§ 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." Debate resumed.
*MR. D. R. PLUNKETsaid (Dublin University)
I hope the hon. Member for the Eccles Division, who spoke last night, will not think I am wanting in respect for him if I do not attempt to follow him into the very learned address which he delivered. The truth is, I was not able myself very accurately to apprehend the position which the hon. Member wished to take up. Nine-tenths of the speech of the hon. Member was a closely-reasoned argument which, if it was good for anything, was good for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in every part of England, but at the conclusion of his speech he graciously intimated to the House that he was not prepared at that moment to give effect to the result of those forcible reasons. Whether it was in consequence of the inscrutable pledge which the hon. Member told us he had given to his constituents that he would not Vote for the Disestablishment of the Church of England, or whether it was those genial social relations which he described as existing between himself and certain high dignitaries of that Church, or whether it was the new-fangled doctrine which the hon. Member laid down just at the end of his speech, by which it appears that the inhabitants of any circumscription of the country have always a right to seize on and appropriate to their own use any portions of the endowments of the Church of England which happened to lay handy to them—which of these influences it was that decided the bon. Member at the end to declare himself in direct opposition to the whole purpose of the rest of his speech, I am sure I cannot tell.
§ *MR. H. J. ROBY (Eccles)
I said there were two questions. First: Is the property national? And, secondly: Is there a large majority of the inhabitants in favour of the Disestablishment of the Church? I said the first part of the argument applied to England as well as Wales, but that the second part of the argument distinctly did not apply to England.
§ *MR. PLUNKET
We have a second edition of the learned thesis of the hon. Member, but I do not think it makes much difference. He has now stated with much greater brevity the first part of it, and the second part I venture to challenge. But, whatever the reason was, I rather imagine that the reading of the hon. Member's speech could not have been received this morning with great enthusiasm either by the constituents to whom he had given the pledge, or by those friends of his with whom he holds such agreeable relations amongst the dignitaries of the Church of England. I do not intend, in my remarks this evening, to make any attempt to go over the general ground which has been traversed so well by others. There is only one set of arguments brought forward in support of this Bill as to which I should like to be permitted to say a few words. I mean those arguments which are derived from what is called the Irish precedent, and as I, of course, may speak in a certain sense at first hand, on some of these points, at all events, and as extraordinary misrepresentations have been made upon all of them, I trust the House will permit me for a short time to endeavour to throw some side-lights upon those statements. The Irish precedent is made use of in various ways. In the first place, the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland is presented to the public, and the English people are called upon to admire the extraordinary success and excellence of the Church and its members. Then there comes a transformation, and in the second scene the ministers and members of the Church of Ireland are exhibited in the character of the awful example to show how much of pilfering and plundering may be done in the national property, as it is called, of the Church. And then, again, the fact that Parliament did, in 1869, Disestablish the Irish Church is cited as a conclusive argument, 182 which renders all further reasoning unnecessary for the policy and principles of this Bill. But, strangest of all, it is said that the position of the Church of England has been strengthened by the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, and that is held out as an inducement to members of the Church of England, who might otherwise hesitate, to join in this Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. As to the first of these propositions, namely, the success which has been achieved by the Irish Church, certainly I shall not endeavour in the smallest degree to depreciate the credit which is given to my Church brethren in Ireland for the courage with which they encountered the blow which seemed destined to crush them, and for the energy with which they have struggled to their feet again. By great patience, by great generosity, by benefactions, by willing services gratuitously rendered to their Church, often by great self-sacrifice, the members of the Disestablished Church in Ireland have succeeded, I am proud to say, in carrying on with undiminished vigour the services of their Church, and they have also managed to provide for it a modest Endowment. [Cheers.] I heard a cheer from hon. Gentlemen opposite. I suppose that was meant to imply that all these benefits had accrued as a result of the Irish Church Act, for which the Irish Church should be thankful. Can anything be more absurd? When the Irish Church started on its new career, all that they could scrape together out of the fragments of the property which had been taken away from it, by economy and by self-denial, was a sum which, if capitalised, would be considerably less than one million sterling. Since then, by the voluntary contribution of its members between four and five millions have been added to that sum. But I must explain that the words of Irish Churchmen, speaking in satisfaction of the work they have been able to do, speaking with hope for the future, have again and again been quoted by the supporters of Disestablishment as if the members of the Irish Church who used these words were witnesses to a desire that a similar measure should be meted out to the Church in this country. Nothing could be more untrue. No doubt many members of the Irish Church, 183 remembering the position in which they were placed in 1869, and what has since happened, readily admit that what has followed since 1869 has not been an unmixed evil. Some of the more sanguine ministers, of whom the Archbishop of Dublin, my brother, to whom the learned Solicitor General referred last night, is, perhaps, the strongest type, set very high the advantages as compared with the disadvantages. A much larger number of Churchmen in Ireland hold the opposite opinion; but, whatever opinion they may hold as to that, to tell them that they have anything to be grateful for in their present position to the Act of 1869 seems an absurdity, and, furthermore, I do not believe, whatever opinions they may hold upon that subject, there is one in a thousand but sympathises with the Church of England in its present difficulties and wishes it well; and I am sure there is not one who has studied this Bill, or knows anything of its provisions, but would say as I say now, that under such a measure as is now proposed to this House for the English Church in Wales, such a degree of success as they have obtained in Ireland would have been absolutely impossible. May I say one word with reference to the quotation which the Solicitor General made last night from a charge which was delivered in 1882 by my brother, who was then Bishop of Meath? By the courtesy of the Solicitor General I saw the paper from which he was reading, and observed that it was one of the leaflets published by the Liberation Society, and I should not be surprised to find that the passage was torn from its context. It is a fact that in recent years the Archbishop of Dublin has had again and again to write to the newspapers to protest against the use which was made of words of his by taking them away from the natural collocation in which they stood. I am quite willing however, to take the extract as it stands. It is a passage evidently spoken in the light of the Land League agitation in 1882, and he said—By ways that we, should never have selected for ourselves, our Church has been prepared to abide the fury of the storm.I do not see that there is anything 184 inconsistent in that: and at the end he says—Now, however, the very disaster which seemed to threaten our downfall has been overruled for our good.What contradiction is there in treating an Act of Parliament as a national sin and describing it as a disaster? It is most unfair, I must say, the way these pamphlets are cooked up, and the way in which these garbled, these misleading, these lying pamphlets are put forth. But I pass away from that. I desire to point out one or two differences between the spirit and the method of the Act of 1869 and the Bill now before the House. The main difference between the two measures is in the matter of commutation and compounding. The power of commuting and compounding contained in the Irish Church Act was what really enabled the Irish Church to escape from absolute beggary and ruin. What was the scheme of commutation which is now put aside as something quite unworthy of consideration? Why, it was simply this. It gave us no new Endowments, nothing was given to us except the bare value of the life interests of the clergy who chose to commute, and 12 per cent, added in consideration for the State being relieved of collection and management. There was no obligation on the clergy to commute if they did not choose; but the scheme enabled the Church body to constitute itself into a kind of insurance society for the purpose of securing to the Incumbents entitled to those annuities the payment of what was due to them. We also received what was given to us by our own clergy—namely, their services—and it was in that way that the Church body was enabled to set its house in order again. The Church being thus provided with the services of its ministers was in a position to make the best they could of the capital sum, and being advised by able financiers who gave their services willingly and gratuitously, they were able judiciously to invest on good conditions the sum which was paid to them. In the meantime private benefactions were allowed to accumulate, in order to make a fund for the carrying on in future, of the services of the Church. But the framers of this Act have proceeded 185 on exactly the opposite course. They have merely preserved the life interests of the clergymen. There is control given to the representative body. There is no opportunity for compounding, and, therefore, what must follow is this—that it will be absolutely impossible for the Disestablished Church in Wales, if this Bill passes, to make any provision for parishes falling vacant. In some instances a number of parishes may soon lose their clergymen, but in other cases, perhaps for 40 or 50 years, the clergymen may live on and become old. There will be no means of removing them, and they will remain to the end of their lives. And so the Church in Wales will be condemned to die out parish by parish. Its energies will be crippled, its power of reorganising itself will be paralysed, and it will be left to bleed to death. Saigneràblanc is literally the fate reserved for this religious body, for whose future Ministers express so much benevolence. When I heard the Home Secretary explain the reasons for the course which is now adopted in preference to that which was embodied in the Irish Church Act, and when I heard him say, as a sufficient reason for departing from that precedent, that if the State were to got into its hands a large sum of money it really would not know what to do with it;—that there would be the greatest danger that it would be squandered and frittered away, I could not help asking myself, was there ever such a feeble insufficient explanation as that? I could not help feeling that the spirit which inspired those who framed this Bill was of quite a different character from the motives which the right hon. Gentleman professes. Yes, Sir! The framers of this Bill have studied carefully the provisions of the Irish Church Act for the purpose, apparently, of finding out how it was that the Irish Church escaped its fate, and for the purpose of taking care that the Welsh Church shall not save its life in the same way. I say it is the most cruel proposal that could possibly be made, and it is supported by the most frivolous excuses. When I compare the provisions of this Bill with the Irish Church Act, when I see how the right hon. Gentleman who framed that Act really tried, as lie said, to temper What he thought was justice with mercy, and 186 when I contrast it with the policy and provisions of this Bill, I am reminded of the old saying that "Love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave." There is only one other difference between the Act of 1869 and this Bill to which I wish at present to call attention. It is in the treatment which is awarded to the curates. I should have thought that, if there were any persons who would have been entitled to consideration—such consideration as was granted by the framers of the Irish Church Act of 1869—it would have been the unfortunate young men who will have all their prospects in life blighted if this Bill is passed. And what is the excuse? A curious thing about this Bill is that, mean as are the provisions of it, the reasons which are given for them are still more unworthy. What is the excuse given? It is that certain curates in the case of the Church of Ireland were paid too much money. The President of the Board of Trade said there were many who entered the ministry for the express purpose of obtaining compensation. Of course, if that were true, one would say that the natural inference would be that you should make provision in this measure against such an abuse of the intention of Parliament. But what is the truth of this charge? It is an old charge that is made. The whole of this sweeping charge seems to me to involve an indictment of the framers of the Act of 1869; of the Commissioners who administered it, as well as against those clergymen of the Church whom it affected. It depends upon this—that, whereas there were in July, 18069, 720 curates in the Irish Church, in July, 1871, which was the period at which these gratuities were paid to them, the number was 921,a difference of 201. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman who made this charge the other day das read the Debate which took place in this House in 1875 on this subject. I gather the right hon. Gentleman has not, and yet he has made this charge! Will the House credit it that a Minister comes forward to make an argument in support of this provision, and bases it on a sweeping charge against a certain set of clergymen who were then in the Church of Ireland, many of them are still, and yet has never taken the trouble to inquire into the truth of 187 this charge? He gave no proof; he mentioned no names. Fortunately, however, this particular charge, together with the rest of the indictment for such peculation against the Irish Church, the whole of this case was tried out on the floor of this House at the time when all these circumstances were fresh in the recollection of Members, and when it was possible to give particulars and to answer the charges when made. I remember well the Debate, because I took part in it. Mr. Jenkins, the then Member for Dundee, moved for a Commission to inquire into what he considered the mal-administration of the Irish Church Act, but so much had Mr. Jenkins apparently been misinformed by whoever instructed him, that the seconder of his Motion—an Irish Nationalist Member of that time—actually had to throw over the mover, and he said he felt sure himself that when the case was inquired into it would be found that there had been great exaggeration. The charges were replied to by Mr. Mulholland and by Mr.Gibson, now Lord Ashbourne, on behalf of the Irish Church, and also by Mr. Hugh Law, who himself drafted the Irish Church Act, who had been Attorney General to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, and who after this event I am now speaking of was his Lord Chancellor in Ireland. Mr. Law answered all the accusations that had been made, and as to this particular charge he said:—With regard to the question of commutation on the part of the curates, it was only fair to remember that a number of young men were qualifying themselves to serve as curates at the time when the Irish Church Act suddenly passed, and a short period was allowed to enable them to become ordained, and so to be entitled to compensation. Under such circumstances 201 could not by any means be considered a large number for the year and a half that intervened before the 1st of January, 1871.There was a Division, and the figures were 148 and 34, or a majority of 118 against Mr. Jenkins. When men have been tried here at the time when it was possible to make a defence against these accusations, and when men have been acquitted under the circumstances I have described, I ask, is it not a scandalous thing for a Minister to come forward and, in order to trump up a defence for the miserable and mean 188 provisions of this Bill, to make such charges as that? There is another view of the question which I should like to deal with for a short time, and it is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of this Bill. It is its bearing on the wider and greater question of Disestablishment of the Church of England. It has been stated in the course of these Debates that the Church of England was made stronger by the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, and that is used as an argument to lovers of the English Church that they should not hesitate to support this Bill. In 1869 it was argued by the opponents of the Irish Church Bill, that, if the principle of Disestablishment were conceded in the case of the Irish Church, that concession would be made use of for the purpose of attacking the Establishment in England and especially of attacking the Establishment in Wales. It was answered by the Liberal Party of that day that there was no foundation for such a fear; that the cases were totally different, and that the Church of England would be strengthened by the sacrifice of the Irish Church, and that the forces of Disestablishment would be checked on the shores of Britain. I could quote many instances to illustrate my meaning, but there is one instance so picturesque, so pregnant of warning on this subject, that I hope the House will allow me to read a few words. They were spoken by a man since passed away, but then a very distinguished scholar and divine, and who was himself a Bishop of the Church in Wales. Some other sentences from the same speech are, I am sure, fresh in the recollection of Members of this House, because they were quoted in praise of apostolic poverty by the present Prime Minister in his great oration at Cardiff. Dr. Thirlwall was Bishop of St. David's in 1869 when the Irish Church Act was passed. He was one of the few Bishops who were prepared to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords. He had heard the warning I have spoken of that the principle of Disestablishment would probably be carried from the Irish shores to his own diocese in Wales, and this is what he said:—I am thankful to the noble Earl who addressed the House last but one yesterday for 189 relieving me from the necessity of touching on another topic which I should otherwise have been bound to advert to. I mean the argument founded on the fancied analogy of the case of Wales to that of Ireland; but, far from there being an analogy, there is the strongest contrast between the two, not only in the fact that there is no broad channel flowing between England and Wales, but also in the circumstances that the whole population of Wales are of one way of thinking on religion, and do not differ from the Established Church in any essential point in a greater degree than the members of the Established Church differ from one another.So, the Bishop said, that without any hesitation or scruple, he voted for the Second Reading of the Bill. The strong contrast is now ignored; the fancied analogy which the Bishop ridiculed is made the basis of this Bill. And what of the broad channel? Certainly there is no broad channel between the four dioceses of Wales and the rest of England; but the hand of the destroyer has found no difficulty in carving out, parish by parish, as with a sharp dissecting knife, from the living body of the Church of England, those portions which are to be included within what we are told now is the circumscription of the Principality of Wales. And what about this extraordinary unanimity of the people of Wales? Why, in the same speech at Cardiff, the present Prime Minister told us that the Church in Wales was an alien Church, and that its clergy, instead of being a means of reconciliation, were a cause of hostility amongst the people of Wales! But let me press this argument further. Is it or is it not a fact that this Bill is advocated in the interest of the cause of general Disestablishment throughout the country? I think it would be easy to adduce a great weight of authority upon that subject. The late Prime Minister on one occasion said that so intimately united were the different dioceses of Wales and England that it would be impossible to distinguish between them. The present Leader of this House has said that if you raise the question of the Church Establishment in Wales you raise the whole question. We have heard in this Debate one very striking confirmation of that view. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds, in his most interesting and attractive, and very frank speech, said:—We who want Disestablishment altogether, and we form the majority on this side, think you may establish the precedent in Wales, and next 190 we shall be quite content to accept a graduated application of it to the northern dioceses of England.The case is stated even more clearly in a publication which I think must be accepted by many hon. Members as an authority upon the subject— "The Case for Disestablishment." I have no means of knowing the exact numbers of the supporters of the Liberation Society. It claims to have on its side a majority of the Liberal Members of the House, and I observed the other day that at its annual breakfast there were many Members of Parliament, including two Members of the Government, and that several Members of the Government, including one Cabinet Minister, sent letters of apology and, I presume, of sympathy. This festive meeting was in very good heart and well satisfied with the progress of this Bill, claiming it as an earnest of future success, and frankly stating that they had never concealed what their ultimate intentions were. That brings us face to face with the gravest question—the most important question—that ever has been, or ever can be, submitted to Parliament. It is no less a question than this—Is the House willing now to lend itself to the first step of a process by which it is hoped to bring about at no distant time the Disestablishment of the Church of England? This is the first time that a responsible Government has asked the House of Commons to commit itself by the Second Reading of a Bill to the principle of breaking into the Establishment of the Church and of taking away from it those Endowments which have been given to it by the generosity and piety of Englishmen for centuries. This particular Bill is not framed exactly upon the model suggested in the works of the Liberation Society, but I know it is part of their Programme, and that the arguments used in support of it are the arguments which they use in support of larger measures. Therefore, I say that no man can blind himself to the fact that in supporting this Bill he is doing what he can to advance the larger measure. I know there are many Members who, the more clearly that is laid out, the more strongly will they be in favour of this Bill. But I would venture to appeal to others in this House and to many men outside who will have the decision of 191 this question when it is submitted to the judgment of the country—men who an still attached followers of the Church of England—to ponder and to consider what is the nature of the business on which they are invited to enter, what is the magnitude of the movement to which they are now asked to give an impetus. Then may be some who hold that the influence of religion, whether Established or Disestablished, Endowed or Disendowed, is useless if not injurious to the State. There may be others who, from motive, of rash desire for revolutionary change or perhaps from baser motives of envy and jealousy, support this measure I am sure there are many who are themselves devoted to the cause of religion, who honestly believe that cause is better served when there is no Establishment and no Endowment. But there are others who may be hesitating as to whether they will throw in their lot with the further progress of this movement, and to them I would make an appeal to consider what is the Church of England. I myself belonged to another and a Disestablished community, but looking upon the Church of England, I see that by its Endowments it is enabled to bring the teaching and the ministration of religion clothed with the in fluence of learning to the educated clothed with the influence of charity to the poor, continually, without interruption in every parish in the land. I also hold that the mere fact of setting religion or high in a place at once of honour and of submission to the law must have a great influence on the minds of multitudes of men. Seeing the position in which religion is thus placed, they yield to its teachings, and there is instilled into the minds of the people of this country as generation after generation grow up obedience to the teachings of religion obedience to law and to authority which, in my judgment, is a most valuable makeweight in the minds of a free and a freedom-loving people. I believe, also, that the influence of the clergy of the Established Church on the whole works largely in the same direction It would be easy to pick out individual cases here and there of ministers who art causes, not of advantage, but of injury to their order and to their flocks, and I am aware that there have been epochs in the history of the English Church when there 192 was much indifference, but looking backwards over the whole of her annals, weighing the good and the bad, making all allowances, and contrasting this country with other countries where there are no Established Churches, or where Established Churches cannot so well bear investigation and judgment, I am bound to say that the Church of England has stood, and still stands, as a great aid and safeguard to society, and as a glorious monument to the reverent character of a free but essentially religious people. On these broad grounds of matter-of-fact and practical advantage to the State, I will resist at every point to the utmost of my ability such a measure as this. But, Sir, in such high and delicate matters we cannot wisely or justly neglect other considerations, or leave out of sight feeling and even sentiment. It has been truly said by a philosophical and impartial historian of our day that—It is not enough to show that some other system may be theoretically better. To tear up by the roots any part of those institutions of an old country as have thrown with it from the beginning, which have become part of its being, is in itself an evil.The Church of England is no foreign, no exotic institution. Long ago its form was fashioned by Englishmen for themselves. Its wealth and its endowments were given to it and have been accumulated by Englishmen for the teaching and the administration of their own religion. From age to age the Church has shaped and moulded itself to meet the wants and wishes of the people. Its old cathedrals and its abbey churches have been identified with the solemn commemoration of every great event in the history of the people. They hold the memorials of the mighty dead, and in the shadows of their walls are folded the faded and tattered banners borne by those Englishmen whose valour and endurance have defended the freedom and achieved the greatness of the nation. Yes, and stronger in the minds of the people than the pomp and pride of these are other associations which gather in the churches and crowd into the churchyards of this ancient institution. As one generation after another has come and gone, there the most important, the happiest, the most sorrowful events of life have been solemnised by Christian services—the baptisms, the marriages, the burials. 193 There side by side the rich and the poor, the men and the women, and the little children have been laid in the parish graveyards of the Church of England. As I look upon it I see in it the most singular, the most characteristic, the oldest, and the noblest of all the great institutions of this land; and I would say to the Englishmen of to-day, who love that Church: "Abide by it, defend it! It is the Church of your fathers for a thousand years. It is the richest, the most glorious, treasure of all your great inheritance."
*THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GEORGE RUSSELL, North Beds)
I received it as a Parliamentary tradition, from one who entered this House in 1813, that of all the Parliamentary orators of the time none were equal to the first Lord Plunket, and I think all who have heard the speech and the peroration of the Member for Dublin University will gladly admit that the genius of Lord Plunket is not extinguished in his grandson. A portion of that speech was devoted to a reference to language used by his distinguished brother, the present Archbishop of Dublin, unquestionably the most governing spirit in the Disestablished Church of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman said that the speech to which reference has been made was made in 1882, at a time of high agitation on the Land Question, but in 1892, on November 8, the Archbishop said:—When I count up the advantages which have followed Disestablishment; when I think of the renewed strength and vitality which our Church has derived from the admission of the laity to an active and responsible participation in her counsels, in the disposition of her patronage, and in the financial departments of her work; when I observe the spirit of unity and mutual respect which has been engendered by the ordeal of our common adversity and the increased loyalty and love which are being daily shown to their Mother Church by those who have had to make some sacrifice on her behalf; when I remember, too, the freedom from agrarian complications which our disconnection from all questions of tithe and and tithe rent charge has brought about, and the more favourable attitude as regards our influence upon the surrounding population which we occupy because of our severance from any State connection—when I remember all this counterpoise of advantage which we enjoy in our now and independent position, and when I try to hold the balance evenly and weigh the losses and the gains of the whole, I say boldly and without 194 reserve that, in my opinion at least, the gain outweighs the loss.It is not for me to settle this fraternal controversy, but I hope, before the Debate closes, some Member of the House who belongs to the Disestablished Church will address himself to it. It is inevitable that most of those who support this Bill in this Debate are Nonconformists in religion. My only title to intervene in this Debate is, that I am, by strong life-long convictions, a member of the Church of England, and if I am told that it is an anomalous position for me, a Churchman, to defend this Bill, I take leave to reply that it is not more anomalous than that of a Dissenter engaged in bolstering up an Establishment. I refer to the late Home Secretary the Member for East Birmingham (Mr. Matthews), who has properly spoken of himself as a Dissenter. The right hon. Gentleman is, as we all know, a devoted Member of the august and authoritative Communion, and he is, I venture to say, a stickler to the extreme point for the spiritual prerogatives of his own Church. He is bound to regard not only Nonconformists, but the members of the Church of England, as heterodox and schismatical; and yet he comes forward with all the resources of his ingenuity to tender support to an Established heresy and an Endowed schism. I thought, however, that I detected in certain passages signs that the right hon. Gentleman appreciated the situation. He "hopped with airy and fastidious levity" over the the Disestablishment part of the question by, and devoted himself to Disendowment. One word only as to the vivacious discourse of the Member for Plymouth. The humorous part of it was beyond praise, but when he rose to a rather solemn altitude his language was extremely strong. Looking back to 1869, and after the experience of a quarter of a century, he declared that Disestablishment was nothing less than "a national sin." That is a strong doctrine for the hon. Member, when he recollects that Lord Salisbury, by his vote, was an author of that sin. There is an interesting passage in the life of Archbishop Tait which throws some light on these transactions, and by it my hon. Friend will see that it would not be too much to say that that Bill could not have 195 been passed through the Tory Opposition in the House of Lords but for the influence exercised by Lord Salisbury. The hon. Member for Plymouth is a personal friend of my own, and my advice to him in all sincerity is to take heed of what he is about. The time may possibly arrive when he will be asked to take an important place in an Administration presided over by that national sinner. Let my hon. Friend beware lest, by accepting that tempting offer, he is led into the uncomfortable position described by the Apostle of being a partaker of other men's sins. The right hon. Member for West Bristol, in the Debate on the First Reading of the Bill, made an earnest and cogent appeal to Members supporting the Government to put themselves "in the place of those who believe that Disestablishment is a wrong to the State and Disendonment a wicked plunder of the Church." It is not a very easy task to which to invite a Nonconformist—a Nonconformist who has been brought up from his cradle to look on Church establishment as in itself a mischief and Church endowment as at best a perilous boon; but it is a very easy task for myself, brought up in the precincts of the Established Church, and who has learnt to regard the Establishment as, if not of the essence of the Church, still as an inseparable incident of it, and to look on Church Endowment as being a valuable possession. There are two considerations that make this comparatively easy to-night. Fortunately there has been conceded a certain amount of common ground, and there are one or two considerations and arguments which used to figure largely in earlier Debates which have disappeared in this one. We have heard from neither side anything of the language of Erastianism, which, in the words of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, was thus described:—"If we follow the Erastian idea it does not matter what god we worship, or how we worship him, provided we derive both belief and worship from the Civil Ruler, and hold them subject to his orders.Then, I think, we have heard nothing from the supporters or the opponents of the Bill tending to the revival of the old-fashioned doctrine that the Church of England was created and endowed by 196 Henry VIII. some time about the Reformation. [Opposition cries of "Cardiff."] I said in this Debate. On both sides of the House there seems to be a common agreement to accept that doctrine of the origin of the Church of England which is thus given in the words of Professor Freeman—The conversion of England took place gradually, when there was no such thing as an English nation capable of a national act. The land was still cut up into small kingdoms, and Kent had been Christian for some generations, at a time when Sussex still remained heathen.In short, the break at the Reformation, which we all admit, was, in my view, rather a doctrinal than a structural break—I mean it appertained to the doctrine of the Church of England rather than to the framework of its organisation; and I believe the present Archbishop of Canterbury may claim to be the direct descendant of Augustine and Cranmer. It was a gradual establishment; it grew up with our national life; and it is impossible to lay a finger on the time or place at which the Church was Established or Endowed. Everyone will admit the legal privilege and prescription of the Church of England, which reached its height about the beginning of this century by various growths; but I shall not be wrong, perhaps, in taking 1818, for that was the year in which Parliament voted £1,000,000 to the building and endowment of churches of the Church of England in populous places. I take that year as representing the high-water mark of the Establishment and privilege of the Church of England. It is interesting to see how soon the course of Disestablishment began. Bishop Woodford, addressing his clergy in 1881, said:—Disestablishment has been proceeding for the last 50 years.First, in 1828, there was the repeal of the Test and Corporations Act; second, there was the Roman Catholic emancipation; third, the alteration of the marriage law; fourth, the withdrawal of matrimonial and testamentary jurisdiction from the Ecclesiastical Courts; then came a most epoch-making change—the establishment of the Ecclesiastical Commission, which for the first time treated the properties of the sees as a whole, and placed them under lay administration; 197 sixth, the abolition of Church rates, the admission of Dissenters to membership, and then to office, in the Universities, and the admission of Dissenters to burial with their own rites in national churchyards. It may be asked, however, if so much has been already done in the way of Disestablishment, if this gradual process has been carried so far, why do we desire to complete the process, to make that Disestablishment, which at present is only partial, absolutely final? What, then, are our objections to the present system, and why do we desire to complete this work of Disestablishment? The primary objection which a free Churchman must entertain to the principle of Establishment is because Establishment is invidious and unjust as between one Church and another. As long as there was only one religion for England and the whole Western world the Establishment was tolerable, even inevitable; but now religions are counted, I believe, by hundreds; and the preferred position of the Established Church seems to be unjust and invidious to all those who are not of the Establishment. Then we hold that it is bad for the Church. State alliance, in the judgment of free Church men, tends to make a Church hard, proud, worldly, and unspiritual; and engenders in ministers, who are also State officials, a spirit too often hostile to the social and political independence of those placed under their charge; it tends also to create what I may call without impropriety an uncommonly healthy appetite for the loaves and fishes. Thirdly, it subjects the Church, in matters which most vitally affect her faith and worship, to the control of a Parliament not composed of members of the Church only, nor even of orthodox Dissenters, but containing among its representatives Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics. I say "Turk" advisedly, for I believe there is a noble Lord in another place who at one time even embraced the Mahomedan religion. But, at any rate, it is a Parliament composed of men, many of whom cannot be supposed by any possible stretch of charity to have the slightest sympathy for any of the formularies or discipline of the Church. The noble Lord the Member for Rochester, whose absence to-night through illness I regret, made a reference the other night to this important 198 point. He always speaks on these subjects with an earnestness which commands respect, and disarms, to some extent, our criticism. The noble Lord said:—A good deal was said about the trammels, chains, and fetters which were supposed to hang around the Church. Was it true that there were chains and fetters? It was said, 'Oh, you cannot change your doctrine or your ritual without the leave of Parliament.' But did they want to change doctrine or ritual? The doctrines of the Church were constant and did not change; and, as far as they could, they desired that the ritual should he constant too.Yes, that is all very well, and to a certain extent I agree with the noble Lord. But my point is that, however well we may be satisfied with the formularies of the Church as they exist, Parliament can alter them over our heads. What is the outward aspect of the Church but the product of a series of Acts of uniformity which laid aside local uses and substituted one national use for the whole of the Kingdom? In our time Parliament has given us shortened services, a new Lectionary, and the Public Worship Regulation Act. It was Parliament in 1874 which, in its pure zeal for the good of the Church as a spiritual body, transferred the ancient archiepiscopal jurisdiction to the Judge of the Divorce Court. Those are changes which have taken place by the authority of Parliament; but there was another change more far-reaching which did not actually take place, but which was seriously contemplated. Under the auspices of Archbishop Tait in 1872 a controversy arose about the Athanasian Creed, and such a storm arose about the policy of doing away with that creed that the question was dropped, but only as a matter of expediency. No one questioned the full legal competence of Parliament to treat that creed as it liked. If the Athanasian Creed could be so treated, there was nothing to prevent a similar handling of the Nicene Creed or the Apostles' Creed; and hereafter, perhaps, under Puritan or Latitudinarian guidance, the noble Lord may find points Belonging to the very arcana of the Church—the matter of the Eucharist or the formula of ordination—changed by Parliament. I submit that Establishment is a source of spiritual weakness, 199 and Disestablishment would unquestionably be, as the Archbishop of Dublin found out, a source of spiritual strength for the Disestablished minister. In this connection it is inevitable that I should recall a conversation I had with a noble Lord, in his time a pillar of the Liberal Party, who, in speaking of political subjects, pulled me up when I came to the question of Disestablishment. I asked "Why not?" and he replied:— "As long as the Church is Established we can kick the parsons, but once Disestablish it and perhaps the parsons would kick us." That is what I venture to call the doctrine of Church and State in a nutshell. Then with regard to the voluntary agencies of the Church in towns. The hon. Member for the University of Oxford poured some gentle contempt upon those who talked about the mission work of the Church in towns as being. In such cases the endowment is commonly £100 or £200 a year—just enough to maintain the clergyman in charge. The whole of the rest of the maintenance of the Church and its service is supported by voluntary contributions made through the medium of weekly offerings. That is what I mean by a voluntary system, and it is where, the Church works on these lines in the working-class neighbourhoods of large towns that she has the largest authority and influence, and even passionate affection from, those who attend her services. Then it has been said: Even granting these things are true, the Establishment is good and even necessary in order that it may guide the national conscience aright in the great issues of public controversy where the path of morality cuts across the path of politics. How does our Established Church stand from this point of view? What did she do through her accredited representatives in the matter of the abolition of slavery and in the matter of the mitigation of our bloody Penal Code? What did she do towards providing cheap food for the people? what for the supreme interest of Peace against War? and what was the attitude of the Church of England, through the bulk of her ministers, when the Eastern question arose, and England was invited to take up arms in defence of the Mahommedan power? These being our objections 200 to the Establishment, how do we propose to complete the process of Disestablishment? In the first place, we propose that the Bishops should lose their seats in the House of Lords, and I do not think any single spiritual or moral cause is likely to be the loser by that change. Then, of course, the right of lay presentation to religious benefices must go; it must no longer be even possible for a most notoriously debauched man to provide a pastor for Christian congregations. Furthermore, the coercive jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts must cease. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for East Birmingham (Mr. Henry Matthews), spoke of the synod, the setting up of which it is proposed to sanction by the Bill as "a strange body consisting of clergy and laity." I feel very unfit to discuss questions of ecclesiastical polity with the right hon. Gentleman; but if he will bear with me, I assure him this combination of laity and clergy is not so unique a combination as he seems to think it is. There is an interesting and ancient and authoritative work called the Acts of the Apostles, and that I commend to the right hon. Gentleman. He will find, that when ritual disturbances arose in the primitive Church, the clergy were reinforced by the laity. There we have a system of Church government which it is proposed in this Bill to sanction. Bishop Moberly said:—It has been generally held by theologians (excepting always those of the high Roman school) that the retrospective acceptance of the whole Church, including lay people as well as clergy, is necessary in order to give Conciliar decrees their full Œcumenical character and weight…. If the assent of the lay people is thus necessary, even in the highest of all instances—the settlement of the faith—it is matter, not of principle, hut of convenience and wisdom, to decide at what points, and in what proportion, this Christian counsel should be listened to and acknowledged.That is precisely the line on which this Bill is drawn. Now I leave the subject of Disestablishment and come to that of Disendowment. Three reservations have been notoriously made in this Bill. There is the reservation of modern gifts to the Church; and if the question is asked why a particular year is chosen, I confess I am not very much concerned to defend that or any other particular year. The essential point is this— 201 the Church will be allowed to retain all that has been given to her by private donors since she has been theologically and spiritually what she is now. Surely no candid critic can deny that the theological change made by the Reformation was a significant and a profound one. Surely the 39 Articles embodied in entirely different system of theology from that which prevailed in the pre-Reformation Church, and I cannot convince myself that the persons who made gifts to the Church in medieval times would have bequeathed their land had they known that, as a body, the Church was about to rebel against the see of Peter, which they regarded as the one source of authority and orthodoxy. It is said if you grant this the Church is bound to give up all that came to her before she became theologically what she is now. I need not go into details as to our second reservation— viz., that in regard to sacred buildings. Our third reservation is as to vested interests. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin something as to the creation of new vested interests during the last year of the expiring Irish Establishment. I confess the views he has advanced are not those which I have gathered from other competent authorities; but with respect to the great residue of this property—the great bulk that is not touched by these three reservations—will any one challenge the right of the State to deal with it? It cannot be said to be unprecedented. Shakespeare, who knew everything, including what was going to happen as well as what did happen, describes a scene in the reign of Henry V. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely appear together, they walk side by side. Canterbury says:—My lord, I'll tell you,—that self Bill is urg'd,Which, in the eleventh year o' the last king's reign,Was like, and had indeed against us past,But that the scambling and unquiet timeDid push it out of further question.ELY.—But how, my Lord, shall we resist it now?CANTERBURY.—It must be thought on. If it pass against us,We lose the better half of our possession:For all the temporal lands, which men devoutBy testament have given to the Church,202Would they strip from us; being valued thus,—As much as would maintain, to the king's honour,Full fifteen earls and fifteen hundred knights,And, to relief of lazars, and weak age,Of indigent faint souls, past corporal toil,A hundred alms-houses right well supplied.ELY.—This would drink deep.CANTERBURY.—'Twould drink the cup and all.Can anybody read that, and, comparing it with the present agitations of the Episcopal Bench of England and Wales, doubt the doctrine of Episcopal succession? That was one precedent—a poetic and Shakespearian precedent—for putting Church property to secular uses. I come to another—the use made of the Abbey Lands. I think history records the cases of families who have risen to greatness and affluence on the ruins of the Abbeys; and it is an interesting constitutional consideration to bear in mind that, in virtue of wealth so acquired, some of the heads of their families obtained peerages and then transmitted their honours to their descendants, who now sit in serried ranks ready to throw out, when they get the opportunity, a Bill designed to carry just a stage further a process to which they themselves owe so much. I will venture, in connection with the subject of Abbey Lands, to give to the House two instances, one of the way in which Church property should not be dealt with, and the other of the way in which it should be dealt with. If any hon. Member, on leaving Palace Yard, will turn to the right, and walk less than a mile, he will come to the old Convent Garden of Westminster Abbey, now devoted to uses which are certainly not sacred, and paying tribute and toll to a secular landlord. That is an instance of the way in which Church property should not be dealt with. But if any hon. Member will walk to the left, to the Precincts of Westminster Abbey, be will find under the shadow of that pile, housed in the very buildings and enriched by the wealth of the old Benedictines, a famous school of learning, with eleemosynary provisions for poor scholars, and connected by a system of Exhibitions with Trinity and Christ Church. In the erection of Westminster School or the foundation of Westminster 203 Abbey the House will, I think, agree is the way in which ecclesiastical property should be treated. Hon. Members who are conversant with the terminology of the theology of the Catholic Church know that the test of a man's sincerity was found in the way he discharged the corporal works of mercy— feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, visiting the sick; and I for one sincerely and honestly believe that money so applied is better, more reasonably, and more Christianly used than in maintaining a choir or in decorating an altar. It may be said that all these are general considerations. I have welcomed the fact that every one who has taken part in this Debate has agreed to treat the Welsh Church as a subject that cannot be profitably handled without reference to its relations with the Church of England. It may be said that these are general considerations that make for Disestablishment everywhere, and it may be asked why apply them to Wales? For this reason—as long as the people of any nation are willing to bear the yoke of Establishment, it is not the business of people outside to try to lift the yoke from off their shoulders. But when the people of any nation have shown that they dislike that yoke, and desire to be relieved from it, it is a cardinal principle of the Liberalism, as laid down by the Duke of Devonshire in 1877, for the Liberal Party to come to their assistance in removing that yoke. I will say nothing about the Church of England at this moment. No expression of national sentiment has been given in connexion with that Church. The answer was given in Ireland years ago. Scotland seems to hold her voice in suspense, but in regard to Wales no such doubt car arise. I am not going into that dangerous land of percentages and averages as to the congregations, communicants, and scholars of the different creeds, for the best of all possible reasons, that there seems to be no agreement between any two Members on either side of the House as to the figures. The question of minority or majority does not appeal to me in the slightest degree. I believe the Nonconformists are a large majority of the Welsh people; but whether they are Nonconformists or Churchmen they have made up their minds to be rid of Establishment. The right hon. Gentleman 204 opposite mentioned the marriage test. He said there were more people married in the Churches than in the Chapels. But that might be explained by the fact that a certain number of Nonconformists, owing to descent or to old associations, have recourse to the Church to be married, as is constantly the case in England. But one thing that is indisputable, one figure on which no doubt can be thrown, is the fact that Wales returns an overwhelming majority of her Representatives pledged on the question of Disestablishment. Surely the least revolutionary of politicians who ever lived was the late Lord Derby, and he, speaking at Blackburn on the 10th of October 1885, said:—I have long held, and am ready to avow it openly, that I do not believe that an Established Church—that is, the exclusive alliance of one religious denomination among many with the State—can be, in the long run, permanently maintained alongside of a system of really popular representation such as we have got now. Disestablishment and, at least partial, Disendowment must, in my mind, ultimately come, and if I were a parson or one of those laymen who identify themselves especially with ecclesiastical interests and ideas I should look rather to making the best terms possible while there is time than to resisting what is inevitable. But we are hardly ripe in England for that change. It is a very big one, and if we take it up now we may be quite sure that no other reform—and we have a good many on hand—can possibly get itself attended to. I think, therefore, that the decision which has been come to—to let the subject stand over for the moment, is a wise one. But if the representatives of Scotland desire the Disestablishment of their Church it is not for Englishmen to oppose them. And for myself, though I can speak for no one else, I consider that Wales has a strong claim to be separately dealt with. In Wales, as was the case in Ireland, Nonconformists form the bulk of the population.There remains only argument for me to notice—an argument ad terrorem. It is said that if you take away these Endowments the villages will lapse into something like heathenism. I do not believe that. What I believe will happen is that one clergyman will have to serve two or three parishes. One of the most devoted and respected of the Bishops, the present Bishop of Lincoln, told me that that change is likely to become necessary in England in regard to rural dioceses. That would imply a wide use of lay ministrations in the service of the Church which can be discharged by laymen. But if the Church of England wore, by a reduction 205 in her ministers, to neglect the population of the villages, I know that the Nonconformists of England would step in and repair that neglect. Of course Disestablishment will entail some sacrifice and some loss to the members of the Church. It will mean that they are to have for the future the privilege of paying for their own religion, and that the richer members of the Communion will have to pay for the religious advantages of their poorer brethren. But it is a sacrifice that is worth making for the great boon which it will bring in its train. I am persuaded that it would be a proud and happy day for the Church when, in reply to the just boast of the Nonconformist Communions that they were "free born," she is able to say, "With a great sum obtained I this freedom." Yes, Sir, in that one word "freedom" lies the whole of our contention in this matter as it presents itself to members of the Established Church. We claim for the Church of which we are members, and just now especially for the Welsh branch of it, freedom from the control of those who do not believe her doctrines or share her worship; freedom alike from the trammels and allurements of a State alliance; freedom to discharge, in the uncorrupted simplicity of a pure devotion, that great spiritual commission which she holds, neither from Kings nor Parliament, but from the Church's Supreme and Invisible Head.
§ *VISCOUNT WOLMER (Edinburgh, W.)
said, the House had listened to an eloquent speech from his Friend the Member for North Beds. His hon. Friend was perfectly entitled as a Churchman to hold the views to which he had given expression in regard to the Church, though they were not the views of 99 out of every 100 of his brother Churchmen. He would not follow his hon. Friend over the wide field which he had covered in his speech, but he would put before the House, briefly, reasons why his hon. Friend's arguments were not conclusive, and why they were based on fallacies. But he had first to thank his hon. Friend for one thing he had done. His hon. Friend had conspired with the Home Secretary to throw over the Prime Minister, They had once and for all 206 pricked that bubble, on the reputation of which the Liberationist Society had lived for fifty years, that the Church of England dated only from the Reformation. If his hon. Friend had sat where he (Viscount Wolmer) was he would have heard murmurs of dissent at that part of his speech. It was not for him to interfere in a quarrel between friends; but if his hon. Friend and the Home Secretary had any difficulty with their Liberationist followers on that point he could assure them that they would find for their defence a perfect armoury of weapons in all writers on the question from the Reformation to the historians of the Victorian age. He hoped, therefore, they might consider that controversy on that point was set at rest. He had not expected to hear from his hon. Friend what he considered to be a poor kind of argument, the argument of the loaves and fishes. What religious body was there that did not depend on loaves and fishes in the sense in which his hon. Friend had used the term? What religious body was there that did not depend on Endowments or voluntary contributions? and Endowments were but the capitalised value of the voluntary contributions of long ago. He now came to what he might call the main plank in the Disestablishment platform of his hon. Friend, who said that he was for Disestablishment because he was for freedom, and, as a Churchman, he objected to the Church being legislated For by Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics. The hon. Gentleman also said that Parliament could alter the creed, formularies, rites, and doctrines of the Church of England, and that he objected to any such power residing in Parliament. The answer to that was twofold. The creed, formularies, and rites of the Church now possessed were not the work of Parliament in the sense in which his hon. Friend used that expression; nor had that legislation been placed upon the Statute Book of this Realm, except by the Registration of what Convocation was known to be in favour of for the Church, the whole of the doctrines and rites had authority of the governing body of the Church itself—namely, Convocation. There was, he knew, one exception, which had always been brought forward to prove the argument that the Church was resting on State-made Acts, It was. 207 the argument derived from the Acts one and two of the first year of Elizabeth. Those were the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity, and he must ask the attention of the House to what might be rather a dry historical disquisition, because a great deal depended upon this argument. It was said that Parliament passed these Acts. He said that Parliament only registered the Acts of the Church, except in this one case. Why was not the Act of Supremacy assented to by the Lords Spiritual? Because that Act was not to make new legislation, but to restore legislation of Henry the Eighth, which, in the reign of Queen Mary, had been upset by Parliament, without the consent of any spiritual authority what ever—a purely State-made Act, and the Bishops and Prelates, who had supported the original Acts in the reign of Henry the Eighth, had been dispossessed and driven away, and some of them burned at the stake. The result was, that when Elizabeth came to the Throne, all the places had been filled by staunch adherents of the Papacy, and no authority was needed to undo the work of the reign of Mary, which had never any ecclesiastical authority, but the same authority which, in defiance of ecclesiastically sanctioned acts in the reign of Henry the Eighth, had done it. That absolutely disproved the historical basis of the argument of his hon. Friend. As to the future, it might be true that this House had technically the power to alter the creed, formularies, and doctrines of the Church, but it was a power wind this House would never dare to use There was no Churchman in the land who had any fear of the action of that House, because the whole country knew that it would never dare to legislate for the Church against what the nation knew were the wishes, the opinions and the conscientious convictions of the Church. If this House ever dared to try and force on the Church of England creeds in which her member did not believe, and which they repudiated, the members of the Church of England would have the power the to throw off what would be the yoke of the State which Parliament had impose upon them, but which did not at present exist. He did not believe it ever would exist, because, although there were reforms in Church government which 208 Churchmen would wish to see, he did not himself believe that public opinion would permit those in that House, who wanted to see the Church Disestablished, refuse all hearing to these reforms for the sake of allowing admitted abuses to continue to in order to forward the cause of Disestablishment. He saw sitting near him an hon. Member who, although a champion of Disestablishment and Disendowment, was yet a most honourable example; for, although he was in favour of that policy, he had declared he was never going to connive at the attempts of those who, in order forward their policy, would perpetuate admitted abuses in Church government. The example of the hon. Member would not lose force as time went on, because popular opinion was entirely on his side, and he did not believe it was in the power of Members of that House to keep the Church unreformed merely for the sake of their political ends. Speaking on the subject of Disendonment, his hon. Friend (Mr. G. Russell) said he did not believe it could be maintained that those Church people who had endowed the Church before the Reformation would ever have given their Endowments to the Church if they had known there was going to be a final breach with the Papacy. His hon. Friend was perfectly entitled to hold that view, but he differed from him absolutely, because, as the Home Secretary said the other day, no one could read the history of the Church of England without seeing that, for century after century, there was a struggle for national independence against Rome, sometimes with more and sometimes with less success; but always with unfaltering assertion on the part of the laity of the Church and many of the clergy that the Church of England was a Church by herself, in communion with Rome, but not dependent on or under the dominion of Rome. Churchmen, therefore, had a right to repudiate the argument of the hon. Member. But, suppose they admitted his view. His hon. Friend felt the difficulty of 1703, and said, in an airy way, that any date was adequate which made it quite certain that those who gave the Endowment were aware of the change that had taken place. But either these Endowments, since the days of Augustine, had been given to the same Church as existed now, 209 or there was a point at which there was a change in that Church and endowments given before and since that time were to be placed in a different category. The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Roby) and the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Walton), who also felt the difficulty about the date of 1703, did not take the line about the Papacy or the 39 Articles, but they took the line that these ancient Endowments were given to the Church, because the Church was the nation; but that the moment Nonconformity began to exist they no longer belonged to the Church alone. But were there no Nonconformists before 1703? Were the 39 Articles settled in 1703? Was the breach with the Papacy in 1703? Therefore, by the showing of his hon. Friend (Mr. Russell), who was a Churchman, of the hon. Member for Leeds, who was a Nonconformist, and of the hon. Member for Eccles, who was also a Churchman, they, and the Government, were, in this Bill, proposing to roll the Church of Endowments which they admitted were given to the Church, as she now was, for a period of over 150 years. There was one point in the speech of his hon. Friend on which he commiserated him. He chose the most unfortunate example he possibly could have chosen to show why these Endowments should be taken away, namely, the case of Lady Hewley's chapels. These chapels were given to a certain sect of Nonconformists on condition that very specific doctrines should be taught. These Nonconformists, in the course of time, gradually changed their religious opinions, till at last the doctrines taught in the chapels were not the ones authorised in the trust deed. Those adherents of the chapels who retained their predilections for the old doctrines took the case into the Courts. The hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Paul), the other night, said what a scandal it was that these questions should come before the secular courts, and, he asked, was it not due to the Establishment that sacred questions came before a secular court? The hon. Member really was ignorant that all Dissenters in the final resort had to come to the secular courts too, and, if it was so, how was the scandal due to the Establishment? In Lady Hewley's case the court decided that the Nonconformists who worshipped in these chapels 210 must part with the chapels, because, in the course of religious development, they had changed their doctrines. What did Parliament do, and this was the answer to his hon. Friend? His hon. Friend said the Church had changed her doctrines to a certain extent since the years these Endowments were given, and that, therefore, she ought to part with them. What did Parliament do in the case of Lady Hewlett's chapels? The courts had stated that by law these chapels must be taken away from those who owned them, but, in this case, Parliament said the law was not equity, and to prevent the perpetration of such robbery in the name of the law, Parliament passed an Act restoring those chapels to those who already enjoyed the use of them. What, therefore, became of the argument of his hon. Friend, based on the case of Lady Hewley's chapels? The Secretary for Scotland, alluding to the proselytising of the Church in Wales, asked:—At whose cost is this proselytising done? It is at the cost of the landowners and farmers who pay the tithe.Does the tithe, then, belong to the landowners and the farmers? If so, what right had the Government to give it to the County Council? If it did not belong to the landowners and the farmers, how was the Church, according to the Secretary for Scotland, proselytising at their cost? Never, in all his experience, had he heard such a flagrant example of the suggestion falsi. The hon. Member for Leeds, whose speech showed that he had as little conception of the minds of millions of his fellow-countrymen on this question, as he had of the religious convictions of the followers of Confucius or Mahomet, asked, why do we object to piecemeal Disestablishment? He should have thought it perfectly impossible for any hon. Member, whose object was not to wound the feelings of his fellow-countrymen, to ask such a question. Let it be understood, once and for all, that the friends of the Church regarded the Church of England as one and indivisible, and if they really knew and believed that Disestablishment had to come in Wales, or any other diocese, they would take Disestablishment and Disendowment over the whole Church rather than take it piecemeal. It was 211 because they disbelieved Disestablishment was going to be a cardinal fact, and because they believed the Church had centuries of work before her, Established and Endowed, that they resisted this Bill, and would resist it. The Home Secretary took, as the basis for the policy of the Government, that Parliament had always more or less dealt with the revenues of the Church. He admitted that; but, in arguing why Wales should specially be chosen as the first field of operations, the right hon. Gentleman actually went back to the days of Giraldus Cambrensis. But whom was it Giraldus Cambrensis specially competed against? With whom was his feud? Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury. Was Hubert an Englishman? Mind, the accusation of the Home Secretary was that then, as now, the Church of England was a foster-mother of the Church in Wales, and had no sympathy or spiritual connection with her, and he selected a period when Hubert the Norman was Archbishop of Canterbury, when the heel of the Norman was on England and Wales, Saxon and Celtic alike. The Member for Mid Glamorgan actually said in this House that the Church in Wales had never been one with the Church of England, but was always a separate national Church. Why, the Church in Wales and the Church in England were one in the days of the Roman occupation. England became heathen again, and the Church lingered on in the recesses of Wales, and what was more natural than that the Church, which had once been one all over England, should again re-unite when the troublous days had passed away, and England had been re-converted, not only by missionaries from Rome, but by missionaries also from the British Church, because most of the conversion in the north took place from Strathclyde and the Irish missionaries? Therefore, there never was a more complete historical delusion than to say that the Church in Wales was ever completely and organically distinct from the Church of England. He did not wish to use hard words of a political opponent, but was it honest to put the argument from the supposed success of the Irish Church after Disestablishment and 212 Disendowment before the House when the framers of this Bill had taken care not to repeat those portions of the Irish Act which alone, or, at any rate, very largely enabled the Irish Church to meet Disestablishment and Disendowment in the way she did. If they merely took the fact that the Church of Ireland was given a capital sum of £8,000,000 to start upon—no doubt charged with annuities—and that the Church in Wales would be started with no capital at all, it seemed scarcely honest to ask them to believe confidently in the financial future of the Church in Wales, because of the financial success of the Disestablished Church in Ireland. It was a favourite argument with the Government to point to the enormous success of the voluntary system as illustrated in the case of the Free Church of Scotland. No one who had studied the history of the Free Church could deny that, as an example of voluntary effort, it was perhaps unsurpassed in the modern history of Churches. But what did he find? The President of the Board of Trade said that, in 50 years, the Free Church had spent £3,500,000 on buildings alone, but the Church in Wales had, in the same period, spent £3,000,000 on building Churches alone. Had the Free Church of Scotland, the magnificent example of Voluntary effort, fulfilled the idea of its founders? Would Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Candlish be satisfied if they knew that the equal dividend had only reached £160. The average income of the Church in Wales, on the other hand, was £220? There were no fewer than 356 rural parishes in Scotland, with an average population of 1,084, in which the Free Church had been unable to establish a Church. The Church in Wales covered every parish. It came to this—that what the Government really were proposing, if they compared the two Churches, was that now, after 50 years, the Free Church should be Disendowed, and should be told to start again, and a great blessing would rest upon it because of the voluntary gifts of its members. He had only one point more, and he had done. It was a point which the supporters of the Bill had studiously avoided. The doctrine of his Nonconformist friends was that the question of 213 spiritualities was not within the functions of the State. But this Bill interfered in the most intimate manner with the spiritualities of the Church—in a manner in which the Bill which Disestablished the Church in Ireland never interfered with them, and in which a Bill to Disestablish the whole Church of England would not interfere with them How could such interference be justified? There was no provision in the Bill for any fresh appointments between the passing of the Bill and the constitution of the representative body. Bishops might die, incumbents might die, but no bishops were to be appointed to take charge of the Sees, and populations were to remain without any spiritual care The Irish Act did provide for these contingencies. Why had they been deliberately omitted here? Again, on the question of ritual, under this Bill the Court of Final Appeal in all matters concerning the Church in Wales would be the House of Lords. Thus, there would be the House of Lords giving one set of decisions with regard to the Church in Wales, and the Privy Council giving another set of decisions with regard to the Church in England and so the foundation was being laid for two divergent sets of judgments on the ritual and doctrines of the Church of England. Then, by Clause 13, Wales was taken out of Convocation. Convocation was the governing body of the Church of England. Where were Welshmen to go?
§ *VISCOUNT WOLMER
Let them form one for themselves! That showed his hon. Friend's complete inability to understand the constitution of the Church. The hon. Member deliberately proposed that Churchmen in Wales should set up a separate Convocation. He might tell the House that Churchmen in Wales regarded the Church in England and in Wales as one and indivisible. Therefore this clause was a deliberate disruption of the spiritual and ecclesiastical governing body of the Church of England. Again, under Clause 14 Her Majesty was to grant a charter of incorporation to the representative body when she was satisfied that it had been formed in accordance with the wishes of the bishops, clergy, and laity 214 of the Church in Wales. The laity of the Church of Ireland were ascertained, because a census was taken; but who were the laity in Wales? Who was to advise Her Majesty on that point? His right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who was of opinion that it was not the function of the State to interfere in Church matters, was going to decide who the laity in the Church in Wales were, and whether the representative body had been formed in accordance with the wishes of the laity. If the Government would not have a census before Disestablishment, at any rate they might have one afterwards. The Church in Wales was to be at the mercy of the Home Secretary of the day, and that seemed to him a usurpation of functions to which neither the Church in Wales nor the Church in England would ever submit. The opponents of the Bill had been taunted by the President of the Board of Trade and by the Home Secretary because, while professing to believe implicitly in the spiritual mission of the Church, they regarded the passing of a Bill like this as the inevitable destruction of the Church. No Churchman he was acquainted with ever had believed for a moment that it meant the destruction of the Church. No Parliament and no Minister had the power to destroy the Church. That had never been their contention, and those who said it was so, said so in order that they might give the go-by to the true objections and the true contentions. The opponents of the Bill did contend that her spiritual work and her work for good would be greatly, grievously, and for a long time hindered. They did say that it would take years to reconstitute the fabric of her endowments and her parochial organisation. They did say that in the interval much ground would be lost, and that they resented the proposals of the Bill because they were made on pretences historically false, and contained the germs of intolerable wrong. The Church had given the greatest example to the whole world of what voluntaryism could do. Long before Nonconformity existed the Church was giving. His right hon. Friend did not deny that. The Church was an example by which Nonconformity had profited. At the present moment, man for man and head for head, Churchmen were 215 giving in voluntary gifts as much as Nonconformists; Churchmen fully admitted that no Church was a living Church that depended only on the endowments of a past age; but they contended that no Church could do its work properly without Endowments, and one proof of that contention was that the Nonconformists were collecting Endowments. The Free Church in Scotland had been in existence 50 years, and had now Endowments amounting to a million and a half. The contention of Churchmen was that when they had voluntarily collected their Endowments they were going to be taken away from them. In conclusion he would quote only one passage to prove his contention that to strengthen all churches endowments were absolutely necessary. The quotation was taken from Life and Work of January 1895, the Church of Scotland parish magazine. It referred to the very remarkable work, The New Era, by the Rev. Josiah Strong, himself a Congregationalist, and for eight years the general secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of the United States. In the course of the article it is stated—In many villages there were twice as many churches as were needed, all feeble, and struggling with each other for life; while along the Erie Canal for eight miles were found scattered hamlets, containing together a considerable population, where there was no religious service of any kind from one year's end to another.Information from other part of the States indicates that these five counties are fairly representative of the rural districts of New York. A clergyman in another county writes—We have investigated the condition of the county, and find it little less than appalling. Not one half of its children have Sabbath School privileges, and wide stretches of country are without any religious activities of any kind.This state of things is not exceptional.There are at least 70 towns in Maine,also an early-settled State—in which no religious service is held. At the same time there are scores of towns in which two or more little churches are struggling for existence, calling for missionary help, and expending most of their energies in raising money to pay current expenses. It is not pretended,says Dr. Strong, after some further similar quotations,that these describe the condition of all country communities; but it is only a question of time 216 when precisely such conditions will result from well-established tendencies, which exist where-ever the population is being depleted.One last quotation—In the country, the depleted churches in their struggle for existence almost necessarily fall into competition with each other, and the smaller the village the sharper becomes the sectarian rivalry. Instead of making the Church a means to save men, men are sought, if at all, as a means to save the Church. Thus the churches lose their hold on the population; and as they grow weaker the minister's support dwindles, until he is forced to divide his time with some other feeble church in a neighbouring village, or turn aside to farming, in order to eke out his scanty living, or leave altogether. In this way the churches are enfeebled until many of them become extinct. During the past 30 years thousands of churches have thus died from exhaustion in the rural districts of the United States.Neither in Wales nor elsewhere could a Church cover the whole religious field and do her work completely without Endowments. Therefore, until all constitutional means of resistance should have been exhausted, they would oppose firmly this proposal to take from the Church in Wales Endowments which they believed she ought to retain in he spiritual interests of the people of that country.
§ MR. ALFRED THOMAS (Glamorgan, E.)
observed that before the Tithe Committee which sat a few years ago an Irish land agent, Mr. Hussey, was asked whether Disestablishment had or had not been a blessing to the Church in Ireland? After some hesitation the witness replied: "Well, it has been." Disestablishment in Ireland had had the effect of driving the drones away from the Church, and, as a consequence, she had become stronger morally, spiritually, and socially. The opponents of this Bill contended that if her Endowments were taken from the Welsh Church she would be weakened. If there was any validity in that argument the Church ought to have been most successful when she was most richly endowed. The reverse, however, had been the case in Wales. If there was any town in the Principality where the Church was successful it was Cardiff, where there were 23 places for Church of England worship and 30 clergymen, and where the Endowments were only, from all sources, £1,200 per annum. But in in only one of these places of worship was the service conducted in Welsh. 217 The Nonconformists, on the other hand, had 13 chapels in which the service was conducted in that language. The strongest case of Disendowment he had ever heard of was the Pope's loss of his temporal dominions, yet no one could say that the Pope lost any spiritual power in consequence. Since then he had even contended successfully against the strongest man in Europe—namely, Prince Bismarck. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol had prophesied that, after Disestablishment, Church of England landlords would treat their Nonconformist tenantry worse than hitherto. But he hoped that one result of the Welsh Land Commission would be the enactment of legislation for preventing landlords from persecuting their tenants. He looked upon the present measure as an honest attempt to settle the greatest grievance they had as a people.
§ *MR. J. H. STOCK (Liverpool, Walton)
said, he would not have trespassed upon the time of the House if it were not for the fact that he felt a firm conviction that this Bill was not only a direct menace to, and attack on, the Church of England as a whole, but was also fraught with the greatest peril to many of the highest influences that made for the good of their country. He was unfortunately unable to be in the House during the Debate on the First Heading of the Bill, nor had he the pleasure of listening to the masterly speech of the Home Secretary at the commencement of the present Debate, but in reading and listening to the speeches of the promoters of the measure, he had been struck with the tone of cyncism which characterised them in contrast to the earnestness and depth of feeling and well reasoned out speeches of Sir Michael Hicks-Beach and Mr. Plunket. Lord Rosebery in his speech at Cardiff said, he did not ask his supporters for any enthusiasm. He doubted if any good work was ever entered upon that did not arouse some enthusiasm, but certainly the Prime Minister had got his wish. This measure had raised no enthusiasm, except amongst the Welsh Members, and those who were anxious, not only to cut off the Church in Wales, but also to cut off Wales from England. That was surely the hardly-muffled key-note of the Home Secretary's speech. He would like to say a few words upon what might be called the religious 218 aspect of the question. He doubted if this aspect would create much interest or carry much weight amongst some hon. Members opposite, who would cripple the Church in Wales at all hazards, but surely it went to the very root of the whole matter. They had been told on the authority of Ministers that Disestablishment would strengthen the Church in Wales. The hon. Member for Flintshire had stated, in a speech at Rhyl, that Disestablishment was more religious than a political question, and he quite agreed with that admission. He went on to say—I believe I am expressing the feeling of all the Nonconformists of Great Britain, and a great many Churchmen as well, when I say that I strongly believe that State Establishments have always been injurious to spiritual religion. All who have studied Church history know that by far the most active and spiritual time, of Christianity was during the first three centuries, when it was a persecuted religion.He could not recognise a comparison between the Early Church and the English Church in Wales as it now existed. But they read that in the early days the Christians had all things in common, and, if the hon. Member for Flintshire wished to be logical and to carry out this doctrine, and was ready to take away the £l50,000 to £160,000 incomes and Endowments of the Church in Wales, surely he would be willing to take away also the incomes and Endowments of the Nonconformist chapels in Wales, and put them into a common purse to be devoted to similar purposes. But while, in the words of one hon. Member opposite, they would like to free the Church from the mere dross of earthly and temporal privileges, they showed no anxiety to take away the dross from the chapels. He was sure the hon. Member for Flintshire and those who sat with him were men of high religious convictions, but he would ask them if they honestly believed they would make religion more spiritual in Wales by beggaring the teachers of religion? He could not admit that the case of the Disestablishment of the Church in Ireland was at all parallel with that of the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, but it was admitted that Disestablishment had greatly crippled the resources of the Irish Church and its religious influences, and he asked how religious-thinking men could regard with 219 equanimity the spoiling of the Church in Wales? It was simply a perversion of terms to speak of the English Church in Wales as an alien Church, notwithstanding the Home Secretary's ingenuous argument that "even an indigenous thing, if it was adulterated, became in the truest sense alien," when they remembered that, out of a total of 970 parishes in that country, 422 had the prefix "llan," which in Wales meant "Church;" and that it could not be denied that the ancestors of all the Nonconformists in Wales belonged at one time to the Parent Church. It was not the Church in Wales that had become adulterated. On the contrary, it was her growing strength, her growing independence, her growing freedom from debt, and the beauty of her services that had created this feeling of jealousy and envy which was at the root of this cruel, mean, and sordid campaign against her. He asked hon. Members if they were regardless of the sacrilege and spoliation that was part and parcel of this Bill? Could they regard with equanimity the consequences of it to the country in the relaxation of religious influence, and in the probable withdrawal of religious education to thousands of children in Wales who were at present educated in the Church Schools? Were hon. Members like Gallio of old, and cared for none of these things? Was all the Church's good work to be sacrificed to gratify spite and cupidity, or to give hon. Members opposite a longer lease of Office? Were they going to fulfil our last Poet Laureate's words, and—Bring the old dark ages back, without the faith, without the hope;Break the State, the Church, the Throne, and roll their ruins down the slope?They were told that the Welsh people were passionately longing for Disestablishment. Would that be so when they found that they would get nothing thereby; when they found that they still had to pay the tithes which they were told they would no longer have to pay, and when they found that, in many places, the taxation would be greatly increased if the crippled Church had to relinquish her schools? The truth was, that Disestablishment had never been the sole issue clearly put before the people of Wales. It had always been mixed up with Home Rule and other 220 questions. He believed the Church in Wales would never be in so much danger as she was now, and no wonder the Welsh Members wanted to make hay while the sun shone. He believed, and he prayed he was right in believing, that the Church of England was ingrained in the hearts of all classes, and he believed also the Church was dear to and reverenced by hundreds of Dissenters in Wales as being the stay of their poor, the relief of their sick, the burial-place of their dead; and he warned the Government to take care lest the Welsh Bill, which they hoped would fill up the cup of the House of Lords, did not recoil on their own heads, and engulf their Party whenever they appealed to the country.
§ SIR SAMUEL MONTAGU (Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel)
said, that he had always been in favour of absolute religious equality, but in the last two Parliaments he had refrained from voting on Church questions. In 1884, when he was first a candidate, the general question of the separation of Church and State was in the forefront of the Liberal Programme, but he freely accepted the terms which were then offered in his constituency, that he should remain neutral. At the last General Election, however, he was asked to reconsider his position as to the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales and in Scotland. He, therefore, in 1892, sent round a circular to each of his electors, asking the opinion of each in regard to the question of Disestablishment in those two parts of the kingdom. The replies which he received were in the proportion of nearly two to one in favour of Disestablishment. He, therefore, felt it to be his bounden duty to give effect to the wishes of his constituents and to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ *MR. J. A. CAMPBELL (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)
said, that he would not have thought of taking part in this Debate had the discussion been confined to the subject of the proposed Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales. But it had been more or less openly avowed by several of the supporters of the Bill that the attack was not on the Church in Wales alone, but virtually on the Church of England as a whole, and more than that—and this was his excuse for venturing to 221 intrude in the Debate—arguments had been used on behalf of the Bill which would strike at the existence of an Established Church anywhere—which struck at the union of Church and State. The hon. member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Paul) supported this Bill on the broad principles of religious equality, the principle that the State ought to be absolutely impartial and neutral between all religious bodies in the land. Other hon. Members had spoken to a similar effect, and he was not aware that any advocate of the Bill had been careful to disclaim sympathy with that widest view of the position. He would except the hon. Member for the Eccles Division (Mr. H. J. Roby) who stated that, although he supported this Bill, he would not extend Disestablishment to the Church of England as a whole. As to this principle of religious neutrality, in his humble opinion, it would involve a reversal of the Constitution of our country. We were the citizens of a Christian and Protestant State. We lived under a Christian and Protestant Constitution. This was our guarantee for our liberties, civil and religious—a guarantee for the liberties of our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects not less than for the liberties of Protestants. Under that Constitution there was the formal acknowledgment of religion, and of a particular religion, by the State. Our Legislation and the public life of the country were carried on under a recognition of Christianity and the Protestant Faith as the religion of the Nation as a whole. This could not be the case if the guiding principle of the State was to be absolute religious neutrality. But it did not follow that there was not absolute religious freedom. The hon. Member for Mid Glamorganshire (Mr. S. T. Evans) said, on Friday afternoon, that—The best acknowledgment or recognition of religion by the State was to permit every man to worship as he pleased.But every man was so permitted now. The persecuting principle was a thing of the past, as regarded this Protestant State. Persecution was recognised to be inconsistent with the principles of Protestantism. If there were real grievances in Wales or in any other part of the Kingdom, because of an Established 222 Church, let them know what they were, and let them seek to find remedies for them; but let them not sever the tie between Church and State, the union of which was so important to the State—much more important to the State than to the Church. The hon. Member for South Edinburgh said—An Established Church was kept up for the members of a particular denomination.This was not so. It was kept up for the good of the whole people. He knew that the United States of America and several of our Colonies might be pointed to as illustrations of how well Christian and Protestant principles could hold their own, notwithstanding the absence of an Established Church. But he would remind the House that these countries were greatly influenced by the traditions, the laws, and the example of the Mother Country; and, although they had no formal connection of Church and State themselves, they were naturally affected by the order of things prevailing here. Sever the union of Church and State in this country, however, and could it be doubted that the result would be disastrously felt in all English-speaking communities abroad? His hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Mr. J. G. Talbot) had quoted the opinion of the late Dr. Döllinger, that the Disestablishment of the Church of England would be a blow to the cause of religion throughout Christendom. The evil effect which Dr. Döllinger dreaded for all Christendom would be especially felt in our Colonies. What was already the result in those of our Colonies where religious equality was made the one guiding principle? In Victoria no religious teaching was given in the public schools, and, if he was not misinformed, all definite religious references had been removed from the school books; and the results were deplored by all sections of the Christian Church. The name of Dr. Chalmers had been mentioned by the Secretary for Scotland (Sir G. Trevelyan), but would Dr. Chalmers have had any sympathy with the views on which this Bill was advocated? Dr. Chalmers said, in his address to the General Assembly of the Free Church in 1843—We are the advocates for a national recognition and national support of religion, and we are not voluntaries.223 Further, in an Earnest Appeal to the Free Church on the subject of its Economics, in 1846, he said—We rejoice in the testimony of the Free Church for the principle of a National Establishment, and most sincerely do we hope that she will never fall away from it.And, only a few weeks before his death, in the course of his evidence before the House of Commons Committee on the Refusal of Sites, 12th May 1847, he said—We, of the Free Church, are not voluntaries, and I confess to you that I should look with a sigh to the demolition of the framework either of the Scottish or of the English Establishment,These extracts show what was Dr. Chalmers' attitude towards the policy now urged by supporters of this Bill. He (Mr. Campbell) opposed this Bill because he saw in it an attack, not only on the Established Church of England, but on the principle of Church Establishment, and because, if carried to its logical issue, it would introduce a system which would do much to deprive our State—the public life of our people—of all religious character, and to land our country in a hopeless secularism.
§ MR. R. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
said, that he desired for a special reason, as a Scotch Member, looking forward to the assistance of his Welsh friends in days to come, to make little more than a formal interposition in this Debate, and he would confine himself to one reason among several which induced him to support the Second Reading of this Bill, a reason which, as far as he had been able to gather from the Debate, had not been brought prominently before the consideration of the House. To his mind the strongest reason that had been urged against the Bill was what he would venture to call the utilitarian argument in this matter. It was said that it was a universal blessing to the country at large that there should be secured in every parish an independent and thoroughly competent religious and moral teacher, whose function it would be to bring home to the feelings and thoughts of the people the great questions, destiny, and duty of their own relations to the deep mysteries of life and death, along with the obligations and consolations that spring from the possession of truth 224 upon these momentous matters. It was contended that this great national advantage was secured by Establishment and Endowment, and that it was annihilated by Disestablishment and Disendowment. He admitted that there was great force in the contention, and if the argument had been true in the details he should not have been influenced by those considerations of social circumstances and relations as he really was, and might then have been disposed to persuade the people to an opposite course, even to tell them that in this particular matter he shrunk from being the instrument of their will. He granted, for the sake of argument, that Endowment did secure the independence of a religious and moral teacher in a way that voluntary did not and could not do, but what was the good of that independence if the teacher was not free? The independent teacher with a gag in his mouth would never make much progress, and this, he contended, was the necessary tendency of Establishment. Establishment took away what Endowment promised to secure, because it tended to convert the expected, fearless, and spontaneous moral counsellor into a mere mechanical mouthpiece of dictated and traditional propositions. As a fact of political history, there could be no doubt that 300 and more years ago, the House, participating in an Act of Church Establishment, declared that the 39 Articles were the true, the absolute, and immutable truth; their exclusive advocacy by the Church was directed, and the Executive Government were instructed at the same time to deal with gainsayers by the civil sword, as the phrase ran, and with clerical gainsayers by the additional penalty of deprivation. He was not going to criticise the Church Articles on their merits, though he should be perfectly in harmony with the ancient usage of Parliament if he did so. He would only say what everyone of them knew, that those formularies embodied a philosophy of the universe and of human nature as remarkable as it was venerable; that they presented a not less remarkable reading of the most striking chapter of human history upon the basis of the credibility of the supernatural; and that—if he might be allowed the expression—they cast the horoscope of the human race in other 225 spheres—in short, they presented a series of topics on which he conceded, and more than that, on which he maintained, that it was of the utmost importance that competent men, both in power of mind and in instructed intelligence, should communicate heart to heart, and mind to mind, with their fellow-men. But what had the House done in the matter? By establishing those creeds under the penalty of deprivation and temporal ruin against the teachers who might differ from them, it made it, to a large extent, impossible that there should be this heart to heart and mind to mind communication between those religious and moral teachers and their fellow-men. Had the same course been adopted with the instructors in other branches of human thought, what would have been the state of things to-day? He ventured to say they would have had a hypocritical science, a canting philosophy, a false history, an insincere art, and a cynical literature—in short, they would have had a serious retardation of moral and intellectual advance all along the line. That House, by establishing the Church and its creeds, made the assumption that, while all other departments of human thought were subject to change and to progress, the very highest of all departments of human thought was to be regarded as incapable of change and progress, and the creed which was the appropriate expression of the religious thought of one generation could also be conveniently used as the equally appropriate expression of the religious thought of any and every other generation. But how had that assumption been justified by experience and by history? It had been utterly condemned as a disastrous mistake. It had silenced and sterilised the clergy, who, if they believed that creed to be wrong, had everything to lose by teaching what they believed to be right. But with the laity the case was very different; they were not required to be orthodox in order to live. Unnumbered critics of unquestioned in telligence had assailed the philosophic system and the historical statement of the Church Articles. This very Bill contained clauses, no doubt practically copied from the Irish Act—but still clauses of which he would say that the skill with which they were drawn was only equal to the courage and long-sightedness 226 that distinguished them—which provided that the future Church in Wales should be completely free, if it chose, to alter its very central doctrines without at the same time endangering or forfeiting an acre or a sixpence of its property. With respect to the attitude of the laity in this matter, did hon. Members think that the great mass of the working classes was profoundly in love with their creed or their Church doctrines and formularies? He ventured to ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, whose affection for the Church he did not for one moment doubt, whether they considered themselves the most fiery champions of the Thirty-nine Articles. If they liked he would put them to the test. The distinguished leader of the Opposition had recently put forth what was already a famous book upon the foundations of belief, a book in respect of which he could only speak in terms of the profoundest admiration for its power, its originality, its learning, its brilliancy, and its varied and multifarious resources. He was not going to criticise the contents of that book, it would be entirely out of order, but he thought he might be allowed to make a passing allusion to it in connection with his argument, as a relevant consideration and a striking sign of the times. He was perfectly well aware that the Established Church had, and could have, no more intrepid and skilful supporter in Parliament; but he should be really curious, having read his book, to hear how the right hon. Gentleman was going to maintain that that House was right when it declared the Thirty-nine Articles to be the absolute and the immutable truth. No doubt it was only fair to the right hon. Gentleman to have regard to the limits within which he restricted the scope and intention of his very remarkable essay; but when reading it he, for one, could not help feeling that if the author's intellectual attitude to the Church Articles had been that of the receptivity and faith which characterised the Nicene or Elizabethan periods, he would have gone a little out of his way to say something more on behalf of the one or two articles of the creed which ho had taken notice of than simply to say that they might be provisionally accepted apparently on the ground that they 227 furnished a comfortable and convenient refuge for certain alleged intellectual perplexities, and that he would have given less countenance than he had given to the comment that might be made, and had been made, that his main achievement had been to prove nothing but that science was as baseless as theology. He adduced these examples as an indication of the contrast between the attitude of the modern laity and clergy upon the subject of the Church Articles that Parliament had enacted as the truth. If he was right in believing that there had been a very large falling away from the ancient form of allegiance to the Church Articles on the part of the British modern public, he was entitled to infer that it was only an act of common honesty that they should take the earliest moment to disestablish, and by an easy corollary disendow, the Church. How was it that the clergy in these matters should be in a state of universal silent acquiescence, broken only by the occasional and fitful explosion of some non-natural interpretationist, while all around them there was more or less solemn discontent or high and heated controversy? He did not wish to impute degrading motives to a large body of men who set an invaluable example to the public on many most important points, but, in his opinion, they unavoidably fell short in respect to what ought to be their crowning virtue, a fearless and veracious outspokenness on matters pertaining to the very highest human interests. It seemed to him that the effect of the establishment by Parliament of certain forms of belief had been to repel from the service of the Church at the very beginning the boldest class of intellects by the prospect of creed slavery that had been deliberately placed before them, and to influence those who were naturally of a more acquiescent temperament in their youth, when their minds probably could not have been sufficiently made up, to enter a profession which they liked, and which had, of course, its honourable prizes. When they had got the latter class of men in, they had done everything in their power to stifle inquiry on their part, and if riper reflection brought different thoughts it might involve their professional and domestic ruin. He thought he was entitled to say that their tortuous system of Church 228 Establishment had, during the course of generations, produced a sort of etiquette or habit, like the wearing of a garb, whereby the normal cleric instinctively recoiled from anything like thoroughgoing inquiry, not so much, perhaps, because he thought it would be dangerous, but because he had got accustomed to look upon it as unprofessional, and, perhaps, unnecessary. If that be so, or approximately so, he wished to ask what became of their boasted parochial centre of high moral vitality? Where were the materials for it? How could the intellect of a bondsman impart a free inspiration; how could stagnation ever create life? The people were asking for the bread of living truth, and they had constructed a machine for the purpose of supplying them with a stone of dead tradition and antiquated form. Not only were they doing no good, in the highest sense of good he meant—and he did not deny the usefulness of the parochial clergy in many minor ways—not only were they not doing good in the highest sense, and a kind of good for which the clergy ought to be called into existence and perpetuated, but they were doing positive mischief. They were paying ten to fifteen thousand men to handicap all other competing forms of religious and moral propaganda, and opposing the growth of possible enlightenment and progress. They were lowering the tone—and this to him was a serious statement to make—of spiritual veracity all over society. They were turning what was to be an elevating institution into a degrading one, and when they had turned the light that was in the nation into darkness, how great was that darkness. Of course he would be told that the proper cure for all this mischief was not the Disestablishment of the Church, but the emancipation of the clergy. He welcomed that idea as an idea, but as a practical man it seemed to him to be entirely Utopian and impracticable. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol, suggested the idea of concurrent Endowments, but concurrent Endowment did not mean an emancipated clergy but a subsidised congregation. Besides, they could not endow every little sect, and if they did not there was an end to concurrent Endowment. Another alternative suggested by many Church reformers was that there should be what 229 they called a comprehensive Church, in which every Church of every opinion, from Agnosticism to Fetishism should have a place. Why, common sense would not stand it. People would say: "This is not a Church at all," and none would be more zealous in saying so than Churchmen themselves, and they would be quite right. It would not be a Church at all, but a colony of philosophisers, and they could get enough of them at any time for nothing. So, on the whole, he was not able to see his way out of the difficulty otherwise than by supporting the Second Reading of this Bill. The evil that was in any Established Church—which must necessarily be connected with the establishment of opinions which could not exist without it—was, to his mind, immense, and it was incurable in the Church. Accordingly, all he could do was to wash his hands entirely of all responsibility for the perpetuation, of the evil, and to trust that the social organisation would, as it had heretofore done, evolve those self-preserving functions and ordinances which would conduct it with sufficient speed along the path of ethical progress; that nature would, as it always had done, from time to time, raise up men of genuine inspiration and heroic character, whose free and fearless teaching, both by pen and tongue, would be diffused throughout the community by the Press and other communicative agencies. These, in his opinion, would do far more for the moral elevation of the race than all the exertions of rival sects or a creed-bound clergy.
§ *SIR H. S. KING (Hull, Central)
said, that the speech of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh had aroused the feelings of many Members. He did not think that the hon. Member could have realised how he was wounding those who differed from him on this question. What a contrast between his speech and the speeches of the right hon. Member for the University of Dublin and of the hon. Member for North Beds. Listening to the able and witty speech of the hon. Member for North Beds, the thought occurred to him, as it probably would to the hon. Member's nearest relatives, "our foes are those of our own household." It had been argued in that Debate that they were bound to submit to the wishes of the majority in Wales. He could not 230 admit that any majority had a right to alter the moral law, or any of the conditions of the Decalogue, or to repeal the Eighth Commandment. In moral matters he would never bow to any majority simply because it was a majority, for he could not forget that it was a majority that cried 1,800 years ago, "Not this man, but Barabbas." They had arguments, avowed and unavowed, in support of this Bill, and the arguments adopted by the Front Bench were not those that chiefly influenced the Members from Wales. What nonsense it was to go back to Giraldus Cambrensis and the Welsh Princes for guidance as to the course which should be pursued at the end of the Nineteenth Century. They knew the Celt, and loved him for his romantic tendencies, but he would as soon accept the descriptions given in Parnellite organs of the Secretary for Scotland and the Secretary for Ireland as be influenced in his conduct in respect of this Bill by references to the Princes of Wales. The Secretary for Scotland had told them that tithe was given by the community for the use of the community. He believed that when the right hon. Gentleman said that, he was guilty of an historical inaccuracy worthy, perhaps, of a still more distinguished member of his family. His own view was that tithe was originally the gift of the lords of the soil who donated it to a Church or Abbey, and that the custom thus initiated gradually crystallised into law. But the tithes owned by the Church to-day were not the only tithes owned in this country, for there were tithes owned by lay impropriators. How did the Government distinguish between them? What was the distinction in law between the ownership of the one set of tithes and the ownership of the other? If it would be confiscation to take away the tithe belonging to the lay impropriator, how was it not robbery to take away tithes from the Church? The Government pretended that because the custom of paying tithes was converted by the law into a legal usage it became a tax, and was national property, but the payment of tithes to the lay impropriator was equally the creation of law, and equally enforced by the law, and he could see no legal distinction between the one kind of tithe and the other. The right hon. Member for the Bridgeton 231 Division, with that frank ingenuousness which endeared him to his opponents, had let out the true reason for plundering the Church. According to the right hon. Gentleman, it was not because the property of the Church was national property that it was to be taken, but because it handicapped the Dissenting minister in his competition, with the Church. The Church taught—and he believed that it was still a doctrine of the Christian religion—that we should do to others as we would be done by. He commended that principle to the attention of the Nonconformist gentlemen who were now preparing to plunder the Church. But in believing that if they could fleece the Church they would be less hampered in the contest Nonconformists were mistaken, for he was of opinion that the Church would rise to the occasion, that it would not die, but would rise like a phoenix from its ashes. The Home Secretary, apparently, believed that the passage of this Bill would bring about the millennium. Probably that was about the date the Bill would pass at. The right hon. Gentleman was bringing not peace, but a sword into Wales. At present Churchmen subscribed to Nonconformist objects, and lived in amity with their Nonconformist brethren. But the right hon. Gentleman could hardly believe that the members of a plundered Church would be very ready to hold out the right hand of fellowship to those who have attacked and humiliated the Church which they cherished. They had heard a good deal about the admirable self-denial of the poor members of Welsh chapels, and it was usually said that the rich in Wales were all on the side of the Church. If that was the case, it was a bad look-out for the Nonconformists, because Church property, it was said, did not prosper in the hands of the spoilers; and when the booty was spent and dissipated, as it soon would be, the Nonconformist's last state would be worse than his first. He would probably before long have to pay an additional school tax, to supply the educational wants at present provided for in Voluntary schools. The pious sons of the Church in the day when she was robbed of her revenues in order to build museums and create schools of art would nobly come to her 232 rescue and support, but not one shilling would be given to any community outside the Church. He denied the moral competence of Parliament to deal with this matter on the present restricted franchise. It might fairly be asked whether this important question, in which women were so gravely interested, ought to be decided simply by the votes of men? It could not be denied that this was a matter in which millions of women were deeply and vitally interested, and they had no representation in that House by their votes. Women had a pre-eminent right to a voice in the question. Their religious feelings were more intense than those of the average elector, and in proportion to their means they contributed more than men to Church purposes. Was it not inequitable that this House, representing only males, should venture to decide a question of this magnitude and solemnity without paying the slightest regard either to the feelings or rights of the most important part of the population? The women of this country had had no opportunity of declaring what they thought of this proposal. The House had no doubt the power to pass this Bill; but it was always restrained by considerations of equity. It was excellent to have a giant's strength, but it was not always well to use it like a giant. He should offer the most strenuous opposition to the Bill as an iniquity, and an un can did iniquity, perpetrated by a small majority of the half of the community which possessed electoral power upon the other half which had no votes. They were asked to plunder unrepresented women, to take money which these women regarded as sacred, and to apply it to secular uses. If they polled the women of England, Scotland, and Wales on this question he was certain it would be found that the great majority felt the utmost repugnance and abhorrence of this confiscation, and that they conceived it to be nothing short of sacrilege. He would not enter on other grounds of opposition to the Bill. He contented himself with stating one point on which he thought a strong plea could be founded for at least a pause in these destructive and confiscatory proceedings. The Bill ought not to pass until it had been submitted to the country in such a 233 way that a clear, unsophisticated verdict of the people could be taken upon it. No such verdict had as yet been rendered oven by the male electors, and the women had not been consulted at all. He thought that in matters of religion involving the morals, the conscience, the piety of these kingdoms they in Parliament ought to be very careful to see that they did not legislate in such a way as to affect the rights and flout the consciences of that immense and powerful social force. If any good was to come out of it they must carry the women with them in that action. He could not see what good even hon. Gentlemen opposite could hope for from an arbitrary injustice perpetrated with an utter disregard of feminine sentiments and opinions throughout the United Kingdom.
§ MR. A. J. WILLIAMS (Glamorgan, S.)
said, he was most anxious to avoid intemperate language, though occasionally speeches on the other side had not been free from it. He believed he could fairly claim that during this long controversy he had never used a harsh or bitter word. He had many personal friends among the clergy and the laity of the Established Church, and he had always endeavoured to respect their feelings in this matter. But he was bound to claim for his colleagues that the hard words had not all been on one side, and he had in his hand passages from the sermons and speeches of clergymen and members of the Church of the most irritating kind. He hoped, however, that in the House the argument would be conducted in a spirit of fairness and kindness. The right hon. Member for Bristol quoted with great emphasis the opinion of an eminent German divine, Dr. Döllinger, that Disestablishment "would be a blow to Christianity not only in England but throughout Europe." He thought it was very unwise that they should go to Germany for opinions on great questions of principle. He prepared to take his opinions from Birmingham. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, speaking in 1885 upon the question of principle, said:—I am an English Nonconformist, born and bred in dissent, and I am opposed, from honest conviction, to anything in the nature of State interference with, or State aid to, religion … For political, as well as for social reasons, as 234 well, also, as in the interests of religion itself, I am a Liberationist I would free the Church from State control whether in England, or Scotland, or in Wales; and my opinion of the subject is, no doubt, strengthened by my belief that the appropriation to the service of a single sect of funds which were originally designed for the benefit of the whole nation is an injustice; and I hope to live to see the time when voluntary zeal will provide for religious work, and will set free those vast Endowments, which originally included among their purposes the improvement of the condition of the poor, and the education of the people, as well as the special objects to which they have since been exclusively devoted.In another passage the right hon. Gentleman said:—I know that in England, at all events, history shows that the vast mass of our clergy have always resisted every attempt to extend the limits of freedom, every social and every political reform; while, on the other hand, the ministers of the Dissenting sects have been their warmest and heartiest friends. You cannot find the cause of this in the men; human nature is the same whether it be in an Establishment or outside it; you must find it in the system; it has a narrowing effect, and tends to alienate all its supporters from the national movement. You must look to the same cause for the instances of sectarian bigotry, which, unfortunately, are too common.These were his views about the Established form of religion, and he was glad to see that the Under Secretary had the courage of his convictions when he said that you cannot escape from the logical consequences of holding that the Established form of religion was a mistake. If it was good for Ireland, it was also good for Wales, and it was good for England if the English people had only the sense to see it. He had listened with sympathy to the exquisite speech of the right hon. Member for Dublin University; for the Welsh Members this controversy was full of pain, and it was only under a deep sense of duty that they were trying to carry out what they considered to be the just claims of their country. That speech, as well as the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh, had dealt with the relation of the Irish Church to the coming Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. It was said that the Church in Ireland was very much more liberally treated than it was proposed to treat the Church in Wales. No doubt the financial aspect was a very complex one. They had the fact stated in 1893 that the representative body, which held the property of the Church and administered it, had in its 235 possession between seven and eight millions of money. It was said that private munificence had contributed no less than four millions of money, but that was not an endowment of the Church. The sum of £3, 500,000 now stood as a capitalised sum, which more or less represented Endowments. So, therefore, he urged it would be perfectly unreasonable to say that the Irish Church had got anything like eight millions. He was perfectly sure that the Endowments of the Irish Church certainly never represented £1,500,000. [An hon. MEMBER: "Over £7,000,000."] No doubt they made a good deal over these ingenious and exceedingly meritorous financial transactions. The Irish Church supplied a good example of what was going to happen, to the Welsh Church, and he felt happy that it was so. How had Establishment worked in Ireland? How had the Church suffered there? He happened to represent a Division, in which there was an able and enterprising Tory paper, The Western Mail, the determined opponent of their crusade. It had done everything it could to oppose their movement. It was conducted with great ability and energy; but in 1892, just after the General Election, The Western Mail sent over a special correspondent to Ireland to look about and see what the results of Disestablishment were after many years. This correspondent had resided three years in Ireland before Disestablishment, from 1867 to 1869, and he bore the highest testimony to the great advance made by the Church after Disestablishment. Amongst others of the clergy he saw the Archbishop of Dublin and down to the incumbents in poor country parishes. The correspondent wrote as follows:—No matter what place I stayed at on my journey wherein there was a church I found some evidence—as well in the church buildings as in the members of the Church—of renewed life. Whether in a large town like Belfast, with its twenty churches, or in a remote country parish, I could not help remarking the increased activity of the Church as compared with what it was only five-and-twenty years ago. In many places where I remember the churches to have been in a ruinous or half-ruinous state in pre-Disestablishment days, I now found them either in a state of good repair or in course of restoration. At Bangor, in County Down, I found a new parish church erected, at a cost of £12,000. But why multiply instances of this kind in face of the fact that over four millions sterling have been 236 subscribed to the Church of Ireland Sustentation Fund since the Act of Disestablishment was passed?The correspondent wrote further:—During my stay at Armagh I availed myself of the opportunity of ascertaining the views of the Venerable Dr. Meade, Archdeacon of Armagh. 'I do believe,' said the venerable Archdeacon, 'that in the history of our Church there never was a time when her members took a more loving and intelligent interest in her doctrines and in her well-being. Disestablishment,' said the venerable Archdeacon, in conclusion, 'has brought with it these advantages. It has drawn us all close together. We now live in a Church which is quick with the Divine life. The very fact of having to work and make sacrifices for the Church has made her members love her more. The giving of their time and abilities to her support has made them more earnest and zealous in her service.' At the Armagh Conference on the question of lay help, the Dean of Armagh said:— 'Our select vestries—' created by the constitution since the Church was disestablished—' have brought authorised lay help into every parish, and I am certain that the average clergyman would deplore the loss of his select vestry as a calamity; that the interest in all good work which our vestries have evoked and utilised is quite incalculable.' The Rev. Canon Orozier, D.D., treasurer of Down Cathedral, chaplain to the Archbishop of Armagh, and Incumbent of Holywood, County Down, said: 'In the ten years that followed 1860, that is to say, the ten years immediately preceding the coming into effect of the Act of Disestablishment, the total subscriptions from Ireland to the Church Missionary Society were £63,786 6s. In the last ten years, with the full burden of self-support upon Irish Churchmen, the subscriptions to the same society reached the splendid total of £79,568 2s. 9d., an increase of £15781 16s. 9d., and all this in spite of—or, rather, let me say side by side with—increased zeal at home in spiritual and financial matters, and an enormous increase in church and cathedral restoration.' Facts and figures, like those adduced by Canon Crozier, speak volumes, and go further towards proving that the Church of Ireland has gained, on the whole, more than it has lost by Disestablishment than a thousand words of assertion based on mere opinion or speculation. Then there was the statement of the Archbishop of Dublin. And certainly it could not be said that Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland had destroyed one of the bulwarks of Christianity.He now came to the concluding sentence—It seems to me quite reasonable to assume that if in a poor country like Ireland Disestablishment has been beneficial, then in Wales the Churchmen have nothing to fear from the effects of a similar Act if applied to the Principality. Judging by the current of popular opinion the days of the Establishment in Wales are numbered, and being numbered, it will be well for the Welsh clergy to learn wisdom from the lessons of the Irish Church, and be prepared for what seems inevitable.237 He had thought it to be his duty to bring these very remarkable statements, prepared by a correspondent sent by a Tory newspaper to report on the effect to be produced by Disestablishment in Wales, before the House. It was time that this controversy, so full of painful incidents and memories, should come to an end. No doubt it had its bright and glorious side. It had stirred to the depths the emotional and susceptible nature of the Welsh people, and had drawn out all their higher and nobler instincts and qualities. It had lifted them to a higher plane, not only of religious, but of intellectual and political life. It had filled them with a passionate desire for knowledge, and had made the Welsh peasant, collier, small tradesmen, and artizan thoughtful and intelligent students. It had enabled them to realise that there was a great future for them, if they only had a fair chance. But it had done its work of training. They were now prepared for that future—and would no longer be denied or trifled with. The Welsh people would never lower the banner of religious freedom and equality which they had carried forward with such desperate tenacity and self-denial until they had gained the great moral victory for which they had fought so long.
§ *MR. A. S. T. GRIFFITH - BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
said, there were one or two points raised in the Debate to which he should like to have an opportunity of replying. He would not occupy much time in reply to the last speaker. The hon. Member's speech appeared to be a long series of quotations from a Tory Commissioner in Ireland; but he could not see why, because an agent of the Conservative Party found defects in the Irish Church, that was any reason why they should Disestablish and Disendow the Welsh Church. The hon Gentleman complained of the strong language used on the Opposition side of the House. He did not think it was fair to say that any strong language, any abuse, any personalities had been introduced in the Debate on one side or the other. He thanked the Home Secretary for the tone in which he began the Debate, and other hon. Members for recognising that the opponents of this measure felt deeply with reference to this question. He was also prepared to recognise 238 that hon. Gentlemen opposite also felt deeply on the other side of the question, and that they were actuated by deep and conscientious motives. But when they looked from the House of Commons to the country and noted the language which was used there, especially in Wales, he thought a different story could be told. The Baner of April 13, 1892, printed and circulated a statement to the effect that Churchmen were big old babes throughout the ages, that they had been carried by others, and had sucked the breasts to which they had no right, that they lived on other people, and that it was the greatest pity that those who professed to be the successors of the Apostle should place themselves only to be classed with creatures of prey. This was from the organ of Mr. Gee, the author of this Liberationist "crusade," as the hon. Member called it, and rightly, because this movement could not be described as a spontaneous expression of the people. Now Mr. Gee might be made a Welsh Commissioner under this Bill. There was no test to be applied; he might be a persona grata with the Treasury Bench or the Welsh National Party, and he might administer the funds of the Disendowed Church. Mr. Gee had been the Chairman of the Denbighshire County Council; and under this Bill the County Council was to collect the tithe. The County Council had to hand over what tithe it collected for a vested interest to the Incumbent for the time being of any parish. Looking at the animus thus displayed in this extraordinary language about the Church, he asked what guarantee had they that the County Council would collect the tithes at all? They were aware that in Cardiganshire, at the present moment, the tithes were not collected. The Home Secretary admitted that 150 orders for tithes were unexecuted in Cardiganshire at the present time. A large number of those orders for tithes were not for Church but for lay tithes; and yet, because the County Council was in collusion with the Anti-Tithe League, and would not allow the police to be got together to collect the tithe, a large number of laymen were not able to get their tithes now. Did the House think there was the slightest chance of the County Council collecting 239 the tithes and handing them over to clergymen about whom they had used strong language of the character quoted? A wonderful change had come over the complexion of the County Councils in Wales during the last few weeks. It was quite true that previously hon. Members opposite had obtained an enormous majority, and it was true also that at those elections the question put forward was the Disestablishment of the Church. What was the result this time? In a large number of counties, Conservative majorities had been returned. In Denbighshire, there was a Conservative majority, and Mr. Gee had been turned off, and Carnarvonshire had elected a Conservative Chairman. When this question was really fought out in Wales, he believed that the opponents of this measure would be found to be stronger than the representation of the House of Commons showed them to be at the present time. They were told that there were only three Welsh Members against Disestablishment in the House. He admitted the fact; but he contended that at the last General Election the question before the Welsh electors was not Disestablishment but Home Rule. On the First Heading of the Bill he showed that hon. Gentlemen opposite had put forward Home Rule first, and not Disestablishment, in their election programmes; and the hon Member for Mid Glamorgan had himself shown that a large number of the Unionist candidates were themselves Disestablishes; then how could the defeat of a Unionist, who, like his opponent, was in favour of Disestablishment, or refused to drag out the question because he wished Home Rule to be before the people, be construed into a defeat of the Church in Wales? It was not a defeat, because the question was not before the people, at the last election. The hon. Member for Mid Glamorgan told him the statistics he and others had given were wrong, because they had added up the total Unionist vote and claimed all those votes for the Church. He willingly admitted that some of the Unionist candidates were in favour of Disestablishment. He was wrong in that particular. What followed? Let them go back to the 1886 election, when the Unionist candidates, Conservative and Liberal Unionist, all declared themselves 240 against Disestablishment, and when the electors did vote on the Church question. [Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE: "No."] There might have been one or two instances in which the candidates did not do so, but he was certain the hon. Member would admit that the majority of the candidates in 1886 did say, distinctly and openly, they were against Disestablishment, whereas in 1892 they did not. In 1886 the Unionists polled 2,345 more votes than they polled in 1892, in the constituencies in question—in other words, when this question was put fairly and squarely before the Welsh people the Unionists polled more votes than when they burked the question and put it in the background. It was asked what was the use of hon. Members on the Opposition Benches trying to delay the passing of this Bill? The reason why he and his friends were determined to fight the Bill was, that judging from everything they saw in Wales—by the manner in which the people were coming back to the Church, and even by so trivial an incident as the County Council elections—they believed time was on their side. The Church might have been weak—it had been weak—but it was now growing every day, and its supporters were determined to put off this question until the time when the Church was so strong that Disestablishment would be entirely impossible. [Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE: "When"?] Very soon. He thought the hon. Member would see a very marked change at the next election. The hon. Gentleman and his friends were determined to push the matter forward as quickly as they could because they knew time was against them, and unless they were able to get Disestablishment and Disednowment very shortly the opportunity would be gone. The Home Secretary had given them three local reasons why this Measure should be passed. The first was that in Wales the Sunday scholars of the Nonconformist bodies vastly outnumbered the Sunday scholars of the Church. The answer to that was that the Church Sunday scholar was a very different person to the Nonconformist Sunday scholar; there was no comparison between the two. Was it fair then to make a numerical comparison?
§ *MR. J. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to tell us where we can obtain the 241 particulars from which the totals of Church attendance are made up?
said, he had not given any total. He was taking the Home Secretary's figures. It had been proved in the Debate that in addition to the fact that no comparison could be made between the two classes of Sunday scholars, the Home Secretary had over-estimated the number of Sunday scholars of the Nonconformists by no less a figure than 80,000. The right hon. Gentleman's second local argument was, that in 27 parishes in Anglesey there was no resident clergyman, practically no services, and in some cases no buildings. The answer to that was abundantly supplied by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Plymouth (Sir E. Clarke), when he showed that in 76 parishes in Anglesey there were 67 clergymen, whereas there were 83 chapels of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists and only 56 ministers. He (Mr. Boscawen) had received a letter from the Bishop of Bangor, in which his Lordship said—These parishes, 27 in number, according to Mr. Asquith, but 19 at most according to my calculation, have a total population of 3,000, and the tithes amount to just £1,100, and not £7,000, as stated by Mr. Asquith.He added—Church work in Anglesey goes on as regularly and as vigorously as in any part of Wales, and some of the parishes are exceptionally strong. There are, of course, a very few peccant spots.That disposed of the second local argument of the Home Secretary? What was the third local argument? It was that the communicants of the Nonconformist bodies largely outnumbered the communicants of the Church of England. This was a subject he approached with some diffidence; it was one he regretted had been dragged into the Debate. But he submitted that here again there was no fair comparison to be made. Any impartial man, any clergyman of the Church of England who was not a Party man, any leading Nonconformist in England who understood the question and was not a Party man, would tell them that a perfectly different thing was meant by being a Church of England communicant and by being a Nonconformist communicant. But, apart from 242 that, the figures given by the Home Secretary as to the communicants of the Church of England related to those who communicated on Easter Day, 1892, while the figures he gave as to the communicants of the Nonconformist bodies related to those who might communicate at any time during the year. What fair comparison could possibly be made between the two? But if any argument were to be derived from the question of the number of communicants it was this—that in Wales there had been a remarkable increase in the number of communicants during the last few years. He had been accused of merely stating the figures which have been given by the Church Defence Association, and therefore could not quote any figures from that source to-night. The Bishop of Bangor wrote him:—In one parish in my diocese, the parish is a town where, in 1893, the number was 137, in 1894 it was 277, and I believe, as a matter of fact, that the total roll would amount to at least 500.There had been an enormous increase of late in the number of Church communicants; and, therefore, if ever the Bill might have been fair and just, it might have been just and fair some years ago, but certainly not now. Nonconformists had given the number of their communicants as 45 per cent, of their adherents. It was not for him to question that estimate. He was willing to accept the percentage; and he thought that at the same time Nonconformists should accept the percentage given by Churchmen. The Home Secretary had quoted 118,000 as the number of communicants in Wales, and taking the communicants as being 10 per cent, of the adherents of the Church in Wales,—which was not too high an estimate, for in England, as stated in "The Church of England Year Book," it was 8 per cent. —that gave the adherents at 786,000, which was two-fifths of the population, as Churchmen had always claimed. He thought, therefore, he was entitled to say that, if the case for the Bill depended on the local agreements of the Home Secretary, the case was a very weak one indeed. But the Home Secretary also travel historical reasons. The right hon. Gentleman had thrown over the Liberationist Society and the Prime Minister, an example which had been 243 followed by the hon. Member for Bedfordshire in the interesting and able speech he had made that afternoon. The hon. Member for Bedfordshire had said that the Conservative Party, in following a man who had voted for the Second Beading of the Irish Church Bill, were following a man who was a national sinner. But the Liberal Party was following a mini who had been inaccurate in his view of Church history, The Prime Minister had spoken of the transfer at the time of the Reformation, and seemed to contemplate that the Church, instead of being reformed at the Reformation, came into existence at that particular period. But they had had from the Home Secretary, and other supporters of the Bill, an admission of the historical continuity of the Church. That meant that the Church in Wales was the most thoroughly national institution in Wales; and it meant, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian in his remarkable book on "The Church in its Relation to the State," that the ministers of the Church were—''Ordained hereditary ministers of the Truth, conveying it to us through an unbroken series from the Apostles themselves.But the Home Secretary had said that the Church, though historically national, had become denationalised, and to prove that the right hon. Gentleman instanced, first of all, that it had been plundered by England and especially by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Twelfth Century and again in the Eighteenth Century, and that except for a few "brief and rare" intervals it had always been treated as a mere dependency of the English Church. But the right hon. Gentleman, had forgotten the whole Tudor period and the whole Stuart period, in regard to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian had said—There is not a more curious fact in History than this: there are four sees in Wales, and yet between the Reign of Henry VIII. and the Revolution, no less than forty-four Welshmen were appointed to fill them.The intervals referred to by the Home Secretary during this period of 200 years might have been rare but they were not brief. They were so long 244 that they could not help being rare. But even supposing there had been a break in the historical continuity of the Church, surely that was no reason why the Church should now be deprived of her Endowments? For his part he only asked for religious equality. It was said that the subject of the Bill was to secure religious equality. He did not see any religious equality in the Bill. He did not see equality in depriving the Church of her Endowments and leaving to the Nonconformists an absolute right to their buildings and Endowments. In the case of the Nonconformists, by the Dissenters' Chapels Act 1842, 25 years' possession was deemed a sufficient title even when their doctrines had changed. Then why should 300 years' possession—to go no further back than the Reformation—not be deemed sufficient to secure the same right in the case of the Church? Churchmen had no desire to take away a penny of the Endowments of the Nonconformists. Indeed they were glad the Nonconformists had those Endowments to assist them in the great, noble, and Christian work in which they were engaged. But Church people said to Nonconformists: "Treat us as we treat you; live and let live; deal out that measure of justice to the Church which we, as Christian men and women, give to you. "It was also proposed to mete out to the Welsh Church different treatment from the treatment accorded to the Irish Church when it was Disestablished in 1869. The Irish Church at that time claimed 667,000 adherents out of a population of 5,500,000. The Welsh Church claimed rather more, for it claimed to have 786,000 adherents, out of a population of 1,177,000. But after Disendowment the Irish Church had £7,500,000 by commutation to start with and £500,000 by private benefactions. The Irish Act provided that the purchase value was to be 22½years of the net annual value. Take the existing endowment in the case of Wales. The present capitalised value at the same rate of the endowment of the Church in Wales was £3,600,000; or, in other words, the Church now, before Disestablishment, possessed £4,000,000 less than the Irish Church possessed after Disestablishment 245 and Disendowment. And yet this miserably small endowment, which did not amount to more than £170 a year, on the average, for each incumbent, and which was much too little for the needs of the Principality, it was proposed to take away. It had been said, and it had been denied, that in the event of this Bill passing, many parishes would be left without pastoral care. From his knowledge of Wales and his acquaintance with the poverty of many of the parishes, he regarded it as almost certain that there would be many where it would be impossible to maintain a resident clergyman, and such parishes would have to be grouped together. Though the endowment was small, and though the population was very poor, the parishes in Wales were of enormous extent in area, and it was a physical impossibility at the present moment for one clergyman to work the parish he had got, but if grouped with others then large portions of the population of the parish would be left without his care at all. In half the parishes there was no resident Nonconformist minister, and these were just the poor parishes in which it would be impossible to maintain a resident clergyman. There would thus be many parishes where there might be services on Sunday and where the work would be done as well as it could be under the circumstances, but he did not think that religion in this country depended only on such services. There was also that fostering care in the work of helping the poor and the needy, and the constant visiting that went on at the present moment. All these, by the passing of this Bill, would be absent, and the result would be that not the Church alone, but religion generally throughout Wales, would suffer a grievous blow. Not only was it the case that a large number of parishes had no resident Nonconformist minister, but a large number of those ministers had not the time or leisure to devote themselves solely to the duties of their ministry. At the present moment there were 569 Calvinistic Methodist ministers in Wales, 191of whom were shopkeepers, farmers, commercial travellers, and agents, while 12 were engaged in educational work, and only 356 could be described as ministers pure and simple. His idea of a minister of religion was a 246 man who gave his whole time to the work of his ministry, and he said it would be a grievous thing for Wales if the parishes were left to the care of men who could only devote one-seventh of their time to pastoral work. Who would suffer? The people seemed to think the clergy would suffer, or that the rich would suffer. He fully admitted that the rich men would have to put their hands into their pockets, and not only so, but he was afraid they would, in many cases, be obliged to withdraw the subscriptions they now gave to charitable objects in order to support resident clergymen. Lord Macaulay had been quoted in this Debate already, and he would add one more quotation. Speaking in that House in April, 1845, Lord Macaulay used these words:—If I would keep up the Established Church of England, it is not for the sake of the Lords, Baronets, and county gentlemen of £5,000 a year, and rich bankers in the City. The person about whom I am uneasy is the working man. What is to become of him under the Voluntary system?Yes, what was to become of the working men in Wales and Monmouthshire when they left them to the Voluntary system, which gave them half the parishes with possibly no resident minister of religion, and where the idea of hon. Members opposite was that ministers of religion could spend six days out of the seven on purely secular work? He wished to mention one other matter, and that was the cathedrals clause, which had given the greatest pain to Churchmen on his side of the House. That clause was inconsistent with the rest of the Bill. The rest of the Bill proposed that private endowments given since 1703 should be left to the Church, and he asked, were not the hundreds of thousands of pounds given by the Church people for restoring these cathedrals morally as much private endowments as the shilling or half - crown any man might put into the collection plate in Church next Sunday? They might not be private endowments under the Bill, but they were strictly private endowments, morally because they were intended for the Church. What were they going to do? Were they going to take away the old part of the Cathedral and leave to the Church the restoration work? Were they going to try and separate the old 247 stones from the new work which kept them all together? The proposal of the Government reminded him of Portia and Shylock. Shylock could not take his pound of flesh and yet, at the same time, not shed a drop of Christian blood. It was just the same with these cathedrals. They could not separate what was ancient—national monuments—and what were private benefactions given a few years ago. He hoped, whatever else happened to this Bill, that this clause might be thrown out. These cathedrals were built by the Church, not a single penny had ever been spent on them by the nation, their restoration had been accomplished by Churchmen in the present century, and they should be handed over, as in the case of Ireland, to the Church to which they had always belonged. He knew hon. Members, and especially those sitting below the Gangway, had asked why he, an English Member should take such an interest in this question. His reply was that as an English Member he had a vital interest in it, because this Bill did not merely Disestablish and Disendow the Church in Wales, but it mutilated the whole English Church. The Bill broke up the Ecclesiastical Commission and Convocation—almost every clause affected the vital interests of the Church of England. Therefore, as an English Member, he had a right, as a member of the predominant partner to say whether, in his view, the Bill ought to become law or not. He might not represent a single Welshman in this House, but the views he held were shared by thousands of Welshmen who were as truly patriotic Welshmen as any Members in this House, who loved the history of Wales, its language, literature, and national characteristics, but who loved, above all, their National Church, and who looked to the Church as the oldest, the proudest, the most truly Welsh institution in the Principality. And although he represented an English constituency, because he felt this Bill would strike a fatal blow, and would immensely retard the progress of that institution which was dearest to his heart, he, along with thousands of other Welshmen, would strain every nerve to resist this Bill to the utmost of his ability.
§ MR. D. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Distict)
remarked that, although 248 the hon. Member claimed to be a Welshman, he mentioned certain Welsh names which he was unable to pronounce. The statistical calculations he had brought forward were a fair example of how the statistics in support of the Welsh Church were cooked. The way they were arrived at was this. In England, they were told, the proportion of communicants to adherents was 8 per cent. The hon. Member, by some process which he did not explain, had come to the conclusion that that proportion was too low in Wales, and, accordingly, he put it at 16 per cent.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
pointed out that the higher he put the percentage, the smaller became the total number of adherents. If he took it at 8 per cent, he would have included, in some cases, the whole of the Welsh population.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
That is ex-actly my point, and the statement only shows how these figures are arrived at. Two clergymen recently wrote to a Church newspaper, and they were incautious enough to give the number of communicants in their respective parishes. In one parish, according to the estimate of the rector, the communicants numbered 70, and there were 120 communicants belonging to the Methodist Church in the same parish. If they multiplied the 70 by 6 there would be 420 adherents belonging to the Church of England in that district, which, added to the 120 communicants belonging to the Methodists, brought up the population to 540, whereas the whole population only amounted to 312. There was another rector who computed that he had 160 communicants in his parish; therefore the number of adherents of the Church, according to the hon. Member, were 960, but the whole population of that parish was only 537. That was the way these statistics were got up. They came not from hon. Members but from St. Asaph; that was where they were prepared. The hon. Member indulged in a prediction with regard to the speedy extinction of Nonconformity and its influence in Wales, and in order to that he referred to the County Council elections in Denbighshire, which were not on political issues at all. But directly they won a victory for the Tory side they said, look at the way the 249 Church has been supported by the Principality. The Welsh people would not forget that lesson when the next County Council election came round. The hon. Member also referred to the election of a Conservative Chairman on the Carnarvon County Council as a signal triumph for the Church in Wales. He was astonished the hon. Member should use that fact at all. In that County Council, of which he was a member and an alderman, the Liberals were in a majority of two to one. They met in a kind of caucus before the Council, and they decided unanimously to elect a Conservative as Chairman. That was a gracious act, and he did not think the hon. Member was entitled to make political capital out of it. He did not propose to follow the hon. Member in his examination of the details of the Bill. What criticism he passed upon the Bill last year he fully adhered to, and when the time came he should propose Amendments to carry out his views with regard to compensation. He should also like to see some Amendments made with regard to cathedrals and lay tithes. He preferred on this occasion to deal with the general principles involved in the Bill. They had been told repeatedly in the course of the Debate, that the Disendowment proposals of this measure were tantamount to robbery of the Church. His first point upon that was this—that if the House of Commons came to the conclusion that Disestablishment was necessary in the interests of the religion of the Principality, Disendowment was a corollary. For this reason, that Establishment was an essential element of the tithe of the Church to its property. Hon. Members were too apt to overlook two points. The first was that this was not a question of doctrine or ritual. The main claim of the Church to its property depended entirely upon its being recognised by Parliament as the National Church. He stated that on the authority of Lord Selborne, who said in his work that the main argument in favour of the retention of Endowments was the fact that, whatever the changes in doctrine might have been in the course of history, the Church, from the national point of view, was the same. Lord Selborne said that when he was arguing out the question of the Church of England, though he noticed he did not use that 250 argument when he came to the Appendix and was discussing the Welsh Church, because it was on a totally different footing. He did not think any hon. Member would argue that a Church, the national character of which was repudiated by 31out of the 34 representatives of Wales in that House, could possibly claim to be the national Church. They asked the House of Commons by means of an Act of Parliament to give legal recognition to what was already an established fact—that the Church in Wales had ceased to be the national Church of the Welsh people. His second point was that hon. Members overlooked the fact that the clergy were not the beneficiaries of this property. They were simply the trustees, and they said that, owing to circumstances over which they as a nation had no control—circumstances for which the clergy themselves were responsible in the last century—a majority of the beneficiaries were not at the present moment in the enjoyment of their share of the property. Therefore they came to Parliament and asked them to readjust this property; to change the trust deeds, and to alter the administration of the trust in such a way that the whole of the beneficiaries of the trust should receive benefit from it, and not merely a section. If that were pillage and robbery, all he could say was that there was hardly a month when the Court of Chancery did not sanction a scheme of pillage and robbery almost identical with the principle which they were asking the House of Commons to sanction. Since this Debate had commenced he had taken the trouble to put in the form of an indictment the charge which was made against the people of Wales in connection with this agitation. He had only to state it for the House of Commons to see the absurdity of it. They were told that the majority of the people of Wales, not in a fit of passion, but after mature reflection, had entered upon a pillaging and plundering enterprise. For fully 20 years they had stuck to it on the advice of their spiritual guides, because it was only quite recently that the mere political feature had entered into the question at all. They were prompted in this agitation, according to hon. Members, by some of the basest motives that could possibly animate the human heart. Greed, jealousy, 251 envy, malice, and all uncharitableness—that was the indictment brought against the Welsh people. He would ask hon. Members opposite to dismiss their prejudices for a moment, and reflect calmly what was the nature of the charge they were bringing against the whole Principality. Could it be imagined that an agitation such as hon. Members described it could have been successfully carried on for a period of 50 years without utterly demoralising any nation? If the Welsh people robbed Churches they would rob their neighbours. Yet, what did they find? The goal delivery in Wales was a perfect farce at the present time, except, indeed, in that remote corner where the Welsh people are in a minority, and where he observed that The Times newspaper predicted a great Unionist victory at the next election. After years of this so-called immoral agitation, there were no prisoners to try at the Assizes, except for an occasional tramp over the border. Could anyone believe that if the agitation had been immoral, as it was described by hon. Members opposite, that would have been the effect upon the criminality of the Welsh people? He asked the House to take a wider and more charitable view, and to believe that the Welsh people knew their own history and their own needs better than hon. Gentlemen, however able and however honest they might be, who simply got up these circumstances when Wales happened to be relevant to the politics of the hour. The Welsh people had come to the conclusion that this property belonged to them, and that they were simply asking Parliament to give them restitution of their just inheritance. After all, Endowment depended entirely upon Disestablishment, and if the House should come to the conclusion that it was unnecessary to maintain religious Establishment in Wales, then he contended that it was unfair that the property of the Church, which was the property of the Welsh people as a whole, should be handed over to a small section only of that people. Were hon. Members sure that they were advancing the cause of religion by keeping up Establishment against the wish of the Welsh people? It was very difficult to square an argument by the, differences in the speeches of the various Members opposed to this 252 Bill. By one they were told that they must not refer only to the past 50 years; by another that they must not go back too far, as if they did, they were only resurrecting ancient grievances. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Sir E. Clarke) said that they must not refer to the period of the Norman Kings, but that they might refer to a period 13 centuries ago and long before the Norman Kings. But, taken by the test of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol (Sir M. Hicks-Beach), establishment had proved a complete failure in Wales. The true test of Establishment was not to be arrived at by taking a period of the Church when its Endowments were threatened, but by seeing what was its condition at a time when there was nothing to prompt the priesthood except the ministry of their holy calling. The right hon. Member for Bristol referred to the Tudor period as one at which the Church was a great spiritual institution doing a great work. He asserted, however, that at no period since the Reformation had the Church properly performed its functions. Fifty years after the Reformation only two or three sermons in a year were preached throughout the whole of Wales. An eminent clergyman of the Church of England, who was chaplain to Sir H. Sidney in 1753, wrote strongly against the condition of the Church in Wales at that time. Fifty years later, so far from the Church having improved, she had, in fact, deteriorated, and Vicar Pritchard, another eminent Churchman, then described her condition as "deplorable." He had the authority of another eminent Welshman, John Edwards, for stating that, in 1651, barely 1 in 15 among the clerical teachers in the Church of England in Wales could read or write Welsh. That was the testimony of a clergyman 120 years after the Reformation. The right hon. Member for Bristol and other hon. Members had admitted that 50 or 60 years after that period the Church in Wales absolutely neglected her spiritual duties, and, taking the best of the period chosen by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, he contended that at that time also the establishment proved to be a conspicuous failure. Then what was the story of the revival? It commenced, according to the figures of the Bishop of St. Asaph, in 1850. But five years before 253 that the Liberation Society had started operations in the Principality. Large conferences and meetings were hd. There was every appearance of unanimity among the people on the question of Disestablishment, and there could be no doubt that, if the people had been enfranchished at that time, they would have returned a preponderating majority of Members to make the same demand that the Welsh Members were making now. Then came the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, and it was at this time that the new era began in the Church in Wales. What did this prove? That while the services of the Church in Wales were indispensable because there was no other organisation to do the work, she did nothing but mischief; but when other agencies covered the ground then she began to work. What would hon. Members think of a servant who, when his services were really needed did nothing, and when his services were otherwise provided for he insisted upon doing everything? That was the condition of the Church in Wales. Taking the Church, even at the present moment, he contended that her work in Wales would not bear comparison with the spiritual work which was done by the Nonconformists in the Welsh Free Churches. The Church in Wales commanded nine-tenths of the wealth of the Principality, and yet the religious efforts of that wealthy Church sank into insignificance when compared with those of the poorer Church of the small tradesman, the small farmer, and the labourer. Several Welsh Members had referred to the case of the Rhondda Valley, and, therefore, he would refer to it no further than to add that the Nonconformists in that valley had built 120 churches, as against 16 only built by the Church of England, and that, while the Nonconformists had collected all the money necessary to build those churches among themselves, the Established Church in Wales had made appeals in all quarters of the United Kingdom for 254 obtaining funds in order to carry on its ministrations at all. He might cite another case, that of a town which had risen into prominence during the last five years. In 1887 there were two Nonconformist chapels in that town and one Church; but now the Nonconformists had 22 chapels there, while the Establishment had only three Endowed Churches, two mission rooms, and he believed one Welsh missionary. He believed they were building another church now. That had happened in the course of five years, and had been done, not by a Welsh, but by an English, population. In the case of another parish, where the clergyman had stated that Disendowment, pure and simple, would totally paralyse Church-work, as all the inhabitants were of the working class, the Calvinistic Methodists alone, in that district, had about a dozen chapels, with 1,738 communicants; they had Sunday schools with 3,500 members, and they collected £1,869 every year towards the cause. Did not that prove the absolute superiority of the Voluntary over the Endowed system? A good deal depended on the way in which those subscriptions were given. In his own parish there had been two buildings in the last two years—one of the Church of England, the other of the Calvinistic Methodists; the Church spent £4,000, and the Calvinistic Methodists £3,000; but the first sum was given by one gentleman, while the second was given by the quarry men and labourers who frequented the chapel. The accounts of a chapel in the quarry district of Carnarvonshire showed that, climinating subscriptions of more than £5, each family gave about £2 a year towards the cause, and that was given by men who earned about £2 a week. How did that compare with the church of Bryn Eglwys, where, according to the computation of the Rector, there were 70 communicants, amongst whom were the resident landowners in the district? The annual contributions in that case 255 amounted to £20 a year. The labourers and poor people in the same parish collected £116 a year. They had been told that if there were no endowed ministers the poor would be neglected, and there would be no one to look after them. That was a curious comment on the principle of Endowment. When the church was a Voluntary system the pious ancestors of present Churchmen not only looked after their poor, but provided for the poor of all time; but after a thousand years of an Endowed Church they had become so degenerate that they could not look after even their own poor. Anyone who knew Welshmen, however, would know that it was an absolute insult to say that they would not look after their poor, needy, and suffering. Shortly before he came up to the House, in his own parish a pauper fell sick, nearly to death, and instantly the whole of his own Calvinistic Methodist church divided themselves into relays of two to visit the sick man day after day and wait upon him, from the richest among them to the poorest. Such cases occurred frequently. It was argued that if they Disendowed the Church there would be no resident minister in 300 or 400 parishes in Wales. The Home Secretary had dealt in one respect with that very effectively; he had pointed out that the Nonconformist system in Wales was a system of itinerant ministers. But it was not merely that: it was a system of itinerant ministers and a system of elders; and the elder, from a pastoral point of view, was a much more important person than the itinerant minister. Who were the elders? It was well the House should know to whom it was proposed to entrust the spiritual interest of the people in Wales. As a rule, the elders were men of unblemished character, men known their fellow members, men who had done good service to their churches, and who were selected on account of their character and their superior intelligence to look after the interests of Nonconformist churches in parishes 256 where there was no resident minister. He would give a parish in Carnarvonshire as an illustration. The parish was in a desolate district, it was miles removed from any railroad or highway, it was in the very heart of the mountains, it was cut off from the surrounding country by a range of hills, it was very sparsely populated, the farm houses were at long intervals, and it was almost inaccessible in winter owing to drifts of snow and floods. There was no resident minister except the clergyman of the Church of England, and he took it that if the Church were Disendowed that clergyman would not find it worth while to remain there, as the only congregation he had was his own son. What had the Nonconformists done there? For the last 60 years they had had a chapel of their own. There were 70 members of that chapel. There was an active Sunday School of about 75 members, and there was collected in the year something like £37 10s. 0d., which showed the people were rather poor. He did not believe that in the roughest weather there had been a single Sunday on which a meeting had not been held in the chapel. Not only that, but in the course of the week there were two or three meetings. A short time ago the people built another chapel in the upper part of the valley for the convenience of the infirm members of the congregation, and they had paid for the chapel out of their earnings. That was done in a parish where there was no resident minister. The main argument used by hon. Members opposite was that without a resident minister the poor would be neglected. He had, he thought, proved that Nonconformity was able to compete with the demand made on its resources. But that was not all. He said that the influence of Establishment upon the Church in Wales had been exceedingly demoralising. What was the usual argument advanced to induce men to attend church. It was said:—In the Church you are not bothered with demands for subscriptions; you have not the collection-plate constantly before you; and if you do not attend Church meetings you will not be pestered with questions.257 When such boons were offered as an inducement to maintain a Church, it was only a small step to offering people material inducements to attend Church, and, unfortunately, this was too frequently done. He knew of two cases in his own parish in which the clergyman offered material advantages to members of other denominations to attend the Church. A remarkable speech was delivered a short time ago at a Church Defence meeting which was held in Penrhyn Castle, and was attended by nearly all the clergy of North Wales. There was only one reporter admitted, and, therefore, the report was—he would not say cooked—but not a fair and candid one. There was one speech in particular which was left out; it was delivered by a gentleman who bore the honoured name of Wynne. He said:—Perhaps there are present some clergymen who hail from remote country parishes, where the parish Church is attended by the parson and the clerk and a solitary farmer, whose attendance is due to sordid considerations.This speech was delivered by an ardent defender of the Church, but it was suppressed in the report which appeared on the following morning. It bore out the suggestion that considerations of this kind were offered to persons to attend church and swell the number of communicants. What better proof could there be of the demoralising effect of the State connection? Another proof was furnished by the petitions against the Suspensory Bill, to which little or no allusion has been made by hon. Members opposite in the course of the present Debate.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said, that he had given the numbers of signatures on both sides in the Debate on the Bill of last year.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said, it was a remarkable fact, if these petitions were genuine, that so little use had been made of them on the other side. The reason was that written declarations had been 258 presented to the Committee on Petitions showing that an enormous number of signatures had been actually forged. As had been remarked by the Chairman of the Committee, himself a Conservative, many of the names appeared to him of clerical handwriting. Then many signatures had been obtained by gross misrepresentation from farmers' labourers, labourers' wives, and people who did not appreciate the political bearing of the question, and who were told that the object of the petition was to prevent the introduction of Irish Popery into Wales. A good deal had been said about the Gee census. He remembered that when it was taken the members of one Church congregation, as soon as they had been counted, hurried off to a second church in order to be counted again. In another case monoglot Welshmen attended an English service, and monoglot Englishmen remained for the Welsh service. All this went to prove that the State connection was demoralising to the Church in Wales. It was not surprising that in these circumstances some clergymen were clamouring for reform. At the Defence meeting at Penrhyn Castle the Lord Lieutenant of the county made a speech in which he contended that reform was absolutely necessary. He had a letter from a clergyman, in which he declared his opinion that reform in the Church would be impossible without Disestablishment. He asked hon. Members opposite whether, after all, they did not think that, in the interests of their own Church, this connection with the State, which did so much to degrade and corrupt the Church herself, should not be done away with. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol said that this was a question for England. Even if it were so, he asked hon. Members for England what had they to gain from a system which forced their Church into practices of the kind he had referred to in order to maintain its supremacy in Wales. But he maintained, as a Welshman, that this was a 259 question for Wales alone. In a matter of commerce or material prosperity, he admitted the right of the Imperial Parliament to subordinate the interests of a small part of the Empire to the interests of the whole, but in a matter of religion he denied the right of an Empire to sacrifice the spiritual well-being of the humblest nationality. This was a matter in which Welsh property was concerned. They had been told about the money given 1,000 years ago by England. It was not given by England. It was given by Welshmen for the benefit of Welshmen, and it ought to be applied in the interests of Welshmen. It was on behalf of the Welsh people that 31 out of 34 of the Welsh representatives in the House protested against a State connection, which they maintained was doing damage to the cause of religion in the Principality, and that they entreated the House to apply their national property for better, holier, and more Christian ends, in assuaging suffering, in succouring distress, in relieving and, if possible, redeeming their people, by giving them that training and discipline which would enable them to overcome and compete with those evils which the present system encouraged.
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
observed that the hon. Member for Carnarvon had spoken on behalf of the Welsh people; he had spoken with authority as representing the Welsh people. He wished to be allowed to say a few words before the Debate closed on behalf of another class of the Welsh nation—those who were the adherents of the Church in Wales. They had not many direct representatives in the House, but many of them were his constituents, and, therefore, he felt, to some extent, bound to represent their case. They might be a minority of the Welsh people, but minorities deserved to be treated with justice, and all he wished to claim from the House was that they should treat with justice those Welshmen who belonged to the Church. He should 260 have said before he heard the speech of the hon. Member for Carvarvon that the two parts of the Bill—the Disestablishment part and the Disendowment part—were entirely distinct, and that, although they were embodied in the same Bill and generally spoken of in the same breath, there was no necessary connection between Disestablishment and Disendowment. But the hon. Member for Carnarvon had stated it otherwise, and he would deal with his arguments when he came to them; but he wished to say a few words on each of those branches, and to endeavour to point out how those Welshmen who were members of the Church in Wales would be treated with injustice if that Church were Disestablished, and would also be treated with injustice if that Church were Disendowed. He would take the Disestablishment first. The House ought to bear in mind that Establishment was not the invention of the present adherents of the Church, but that they had inherited it from their forefathers through a long course of history. They having inherited this organisation, what justification was there for meddling with them and not leaving them alone? The first argument that had been used in that Debate was the argument that it was for their good that they should be Disestablished. He should not like to be so ungracious as to say that one did not place very implicit faith in an argument of that kind when it was advanced by those who, both by words and acts, had shown themselves not to be any good friends of the Church about which they were so solicitous. He did not want to rake up unnecessarily the old memory of the Clergy Discipline Bill of 1892, when the very same men who had since almost forced the present Bill upon the attention of Parliament distinguished themselves by a hostility to the Church which excited the very strong reprobation of the right hon. Member for Midlothian. He only referred to this to excuse Members on his side of the House for not attaching 261 too much importance to arguments coming- from such persons when those arguments were intended to show that this Measure would be an advantage to the Church. As practical men they could dispose of these arguments by another consideration. Surely in these days they could leave people who were interested in the maintenance of an existing state of things to decide whether it was good or bad for them, and among members of the Church of England and in Wales only a very small minority considered that it was to the interest of the Church that it should be Disestablished. They had had an interesting proof of the existence of such persons in the bosom of the Church that evening. He referred to the eloquent address of the hon. Member for North Beds, every word of whose speech went to show that the Church in England ought to be Disestablished as well as the Church in Wales. It was not an argument for this Bill, but for a wider Bill for the Disestablishment of the whole Church. He thought, therefore, that they might dismiss the idea of Disestablishment for the benefit of the Church itself. The next argument that had been advanced was that the Church ought to be Disestablished for the purpose of religious equality. He had listened very attentively to the illustrations given by the Home Secretary and other Members of the alleged injury inflicted upon Nonconformists by the existence of Church Establishment, and he had failed to gather a single instance of real injury. The existence of the Establishment in no way abridged either the civil or religious liberty of the Nonconformists There was a time when such an argument could have been used with very great force and effect, for there was a day when the Church of England, like other religious bodies was a tyrannical and persecuting institution. When the spirit of religious liberty first sprang up in this country, a strong case might have been made for the Disestablishment of 262 this persecuting Church, which then possessed real ascendency, and it might have been abolished, just as the Star Chamber and many other institutions of that time were abolished. There were two courses open to the Reformers of that day. One was to abolish the Church altogether, and the other was so to alter its constitution as to take from it every kind of persecuting quality, and to establish civil and religious liberty, side by side with an establishment. The latter course was taken. The present Bill was an anachronism; it ought to have been brought in a century ago. It then might have been said that the continued existence of the Establishment was inconsistent with religious liberty, but no one could now point to a single instance in which the existence of the Church as an Establishment inflicted any practical injury whatever upon either the conscience or the liberty of those who did not belong to its Communion. He had heard that Welsh speakers had recommended Disestablishment upon the ground that it would put an end to tithe, and the Home Secretary gave a good deal of colour to that statement, for he said that the enforcement of tithe by the machinery and the arm of the law was an incident of a Church Establishment. Therefore, presumably, if the Church Establishment were destroyed, that incident would pass away. Was that what the right hon. Gentleman meant?
§ MR. ASQUITH
I said what I meant, and I meant what I said. I did not say what the right hon. Gentleman has attributed to me, nor do I mean it.
§ SIR J. GORST
said, he would quote the right hon. Gentleman's words:—As to that which is in Wales, at any rate, the main source of the revenue of the Church, the tithes, it (the Establishment) means, in contradistinction to every other form of religious Endowment possessed by other religious sects, that, in the last resort, the machinery of the law and the arm of the law will be brought into operation to enforce it.He challenged the right hon. Gentleman 263 to say whether it was not a fact, first, that if this Bill were passed tithe would continue to be paid by the persons liable to pay it exactly as it was paid now; secondly, whether the law, if this Bill were passed, would not enforce the payment of tithe as it did at present; and, thirdly, whether the property of all religious bodies was not in the last resort enforced by the machinery and the arm of the law, exactly in the same way that the collection of tithe was enforced?
§ MR. ASQUITH
said it was enforced, not as a matter of contract, against the will of the person who had claimed.
§ SIR J. GORST
said he would mention a very extraordinary thing which took place in a parish in Essex (Little Maple-stead) near which he lived. The tithe was the property of the Seventh-day Baptists. With that tithe they had endowed a chapel only recently removed, and the arm of the law would enforce the payment of the tithe. It would place them on the same level with the Church. The tithe was not the property of the Church; it was the property of a Nonconformist body. Therefore he said that the statement of the Home Secretary that this was a peculiarity of the Establishment was wholly incorrect.
§ SIR. J. GORST
said that he should think it was more likely to be the grant from some tithe-owner than that they should have purchased it. His objection was that the Bill was one of pure destruction. It destroyed the existing organisation of the Church in Wales without any legitimate excuse, and it left it to a mere matter of chance whether the Welsh Church would be able to invent a fresh organisation. But what business had that House to impose such a task on the Welsh Church? Why should the Church have to sham all their energies to the perfecting of a new organization? In one respect they were making it absolutely impossible for the people of Wales to do this in the position in which they were now. If there was one thing that Churchmen desired it was that they should remain united, and the effect of their scheme would be to disunite the Church body in Wales from the Church body in England. He did not think that by any 264 clause they could prevent that disunion. He did not believe that they could make any amendment on Clause 14 which would have the effect of allowing Churchmen in England and Wales, if they wished it, to remain in a condition of union in which they were now and which the vast majority of Churchmen in both countries earnestly and passionately desired. There was a distinct injustice inflicted on the Welsh Church.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday next.