if passed, remove a great injustice and would bring contentment to the most loyal and law-abiding portion of the Kingdom.
§ *MR. R. C. JEBB (Cambridge University)?
said, that in a Debate of this importance and complex character, especially when it had been somewhat prolonged, and when a great number of special points had been raised, a moment sometimes arrived when it was well to revert to some of the broader issues raised by the measure before the House. He would, therefore, ask permission to state, as concisely as he could, one or two of the general grounds upon which he would vote against the Second Reading. In the Debate on the First Reading, his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Bryce) had said that every argument which the Government had used in support of the Bill had been an argument confined in its application to the case of Wales. "In its application," no doubt, but was that application immediate or ulterior? On that point they were enlightened by the hon. Member for Leeds, who said that he would not object to see the principle applied more widely by instalments, and that, having won the cause of Disestablishment for the four dioceses of Wales, one would next be reconciled to the proposal to apply the same principle to the diocoses of the northern Province of England. What was that principle? It was simply that 115 the question of Disestablishment and Disendowment was to be determined by a majority of the Parliamentary representatives for the corresponding area. If they took any diocese or dioceses in England, the test would then be the Parliamentary representation for the corresponding area. The principle of this Bill applied, then, to the Church of England at large. The first ground on which he resisted the Second Reading of this Bill was because it raised the whole vast question of the Disestablishment of the national Church, and it was a monstrous injustice that this principle should be determined by the votes of hon. Gentlemen representing Wales and Monmouthshire alone. This great national question, should be referred to the whole electorate. The Government ought to go to the country and take the opinion of the country as a whole. But hon. Members from Wales claimed that Wales was entitled to separate treatment on the ground of a separate nationality. He felt that he was approaching a delicate question, but no word should fall from him to wound the susceptibilities of hon. Gentlemen from Wales. Having followed these Debates with great care, he thought that the word "nation" had been used in two different senses, and that for the purposes of the present argument it was of the highest importance to distinguish between, them. "Nation," in its primary sense, referred to the origin of a people; it was equivalent to "race." No well-informed person would deny that Wales contained the elements of a separate nationality, and that the marks of a separate nationality belonged to the majority of persons who now inhabit Wales. Those marks were—descent from that ancient Celtic race who were the earliest inhabitants of this island, the history and the geographical conditions of Wales having contributed to preserve a continuous strain of British blood; a distinct character, and, to some extent, a distinct physical type; a language which, though not spoken by all who call themselves Welsh, was regarded by all with a just pride and affection; a considerable body of distinctive customs and traditions. The great Puritan poet of the Commonwealth had described the Welsh as "An old and haughty people, proud 116 in arms; "though when he said" proud in arms," Milton probably did not contemplate such a warfare as was now being waged. But "nation" had also a political sense, relative to unity of government and allegiance; as, for example, when the High Court of Parliament was called "the great Council of the nation." It was in this sense that the Church was national, because it held a special relation to the State, not because its members were all, by descent, of one stock. But the argument from nationality, as used in these Debates, had implied that the Welsh were a separate nation, not only in the racial sense, but in the political sense also—that was to say, that they had a right to deal with an institution common to England and Wales as if its fate could be determined by Wales alone. This contention appeared to him to imply that Wales had already attained a separate autonomy, and that this House had become a federal Assembly. He would now touch on the argument drawn from the admitted fact that the Church in Wales was in a minority. It was stated, on the strength of official Returns, that the number of adherents of Nonconformity in Wales was 832,000 (though the number of members was only 382,000). As to the numerical strength of the Church of England, the only clear fact was the enormous discrepancy between the different estimates given by those who wished to disestablish and disendow it. The estimate given in 1892 by the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith) was one-fourth of the population; while others put it at one-tenth, or even less. These discrepancies clearly proved that there did not exist any satisfactory basis for exact statements; and that was the strongest possible reason for an official religious census. The essential difference between an amateur and an official census could easily be illustrated. In December, 1886—the year before Mr. Gee's well-known census—a printed circular in the Welsh language, headed "Private and Confidential," and addressed to the elders or deacons of Chapels, came into the hands of a clergyman in Wales. It was given to him by another Churchman, who received it from a Nonconformist who disapproved of it. It requested that arrangements might be made to take a census of Church attendance on a particular day, the 19th 117 of December. Of course, no notice was to be given, and the census was to be taken at the 11 o'clock service, when, in many parts of Wales, from distance and other causes, the attendance is often less than it is in the afternoon, both at Church and at Chapel. An official census, on the other hand, is not only public, but is subject to scrutiny. In 1891 a language census was taken in connection with the general census. In his Report the Registrar General said he had given explicit instructions as to the filling up of the columns by those who spoke Welsh only, or English only, or both languages; and yet there was abundant evidence that those instructions had been misunderstood or set at naught by a large number of Welshmen who could speak both languages and set themselves down as speaking Welsh only. A detailed examination was made of two parishes, one in Carnarvonshire and one in Merionethshire, and it was found that, although infants under two years of age were not to be included in the language section at all, of 138 babies under one year, 59 had been returned as speaking Welsh, and also 87 out of 147 between one and two years old. Thus it might be said that these 146 infants "lisped," if not "in numbers," at least in statistics. The Registrar General remarked that these facts furnished good grounds for regarding with suspicion the trustworthiness of the statistics given as to persons of riper years. At all events, they showed the difference between an official and an un-official census. An official religious census was the only way of ascertaining the relative strength of different denominations in Wales. Further, there was this fallacy in the minority argument. The good done by the Church in Wales was not limited to its own fold. It was admitted that Nonconformists, being hard pressed to maintain their organisations, had less to spare for the poor; and it was indisputable that the present position of the Church enabled her to assist the poor where help was most urgently needed. Then the precedent of the Irish Church was alleged; but that Church had an ecclesiastical organisation distinct from that of the Church of England.
§ *MR. JEBB
said that, as an establishment, it was united with the English Church by the Act of Union in 1800; but the relation of the four Welsh dioceses with the English Church was wholly independent of the action of Parliament, and this Bill was the first Bill by which it had been proposed to deal with the relations between the Welsh dioceses and the rest of the English Church. The Irish Church was disestablished as a whole, and provision, far more generous than that in this Welsh Bill, was made for her corporate life after Disestablishment. The Irish parallel was constantly adduced as if it was necessary to prove that Parliament had the power to disestablish and disendow the Church in Wales. Of course, it had the power to do so. What it was necessary to prove was that Parliament was morally justified in doing so. No Act of Parliament could prove a moral right to do anything. The thing done in 1869 was far from being identical with the thing it was proposed to do in 1895—the two things were distinctly different in many material circumstances and conditions. Before he passed from this topic he could not refrain from referring to a quotation made by the Solicitor-General that afternoon from the Archbishop of Dublin. The hon. and learned Gentleman maintained that the Archbishop of Dublin had admitted that the Disestablishment of the Church in Ireland was a good thing, because the Archbishop had said that it had been overruled for good.
§ *MR. JEBB
replied that there was nothing in the words quoted to prove that the Archbishop did not think that the Disestablishment of the Church was originally an evil: the very word "overruled" implied an evil. That, then, was the first broad ground on which he resisted the Second Reading of the Bill—that it affirmed a principle which ought to be referred to the country at large before the measure was adopted. His second ground of resistance was that the Bill not only affirmed a principle ultimately applicable to the Church of England at large, but it inflicted by its immediate operation, from the day it was passed, a grievous injury on 119 the Church of England as a whole as well as on the Church in Wales, because it placed an integral portion of the Church of England under laws different from those which governed the rest of the Church. That was to say, it dealt not only with the relations of the Church in Wales with the Church of England and with the temporalities of the Church in Wales, but it also interfered with the proper ecclesiastical organisation of the Church of England as a whole. It destroyed that unity of organisation which the Church of England had hitherto possessed, and it made it impossible for the Church ever to recover that unity until, at any rate, the process of Disestablishment and Disendowment had been applied to the whole of England, and applied, too, under conditions identical with those under which it was to be applied in Wales. Under the 14th clause of the Bill the Bishops and the clergy of Wales were to cease to sit or be represented in the Houses of Convocation of the Province of Canterbury. Revolutionary as he believed the measure to be in many other respects, it was revolutionary in this also—that it was absolutely the first example of an attempted interference by Parliament with Convocation, a separate constitutional body of high antiquity. His third ground of objection was, that the Bill wounded the Church in Wales in that character which common to all Churches, whether Established or Voluntary. A Church was religious body charged with certain work which it was bound to do. For that work temporal means were required. The question was: "Had the Church in Wales more money than was needed for its work? Let them look at the great Coalfield of South Wales. Between 1850 and 1894 extraordinary progress had been made in that region in spite of great difficulties That progress had been possible mainly because the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had helped the Church from their common fund, and had facilitated the sub-division of over-large parishes while the Llandaff Diocesan Church Extension Society had raised and distributed large sums of money. But notwithstanding this progress, the present ministrations of the Church in that district were by no means adequate; they required to be doubled in order to cope fully with the work to 120 be done. Was this a moment, then, to cripple the resources of the Church, not because she was now inactive, but because long years ago she had shared a torpor not confined to Wales? A singular argument for taking away the Endowments of the Church had been advanced by the Secretary for Scotland and others, namely, that it was just to take away those gifts of private donors to the Church which were made before the Reformation, because at that time there was only one Church in England, and therefore those gifts might be regarded as made to the whole community. If it was put forward to show that those gifts should be distributed equally among all the different denominations now existing, he would consider the argument unsound, but he could at least have understood it. But he failed altogether to see its bearing if it was adduced to show that it was right to divert those Endowments from religious purposes entirely, and apply them to purposes which, though good in themselves, were essentially secular, not in the proper sense religious. "Religious equality" was a phrase which had been much used in this Debate. A breach of such equality was sometimes alleged to be caused by the mere status of Establishment—by those relations of the Church to the State which were at one moment described as enviable privileges, and at the next as degrading fetters. But a wholly distinct idea was also associated with the phrase, and was perhaps more prominent in the minds of some hon. Gentlemen opposite. Thus the hon. Member for East Carmarthen-shire had said—What we want is religious equality. Of two farmers' sons, why should one be looked up to, and the other looked down upon, by the neighbours, because the first goes to Church, and the second to a Nonconformist Chapel?Another hon. Member spoke of the hallmark of the clergyman. If he did not misapprehend the drift of these observations, the expression, religious equality, as here used, referred to social equality. He deplored the fact that any thought of social consideration should enter into these matters. He did not blame those whom it offended. But he must point out that if they Disestablished and Disendowed the Church of England to-morrow they would not get rid of the social prestige of the Church, 121 which depended only remotely on the status of the Establishment, and mainly and immediately on the unique history of the Anglican Church, on its antiquity and traditions. He had dwelt on the broad objections to the Bill in principle, and had not thus far spoken of its special provisions, but he could not refrain from pointing out that, besides those features in the special provisions which appeared to many of them harsh and illiberal, there were, in the opinion of some lawyers, at all events, many ambiguities. They would hear more of these in Committee, if the Bill ever reached that stage. In Clause 6, Section 2, the important question of the bearing of the Bill on the marriage law was raised. When the Churches had been transferred, would it be possible to have banns proclaimed in Church? Could a marriage take place on certificate of banns? Could a Bishop give a marriage licence, and could a marriage take place on a Bishop's licence? The legal authorities he referred to said, apparently not, because under Clause 1 all the Statutes which had hitherto governed the Church of England were repealed so far as Wales was concerned. But If that were so, then Church people must have recourse to the Civil Marriage Acts; a singular illustration of religious equality. Then, again, what was the bearing of Clause 14 on clergy discipline? As everyone knew, there were Bishops' Bishops' Courts before which clergymen charged with misconduct could be brought, and the Courts of the Archbishop were the Courts of Appeal. But Clause 1 seemed to repeal the Clergy Discipline Acts of 1840 and 1892, and if that was so the Bishops' Courts were gone. The Courts of the Archbishop, however, were saved by Clause 14, so that they would have their Courts of Appeal and no way of getting to them. Among the objections to the special provisions of the Bill, he could merely touch on some of the most prominent. First, the difficulty in the way of forming a central fund. Second, the assignment of Cathedrals. He had honestly tried to understand why the provision dealing with the latter subject had been put into the Bill, and had failed, unless it was that the promoters of the Bill foresaw the extreme indigence to which the measure would necessarily reduce the Church in Wales, so that Church people would 122 have no funds available for the repair and maintenance of the Cathedrals. If that was so, was it not the strongest possible condemnation of the provisions for Disendowment? Churchmen had not only built and maintained the Cathedrals; they had spent great sums on restoration, enlargement and (at Llandaff) virtual rebuilding. Would it not have been equitable to have had the amount of these private benefactions estimated, and that amount refunded to the Church? Then, as to the churchyards, there appeared to be nothing in the Bill to prevent a Parish Council authorising inscriptions on the monuments, repugnant to Christian feeling, or putting a veto on religious services. As to the stipendiary curates, the only reason for not compensating them seemed to be that the Irish curates were too much compensated. Surely nothing would have been simpler than to name a date, after which, no one ordained, or taking employment, as a curate in Wales should be entitled to compensation. But thus to turn the Welsh curates adrift without any compensation was most cruel and oppressive. He objected, then, to this Bill on three broad grounds. First, it prejudged at the behest of a section of the electorate a great national issue which should be referred to the whole electorate. Secondly, not only did it do this, but it inflicted an immediate and enormous injury, not only on the Church in Wales, but on the Church of England as a whole, by interfering with its ecclesiastical unity. Thirdly, it dealt a blow at that Christian work which every Church as such—that is to say, as a religious body—was bound to carry forward. There were cases in which the actual mischief resulting from an injustice—large though the mischief be—was a less evil than the evil of the example. An English poet said—The greatest gift a hero leaves his raceIs to have been a hero;and there were cases in which the converse might be true. This Bill, if it ever became law, would, he believed, be a calamity to our country, but worse than any mischief directly flowing from it; worse than the possible desecration of the Cathedrals built and maintained by the gifts of long generations of 123 Churchmen; worse than the possible injury to those sacred feelings which were associated with the resting-places of the dead; worse than that paralysis of charity and benevolence which must inevitably add to the burdens and the sufferings of the poor; worse than all this would be the record that a body of English statesmen had consented, under political pressure, to approve such a mode of dealing with the oldest, the greatest, and the most beneficent of English national institutions—that national Church which not Churchmen alone, but millions of those who dissented from it, recognised as a great bulwark of religious freedom—and had lent the sanction of their names and their eminent abilities to a grievous violation of elementary justice.
§ *MR. H. J. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)
remarked that it had been said that, with insignificant exceptions, the property of the Church in Wales was the gift of private donors, and that national property could only be understood to mean property legally or equitably contributed by the nation. These were different, but connected matters. There might be national property although given by private donors. It had been said, truly, that the principal property of the Church, and especially of the Church of Wales, was tithe. Tithe rent-charge in Wales was about three-fourths of the whole property. Taking England and Wales together, according to the statistics given to Parliament a few years ago, the tithes were£3,000,000 out of£5,500,000. But they could not take only the present amount. In the course of ages, tithes had been commuted at different times for land, and, consequently, what originally sprung from tithes and represented tithes was not merely tithe rent-charge; there was other Church property which had the same origin. He did not think he should be far wrong if he assumed that two-thirds of the property was tithe, or arose from tithe. What was tithe? There had been in the minds of many, a great mistake arising from the changes that had taken place in this old institution. It could not be taken as it was since 1892, or since 1836, when tithe rent-charge was established in lieu of tithe. Until about the Fourth Century there 124 was no tithe, but purely voluntary gifts. During the period from about the Fourth Century to about the Twelfth, tithe became gradually a customary gift to the Church, and by about 1200 A.D. it had become legally established as a common law right belonging to the parson of the parish. It was sometimes asked: When do you say that this Endowment by the State took place? He believed that the date was exactly when civil penalties were legally annexed for the recovery of tithe. As soon as that was done the payment of tithe ceased altogether to be voluntary; it became a tax. He did not think everybody always bore in mind what tithe was originally. It was the annual increase from the profits of land, from the growth of the animals and stock kept on the land, and from the personal industry of the artisans. In other words, it was neither more nor less than an income-tax—a tax of 10 per cent. on the income and the industry of the persons in the parish. And if anybody should say that an income tax did not bear about it the character of a State gift or State imposition, he should be very much surprised. Originally, a person discharged his tithes if he paid them to the Church in any of its aspects—to the Bishop, to the parson of the parish, or to the parson in another parish. There are instances of grants of tithe to religious houses; Lord Selborne has found only two of such grants to a parson. But all these are only appropriations of tithe to one among several parties to whom it might have been payable; and as Lord Selborne himself says:—Such appropriation was a different matter from the sanction given, whether by the Ecclesiastical or by the Temporal Law, to the existing and generally recognised obligation to pay tithe.Gradually, it came to be understood that the proper person to whom to pay tithe was the parson. The assumption of a grant to a particular person seemed to him to be an instance of what English lawyers were constantly doing; they could not understand custom giving rise to an enforceable right, and they always presumed and fancied the existence of a grant. Now, as there were about 9,000 parishes before the Reformation, if anybody liked to assume that there were 9,000 separate grants, it 125 was a bold assumption. It was a bolder assumption still when it was remembered that much, perhaps two-thirds, of the land was not cultivated about 1200 A.D. at all. He went further, and said that when they considered what the tithe really was originally, that it was something charged, not on the land, but on the produce and personal earnings of the cultivators and artisans, it was simply impossible that there could have been such grants. There was no basis, as far as he could make out, to suppose anything of the kind ever did take place. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol (Sir M. E. Hicks-Beach) read a passage from a work of Professor Freeman, namely—The Church preached the payment of tithe as a duty. The State gradually came to enforce that duty by legal enactment.[The hon. Gentleman read from a newspaper, and there were, in consequence, cries of "Order, order!"]The State gradually came to enforce that duty by legal enactment.[Renewed cries of "Order!"] What is the matter? [Cries of "Newspaper!"]
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Hon. Members are alluding to the fact that the hon. Gentleman is reading from a newspaper. It would be as well if the hon. Gentleman compressed the newspaper into as small a compass as possible.
§ *MR. ROBY
apologised if he had committed any breach of Order. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, when he read this extract, met with cheers from the Government side of the House, to which he immediately replied as follows:—But is every source of income, the payment of which is enforced by legal enactment, therefore, the property of the State?He thought that if the right hon. Gentleman would think for a moment he would admit that tithe was not property at all until the person to whom it was payable was fixed and the State, through the Courts of Law [Sir M. E. HICKS-BEACH: "The 126 Ecclesiastical Courts"] enforced the actual payment of that tithe by civil process. It was perfectly true the Courts were Ecclesiastical Courts, but were not the Ecclesiastical Courts, but were not the Ecclesiastical Courts the King's Courts? Were they not Courts of England, which were intended to deal with a particular class of matters, including such questions as marriage and wills? And is not the Common Law which rests upon the decisions of the Courts as much law as that made by Statute? Tithe amounted to about two-thirds of the whole property of the Church; but there was some other property. There was land. He did not know the exact history of the landed property of the Church, but he imagined that a good deal of the land, apart, perhaps, from the glebe, which the Church held was land which had belonged to religious houses. As soon as any property was given to a monastery, whether it had belonged to a Church or not, it ceased to belong if it ever had belonged, to the Church. This is clearly recognised by Mr. Brewer in his Defence of the Church of England. Again, a gift by a King in former days was a totally different thing to a gift which Her Majesty might make out of her private purse now. The King made such gifts as the chief organ of the State, and they were State grants. He believed there was exceedingly little beyond the churches, houses, and glebe lands which were private gifts, and private gifts, except some of the glebe, were preserved by the Bill. Before passing to the purpose for which tithe was granted he would like to say that the curious and technical terms in which Lord Selborne had handled this question seemed to presume a state of things which exited now, but did not exist then. He says:—Tithes never entered into and were never granted out of the general public revenue.But it is only, he believed, since Charles II. That the Consolidated fund was established, and that taxes were thus paid 127 into a general fund, and paid out of it to particular objects. It was the practice in old days to raise taxes for special purposes. And the only difference in the cases of tithe was, that it was left to be collected by the persons whose services were to be remunerated by it. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol had referred to a case in which a private person, in 1640, executed a deed purporting to create and endow a vicarage, and read out the curse which was to fall upon anyone who interfered with his gift. He found that this particular property had been the property of the Knights Hospitallers of Jerusalem, and that on their being suppressed this private person, Barlow, or his ancestors, had obtained it and had granted it to the purpose indicated. It was, in his hands, mere secular property, and he gave it, according to this document, to that Church just as he might give anything else. He thought the words of the curse read out by the right hon. Baronet were a common form so far as he could make out, and he would take the liberty of hoping that this gentleman, when he endowed the Church service for Almighty God, only used the words his conveyance put into his mouth, and did not accompany the gift to God and his Church with a curse. The second argument he wished to deal with in regard to the property of the Church was that of the purpose for which it was given. It was for maintaining the religious services of the whole people under the control of an authority recognised by the people. The services were co-extensive with the nation; and here they met with the reason why there was a greater right, a greater justification, for dealing with the property given to the Church than with that given to Dissenters. The Endowments of the Church from first to last were given to the Church when it was co-extensive with the State. The Endowments of the Dissenters were given distinctly to a section, and he thought the difference between taking what was meant for all and applying it now to 128 purposes which should be for the benefit of all, and taking what was given to a sect and applying it to the benefit of everybody, would be tolerably obvious. All property that was given to the Church had been given to it in its character of the National Church, and nothing could be more different than the Endowments of the Dissenters. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol asked him how far he would carry that down, he would say in theory it came down to the present time unquestionably. But no doubt if they came to deal with a question such as that dealt with in the Bill they must deal with it reasonably and in justice to all they ought to take the time, whenever they might fix it, perhaps the Toleration Act, when dissent was formally and properly recognised, so that it might really be said, when a person gave a thing to the Church, he gave it knowing it to be a Church not co-extensive with the nation. His third argument was that the whole history of the Church went to show that the property with which they were dealing was national. Public Acts of Parliament had regulated the rights of the Church; the head of the State was the head of the Church, its superior officers had seats in the other House; its inferior officers were treated as Public Officials for public purposes, such as the celebration of marriages, and Church buildings were regularly used for the publication of notices of events affecting localities. Then the rights and duties of the Church were the subjects of decisions in special Courts of the Realm established for the purpose. The whole institution was therefore about as national as it well could be. The supporters of this Bill had to prove two things—first, that the property dealt with could be fairly called national property; and, in the second place, that it was right to remove that property from the body that now managed it. He admitted that it was more difficult to prove the latter than the former, but 129 his own opinion was that no Established Church could be maintained in these days in a country where it could not be said that a majority, or even a large majority, of the inhabitants were in its favour. He was not one of those who advocated the passing of this measure for Wales with the idea of advocating the passing of a similar measure for England. In England the majority of the people were not in favour of Disestablishment, but after the experience of the last four elections in Wales there could be no doubt that the people of that country were in favour of it in overwhelming numbers. He could not deny these facts, though he was not sure that he was glad of them. Many of his friends were members of the English Church: many whom he had had the honour to know, and to love, had held high dignities in that Church. He had been accustomed to it all his life, and he was very far from having the smallest desire to see it injured in any way. But this was a case of justice. He might love his friends, but he was bound to love truth and justice more. This was a matter of the just demands of the people of Wales; and when he heard hon. Members talk of its being a crime and a sin, and a robbery of God, he felt that such language was worse than absurd. Robbery of God seemed to him to imply a tribal or national God, not the Creator and Governor of the whole earth. Such strong language would not do much good in that Debate. He was bound to consider whether, in taking away the Endowments of the Church, they were destroying its usefulness. He did not believe they were. A Church was a spiritual body. Its worldly possessions, its worldly rank, were not its real treasures; and if, by giving up some of its worldly rank and possessions, it could gain more favour in the eyes of those among whom it had to minister, it was making a good sacrifice. The real gifts and the real treasures of the Church were the teaching of its Founder, 130 its high purpose, purity of life, and infinite love of one's neighbour. If he were told that the deduction of this small sum from a Church which, in some senses was rightly described as a part of the Church of England, one of the wealthiest churches in the world when you look to the wealth of its members—if he were told that this deduction, which would make an additional call upon their love of religion, and of the people, would really harm the Church, he must honestly say he did not think they appreciated the hearty feeling of devotion of the members of the Church, and he was sure they did not appreciate the real purpose of a spiritual body like that. No doubt the Church would be exposed to some difficulties; it might have temporarily some struggles, but its difficulties and struggles would give it real life and force and vigour. He did not believe that if the Church were left to voluntary effort it could not maintain its ministers and deal with its people in even a better way than had been done by those Welsh agencies which had covered the face of Wales with their Churches. If the poor had been able to do it in the day of trouble and affliction could not the rich do it when they had benefited so long by the exclusive enjoyment of what was really intended for all?
§ Debate further adjourned till tomorrow.