§ *(4.55.) MR. WILLIAM JONES (Carnarvon, Arfon)
Before I move my Motion, I beg to state that I fully appreciate the appeal that has been made by my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition, and I will endeavour to do my utmost to respond to it. The Motion that stands in my name is in the best interests of the Welsh people and of the Church itself as it exists. In moving 380 the Resolution I have no animus or spirit of hostility whatsoever towards the Church as a Church; and however imperfectly I may deal with this important matter, I deal with it in the full confidence that I have the majority of the Welsh nation at my back. The question is not the Church, but the State Establishment as distinguished from the Church. That Establishment is regarded by the Welsh nation as an in cumbrance which should be removed, for the sake of the Welsh people and their religion. The English Church Establishment in Wales was never the Church of the people. It has been called an alien church, and so called not by Nonconformists but by distinguished Churchmen. I remember reading a very famous speech delivered by the late Dean Edwards of Bangor, one of the most distinguished of modern Churchmen, at the Swansea Church Congress, in which he said that until the twelfth century the Church was the Church of Wales, but the Norman forces, by filling Welsh Sees with strangers, by maintaining Harvey at Bangor by arms, by subjecting St. Davids to Canterbury, by banishing Gruffydd, by rejecting Giraldus Cambrensis for Peter de Leia and provoking the appeal of the Welsh Princes to the Pope, changed the Church of Wales into the Church in Wales. It is true, perhaps, that the outward organisation, the externals of that Church, have remained unbroken from very early times, but in reality there is no line of continuity from the old British Church, and no real connection. The old Church was subjugated by an Establishment wholly unconnected with it. A very great authority, Professor Freeman described the exact state when referring to MR. Hadden's "Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents relating to Great Britain and Ireland."We see a British Church and we see an English Church, but they stand to one another in no relation of identity, or even of parentage. The tale is a tale of conquest. Between British and English Christianity there is absolutely no continuity. British Christianity is first displaced by English heathendom, and it is then conquered by the Christianity which England learned direct from Rome.The result to the Church and religious institutions of Wales has been no less than a calamity, destructive both 381 to the Church and the Welsh nation. I will also quote the words of the venerable Archdeacon Price, in his History of the Ancient British Church:—The subjugation of the Welsh Church brought with it an awful evil which, perpetuated through so many generations, down to the nineteenth century, has rendered it almost impossible for Welshmen to realise the true nature and origin of spiritual jurisdiction. It was the policy of the Norman kings and their successors to stamp out the national character of the Welsh people, with a view to their thorough assimilation with their English subjects. The episcopate in Wales was made the instrument in carrying out this policy.During several centuries the bishops in Wales were essentially a hostile garrison, bound to the British Crown by ties of gratitude in the past and of common hatred of the native Welsh. During that time there were petitions to the Pope against the jurisdiction of the bishops. The Welsh princes made appeal after appeal to the Pope against the appointment of alien bishops by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and in one of those appeals, which was presented by Giraldus Cambrensis, in the reign of Henry III., they complained:—The Archbishop of Canterbury, as a matter of course, sends us English bishops ignorant of the manners and language of our land, who cannot preach the word of God to the people nor receive their confessions but through interpreters. These bishops, as they neither love us nor our land, seek not the welfare of our souls. Their ambition is to rule over us and not to benefit us.What they can lay their hands upon, or get from us, whether by right or wrong, they carry into England.But all these appeals were useless. The Church alienated the people, and the reformers burnt the cathedrals and the bishops' palaces. The religious life of Wales had fled from the churches and cathedrals into the monasteries and friar's houses, where the religion of the poor was taught and lived. Why were the Cathedrals of Bangor and St. Asaph burnt? Because the Church was not the Church of the nation, and had not discharged the important functions which make a nation great. Owen Glyndwr was the last of the great leaders of Welsh nationality, He was a statesman and a scholar, who made an appeal in 1406 to the King of France for assistance to further his schemes. He aimed at restoring the independence of Wales and of the Welsh Church, and 382 he wished to establish two universities. No wonder Shakespeare said of him:In faith, he is a worthy gentleman;Exceedingly well read, and profitedIn strange concealments; valiant as a lion,And wond'rous affable; and as bountifulAs mines of India.He had seen the effects of the gradual conquest of Wales on the Church, the evils of that establishment, and the fearful abuse of spiritual power.
But we will pass on to other times, more congenial to the Welsh people, in which the English Church establishment had its one great chance—during the Tudors. The Tudors were a Welsh dynasty, and if the State could have conferred any blessing or benefit at all on the spiritual powers of the Church, surely then was the time, when the monarchs and the State were in sympathy with the predilections of the Welsh nation. It is true they did appoint Welsh-speaking bishops—the greatest bishops the Welsh Church has ever had, great scholars like Dr. Morgan and Dr.Richard Davies. It was by Dr. Morgan, assisted by other scholars, that the Bible was produced in Welsh; but it should not be forgotten that they were compelled to this task by a Statute of Elizabeth (1562). Let it be remembered also that it was the layman William Salesbury who translated the New Testament; that he received no aid from Church or dignitary, and that it was the farmers of Llansannan who entered with him into a bond for its publication in 1567. That bond may be seen to-day in Gwysaney Library. However, the Bishops rendered priceless service notwithstanding the fact that 26 years elapsed after the Statute before their translation of the Bible was published. Was it used by the people? It lay comparatively idle until the Nonconformist revival of the 17th and 18th Centuries. The Protestant Reformation, during the Tudors did not penetrate deeper than the official mind of Church and State. It did not reach the Welsh people.
I maintain, therefore, again, that wherever you read, wherever you study the history of the Welsh nation, there you will find that this Church, which has been said to be the National Church, the Church of 383 Wales, has not really touched the people. If it had, would the Bible have been neglected for well nigh 150 years before the great stream of Welsh feeling took it up? Of course, there were able Churchmen who, by means of this translation, fostered schools—men like Griffith Jones, and others—but that was after the awakening of Nonconformity. And when that awakening came, what did we see in Wales? That only the landlords and the Church dignitaries had reaped the benefit of Protestantism and the Reformation. So the Reformation produced, as far as the Welsh people are concerned, little or no popular excitement. It was a series of Statutes drawn up by lawyers, and that practically constituted the reformed church, as far as Wales was concerned. It created no religious movement among the people whatsoever; they seemed to be plunged in a deep slumber, and they were not stirred by the Protestantism of this Tudor Church. The Establishment, therefore, simply continued the old wrong under a new system. It vouchsafed no attention to individuals like John Penry, who, touched with a vital religious spirit, tried to move the Welsh people to the flagrant abuses of the Church. But John Penry paid the penalty of this religious awakening. He was executed, and the man who signed his death-warrant was Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury. Apart from exceptional parishes and clergy there was a dearth of spiritual earnestness in the Established Church. With regard to the teaching of this so-called National Church of Wales, what did churchmen say? I would remind the House that I bring no quotations or facts from any Nonconformist documents whatever; all the facts I have already given are from the literature, or the speeches, or the books of churchmen, and I shall pursue that course to the end. What does Dr. Lewis Baily, the Bishop of Bangor, in 1643, say of place after place?There is never any preaching here; there have been only two or three sermons in a twelvemonth.Dr. Erasmus Saunders, nearly a hundred years later, in "A View of the State of Religion in the Diocese of St. Davids," showed how deplorable was the material 384 and spiritual condition of the Church in Wales. He said—The churches were decayed, and do only serve for the solitary habitations of owls and jackdaws.One glimmering of something good you will find. There was one lay impropriator or his tenant who had let one of these decayed churches to the neighbouring Dissenters. And it was these neighbouring Dissenters who fanned the spiritual life of Wales into a flame that has kept burning to this day. Then there is the testimony of Vicar Pritchard, himself a good churchman, and Griffith Jones of Llanddowror, but I pass them by with this remark made by Griffith Jones—That the people would not starve their souls to death for the sake of conforming, if their pastor (whose voice perhaps they do not know, or who resides a great way from them) will not vouchsafe to deal out unto them the Bread of Life.This condition of things was aggravated by the fact that the population at that time were, by race and language, distinguished from those who ruled them, and still more by the fact that the Bishops and other dignitaries of the Church, who formed the more educated portion of the Welsh clergy, exercised little control for good in their spheres of influence.
What was the result? The rise of Nonconformity, in 1639, with the first organised cause in Wales—it genesis, its growth and its ever-continuing progress. If hon. Gentlemen would like to read the account of a most important epoch of Welsh history, let them read the portion between 1700 and 1830. That was the period ofthe real reformation of the people, commencing with the advent of the great nonconformist missionaries and preachers. Who were they? Most of them were clergymen who had become sick and tired of the absence of ministrations from the Church, who resented the cold clammy fingers of the Establishment, who said that the Establishment chilled the hearts of Welshmen. These were the people who made a great secession from the Church similar to the great secession in Scotland. Howell Harris, Daniel Rowlands, WilliamWilliams, of Pantycelyn, David Jones, and, at a later period, Thomas Charles, of Bala, were some of them. Some of them were 385 scholars from Oxford, and had been ordained as clergymen, but, because the Church did not ministert to the people of Wales, they left the Church and went into the wilderness. But they did not long remain in the wilderness. Chapels were built along the countryside, on hill and in dale, and whereas at the beginning of the 18th century there were about 35 Nonconformist chapels, at the end of the 19th century there were nearly 4,000, built by the people themselves. There was a notable period contemporaneous with the Hanoverian in England. For nearly 170 years there was not a single Welsh-speaking Bishop appointed in Wales. Here are the words of Dean Edwards—For 150 years every teacher whose name lives in the hearts of the Welsh people has been almost without exception a Nonconformist.… Of the clergy, those who were educated knew no Welsh, and those who knew Welsh were not educated.… Those who had something to say could not say it to the people, and those who could say it had nothing to say.Another writer tells us that from the time of George I., down to 1870, none of the Bishops appointed to the 4 Welsh seas were able to preach effectively in Welsh. The English Bishops took Welsh appointments with a view to English preferment. Take for instance these facts. George I. appointed six bishops to Welsh sees; all were translated to England. George II. appointed 21 bishops,15 of whom were translated to England; and George III. appointed 23 bishops, of whom 11 were translated to England. But that was not all. Clerical absenteeism was one of the greatest abuses. The Bishops of Llandaff were absentees from 1706 to 1820—for over a century. Members might be much diverted by reading letters from some of these absentee Welsh bishops, from the Lake District in Cumberland. Those were not the pastors of the people, but the nonconformist preachers, who, without money or tithe sacrificed themselves, and traversed the land with the eyes of true spiritual shepherds. Then, the system of pluralities was rampant. Everybody knows the notorious case of Bishop Luxmoore, who appointed many Luxmoores to the best livings in St. Asaph. Nepotism was one of the 386 most glaring facts in the country at this time, and these Luxmoores received over £25,000 out of a total income for the whole diocese of about £39,000. That was the Church of the nation!
Sir, this rise of Nonconformity was the new birth of a nation in a real sense, was the offspring of the Nonconformist revival. Then it was that the people were moved by the sanctity of religion, and the great Nonconformist preachers who led them were the heroes of the Welsh peasantry—the heroes who stirred and quickened the people to great acts of faith, of principle, and of conviction. What has been the result of that movement? One very important feature of the movement in Wales, in contradistinction to other countries of Europe is that whereas in them the renaissance preceded the religious reformation, in Wales the intellectual revival followed the awakening of the religious spirit of the people by the Nonconformist reformation. The fruits of that intellectual revival were the preservation of our native language, which was dying in the cathedrals, the literary activity of the peasantry in Wales, the rise of periodical literature, and the demand for education—which the Unionist Government sought to satisfy because they recognised the demand as national. But the great factor of all was, the religious faith of the people. This led to the development of an extraordinary mental activity among the people of Wales. Go where you like amongst the workmen of Wales, the quarrymen, and miners, and shepherds, and what do you find? Even during their dinner-hour you will not find them discussing sports and racing news, but rather sermons, political speculations, and educational topics.
I know what Churchmen say to day. They say to Nonconformists—You have brought about a religious revival, you have quickened the life of the nation, while we are ashamed of the lethargy of our teachers. But you cannot go much further. We have all the means of organisation for developing and administering religious movement. We possess the scholarship and the intellectual equipment for moulding the future of Wales. I say "nay" to every one of those pleas. They say that our ministers are only semi-educated, and that they have no 387 knowledge of theology; they say that the convictions of our ministers are not strong enough to influence their lives or their choice of religious systems; they also say that our ministers have not the higher virtue of sacramental grace and of sacramental authority which is derived in the lineage of Apostolical orders. But who are the best scholars to-day? Who are the foremost to-day in the field of biblical criticism, in the field of literature, in the field of periodical literature, and in every field of scholarship and education? Why, the greatest writers on these subjects are Nonconformists. Has any Church dignitary, whether bishop or dean, ever written anything like the "Essay on the Atonement" by Dr. Lewis Edwards, an essay which Bishop Thirwall described as the finest treatment of the subject he had ever seen. Has any Churchman in Wales ever written any thing like the "Commentary on the Corinthians," by the late Principal T. C. Edwards, which is classed by the most distinguished divines with the works of Lightfoot and Westcott. Who is the the best Hebrew and Semitic scholar of his year at Oxford to-day? Why, a young Welsh Noncomformist minister. And yet Church leaders say that we, as Nonconformists, have not the equipment necessary to mould the future of Wales! In this religious awakening the Free Nonconformist Churches began to organise. They started their monthly and quarterly meetings, and the result has been that the Welsh people have received a discipline which prepared them to fill public offices and to administer successfully local government in Wales. But what else is there? Sunday Schools have flourished, and there is a noticeable absence of crime. The Welsh peasantry are now paying £200,000 every year for Welsh native literature. We have in the Welsh language 32 magazines and 25 news papers, and how many of those are in hands of the Church people? Quite five-sixths are in the hands of the Nonconformists. Besides these, we have two quarterly magazines, two bi-monthlies, 28 monthlies, and 25 weeklies. A Welsh layman, the great Nonconformist, Thomas Gee, brought out "Gwyddoniadur," a Welsh Encyclopædia, which has gone through two editions 388 and upon which he spent £20,000 which was only reimbursed to him just before his death, and this layman was said by a late Dean to have done more for Wales than all the Bishops and Chapters put together. In the moulding of modern Wales, Nonconformity is the great spiritual force. Bishop Jayne said with epigrammatic smartness that Nonconformity is all very well, but it is a mere parenthesis in the history of a nation. I would reply that the parenthesis developed into the most important chapter in the history of the Welsh people. Bishop Jayne also said there were many friends of the Church amongst the people of Wales who were afraid to speak their minds, and he said—Let them whisper their secret in the ballot box.Well, the Welsh people have whispered in the ballot box, not their secrets, but the message of the whole nation, and they have sent an overwhelming majority to this House to ask that the Establishment should cease. I do not want to be unfair to the Church. The Church in Wales has been revived, and there has been true Church reform there, and it is still reforming I am glad to say. I am sure that every true-hearted Welshman, whether Nonconformist or Churchman, is glad of it. They have the assurance of our own gratification, and let them prosper. The Church has received its lessons from the work which has been done in Wales by voluntary effort, and clergymen are known to work successfully in towns where they receive no tithes. Let them do more of this, and let it continue, for the voluntary system will make the Church better and nobler. New buildings have been erected, cathedrals have been restored, and the clergy are multiplying. Many flagrant abuses have been remedied, although there are some subtle forms still remaining. Against some of these there has been a revolt of the clergy in St. Asaph diocese. That was two years ago, and it makes very interesting reading. It seems that the Bishop had been—Pursuing without restraint a policy which must sooner or later be fatal to the position of the Church in Wales.I am quoting from the Record, which I 389 believe is a Church newspaper. This report goes on—The hope of the four Welsh dioceses is bound up with their recognition of the Welsh. Steadily to anglicise the Church by pushing forward young and extreme men but little skilled in the vernacular, is suicidal.There was a memorial got up and addressed to the Bishop, signed by 75 out of the 206beneficed clergy of the diocese. These clergymen were not the poor clergy who were thinking of themselves, but they were those who had the higher preferments in the diocese of St. Asaph. One of them was Archdeacon Montgomery, and another was Archdeacon D. R. Thomas, the historian of St. Asaph. When it was forwarded to the Bishop, it was explained that most of the clergy approved of it, but many had declined or asked to be excused signing it, on the ground that it would be injurious to their interests and hopes of preferment. The Bishop insinuated that the memorial was the work of disappointed hunters for preferment, and yet he declared that he had given or offered preferment to 30 out of the 75. It is a striking fact that some of the most prominent memorialists have been promoted by the Bishop himself; for instance, the Rector of Hope, £460 and a house; the Rector of Marchwiel, £550 and a house; Vicar of Colwyn Bay, £476 and a house; the Vicar of Rhyl, £423 and a house. The Bishop read a letter from the Rector of Marchwiel declining to attend a meeting at Wrexham, in which he said—In the absence of all explanation, justification or apology, for the slanderous insults you have heaped upon me and mine, I must decline the invitation. The only kind of meeting you deserve at my hands is the national one of cudgelling with a wild ash stick.That is a nice state of affairs in the St. Asaph diocese. Of course, the words in Welsh are much more vigorous. They are pastwn onen wyllt. Then the very chaplain of this Bishop was going to resign.
That was one of the revolts, but there was another and more serious one—a revolt of the best Welsh scholars of the Church, men who sympathise with the factor of Welsh nationalism, and long to co-operate with the Nonconformists. A manifesto was signed or approved by the Warden 390 of the Diocesan School of Divinity at Bangor, the Vicar of Bangor, the Vicar of Welshpool, and the Vicar of Llanidloes, declaring their object to be—To put an end to the present intolerable situation, and to the disastrous conflict which is at present destroying our national unity and impairing our spiritual life.How did they propose to carry out their object? By—Constituting the ancient British Church into a separate province, entirely distinct from Canterbury, and so restoring to her her ancient national character.They went on to say—At present our leaders in the Church and Conservative Party are bewildered by the national awakening which we see on all sides in polities, in literature, in education. The whole stream of national revival is flowing past us.There is an admission for Churchmen to make! I would give another quotation, from that most eloquent preacher Archdeacon Howell. In a sermon at St. Margaret's a few years ago he said—The weakness of the Church in Wales is due to the fact that so much of the best blood of the nation no longer runs in her veins. It is sheer folly to hide from ourselves the fact, that the most vigorous life of the Welsh people no longer wells forth from the heart of the Welsh Church. What is the exact proportion of the people to be found within and without the Church, is a matter of secondary importance. Far more important is the fact that so large a portion of the vigour and enthusiasm of the Welsh people is in full activity outside the Church.There is a desire amongst the best Churchmen to co-operate and participate in the full life of the nation unchecked. Disestablishment is the only remedy. The future hope of the Church in Wales is Disestablishment. The Church of Ireland, after being disestablished, is more effective and more spiritual in her work. I was going to quote the words of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh, who is an office-bearer in the Church. He said he regretted that he had voted against the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, and that if he could he would now undo what had been done, because the believed the Irish Church at the present moment was stronger and more spiritual than it ever was before. A strange and curious fact is that the Anglican Church has never laid hold of any Celtic people. It tried 391 its ministrations in Scotland and failed; it tried in Ireland and failed; the Irish people got a remedy in Disestablishment. It tried in Cornwall and failed, though the Wesleyans have flourished there. Ought not Churchmen to join the Nonconformists and ask for the Disestablishment of this encumbrance on the life of; the Church? As has been said, take away the privileges of the Church, take away if you will her endowments, but give her back a living ministry that can win the hearts of the Welsh people. We claim, in the words of my right hon. friend the Member for East Fife, who has done so much for this question, to be engaged in the holy and sacred task of redeeming the cause of religion, and of the Church itself, from obstacles and embarrassments which in the eyes of the Welsh people impede and discredit it. The Church has hopes, Nonconformists have hopes in the future Church. Let both Churchmen and Nonconformists give their full contribution to the life of the nation. Without any of the trappings of State Establishment, with no; pretensions; to superiority, but with concord and harmony, removing bitter sectional strife, let them work together for a Church truly national—making it more Catholic than Anglican, more Spiritual than Erastian, and more Christlike in all.
§ *(5.35.) MR. ALFRED THOMAS (Glamorganshire, E.)
In seconding the Motion, I have in the first place to thank the hon. Member for Waterford for agreeing to the proposal made yesterday, in regard to the discussion of the new Procedure Rules, and thus giving the Welsh Members this opportunity of bringing forward the question now before the House. We have listened to a speech this afternoon which will enhance the reputation of my hon. friend the Member for Arfon. I have had the opportunity of listening to many speeches on this subject, but I never heard the historical side of the argument put as it has been to-day with so much grace and lucidity. It is said, however, by many of those who oppose the Motion, that the desire for Disestablishment is lessening in Wales. Well, the wish may be father to the thought, but the people who are competent to give an opinion on that are of quite a different 392 opinion. The Bishop of Llandaff in the criticism which he made of a speech I delivered at Pontypridd some time ago was of a different character. He said the question was well to the front amongst the Welsh Members at least, and that it was to them the one great question. It is a question similar to the one that brought about the greatest majority the Liberals have obtained during modern times. In 1868, the election was fought on the question of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. The question of the "predominant partner" was not mentioned in connection with that question, for I find that the Liberals of England and Wales had a majority of 42. I venture to say that, if we were to fight the next general election on a similar motto—if we substituted for the Irish Church the Welsh Church, we would also bring about a grand majority. In 1868 it brought into this House one of the greatest patriots that ever appeared in it, in the person of the late Henry Richards. I am very glad that my hon. friend has been radical enough to depart from the old form of Resolution that the Church of England in Wales has failed to accomplish its objects, and that he has moved—That, in the best interests of the Welsh nation and of the Church, the State Establishment of the Church of England in Wales should cease to exist.My position is that it is not a question of success or want of success. As far as the majority in Wales are concerned, it is a question of principle If the Church of England in Wales contained within its pale every inhabitant of Wales from my point of view, the case for Disestablishment would be quite as strong as it is now. I believe the Established Church in Wales is as successful as any Established Church can be, but I would ask if an Established Church ever was successful. My reading of history has not informed me of a single instance, and as far as we are concerned in Wales it has not been sucessful.
§ * MR. ALFRED THOMAS
The Church in Scotland is not Anglican. There are a 393 number of people even in Scotland who do not belong to the Establish Church.
§ * MR. EUGENE WASON (Clarkmannan and Kinross)
The majority of the Scotch people do not belong to it.
§ * MR. ALFRED THOMAS
I think that is a complete answer to the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire. I have at once to say that many of the scandals in connection with the Established Church have been amended. I would say that we are very grateful to the Bishop of Llandaff, inasmuch as he has never appointed an English-speaking incumbent in a Celtic-speaking district. I have to say thankfully that there are many of the rank and file of the Church of England for whom I have the highest appreciation as regards their zeal, their devotion to duty, and the sacrifices they make in carrying out of their office. Their conduct might be an example to any branch of the Christian Church. We have heard something about the building of now churches. We are quite well aware of that. That is especially the case in the large centres such as Cardiff, where I live. Where they have little or no tithes, the Church has been a success, but just in the ratio of the height of their tithes, so in reverse ratio is the success of the Church. Last July, when one of the most prominent sons of Wales, Principal Viriamu Jones, died, there was a memorial service which will become historical, and among those who conducted the devotional services were the Bishop of Llandaff, and three of his Nonconformist brethren. That was an incident unequalled in Wales, and the Bishop's conduct on that occasion will never be forgotten by his fellow-countrymen. Why should that incident be unique? If you go to Canada you find Anglican clergymen associating with their Nonconformist brethren, and the same was the case in Australia, and in every State in America. We ask for Disestablishment on the ground that we are Nonconformists. And why are we Nonconformists? Because we are opposed to the State control of religion, and are opposed to a State Establishment. I believe Disestablishment would be good for the Church, and that if the Anglicans would only trust their people they 394 would do well. But the State Church arrogates to itself a status which is insulting to Nonconformists, and we are determined that that inequality shall be removed as soon as possible.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, in the best interests of the Welsh nation and of the Church, the State establishment of the Church of England in Wales should cease to exist."—(MR. William Jones):
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)
I am sure that everyone in this House, and certainly all those on this side of the House, must recognise the grace, the power, the charm and in many respects the moderation of the hon. Member who moved the Resolution; but I should like the House not to be led away by his eloquence into missing the fact, that almost all of his speech was devoted to the historical aspects of the question, which must be admitted almost in toto by anyone who is against Disestablishment. If Disestablishment is desirable in Wales, what is one of the chief grounds on which the case should be based? It is, that the Church is not doing its duty now. It is not surely because the Church dispossessed Giraldus Cambrensis, or did this or that in the twelfth century. That was extremely interesting to listen to, and we can all echo the quotation from Shakespeare which the hon. Member recited showing that Owen Glyndwr was a very "worthy gentleman, and exceedingly well read."
§ * MR. WILLIAM JONES
I ask for Disestablishment because the State Established Church in Wales is not a National Church, and never has been a National Church.
§ * MR. VICARY GIBBS
These are "Words, words, mere words;" what we want is facts. What we want to know is the number of Churchmen in Wales, and that is what the hon. Gentleman and his friends will not permit us to ascertain. I remember when, nine years ago, the right hon. Member for East Fife moved his Suspensory Bill, his argument was that the Church had never been in touch with the Welsh people. The 395 attack on the Church at that time was in fact that the Church was getting the people away from Nonconformity right and left. [Hon. Members: Oh, oh!] If the hon. Member can quote an insolent letter written by a clergyman to his bishop, we can quote letters to show how the Church is increasing and Nonconformity has been falling off. I merely make that point as an answer to the hon. Member when he says, as an argument for disestablishment, that there has been a dispute between a certain clergyman and a certain bishop. The hon. Gentleman told us that there was great literary power amongst Nonconformists, that it exceeded the literary power of the men belonging to the Church. I do not enter into historical comparisons of that kind, but the speeches of both the proposer and the seconder of the Resolution, although moderate and reasonable, shirked the real question which divides the two parties on this matter. They did not touch the subject of disendowment at all. That is a material thing, the hon. Members evidently consider, and not a spiritual. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion mentioned the interesting fact that the feeling between the Church and Nonconformity in Wales is improving; but that is no argument for disestablishment. I maintain that the Church is continuing to do its work well in Wales. What happened in 1749 or for years afterwards is neither here or there. No one denies that the Church neglected its work in Wales: so it did in England. No one denies that a great stimulus has been given to the Church by the spiritual work of Nonconformity. We welcome it, and are glad of it; but that is no argument for disestablishment, and for taking away the material advantages of which the hon. Members are so scornful, but which they are so anxious to obtain for their own purposes. [Hon. Members: Oh, oh!] I do not suggest that that is the only object of the hon. Members, and I fully recognise their zeal for the best interests of their country. The mover and the seconder of the Resolution avoided every serious difficulty which surrounds this question. They even neglected the 396 geographical question, for they did not indicate what, for the purposes of disestablishment, is to be included in Wales. I have no right to speak on this question as a member of the Church in Wales; but the Church in England and the Church in Wales are one and indivisible, and the two must necessarily and logically stand or fall together.
§ *(5.53.) MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
It is now many years since this question was debated in this House; and, as at that time it fell to my lot to be the mouthpiece of the Government in the only practical proposal ever yet submitted to Parliament for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England in Wales, I think it would not be right if I were altogether silent on the present occasion, or if I refrained from expressing the grounds upon which I still retain with as much conviction and emphasis as before the opinions I then sought to convey. Hon. Members who support this Resolution might be well content with the controversy as it stands, and with a comparison of the speech of the mover of the Resolution and the reply which has just been made by the hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House. I think it would be a waste of breath to compliment my hon. friend the mover of the Resolution, whose abilities are so well known and appreciated in this House. But of my hon. friend's speech I will only say that it was one of the most charming and eloquent speeches I have listened to for a long time. I will venture to add that that speech, adorned as it was with so many natural and acquired gifts, is as good an illustration as any Welsh Nonconformist could desire of what Nonconformity in Wales can produce in these latter days, and, what is, perhaps, still more important in a controversy of this kind, of the temper and spirit, so often misrepresented, of Welsh Nonconformists. What does the hon. Member say in reply? The complaint is that my hon. friends made moderate and reasonable speeches. [Hon. Members: No, no!] Well, that was the main charge, except that they had shirked the question of disendowment. I do not know why my hon. friend should encumber an issue of this kind, involving a large question of principle, with a 397 multiplicity of details. Everyone knows that disestablishment involves disendowment. No one proposes that the Welsh or any other Church after it has ceased to be connected with the State, should retain permanent possession of what we regard as national property, and my hon. friend, in concentrating the attention of the House on the principle of disestablishment, dealt with the essence and foundation of the whole matter.
I shall deal briefly with two or three of the main points as they present themselves, not, perhaps, to a Welshman brought up in the atmosphere of Wales, and full of the sentiments and the prepossessions with which it is hardly possible for a Welshman to fail to approach a discussion of this question, but to one who has looked at the matter from the outside. It has never seemed to me that, in this matter of the Church in Wales, the abstract question of establishment is necessarily involved. It is quite possible for a man to hold that the question of establishment is a question of expediency; that the connection between the Church and the State is a matter of policy dependent on the necessities of time and circumstance. It is possible to hold, for instance, that the Church in Scotland ought to remain an established Church, or that the Church in England ought to remain an established Church, and yet to feel that in the case of Wales, the argument is so strong upon every ground of justice, policy, and expediency, that the maintenance of that connection can no longer be defended. It is a matter of notoriety and history that that was the case of the Irish Church 30 years ago; and that MR. Gladstone and the majority of those who supported him in the policy of disendowment and disestablishment of the Irish Church, would have resented and resisted many of them, with all their force, any attempt to apply the same treatment to the Church of England.
That brings me to what the hon. Gentleman described as the bare facts. What is it in the state of things in Wales that differentiates the position of the establishment there, from its position in any other part of the Kingdom? We are often told that we are not entitled to deal with Wales in this 398 matter, as if it were a separate entity, and with the Welsh dioceses as if they could be severed from the province of Canterbury. The English Church is said to be one and indivisible; and we are told that it must be dealt with, if at all, not piecemeal, not diocese by diocese, and province by province, but as a whole; and that view is very widely spread among churchmen in this country. I have seen it stated that you might as well propose to disestablish the Church of England in Yorkshire or Rutland as in Wales. I confess that the answer to that argument seems to be simple, manifest, and overwhelming. I will not press too far the analogy of the case of Ireland; but I think it is worth reminding the House of a fact which some hon. members may have forgotten—that by the fifth Article of the Act of Union, the Churches of England and Ireland were united into one Protestant Episcopalian Church, to be called the Church of England and Ireland; and it was solemnly stated that the continuance and preservation of that United Established Church was to be deemed to be an essential part of the bargain made by the Act of Union. That did not prevent Parliament, with the assent of both Houses and the Crown, from severing the union and disestablishing the Irish Church in 1869. It may be said that that was an artificial union, and that those whom Parliament has joined together Parliament may put asunder. It may be said that that is not the case with the Welsh dioceses or English Church. But is that so? The question can only be answered—and this is the defence of my hon. friend against the charge of the hon. Gentleman opposite, that he indulged in an historical lecture—by a reference to the past. It is quite true that these Welsh dioceses are formally incorporated in the province of Canterbury. But what is their history? History shows the broadest possible distinction between the origin and development of the Episcopal Church in Wales and the Episcopal Church in England. The Church of England, whatever may have been its beginnings—and no doubt the seed from which it sprang was sown from many different quarters—has been, in the main 399 throughout its history an English Church, not an alien importation imposed upon a reluctant people, but a Church with its roots deep down in the soil, and growing with the growth of the nation. What has been the case in Wales? I need not remind those familiar with the subject that the Welsh Church is earlier in its origin than the Church in England. Before Augustine ever landed and brought the truths of Christianity to our Saxon ancestors, there was already a nourishing Christian communion in Wales. I remember reading or hearing that there is still a lingering tradition among the Welsh people—tenacious as they are of all these ancient national memories—that in some golden age of the past the See of St. David was a metropolitan See. What happened? One of the most remarkable and regrettable facts in our history. The Church which, in its origin, was a native Church, which by its history was a national Church, was de-naturalised and de-nationalised by a superior power. It was conquered and annexed by the Church of England; and since the Church of England has been in possession of the ground I do not think that its strongest apologists and admirers will assert that it has ever really succeeded in the task of assimilating to itself the sentiments of the Welsh people. Large, as I agree, have been the advances in zeal, unselfishness, and devotion in the Anglican Church during the last two generations, who will deny that that Church does not make an appeal—or at least an appeal which receives a full and hearty response—either to the religious or to the national sentiments of the people? It is necessary to dwell on these things, ancient history though they be, because it is only by looking at history we can understand the present.
Very similar in its teaching is the origin and development of Welsh Nonconformity. My hon. friend has told us that history again to-day, and told it with a force and charm with which I will not attempt to compete. But what was its origin? It was not the envy of a body of sectaries outside the Church, competing with it in the task of spiritual propaganda, and finding themselves handicapped in the competition with a rival in enjoyment of 400 national endowments and political power. It was not, as is often represented by persons who have not read the history of the case, and do not understand the question; the cupidity of men who, being out in the cold, desired to divide the spoil of which the Church was in possession. It is a remarkable fact that neither the Reformation, nor that great movement which is known by the name of Puritanism, ever had much hold on the people of Wales. In the ecclesiastical debates in this House I sometimes wonder what happened at the Reformation, or whether, indeed, there ever was a Reformation at all. Some hon. Gentlemen—over-zealous and, I think, not over-wise champions of the Church—seem to look upon the Reformation as if it were a kind of historical nightmare, a sort of morbid interlude which a person of healthy temperament, when he awakes, if he cannot disown, is at least anxious as soon as possible to forget. But the Reformation, without going into questions of doctrine or ceremony, both as regards England and Wales, had a vital and enduring effect upon the history of the Church and the relations of the Church to the people, which cannot be forgotten in connection with this question. The Reformation—or, rather, the legislation which accompanied and sanctioned the Reformation—produced three important results. In the first place it emphatically declared, with the assent both of laity and clergy, the absolute supremacy of the Crown over the Established Church. In the second place, it set up a secular Court as a final Court of appeal; and, in the third place, it supplied a parliamentary title, and asserted the power of Parliament to alter and modify that title, to every ecclesiastical benefice in this country. That, on its legal and constitutional side, was the effect of the Reformation.
What has been the result in Wales? The Church in Wales, which, up to that time, had only a slender hold upon the affections and sentiments of the Welsh people, became every generation narrower and more contracted—a refuge which was chosen to send English-speaking bishops, canons, prebendaries, and rectors; an institution which failed in any true or living sense to be a teacher or spiritual 401 consoler and help to the people for which it was intended. That was the origin of Welsh Nonconformity. It was not a movement of hostility from without, but of vitality from within. The men who founded Welsh Nonconformity were almost, without exception, ministers of the Established Church, who finding themselves restrained and constrained in every direction by the fetters of the establishment, sought to carry out the work of their ministry by preaching in the streets and on the hill-sides, and even in the unconsecrated buildings of their Non-conformist brethern. Because the Church would not allow them that freedom, and because the persons who indulged in such practices were regarded as outside its pale, that tremendous and gradually swelling exodus took place which, in the course of the 18th century, raised the Nonconformist congregations of Wales from 100 to 1,000—a number which has since been multiplied fourfold. It is impossible for anyone to understand either the feeling of the Welsh people to the Church or the real relations of these four so-called dioceses to the province of Canterbury who has not grasped the meaning of that chapter in history. I agree that there has been a great change in the temper and methods of the Church in the last century. But where has the change made itself most manifest? And where are its results most conspicuous and fruitful? Why, just in those very parts of Wales—mainly in the great towns and centres of urban population—where there are no endowments: where the Church relies not on that which she has inherited from the past, but on her own spontaneous energy and the voluntary co-operation of the people. There could not be, I think, a more striking additional proof, if additional proof were needed, that it is a voluntary form of religious association which is suited and appeals to the genius of the Welsh people. In reference to this revival of activity on the part of the Church, which everybody welcomes, it is one of the most tragic and certain facts in the experience both of individuals and of institutions, that you cannot by turning over a new leaf, blot out the ineffaceable pages of the past.
If, as I have endeavoured to establish, Wales is in this matter entitled, as a 402 separate entity to put these Welsh dioceses in a separate position of their own, what is the actual situation? When once that position has been conceded, will any one deny, that by any of the canons which have ever been applied to a question of this kind, an overwhelming case has not been made out for Disestablishment? What is the wish of the Welsh people? And as this is a Welsh question, primarily they are the persons entitled to be consulted. Their Parliamentary representation is, shall I say, in the proportion, I think, of something like seven to one. [Cries of "No, no."] Well six, or five, or four to one. Any one of them will suffice to show an overwhelming preponderance in its favour of Parliamentary representation in Wales; but I am perfectly certain that if I could get any one of my hon. friends opposite who represent Welsh contituencies into the Palace of Truth—I am not suggesting we are not in it to-night—there is not one of them who would not acknowledge to me that the fact that it is a part, and a necessary part, of his political creed to maintain the necessity for the continued Establishment and Endowment of the Church in Wales, deprives him of a large number of votes which he might otherwise have. If that is the case with the Parliamentary representation, what is the case of the people themselves? The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down repeated the familiar taunt, "Why do you not have a religious census in Wales?" That is a suggestion which has often been made and answered. The reason we do not have a religious census in Wales, or in this country, is because all experience has shown that it is the most delusive and untrustworthy way of arriving at the facts you want to ascertain. But there are means by which you can ascertain, with approximate accuracy, what is the position of the different religious denominations in Wales, and that is by seeing what is the number of their communicant members. I do not know whether the figures I am going to mention are or can be disputed, except in this sense—that they are greatly to the favour of the Anglican Church. The communicant members of the Nonconformist bodies—and I believe in this computation the Roman Catholics 403 are excluded—amount to 460,000, and I do not believe that the most sanguine and optimistic apologist of the Church would put the communicant members of the Church at more than 130,000. I daresay that may be an over-statement, but I am putting it at the very highest. So that, if you work it out, you have a proportion of something like three or four to one.
In that state of things, what is the position as it presents itself to the Welsh? Take the case of one of those small Welsh proprietors, of whom there are many, who is every year called upon to pay his quota of tithe rent-charge for the support of a ministry and of services which do not represent, and which are not adapted to, the convictions either of himself or of the great majority of his neighbours. Is this House, after our experience in other places and at other times, with the precedent which our own Legislature has set in the case of Ireland, prepared to say that, it is either politic or just, that that compulsory payment should continue to be exacted and enforced by law in support of the services of a Church which, upon the highest computation, does not number among its members more than one-third of the population? I ask one question, and one only. Who gains by this state of things? Does the Church gain? Does Christianity gain? Does religion gain? Does it promote, can it, in the nature of things, promote, those amenities and charities, that sense of brotherhood, that spirit of co-operation, which is the condition, and the only condition, by which all these various bodies—by different agencies and over different roads, professedly, at any-rate, working to the same end—can attain their object and get rid once and for ever of that scandal—for it is a scandal—to the religious life of Wales by which, in artificial jealousies and internecine rivalries, they are dissipating their forces and defeating their purposes? I rest my defence of this proposition, as I have always rested it, not on sectarian or ecclesiastical considerations, but upon the broad ground of national policy; and I say that experience shows that in the religious and social life of Wales the continuance of the Establishment in its present form is at the same time a 404 hindrance to the Church and an injury to the State.
§ *(6.22) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (MR. RITCHIE,) Croydon
Whatever our views may be everyone will admit the hon. Gentleman who moved the resolution—in an eloquent, passionate, and fervid speech, such as he always makes—has given the House a most interesting and instructive account of the past history of the Church in Wales, but I associate myself entirely with my hon. friend, who I do not think is open to the charge levelled against him by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, who said that interesting as was the speech of the hon. Member opposite, it was not really an argument in favour of the course he asked the House to adopt. I associate myself entirely with many of the strictures which the hon. Gentleman opposite uttered in respect of the past history of the Church in Wales, and no one dispute the fact that until a comparatively recent period, certainly 150 years ago and even later than that, it was grossly negligent of its duties. I for one, have no hesitation in saying that, if I had lived in those days, seeing the Church which had privileges taking advantage of those privileges, and which had its duties but did not fulfil them, I would have been found in the ranks of Nonconformity. But, happily, those times are long since past and gone, and the hon. Gentleman himself spoke in the kindest manner of the work which the Church is doing in Wales at the present time. I imagine, although I did not gather it from his speech, the hon. Gentleman acknowledges that there may be disputes here and there between Bishop and clergy, as there are in all countries where there are Churches and dignitaries, yet the Church in Wales, is to a graat evtent, at any rate fulfilling the duty which rested upon it at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, referred to public opinion in Wales as evidenced by the votes which were given, and the number of members returned to Parliament in favour of Disestablishment, and said that the numbers were about six or five to one in favour of Disestablishment. Let us examine that proposition. In 1895, when the right hon. Gentleman brought forward a Bill for the Dis- 405 establishment of the Church in Wales, there were in the House at that time 28 members for Wales in favour of Disestablishment and three members who were antagonistic to it. The Ministerial majority in the House at that time was only about 40 or 42, and occasionally it ran down to nine or ten.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
Almost immediately after that Bill was before the House Parliament was dissolved. A supreme effort was made in Wales to show that the Welsh people were staunchly in favour of the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. No effort was spared to induce the people of Wales to see of what enormous importance the election would be for the cause of Disestablishment. A manifesto vas issued by the Calvinistic Methodists—who, I understand, are in a great majority so far as the Nonconformists are concerned—from which I should like to quote a few words in order to show the efforts that were made. The manifesto stated—The crisis is one, the seriousness and importance of which can scarcely be over-estimated.… The Church Establishment in Wales has been a bar to progress, a fertile nursery of tyranny, violence, and wrong-doing in their most odious forms. It has generated the spirit of slavery, and has stimulated untruthfulness, immorality, and ignorance.…. Welsh Nonconformists must not relax their efforts as any reduction in the number of members returned at the next general election pledged to support of Disestablishment, or even in the number of votes recorded in their favour, will be greedily seized upon by Church defenders as evidence that Welshmen are changing their minds and are no longer as anxious for Disestablishment as they were.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that is a manifesto by the Calvinistic Methodists?
MR. BRYN ROBERTS
May I ask where and when it was published, because I think the right hon. Gentleman has been grossly imposed upon?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
It was, I think, in a Church periodical that I saw it.—[Opposition ironical cheers.]—Do hon. Gentlemen opposite think so low of the Church as to suppose, that this respectable paper would publish as a manifesto from the Calvinistic Methodists that which was not a manifesto from them at all? Do they think so low of the Church as that?
MR. BRYN ROBERTS
Not willingly imposed upon, but I may assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am a Calvinistic Methodist myself, and that I never heard of it.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I daresay that a good many things occur among the Calvanistic Methodists which the hon. Gentleman does not hear of. I assert that this was published in a Church newspaper as being a manifesto of the Calvinistic Methodists, and that it has never been contradicted.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
The Calvinistic Methodists; I understand that that is a well-known body, composed of the majority of the Nonconformists in Wales.
§ * MR. WILLIAM JONES
Would the right hon. Gentleman give the name of the Calvinistic Methodist paper?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I will show the hon. Member the paper. I did not read that to show the opinion of Calvinistic Methodists as a Church; I read it to show the strong emphasis which this manifesto put on the necessity of all Nonconformists putting their shoulders to the wheel.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
1895. As another illustration of the efforts made, I may read the following extract from the Manchester Guardian—The July elections in Wales, therefore, presented a plain, simple issue, and if ever the friends of religious equality in the country ought to have bestirred themselves it was then. But what has happened? The Church to-day holds, instead of one-tenth, nearly one-third of the representation.Now, what were the numbers? In the Parliament of 1892, there were three Unionists with 86,000 votes, and 31 Radicals with 145,000 votes. In 1895, the election which occurred immediately after the right hon. Gentleman's Bill, and immediately after this fervent appeal to Nonconformists to do their best, there were returned nine Unionists with103,000 votes, and 25 Radicals with 146,000 votes. The Radical vote remained practically the same, but the Unionist vote increased by 17,000, and if seats had been apportioned according to the number of those who voted, instead of there being nine Unionists there would have been 14, and instead of there being 25 Radicals there would have been 20.
§ MR. CAINE (Cornwall, Camborne)
Would the right hon. Gentleman state the number of uncontested elections?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I believe there was one uncontested election in 1900, which was secured by a Unionist candidate, but I have not the particulars of the others. But however that may be, I do not rely on the number of votes so much as on the fact that there was a great change in the representation, a change that multiplied the number of those who were opposed to Disestablishment by three, and reduced the number of those in favour of it from 31 to 25. That was an election which was taken, in Wales at any rate, on this particular issue. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who seconded this Motion that, when the election of 1900 came, Wales was entirely taken up with the question of the war, and that Disestablishment did 408 not enter into it at all. ["Oh!"] I think the words the hon. Gentleman used were that the war overshadowed everything else in Wales.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I am speaking of the election of 1900. At that time the Nonconformists regained a few of their seats, but it was on the question of the war and not of Disestablishment; the latter question, however, did come fully and fairly before the Welsh people in the election of 1895, at which time the number of those opposed to Disestablishment was greatly increased.
§ MR. ALFRED THOMAS
the right hon. Gentleman's impression of what I said is not quite correct. There are hon. Members opposite who represent Welsh Unionist Divisions. I think if they were asked, they would say that the first question candidates were asked in Wales was, whether they were in favour of Disestablishment. That question was always before us.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I do not dispute for a moment that these questions were asked; I suppose that in every election in the country questions of one kind or another, apart from the war, were asked, but undoubtedly the question of the war was the predominant one that guided votes in 1900. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife said that the abstract question of the Disestablishment of the Church in England was not necessarily involved in the question of the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. That, however, is not the opinion of all the right hon. Gentleman's friends. For instance, the right hon. Gentleman for West Monmouthshire would not, I think, agree with it.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I will refresh the right hon. Gentleman's memory. In the House on March 9th, 1886 [MR. Swift Macneill: 1886!]—he was not a Welsh Member then—the right hon Gentleman said—The Church of England in Wales is not so much an integral part of the Established Church of England that it is not merely difficult, but I will say impossible to raise the question as a separate one, I do not mean by resolution but in practical legislation, without involving the other. I think that this is a proposition which will commend itself to every man's mind; if you raise the question of the Church in Wales you raise the whole question.So that, according to the right hon, Gentleman, the question we are now discussing and the issue now involved, is not only that of the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, but Disestablishment generally, in England as well as in Wales. Everybody must feel that that is the practical issue. The Church in England and the dioceses in Wales are so intimately and inextricably bound up that it is really impossible to consider the Disestablishment of one without involving the disestablishment of the other. And, if that be so, then we have to take into consideration not only what was the number of Members returned for Wales, but what was the number returned for England as well. When we look at those numbers we find that in 1895, instead of there being a majority of about 40 for the Second Reading of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill, there was a majority of about 130 Members against his Bill. In that election there was no question of the war, so that as far as the right hon. Gentleman's Bill had any influence in that election at all, it changed a majority of 40 for Disestablishment into a majority of 130 against.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the progress of the Church in towns, and stated that there, where there were no endowments, the Church had been able to make very considerable progress. But I am told that it is a mistake to say that there are no endowments in towns in Wales.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
But cannot the right hon. Gentleman see that it is extremely 410 likely that what may possibly not hinder the progress of a disestablished Church in a town might seriously hamper it in the country generally? What can be done in the towns to maintain the Church could not be done in the rural districts if it were deprived of its endowments.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
And with as much success as they do it now. But I am now speaking of what would be the damage to the Church if it were disestablished and disendowed. It has been argued on the other side that disendowment would not really injure the interests of the Church.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I have been in the House a good many years, but I have never yet heard a proposition for spoliation on behalf of which it was not argued by the spoilers that it was made in the interests of the spoiled. So it is with the question of disestablishment. In the brief time at our disposal, I should doubtless be excused from going into the various arguments for and against the proposal, but this, at least, is admitted on all hands, that the state of things of which complaint has been made, and of which a glowing account has been given by the hon. Gentleman who brought forward this motion, no longer exists in Wales; the Church, though at one time it neglected its duty, and perhaps because of that neglect at one time ought to have been disestablished, is now putting forth its utmost efforts to meet the spiritual wants of those who belong to its communion, and is making very 411 considerable headway. I do not care what test is applied by which to measure the progress of the Church in Wales; it will be found that the Church in Wales will stand whatever test is applied to it, whether its progress is tested by the number of clergy, the money spent on particular churches, the number of communicants, or the amount that is contributed by laymen for the support of the Church and the institutions of the Church. Any or all of these tests will show that the Church in Wales is—what MR. Gladstone said it was—a real and living Church. We are asked now to take a step which would cripple the Church in the work it is doing, and deprive it of the opportunity of usefulness which it is gladly embracing. For my part, I believe that if you were to appeal to the country upon this one issue of disestablishment, you would find that the majority which would be shown in this House against the proposal would be more than confirmed by the country. In those circumstances, I cannot doubt what the fate of this Motion will be. I do not imagine that those who brought it forward have the slightest idea that it will meet with anything like favour in the House, and I am satisfied that the more it is discussed and the more it is seen, what an injury would be inflicted upon religion and upon the work of the Church in Wales by such a proceeding, the more repugnant will such proposals be to the English people. I hope, therefore, the House will reject the Resolution by a large majority.
§ * (6.45.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I will not occupy the time of the House many minutes, and for this reason, that I think the people of Wales and the Party who sit on this side of the House may be well satisfied with the debate. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the fate of the division, but the fortune of the debate is not with the gentlemen on the other side of the House. When we remember the consumate speech of my hon. friend the Member for Carnarvon in introducing the subject, and the reply which it received from that side, and when we have heard the attempt at a reply on behalf of the Government by the right hon. Gentleman who has just 412 sat down to the powerful, and, in my opinion, the conclusive argument of my right hon. friend who sits by my side, I think I never heard in the House of Commons a debate in which the victory was so complete on one side, and that is in favour of this Motion. I am only sorry that the noble Lord the Secretary for India was not here to-night. He might have been convinced that he was mistaken in supposing that Liberal principles have ceased to exist, and that the tradition and the principles upon which the Liberal Party had found themselves divided from the Party opposite no longer survive. Those principles still survive and distinguish the two parties in the State. They are not obliterated, but they are still remembered; they are still to be acted upon. Those Liberal principles were illustrated thirty years ago by a great and successful experiment. The objections to that measure were based upon precisely the same principles which are now alleged against this Motion. The right hon. Gentleman said just now that he had never heard of proposals of spoliation which were not asserted to be in favour of the despoiled. Well, the disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish Church was declared to be an act of spoliation. Yes; but who are grateful for it to-day? The Church of the despoiled. You have had the declaration of a representative of that Church whom you will not disavow—that of the right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh. He was one of the most vehement opponents of that spoliation, and he declares to-day that if he had the thing over again he would take a different course. Everybody knows that the Church of Ireland is stronger and is more influential to-day than it was before its disestablishment. I am not going into the arithmetical calculations of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, as to how strong or how weak is the party against disestablishment in Wales. We are going to a division, and we shall know exactly how many Welsh Members are against disestablishment. It will be declared in the division list to-night, and that will settle, I suppose, that part of the question.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife stated that a certain number of the Members from Wales were in favour of disestablishment. I merely gave these figures to show that the right hon. Gentleman had overstated his case.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
What I say is that the division list will show us how many Welsh Members are against disestablishment, and we shall know exactly where the thing stands. That will dispose of the right hon. Gentleman's arithmetic.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Why not? It seems that the right hon. Gentleman has very little confidence in the zeal and energy of his Welsh Establishment supporters. But I do not desire to carry the arithmetical controversy further than that. This question of disestablishment and disendowment is no doubt a very great question. The right hon. Gentleman attempted to reply to the argument of my right hon. friend that the success of the Church was mainly in the great towns, and that in the greater proportion of the great towns the Church does not depend on endowments, but upon voluntary effort, and that is a very conclusive argument. How does the right hon. Gentleman attempt to answer that? He says, "Oh, yes, that may be quite true. The Church may do very well as a voluntary Church in the towns, but it would fare badly in the country." What does that mean? It means an acknowledgment by him that in the country generally as distinguished from the great towns, the Church is in a hopeless minority, and it is in order to support that minority that he opposes any disendowment. I am not going to delay the House to-night. We are glad that this Motion, after many perils, has been brought to an issue. It will bring to an issue, as I say, one of the great principles which distinguish the one 414 party from the other. This principle that we assert is one of religious equality. It is the principle which asserts that the Church, which is in a minority, and in a great minority, of the people, ought not to receive endowment from national funds. That is the clear and distinct issue upon which the Party which sits on this side of the House is as strong and as zealous to-day as it has been at any period of its existence. Whatever may be the result of the division to-night, we are as convinced as ever we were that, as we have had an enormous superiority in this debate, the time will come when we shall have a majority of the votes of this country as well as those of Wales for disestablishment.
§ (6–54) MR. SEELY (Lincoln)
I shall not detain the House by speaking at any length on this subject, and I have not the reputation of being a lengthy speaker. I do think, however, that there is one remark which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire made which ought not to be allowed to go unanswered. The right hon. Gentleman, at the beginning of his speech and at the end of it, said that those who wished to disestablish the English Church in Wales ought to be thoroughly satisfied with this debate, because the whole strength of the arguments had been in favour of disestablishment, and there had been no adequate answer to them. I have listened to the arguments and to the eloquent, moderate, and most reasonable speech made by the hon. Member who moved this Resolution, and also to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife in which he supported the Resolution, and I can only say that, speaking as one who listened very carefully to the debate, and as one who was quite prepared to hear whatever arguments they had to use, I think there never was a Church which was attacked that could be more satisfied with the character of the attack, because the whole point of those speeches was ancient history. There was not a word in those speeches as to the present condition of affairs, and the whole argument was based on various 415 things which happened in dates such as 1450, and 1200, and various dates of that kind. The hon. Member spoke a great deal of the century before the last, but when he came to the end of the last century and to the present one, he was obliged to confess that the Church in Wales was increasing in spirit and in activity, and was doing good work even in that country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife, unlike the Member for West Monmouthshire, saw the weakness of the case, and he attempted to get over it in one single sentence, which was, that when you have an evil in the past you cannot, by turning over a new leaf, remove yourself from the results of your teachings. I think that is rather in the nature of an allegation, and I think it is both unfair to men and to institutions to say that they shall never be forgiven for what they have done in the past, and that whatever good work they are doing in the present should not be considered in the scale. What I should like to point out to the House and to those hon. Members who are supporting this Resolution is, that what you really have to do is not to consider this question as one of historical interest, or what was done in the olden days, but to consider it as it is to-day in regard to the individual Welshman, and whether what you propose is towards his interest. As regards that point, there is an omission in this Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife spoke of the small proprietor paying tithes as though, if the Church were disendowed, the small proprietor would have no tithes to pay. Everyone knows that the tithe would go on in exactly the same way as now. The only difference would be the purpose to which it was applied. To what 416 purpose are you going to apply it which is sufficiently superior in its value to the purpose to which it is applied now, to justify you?—because you require very great justification before you take away that which was given generations ago for the support of religion and for the performance of religious services in the country. I have heard no argument of any kind whatever adduced to-night which would justify that in Wales. I have heard many arguments from the other side of the House which tend to show that this money, even if it does not supply what would be called a thoroughly national church in Wales—I am sorry that it does not—is doing a really good work in the country. I appeal to hon. Members and to nonconformists throughout the country, at this, the beginning of another century, to reconsider their opinion on this matter. A hundred years ago there was some justification—there was then oppression of the nonconformists. All that has been altered. There is absolute equality between the churches in this country, and I consider that it is a great pity that they cannot work cordially together, and that they do not give up the attempt to take away money which is being devoted to religious purposes, in order to devote it to others, the only result of which can be to cause ill-feeling between different sections. I think that the debate, so far from weakening the position of the Church in Wales, has shown its present and increasing strength.
§ (7.3.) Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 177; Noes, 218. (Division List No. 14).