§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [13th May], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ 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."—[Mr. F. E. Smith.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question." Debate resumed.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HARWOOD
Perhaps before I enter upon the particular subject of the Motion which stands in my name [the rejection of the Bill], the House will allow me to say a word or two of personal explanation. I certainly should not have taken up the position which I occupy today except under a most urgent sense of duty. I am one of a number of Members who went through ten years' opposition, and, although two or three times I was compelled to oppose my own party, when I thought they were acting wrongly, on the whole I was able to act with them. In regard to the time since they came into office, I may say that not only have I followed them with, I hope, obedience, but also with pride. I am very grateful for what they have done, and I believe that future generations will call them blessed. I am proud to have had a share, however humble, in that work. Perhaps they will allow me to say, and with this I will part from the personal side of the matter, that whatever is the result of this Bill, it will not in the least degree diminish my loyalty to my party, nor my pride in its achievements. Although the opinions which I hold have not, I am afraid, many supporters in this House on either side, yet they have a great many supporters in the country. There are thousands of Liberal Churchmen who take a modest, but a very zealous, 982 part in politics, and who think very much as I do on this matter. I may say to the Government that I and those who act with me had sedulously resisted any temptation to take any public part in the agitation on this subject so far, because we knew that to do so might possibly weaken the Government. There are two ways in which a Bill may be opposed. It may be opposed on the ordinary principles of an Opposition, which is, more or less, to oppose everything, and the object of their opposition is to discredit the Government. Persons like myself, who occupy this position on this particular measure, have to be very careful that we do not lend ourselves to anything of that sort. Those Liberal Churchmen with whom I am acting on this matter have, therefore, taken the same course of abstention.
But there comes a time when a man is bound to do his duty; there comes a time when he has to take his stand on a great question of this kind. Such a time has come now, and therefore I have felt called upon to do what little I can. In regard to the general question, the Under Secretary for the Home Office referred to some words of mine, used a good many years ago, in which I said that this matter was one for the Welsh to decide. I quite agree with that; I hold by that absolutely now, and I am not going to say for one moment that they are wrong in bringing forward this measure. They have a perfect right to disestablish churches and to disendow them. There is nothing wrong about it. On the contrary, I have the honour of knowing a good many of those who have taken an active part in this agitation. I had the honour of the friendship of Mr. Edward Miall, who was a man of the highest character, who would not have touched anything that was not inspired by a pure object. I know that my Friends are moved by a motive which is a creditable one, and which is a motive that a man may be very proud to obey. Let me say that, with regard to the remarks that have fallen from the other side of the House, that I do not believe for one moment that there is any motive of plunder. On the contrary, I feel quite sure that those on this side of the House who are moving in this matter would have been very thankful if there had been no sense of property to complicate the question. I am quite certain that they do not want the money, whatever people may say. I know them too well for that. I say these things in order that we may clear the ground so 983 far as motive is concerned. With regard to another aspect of the matter, what is called the dismemberment of the Church, I do not propose to say anything about that, because I think that argument rather weakens our case. When you come to talk of the Church in Wales as four dioceses of the Church of England you introduce a taint of conquest into this question. I would prefer to regard the Church in Wales as a National Welsh Church. It resisted the attempt to bring it under the Archbishopric of Canterbury for several centuries, and it was only by ecclesiastical cajolery that it was ever brought under it. It was so brought. If it had not been the task of defending it would be much easier now than to defend it as a portion of the Church of England.
That is dangerous ground, and therefore I say, first of all, that I regard this question purely from the Welsh point of view. While I appreciate their motives, and while I fully realise the purity of their motive, at the same time I believe they are mistaken in the course they are taking for the welfare of their country. That is the line I propose in a few words to take up. In regard to the Church generally, the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the gross neglect of the Church in the eighteenth century. I think we had better let the dead past bury its dead. The question is quick with present needs, without going into the dust-heaps of the past. At that period of our history all Churches were neglectful. The Dissenters were as indifferent as the others, and they have made the progress they have made since then largely owing to the fact that it is much easier for a dissenting body to increase the accommodation than it is for a national Church. A national Church has to provide church, clergyman, and house, and it has to go to a great deal of expense. The consequence is that it is not so easy for it to merely multiply the sittings. That is not the conception of a national Church. As for the figures which have been given to us, figures may prove anything. Everyone knows that quite well, and I think we had better address ourselves to the principles involved in the matter rather than to these statistics, about which there is so much doubt. The Under-Secretary for the Home Office began yesterday by speaking of the privileges of the national Church, to which the Welsh people were opposed. Curiously enough, the first privilege that he mentioned was the control by the State. If we are going 984 to have Disestablishment Debates and controversies we had better make up our minds as to whether connection with the State of this kind is or is not an advantage to a Church. I have always thought that there was great inconsistency in the language commonly used on this matter. We hear of the promotion of religious equality, and we hear, at the same time, of liberating the Church. If connection with the State is of advantage to a Church, it is absurd to talk about liberating it. We do not liberate anyone from an advantage. If it is not an advantage to a Church, then the only Church that has a, right to complain is the State Church. It is the State Church that suffers, because they are suffering from an evil which is pointed to as being the central question of the whole matter.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Home Office, in a speech we all enjoyed, and the spirit of which we could not but admire, was unfortunate in choosing that as the leading privilege. The other privileges he referred to were hardly worthy of the issues involved. It is quite right that we should feel resentment against wrong, but we must take care lest a sense of mere resentment of that kind leads us to do foolish things. I am bound to say that the privileges which were recapitulated by the Under-Secretary yesterday did not seem to me to justify a great step of this kind. He spoke about the law of the Church being the law of the land; he spoke about the King having to be a Churchman, and having to be crowned by officials of the Church; he spoke about the bishops being in the House of Lords, and he spoke about their title. Most of these privileges seem to me to be rather trumpery matters. At any rate they are not to be put in the scale if you are going to do injury to the religious life of your country. After that Parliament Bill, which we are so proud to have passed, I do not care who sits in the House of Lords. I do not think there is a single person in the length and breadth of Wales who really feels the slightest injustice from any one of these so-called privileges. It is a part of the ordinary controversy that a State Church is a favoured Church. I think we have got to rise to another conception of a national Church. I think we have to drop all this miserable talk about favour and social superiority, and we have to look, not at what we suppose to be the position of a State Church, but at what are its duties. I maintain that a national Church 985 is a Church whose first and chief business is to offer religion to all without forcing it on anyone, and to offer that religion without money and without price; that there shall be no man in the worst slum, no man upon the most lonely mountain side who has not some minister of religion to whom he has a right to go and some organisation of religion of which he can be a member if he chooses. That is the theory of a national Church, that it ministers to all, ministers for nothing, and ministers to force it upon none. Does a Church of that sort serve any use? I know my friends will say there is no need for a Church of this kind because the religious life of Wales is sufficiently attended to by the Free Churches. I am bound to say a word or two which I would rather not, but we must speak frankly when things come to a certain point, and we shall get to the truth better by speaking frankly. The result of a Bill of this kind will be to say practically that these Free Churches are an adequate and final settlement of the organisation of religion in Wales. Yes, but you are going to destroy the national Church, or at least you are going to do away with its national position. I do not care two pence for the honours of the thing, but I am very serious as to whether it would be a good thing for the Welsh nation to have the national Church taken away. Who is then to minister to the very poor? Who does now? I will tell you. I know Wales pretty well, and I have spent the last three holidays there. Of course, one may be mistaken, and I hope I went there with an open mind, but I found that, whilst chapels multiply quite beyond necessity in the towns and villages, in the remote country places, in place after place, the only instrumentality for ministering religion to the people is the Church. I could give statistics that this is so.
I know my friends may think it is a perversion of terms, but I am speaking here I hope as a democrat, and as a democrat I am anxious, not for the well-to-do, not for the middle class, not for the lower middle class, not for any class which can provide for itself, but for the people who cannot and will not provide for themselves. That is the problem which is so serious to us now. I admire the work the Free Churches have done, and instead of thinking of the inequality, my own impulse is to say that a man who provides for himself in his own Church stands in a more dignified position than a 986 man who is provided for out of other funds. But at the same time I am not concerned about that, I am concerned about who is going to look after these things. The other day I was speaking to one who had been a minister in my own town. I said, "Had you anyone in this street who came to your chapel?" He said, "Yes, why?" I said, "Well, there are 140 houses in this street and I am thinking of the 139. I am thinking of the people whom you could not and did not visit. It would be absurd to suppose you could. Are they to be left unprovided for, unlooked after, and unattended to?" I cannot accept these Free Churches as a final and satisfactory settlement to the organisation of religion. First of all, they consist of the people who agree with your religion and who pay for it. They must pay, and they do. If people agree with your religion the victory is won so far as they are concerned, but I am anxious about the people who do not agree with your religion and do not care anything at all about it, and who will not have anything at all to do with it and who will not give a penny towards it. These are the people who, if they are allowed to sink into irreligion, are a danger to the nation. Napoleon said we were a nation of shopkeepers. I am afraid we have a little too much of the shopkeeper in our conception of the Church. It is not a matter of who pays, it is not a matter of merely caring for those who will and who can pay, but it is a matter of going out into the highways and hedges and concerning yourself most of all with those who cannot and will not pay. That is the point that I want chiefly to make.
But my friends say, "But the Free Church will be so much better liberated, as the word is, from State control. Look what good we should do. We are really doing this for your good." To which I say, "I know that you are only dissembling your love, but why do you pick my pocket?" Quite apart from that is it true that you are going to help the Church? Is it true that the Church is better separated from the State? I say it is not, and I think I can give the House a reason or two why I hold that faith most strongly. I repudiate entirely this claim that the Church is benefited because it is handed over to what is called self-government. I have had a good deal to do with this kind of thing, and self-government of the Church means government by parsons, or by a still worse class, the parsonically 987 minded layman. The hon. Member (Mr. Ellis Griffith) yesterday told the harrowing story of the follies and ignorances and blunders of the bishops, and then he draws the conclusion that because these bishops are so stupid, so benighted, and so backward, the best thing is to hand over the Church to them. Do not deceive yourselves. Who would determine the policy of the Church in that case? The parsons, and they are the worst people in the world to control a Church. All history shows that. What has any Church gained by making itself over to parsonic control? What does it get? Narrowness, unreality, bigotry, and superstition. The House may laugh, but the House will have another feeling. Let it read that sad book "The Life of Newman.'" That is one of the instances how you pass from the freedom, the fresh air, the breadth and the liberality of a national Church to a Church which is controlled by what are called spiritual persons. The Episcopal Church of Scotland is a High Church, the Church of Ireland is a Low Church, and wherever I go in the world and find these self-governed Churches I say there is not one of them which has the breadth and the liberality that the Church of England has.
It is easy enough to make fun of the appointments by the Prime Minister. It is easy enough when you have got a theory to say, "Look how absurd that is." This House is, most of all, a practical Assembly, and I ask hon. Members to ask themselves how does the system work really. The appointment made by the present Prime Minister would never have been made by a self-governed Church, and yet they have done more than anything else to preserve the character and the catholicity of the English Church. This is the practical test that we must apply. I do not believe there is anything shocking in the connection between the Church and the State. On the contrary, I believe it is good for the Church and good for the State, and that if you separate them your religion becomes unreal and your politics become immoral. Let me say another thing which may shock you. This cry for the separation of the Church from the State is contrary to the spirit of the time. You take up certain cries, and you go on repeating them long after they have lost their applicability. There is this notion of a free Church in a free State. What do you mean by a free Church? It must be governed in some way. Someone must govern it. It does not exist on the freedom of the air, and therefore 988 you have to compare one form of government with another in its practical results upon the Church. The axiom when I was young, for many years, was that religion and politics ought to have nothing to do with each other. When I first stood as a Member for this House I had great difficulty with many of my most religious constituents in getting them to take a part in politics. They said, "We do not touch politics." That is the old idea, but we are passing away from that. The very existence of this Labour party, which we all rejoice to welcome to the House, is a sign of a new principle, the principle that politics ought to be religion in action, and that the old superstition that you can separate them was stupid and wrong. You are behind the age. You are too late. There is another spirit now. Take, again, the doctrines of Socialism, with many of which I am in the warmest sympathy. What are they but another sign of the working of religion through the organisation of politics? We shall do more. We shall have the children fed and looked after; we shall have a wide extension of Plato's plan before long, that the State must bring up her children and care for her citizens as members of her own family. This is not a new conception. What lies at the root of it? Religion. It is Jesus Christ who made the Labour party; their axioms are His principles. The axioms which are governing our political life are the axioms of Christ, and I am quite convinced that as we move along we shall have for all our woes and ills to have recourse to religion in the truest and most beneficial sense.
Therefore, when you are proposing this separation, and trying to carry out this divorce, you are going against the very spirit of the time and of our religion. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. Ellis Griffith) said that if you liberate this Church, it can then attain to its own creed and ritual. What do you want to do about these things? I thought that our creed had finality about it. It does not concern me a bit to have this liberation. But what is the result of watching and meddling with creeds and rituals? The result is always bad for the Church, and the greatest service you can do a Church is to prevent it from making a fool of itself. "Oh," you say, "how horrible to have to appeal to the House of Commons. How irreligious!" I have had to do with Church congresses and assemblies of all kinds, more or less, and I say without any 989 desire to flatter this House, that after my sixteen years' experience within these walls I know of no assembly in whose justice, courage, and fairness you can place such reliance as you can on the House of Commons. I would rather see all issues in the hands of the House of Commons than in those of any Church gathering. Then you say, "Look here, my dear fellow, we are going to liberate you." To that I reply, "I am much obliged to you, but I do not want it. I believe it will be a distinct step backwards." Though I know that many people outside do not agree with me I ask, "Has this connection with the State really proved a drawback to religion?" I do not know whether I may ask hon. Members to look at maps, but I mention these facts as rather striking. If you look at maps you find, firstly, that at this date Christianity has never been adopted—except by emigration—in any country except under the influence of the State; and, secondly, you find what is still more striking that Protestanism until this very day has not been adopted in any country except under the ægis of the State. That may seem horrible, but it is true, and we have got to learn lessons from these truths. So much for Disestablishment. We do not want it; and we do not want your liberation.
Let me remind my Welsh Friends what this national Church of Wales is. I believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was a Pagan Church. Now that is just the reverse of the truth. From the sixth century it was Wales that kept alight the fire of Christian faith when it had gone out all over the country, and we owe it to the Welsh and the Church in Wales that Christianity was kept alive there, when the rest of the country had relapsed into paganism. They stuck by that, and nothing could move them from it. They resisted being taken by that wretched Archbishop of Canterbury of whom we have heard. They were and always have been the national Church. I should like to tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the dissenting bodies are all worked from England. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO."] I am stating what is true practically. I do not think there is a single dissenting body that may be said to be coterminous with Wales and to limit itself to Welsh organisation. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] None to any great extent. Therefore, there is hope. Why do I presume to offer advice to Welsh Members? It may sound conceited; I dare say it is, but I do it with the greatest 990 possible good feeling. I love Wales almost as much as if I were Welsh myself. I have scores of times attended Welsh chapels where I did not understand a word, because my heart was fired by the electric enthusiasm in the air. I love the people, and I love their country, and I believe they have in the national Church, if they use it properly and make it their own, an invaluable instrument for fulfilling the great work of a national Church. I believe that work is work which the so-called Free Churches cannot do from the very nature of the position—that is to say, ministering to the poor and to those who do not pay.
If that be the duty of the national Church, how about Disendowment? Let me say to my hon. Friends I quite hold that if you have Disestablishment, you must have Disendowment. It would be ridiculous to hand over the funds, and I should for one fight against it to the utmost. I do not see why all this money is to be handed over to a body of which nobody has any control. You propose a Synod. Well, I object entirely. I want these funds kept under public control, and if public control is being withdrawn, then I want the funds withdrawn. But here is a question which has agitated many minds in the country. If this national Church has to provide for the poor, how is it going to do it if it has no money? A friend of mine asked me, "Do you believe in endowment?" and I answered, "I do not know whether you do or not, but dissenters do." Endowment is like a reservoir; it drives the mill when the waters run dry from other sources, and it keeps up the regularity in religious services. This is so, and therefore I ask what would be the result of your Bill? The result would be this so far as I can make out: There are about 968 incumbents in Wales. More than half. 511, it would leave without a penny; and 132 it would leave with less than £10 a year. You may say, "Oh, well, the Church would provide for itself. Endowments only stop the flow of voluntary charity." That is not so. Endowments encourage the flow of charity. I find that the Welsh Church people contribute nearly £300,000; and that they have contributed between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 alone for buildings within the lifetime of many of us. These endowments foster and encourage private charity and do not discourage it. Taking the figures of the Commission, I find that the amount contributed by members of the Church of England per head is greater than that contributed 991 by members of the Dissenting Churches. I will give the figures if anyone doubts that statement. What is going to be done? You say, "Oh, they will go on." It is all very well for people to say so. It was said when I was young, "Why should you have high incomes which are not necessary in connection with the Christian religion?" What do we find? We find that if you pay a small income, you get a worse man, and if you pay no income at all, you get nothing done. You are going by this Bill to lop off this great work. I appeal to the House and ask if I may—is this the time to do it? The Chancellor of the Exchequer in words which moved me, and I have no doubt they moved the House, described to us the other night how a change had come over the religious life of his country since he was a boy. He said the sermons he heard now were not such as he heard in his youth. To quote his own words:—"There is a seething change in the religious life of Wales.The people of Wales are active, quick and alert, and such people are always quick to answer to any moving impulse. Is this the time to interfere with the organisation of a Church with whose religion you may not altogether agree, but which, at any rate, is doing a religious work in your country? I should be very careful about touching any religious organisation which I thought was doing any good. You say that the fund does not belong to the Church. It has belonged to it long enough to constitute a fair claim to the retention of it. Another thing you must remember is that this fund costs nothing. The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke as if it cost a considerable sum. If we did not pay tithe we should have to pay so much in rent. The only thing resulting is a reduction in the rent-roll of the landlord. All land has passed subject to that charge, and, therefore, it practically costs nothing to anybody. What are you going to do? You are going to use it for purposes which I believe will be met by the National Insurance Act. You are going to use it for purposes which ought to be met by private benevolence, or the organisation of the State. Each generation passes away, but I venture to say that if you pass this Bill some future generation will knock at the door of this generation and will say, "Why did you deprive us of an organisation that was maintaining the religious life of the nation and was doing no harm to anyone?"
§ The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Mr. Hobhouse)
The address of the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Harwood) has been anticipated by the House with very reasonable curiosity. The hon. Member has addressed an argument to the House of which I confess, while he was making it, I did not see the end. He began by conceding the whole point which we are here to argue when he said that in a question vitally touching Wales, and only upon points of organisation touching England, Wales must decide. He continued his speech by saying, "We repudiate liberty; we repudiate the severance of Church and State." Then he went on to say, "I dislike Disestablishment, but if Disestablishment passes I will press for Diendowment up to the hilt"; and cathedrals and churches and every shred of property which is now attached to the Church must, in his opinion, be taken away from it once Disestablishment is conceded. Finally he said, "I am against Disestablishment and therefore against Disendowment." A more curious argument was never presented in the House of Commons than was presented by the hon. Gentleman in all sincerity and with great feeling. "I stand," said the hon. Gentleman, "here in this House to represent thousands of dissentient Liberals who, agreeing with the policy of the Government in all other respects, yet put their Church before their politics, and I will strenuously resist the proposals of the Government under this head." I, too, stand here on behalf of thousands of Liberals who are also Churchmen, and who believe, with the sincerity which animates hon. Gentlemen opposite, with the attachment to the Church which they also possess, with the zeal for its service which they advocate in this House, to say with equal zeal, equal sincerity, and equal honesty of purpose to theirs, that we think Disestablishment of the Church will in the long run be beneficial to that Church.
Charges of cant and hypocrisy have been flung across the floor of this House in this Debate. They have not been put forward in the, if I may say so, very moving speech of the right hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. A. Lyttelton), who spoke on the First Reading of this Bill; and in that respect I beg, on behalf of my hon. Friends, to say that we drew a most favourable comparison between that speech and that which followed the moving of the rejection. To charge hon. Members of this House, whatever they say, and still more to charge persons outside this House who have given lifelong service to the Church, with cant 993 and hypocrisy, is to betray ignorance of a movement in the Church which has grown in a most remarkable way during the last twenty-five years, and which animates a large number, not only of laity, but of clergy and bishops and dignitaries of the Church. I need not quote, though I could quote, the names and speeches on this point of men who have a knowledge of Church history and Church needs and a learning and an information which are not surpassed by any hon. Member opposite, and who proceed with an honesty of purpose in this matter which is not to be impugned by any Member of this House. But among these there are two whom I would quote, because they are most apposite in this respect. This Bill is to Disestablish the Church in Wales. There are two persons whom I may quote. One of them, I think, is a president and the other a professor at Lampeter College, which is the place where the Church in Wales trains her clergy; and these gentlemen, in recent utterances and recent letters, have professed themselves to be strongly in favour of Disestablishment for that country upon the distinct and sole ground that it will benefit the Church in Wales. That Church has entrusted, for its own spiritual purposes, the education of its clergy to persons who, in full honesty and enthusiasm for the Church, are taking up a position known to that Church which is called cant and hypocrisy by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
I hope that after that expression, not of my own feelings, not of the feelings of hon. Gentlemen who sit behind me, but of the feelings of persons who work for the Church's good, we may have these epithets and these adjectives discarded once for all. Because, after all, it does not wound us, it does not even wound them, but it will do serious damage to the Church itself. Now I confess to my hon. Friend that this Bill deals both with the aspect of Disestablishment and Disendowment, and as there are different values attached to those questions by hon. Members on that side as well as this, we are bound to present our case separately distinguishing between the case for Disestablishment and the case for Disendowment. There are general arguments and particular arguments to be advanced in this connection. There is no general argument that I know of which applies to Disestablishment in England, if it was proposed, or to Disestablishment in Scotland, if it was proposed, which cannot be applied in the case of Wales; but there 994 are certain arguments which apply to Wales which are not necessarily applicable to England. I would have been very unwilling if it had not been for the argument of the hon. Member for the Oswestry Division of Shropshire (Mr. Bridgeman) last night to refer again to the question of the population. It has been argued almost ad nauseam in this House, but I feel bound to do so, and to do so all the more because the Noble Lord who sits opposite has subscribed to the general accuracy, although he has had a quarrel with some, of the figures brought before the Welsh Commission. Our position is this, and we hold it with a very distinguished lawyer who spoke on this subject many years ago in this House (Sir Roundell Palmer) that the only ground upon which an Establishment is defensible or maintainable is that it embodies the religious belief of the mass of the people of the country which it serves.
The Church, by its most extreme advocates, only claims one-third of the population of Wales. We do not think it is as much; we think that it ought to be only one-fourth. But granting that the whole of the claim of the Church on this particular point is justified you cannot upon one-third of the population claim that you carry with you the religious belief of the mass of the people of the country and upon that ground and that ground only in the opinion of one of the Church's most strenuous and eloquent defenders is the Establishment defensible or maintainable. But still more than that, if a Church which claims to be national has left outside it or has driven outside it two-thirds of the population of the country which it serves, surely it can only be said to have failed seriously in part of its duties. How does the Establishment try to get out of this difficulty? It, first of all, says you must add other people to this one-third; you must add all those who would not vote with us at election times, and all those who do not worship with us in our Churches; and then it presents another point: "Why are you afraid of the census?" I am not afraid of the census. The hon. Baronet (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) has put himself out of court by his answer to a question yesterday. He says: "If you have a census and it gives you a majority, we will disregard the majority; but if we have the majority we will claim all that the majority entitles us to have." It is the case of heads we win and tails you lose.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. What I did say was that I could not agree to the Disestablishment Bill myself in consequence of the result of the census. There are many other arguments for and against.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I think that the hon. Member has put himself out of court. If he thinks that his argument is still good I will not argue it, but I will put him this point. If you have a religious census, with a political object at the end of it, then certainly you insist upon religious apostacy from those who are doubters on either side. It is unquestionable that there are Nonconformists who are in favour of the Establishment. It is equally unquestionable that there are Churchmen who are in favour of Disestablishment, but if you are to have a census and to go by the result of your census as to whether people belong to the Church of England or to Nonconformist bodies, and you are to have Disestablishment or not in accordance with the number of those who adhere to the Church of England or the Nonconformist bodies, then the Nonconformist who is in favour of Establishment or the Churchman who is in favour of Disestablishment must renounce his political belief or his religious faith in order to carry out the purpose for which the census is being established. There is only one test in this matter—that is the test of the ballot-box. I am not going to the old subject of thirty-one Members or thirty-four, or three to one against, but I will put this test. It is said that the consituencies are not favourable to the views which hon. Gentlemen from Wales hold here. I see a certain number of my hon. Friends here who have been a long time in the House, and I have had taken out the votes which they have given in different years for Disestablishment, so that their sincerity upon this question will have been known to their constituents. There is the right hon. Gentleman who sits for the Rhondda Valley Division of Glamorganshire (Mr. W. Abraham). He voted in 1886, 1889, 1891, 1893, 1895, and 1909 for Disestablishment. His majority is one of the largest in this House. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Lloyd George) who sits on this bench, and who has come to the House to-night, voted for it in 1891, in 1893, in 1895, in 1909, and 1912. As you search out the records of Welsh Members in this particular, you will find that those who have voted most often for Welsh Disestablishment are most strongly entrenched 996 in opinion amongst the Welsh people. It is the only test we have got now. It is the only real test which you can apply to this question, and when it is applied it wipes out the whole of the contention as to the misrepresentation of Wales by the Members who sit in this House. There is one aspect of this election question which has been overlooked by this House. It was referred to last night by the hon. Member for Shropshire (Mr. Bridgeman). He said that when the Welsh representatives went down to their constituents they never told the farmers of Wales that tithes would be continued. Does his mind go back to the Act of 1891? There was very considerable friction between the tenant farmers, not only in Wales, but in England, between the payers of tithes and the receivers of tithes, there being actually a tithe war in Wales at the time. The late Lord Salisbury introduced the Tithes Recovery Act of 1891 in order to remove the friction and prevent a repetition of the tithe war. He laid the burden of paying the tithe upon the landlords and took it away from the tenants. What has been the result in Wales? Did the tenant farmers in consequence of the release from that obligation upon them cease from supporting the opponents of Establishment? There is no sign of that whatever. If the argument had been a pocket and a greedy argument, then they would have transferred their affections to those who removed the payment. Both by conscience and conviction, they did what they did before—they supported the persons who, like themselves, opposed the Establishment. By every conceivable test—the length of time, the feeling of Members inside this House, the pressure upon them by the constituencies outside this House, the largeness of the majority by which they come to this House, by the religious adhesion of the people in Wales—the case in Wales for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales is overwhelming and complete. There is no nation at any time, upon any theological question, which has been so almost universally in agreement upon a point of this sort as is the Welsh nation at this moment. The people who oppose Disestablishment will say, "But the Church will lose, and the Church is bound to lose something by Disestablishment." I grant it. They will lose things which will appeal more to the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith) than to the 997 Noble Lord opposite; it will lose official recognition, the bishops in the House of Lords, and so forth. These things, after all, are but the trappings of religion. She will gain a great deal more than she loses, not only on the mental and spiritual side, but on the practical. She will not only gain freedom in her ceremonies, in her rituals, in her beliefs, and in her creeds, but she will gain freedom of conscience to legislate as she pleases, and not as this House desires. I will not trouble the House with many quotations, but let me give one in the words of one who was a most sincere Churchman on this point. In the course of the Bampton Lecture, addressed to the University of Oxford three years ago, the writer said:—The establishment of a Church by law not only robs it of essential liberty, but limits its activities and lessens its influence as a religious force in national life. A spiritual society cannot be true to itself or to its mission if, in directing and ordering spiritual affairs, its action is conditioned and limited by subjection to a society which in its essence and aim is other than spiritual.That sums up in a sentence the whole of the case which we have against Establishment. I could not attempt to put it better than it is put by the Bampton lecturer, and I think it puts in all seriousness the view which we hold upon this most important question. Then, upon the practical side, could anything be more revolting to the consciences of men than the farcical mockery which obtains in the election of bishops at the present moment. I think anyone who has a conscience on this point must be disgusted. A prelate is chosen with the greatest care no doubt; he is sent down with formal mockery to an assembly of Divines who dare not and cannot reject him if they wished, and who go through a form of prayer before they put official sanction on the man whom they cannot reject, even if they wish to do so. That will disappear if the Church is Disestablished. The -whole of private patronage will disappear. While private patronage may—I agree with my hon. Friend in that respect—have some advantages over a minister having to go hat in hand to suit the exigencies and the peculiarities of a particular congregation, yet nothing is more misplaced than private patronage, which is influenced by family affection or accidental caprice. Nothing can be worse for the Church or for a people to whom the clergyman is sent to minister. The laity will be brought into more active touch with the work of the Church, and will give, as I hope and believe, a breadth to their 998 views, and an activity and zeal to their labours which does not always at the present moment obtain. I come to the last point upon this head. A great deal has been made by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil), and every speaker on that side of the House, upon the desirability of co-operation between the Church and Nonconformists. The Noble Lord spoke with great earnestness and sincerity upon this point which, if I remember aright, he raised in the Debate of 1906. It is a point which was discussed and referred to in the Report of the Welsh Commission. I think it was referred to by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) in his memorandum, and it has also played a prominent part in nearly every speech which has been addressed to this House.
The question asked by the Commission and Members of this House is: "Is there co-operation between the Nonconformist bodies, is there co-operation between the Church and Nonconformist bodies, and if there is not co-operation, what is the reason?" What is the answer given to these three questions? It is clearly established that between the Nonconformist bodies in all matters that make for social and moral welfare and betterment there is ready and willing cooperation. Between the Nonconformist Churches in matters of religion there is a frequent interchange of pulpits. I will not say there is identity, but there is such a similarity of ritual and belief between them that ministers can freely go from one denomination to another and expound the beliefs which animate them in common. Between the Church and Nonconformity, in all matters outside religion there is no lack, to use the words of the Report, "of good feeling and no lack of co-operation." But when you come to religious belief and to divine worship for which alone Churches as Churches exist, then, to quote the words of the Commission, "there is absolutely no co-operation at all." Let me quote a passage from the Report which was signed by the Noble Lord opposite:—We report that in mutters of divine worship there appears to be no co-operation between Nonconformist ministers and clergy of the Church of England.I will take the Noble Lord, if I may, to another passage in the Report, which I think, is referred to by himself, and also by Archdeacon Evans. He will correct me if I in any way misrepresent him. Although there is no co-operation between 999 the Church and Nonconformity in matters of religion and divine worship, yet he tells us in this memorandum it is clear from the evidence that at the present time theundenominationalism of Nonconformity in Wales, if indefinite, is in substance in accord with the universal creeds of Christendom, which serve as the anchor of the doctrinal system of the Church.So far, I gather from the Report that there is no fundamental difference therefore between the beliefs of the Church of England and of the Nonconformist Churches in Wales. I will take the Noble Lord to a witness most favourable to the Church of England, who explained why though the doctrines of Nonconformists are in agreement with that which is the anchor of the doctrinal system of the Church of England, they cannot co-operate in religious worship. A question was put by the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) to Sir Lewis Dibdin—As far as yon are able to judge, what is the nature of the religious objections taken? Does it depend upon the ecclesiastical position of the Church … or does it depend upon political status?The answer was:—So far as the matter has come before me, which has in the course of years very frequently, the difficulty has been a difficulty arising undoubtedly from the connection of Church and State—the legal difficulty of clergymen ministering in a dissenting chapel.The Noble Lord put the same question to the Bishop of St. David's. Perhaps the House will allow me to trouble them with even a longer quotation. To the Bishop of St. David's was put the following question:—I was going to ask you whether there was an objection, an insuperable legal objection, that is to say, whether it would, as far as the clergy are concerned, be a necessary violation of the law to allow a Nonconformist minister to occupy the pulpit and preach a sermon in his Church?The Bishop of St. David's replied:—Well, your Lordship, more than anybody else in the room, will appreciate the delicacy of my attempting to answer that question, especially in your Lordship's presence. It is my misfortune, I think, on the whole, to have judicial responsibility as well as administrative attached to my office.… I have not yet had occasion to go into that particular question.… I would say I think there is considerable distinction (and I speak under correction with very great deference) in law between a Nonconformist minister officiating in a church and a clergyman officiating in a Nonconformist place of worship.… As at present advised, or shall I say unadvised, I am doubtful (I will not say I am sure) whether the Church in framing its regulations, which are embodied in the Book of Common Prayer—Then at last, when he is again pressed, he says:—There is an objection at law for a Nonconformist minister as such to officiate and to preach in a consecrated place of worship belonging to the Church of England.1000 What is the meaning of those statements? There is no religious difficulty, there is no moral difficulty, there is nothing unsuperable between co-operation on religious questions save this: that the Church is established. The Church depends upon its legal position, and that legal position prevents co-operation in things which are vital for religion and spiritual belief. That is the side of things which seems to me to be unhappy, and which, in our opinion, is unnecessary. We believe that co-operation is essential. We believe that the Establishment, and the Establishment alone, prevents it. We think that freedom is essential to the Church, and we know that that freedom is impossible because the Church is established, and we desire Disestablishment in order that we may establish freedom.
I desire to say a word upon the question of Disendowment. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton that Disendowment stands on a different plane to Disestablishment. There are a great many persons who support Disestablishment and who are against Disendowment. That is clearly brought out in a letter which the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to the "Times" some time in February, I think, where he said that hehad been approached by many who deprecated the impoverishment of the Church, but could not resist the claims of Disestablishment.I admit that this is a double-edged weapon. He grants us that there are many persons to whose opinions he attaches importance who are against Establishment, and he brings them into the argument in order to show they are hostile to Disendowment. What are the arguments which appeal to minds of that character. They were set forth in a letter which was written by Canon Hensley Henson, who said, and this is an argument which was rather pressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton:—Take away its endowments, and the Church is confronted, from the business point of view, with the absurdest organisation conceivable.There is very little truth, if any, in that statement. Take away the endowments of the Church, and the organisation remains. The Church is organised as in dioceses with the bishop—the archdeacon—and the parochial clergy, for the purpose of doing; religious work in the established as well as in the unestablished Church, and the Dean, Chancellor, and capitular clergy carry on the business side of the diocese. That system has always existed in the established Church, and exists at the present 1001 moment in the unestablished Churches as well. All that would happen would be this: that you would bring into co-operation a large number of the laity who, in business matters, are now unconsulted, and who, upon questions of religious policy and religious attitude, do not share in the government of the Church.
It is quite true under our proposals you will take away the revenues of the Church from the sole corporation, the clergyman of the parish, who now is the freeholder, the life-owner of the greater part of the revenues of the Church, and you will transfer them to a representative body whose business it will be to distribute the revenue, not according to the ancient requirements of the Church, but according to its modern needs. It has been constantly said, and I think in almost every speech in this House, that if we commit Disendowment you will deprive many parishes of the services of resident ministers, and I think we have had one or two reproaches charged against the Nonconformists of Wales that there are many parishes in Wales where there is no resident Nonconformist minister. I wonder whether those who make this charge have read the reports of the Welsh Commission, because if they do, they will see that in the diocese of St. David's alone there are 121 parishes which are without any service of a resident minister of the Church of England. I refer the House to page 87 of the report of the Royal Commission, and this is what the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University says in his report: He talks about the insufficiency of endowments, and he points out that nearly one-third of the incumbents of the diocese of St. David's are in charge of more than one ancient parish, seventy-seven of them being in charge of two parishes united by Order in Council, and forty-four holding two parishes in plurality.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
The hon. Gentleman has interrupted me, I venture to say, with a point which is foreign for the moment, and for the moment only, to my argument. I bring no reproach against the Church, because in existing circumstances there are some parishes which do not need the services of resident clergymen; but if I bring no reproach against the Church for that reason, he ought not, in fairness, to bring any reproach against us, because 1002 after Disestablishment the same condition of things will obtain as obtains at the present moment. [HON. MEMBEES: "NO, no."] If there is a lack of residential clergy in a parish where the population is so sparse that it does not require the services of a resident clergyman now, under Establishment, it is no reproach to the issue of Disestablishment to say that hereafter there will be no increase in the clergy in those parishes. But it is not a question only of organisation—it really is a question, I believe, with those who differ from us as to what right you have to take away funds from the Church, and there is the much minor and much smaller question, and subsequent question, as to what you will do when you have taken those funds away. There has been a great change in the Debates in this House since 1895. I sat throughout all the Debates at that time, and the whole argument of the then Opposition was that you should look back to the pious founder and to the ancient founder. Now we are told you must disregard everything that happened in the past, and that you must not look to legal subtleties, and what is the good of legal subtleties? I venture to think there is some good, because if you look back you find this, to which I invite the attention of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Sir A. Cripps). He told us the other day that it was historically wrong to say that there had ever been partition in tithes between the clergy and the poor.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Nobody knows what the origin of tithes was. It is admitted that nobody knows exactly, but what you do find is this. [A HON. MEMBER: "The Home Secretary."] My right hon. Friend was dealing with a particular question. I am dealing with a general question. Nobody, I think, has attempted to show what the origin of tithes was. Even so great an authority as Selden did not know what the origin of tithes was, but what we do know is that in 787 they were a legal obligation, and that in 1014—and this is where I join issue with hon. Gentlemen opposite—in the reign of King Ethelred II., this law was passed, and I quote from a translation from the original Anglo-Saxon:—And concerning tithe, the King and his Witan have chosen and decreed, as right it is, that one-third part of the tithe which belongs to the Church shall go to the reparation of the Church, and a second part to the servants of God, and a third to God's poor and to needy ones in thraldom.1003 That does not end the legal evidence. You go on another 300 years, and you come to the time of Richard II. Then there had been a diversion of the tithes from its original object, and the House of Commons of those days passed a law upon which Blackstone makes the following comment:—The parishes were frequently sufferers, not only by want of Divine Service, but also by withholding its alms, for which, amongst other purposes, the payment of tithes was imposed, and therefore, in this Act (16 Richard, 2, Cap. 6). a pension is directed to be distributed amongst the poor parishioners, as well as a sufficient stipend to the Vicar.Thus by the Act of Richard II. a reappropriation of tithes took place by which the first object was the assistance of the poor and the second was a sufficient stipend. I hope after those two enactments—one of ancient Parliament and one of a much more modern Parliament—hon. Gentlemen opposite will not deny that in ancient times there was a partition of tithes—parochial tithes—between the poor and the clergy.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
If I have the opportunity I think I shall be able to give a very different interpretation of them.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I should not have quoted the Acts if there had not been very serious legal opinion supporting the view which I as a layman take. What comes out of it is this—that the revenues of the Church have only been enjoyed subject to the sanction either of the responsible King or of the responsible Parliament for the time being for the proper disposal of those revenues, and for the holding of them according to the pleasure of the Sovereign or of the House of Commons of the day, and that the House of Commons or the Sovereign, as the case might be, frequently diverted them from the purposes for which they were at the time employed and gave them to new objects and new persons through new channels and agencies of administration. The last word I have to say is this: Will the Church be really crippled in its operation by the proposals we have made? It loses £170,000 per year. So far as I gather from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton (Mr. F. E. Smith)—and I do not wish to misinterpret him—I understand no proposal will be made from the 1004 other side for any compromise with regard to our proposals, no proposal to compromise will be made from the other side, and therefore upon this point when we get to the Committee stage there will be nothing suggested from the benches oppostie. Therefore, if the Bill passes in the form in which it is now before the House the ultimate loss to the Church will be £170,000 a year. That loss will not be immediate; if one may take the precedent of the Irish Church, it will be spread over a period of about forty years. Averaged out on that basis, it will mean a loss of £4,000 a year. If you capitalise that sum it is a serious amount. I do not wish in any way to underrate the charge upon the subscriptions of persons attached to the Church that the supplying of that sum will occasion. It will undoubtedly create a serious demand which they will have to meet. But if we ought not to underrate it, I do not think it ought to be exaggerated on the other side. A loss of £4,000 a year is not going to cripple the Church.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
If you average out the £170,000 a year, according to the precedent of the Irish Church, over the period of forty years it comes to £4,000 a year.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Yes, a cumulative loss of £4,000 a year on the average. There will be a loss amounting to £4,000 for the first year, £8,000 the second year, £12,000 the third year, and so on, until you reach the full £170,000 a year. To replace that you require the Church to find a capital sum of £100,000 a year. That is a serious sum for the Church to find, but it is not an impossible sum. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Let me develop my argument. I think it is a just argument, just to you and just to us. You will have to find £100,000 a year. What did the Scotch ministers, who went out in 1843, have to find? They went out to the number of 396, stripped by voluntary resignation of everything they had—of their parsonage houses, their endowments and their livings. They went out, not to a nation, but to a part of a nation, poor and unestablished. In the first year of their voluntary disestablishment, their congregations raised over £60,000. I believe in the present year they are finding over £200,000 a year more. The Church of England at this moment finds in voluntary subscriptions something like 1005 £300,000 a year for the Church in Wales. Is the whole spiritual action of the Church to fail because she will not find an extra £100,000? I am quite sure it will not fail because she cannot find it. Those who know the resources of the wealthy classes in Wales are perfectly well aware that if she does not find the extra sum which is wanted to maintain her activities in the future, it will be because she will not, and not because she cannot. No Church by quasi public endowments does any good to itself. We are certain that in any case a Church can only claim to have these endowments continued to her if she is a national Church. In the case of Wales it is certain that the Church does not now represent the nation. We sincerely believe that by freedom the Church will gain eventually—after trial and tribulation very possibly—[Opposition cheers]— Yes, but that is what the original Church did—she will come eventually to a far stronger because a far freer position than she now holds.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite has one advantage in dealing with this subject which does not appertain to all those who have spoken on the other side in favour of the Bill. He is, I understand, a member of the Church of England, and therefore when he says that in his opinion that Church will greatly benefit by Disestablishment, it has not the ring of insincerity, which is almost inevitable if the same plea comes from those who do not belong to the Church and who are always attacking it. When it comes to Disendowment, I admit he has the same advantage. The very last words he used we listened to with some amusement, but still with patience, because he is a member of the Church which he thinks is to be so greatly benefited by passing through the fire of tribulation. I have heard the same argument from others who did not belong to the Church, and in their mouths I frankly admit I cannot imagine any form of public discussion more calculated to disgust and revolt those who regard this as a serious matter. If the right hon. Gentleman is of opinion that the Church to which he belongs will be able to do its work more effectually the poorer it is, he is, of course, perfectly at liberty both to take away all its endowments and to withdraw his own personal subscriptions to it, which I have no doubt are on a liberal scale. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Is the Church strengthened or is it weakened by being robbed? I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will 1006 recognise that there is no personal attack on him. If he so interpreted it, I withdraw everything I said in that connection. But it is another matter when we have men coming down to this House, men who are spending their time in collecting for their own Churches, who gladly took the money of this House when it was voted between 1806 and 1820 for the purposes of Nonconformity in Wales, and who do not propose to give it up or to go through the beneficial fires of tribulation—they come down to this House and say, "The Church of England in Wales may be doing its work well; it may be doing its work assiduously; but how far better will it do its work if it is robbed of the pittance it has; how far wider will its spiritual influence spread if it is as poor as the Church of the Apostles."—I think that was the final argument of the right hon. Gentleman—while all the time they are complaining themselves that they are deprived of adequate means for carrying out their spiritual work, and would regard it as the greatest outrage and the grossest injustice that this House should come down and rob them of the endowments which they have collected from the faithful adherents of their Churches.
The right hon. Gentleman spent the greater part of his speech in defending Disestablishment as distinguished from Disendowment. There are members of the Church of England who desire Disestablishment, but I confess I have never been able quite to understand their point of view. If the right hon. Gentleman represents them accurately, it is in his opinion principally because there would thereby be given to the clergy of the Church of England an intellectual freedom which would enable them to carry out untrammelled the great work entrusted to them. I utterly fail to understand how it would give to any single clergymen greater intellectual freedom than he now possesses. How does the minister of a Nonconformist Church differ in that respect from a clergyman of the Church of England? You have a minister who serves the work of an organised community with a creed and endowments depending on the creed and associated with the creed. It may be unfortunate, but it is the fact, that you cannot possibly organise the service of religion unless you have some dogmatic basis behind you. Directly you have service paid for by any man connected with an ecclesiastical organisation, established or unestablished, you inevitably bring in the 1007 law, either the Ecclesiastical Law in the case of the Established Church, or the Civil Law in the case of a Nonconformist body, and you at once produce that interference with the conscience of the individual which the right hon. Gentleman thinks is so deadly when it is under the guise of the Establishment, and so innocuous and so innocent when it takes place through the instrumentality of the civil law in a Church which has no ecclesiastical Establishment. There is really no fundamental difference between the two positions. If you consider the history and the practical working of ecclesiastical institutions, will any man tell me that the clergy of the Church of England throughout the whole history of that Church have shown less independence or have shown themselves less capable of dealing with modern problems in a modern spirit than the clergy of any other Church whatever, established or unestablished? The charge—I do not care who makes it, whether it is made by officials of the Anglican Church, or by the right hon. Gentleman, or by any other members of the Church—is absolutely unjustified by the facts.
I have always regarded the charges made in these Debates against the Established Church of this country with regard to freedom of thought as running absolutely counter to all the teaching of history in this respect. From the date of the Elizabethan settlement the English Church has been a comprehensive Church. Nonconformist bodies, now I believe most liberal and most anxious to work with each other, were not in their origin based on the principle of comprehension, but exactly the opposite; and for that reason if for no other, you will find through the whole history of the Church of England that liberty of thought, which it may be difficult to associate with any ecclesiastical organisation whatever, has flourished continuously in the English Church in a manner which I do not think any other Church can equal. The Undersecretary for the Home Department asked the House to follow him in accepting a view of ecclesiastical history which made the English Church the true enemy of freedom of thought. Looking at ecclesiastical history, I should be the last person to say that there is a single Church which you can produce which, if its past history is closely scrutinised, is not open to serious blame, and has not at one time or another brought something like discredit on the 1008 great cause to which it ought to be devoted. After all, you can only test this question of the relation of an ecclesiastical organisation to freedom of thought by seeing what ecclesiastical organisations have done in those cases where they have had the power and where they have been supreme. Tested by that canon, is there any ecclesiastical organisation at all, here, or in America, which comes out better than does the Church of England?
Has that ever been controlled by any State? Has it had control? My point was that you can only test this question of ecclesiastical organisation on freedom of opinion when you see it in power. Cast your eye over the history of Europe since the Reformation. In Spain and Italy Protestantism never had a chance, as we all know. I do not suppose it will be said that the ecclesiastical organisation which had absolute domination in the South of Europe in the years of which I speak was favourable to freedom of thought. Very well; come a little further north. Take France, where for a long time the issue as between a free Protestantism and Roman Catholicism hung in the balance. Does either Protestantism or Roman Catholicism come well out of the trial? Look at Germany. Take the Catholicism of the States that remained Catholic, or the Protestantism of the States which became Protestant. How do they stand as compared with the history of the English Church? Leave those countries where the contest raged doubtfully for many generations. Take places where Protestantism was triumphant. Is it in Geneva that you are going to look for freedom of conscience? Is it in Italy? Or Holland? Is it in Scotland? [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] Is it in Massachusetts?
No, Sir, the history of every Church, where it has been dominant has been a history not without deep stains. But I say that the English Church, of all Churches, has come through the trial of being the supreme religious organisation of the State in a manner which everybody of British birth may look back upon with pride and pleasure as being more than any other religious organisation tolerant within its fold of wide differences of opinion, nor has it ever carried to the same excess of persecution its action upon these ecclesiastical bodies outside itself, and belonging to a different system. Under the circumstances, living as we all 1009 do now in an age when all Protestant denominations vie with each other, and honestly vie with each other, in breadth and liberality of sentiment, it ill beseems us, under happier circumstances, looking back upon the history of the English Church, to get up in our places and say that the English Church has been the instrument of narrowness of thought and intolerance of opinion. I do not dwell further upon the Disestablishment part of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. I do not consider that Nonconformists, if I may venture to say so, have much right to an opinion as to what is good for the Anglican Church. The right hon. Gentleman has a right to an opinion, because he is a member of the Church. But he belongs in this respect, if I may say so, to a very small minority, and I do not think it is a growing minority. I do not believe that the future of religious development is to those who would like to see the severance of this historic connection which, on the whole, has worked so well for liberality of thought in the past.
I leave there the right hon. Gentleman's argument for Disestablishment, and I come to the argument for Disendowment. After all, Disendowment is the kernel of this Bill. Put shortly, this is a Bill for taking £170,000 per year from the Church of England and giving it to the county councils and to the museums. What you have primarily to defend, if you wish to defend your Bill, is to show that this money, spent by the county councils and museums, will be spent better on the spiritual welfare of mankind than if it remains as at present. The right hon. Gentleman indeed tried to make out that the claim made for the Church in Wales is exaggerated. He said that hon. Gentlemen on this side had stated to the House that Nonconformists, from the nature and character of their position, could not provide for distant and remote places, and could not provide for the spiritual needs of those who lived in their neighbourhoods—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]—"and," said the right hon. Gentleman, "I have looked into the reports, and I find there are 170 parishes in which there is no resident clergyman." Did the right hon. Gentleman consider the position of those parishes? It is not that they are left without the services of the clergyman. It is very likely, owing to the smallness of their size, and to the extreme smallness of their endowments, that they are massed with other parishes.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon, but does he seriously contend that there is within easy reach of every man living in Wales a Nonconformist Church?
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
Certainly I do. Would the right hon. Gentleman name a single parish in Wales where there is not a Nonconformist chapel within easy reach. [HON. MEMBERS: "A minister."]
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but the same thing applies to a Nonconformist minister who may be resident in a parish as applies to a clergyman of the Church. He attends a chapel which may be in another parish.
That is a question of fact with which I do not pretend I have made minute investigation. But I should be very greatly surprised if those who really know the distribution of religious facilities in Wales do not bear out the universal suggestion of all those to whom I have spoken, that whatever other disadvantages there may be in the ecclesiastical organisation of the English Church, it has the great advantage that it does bring within reach the very poor in very remote districts, where there is neither wealth nor opportunities otherwise to provide services. In these neighbourhoods it does give the poor these privileges which Nonconformists cannot do for want of funds. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] After all, I do not think there is a man in this House who is not rather perturbed at the reflection that this £170,000 is to be taken from spiritual purposes and given for other purposes which are so utterly trivial and insignificant that I have not heard one word said in favour of them. When you take £170,000 from one organisation and give it to another you ought to hear a great deal of the demerits of the organisation from which you take it and of the merits of the organisation to which you give it. As a matter of fact, we have heard nothing of the sort. We have heard of the merits of the Church, but we have not heard what particular benefit the money is going to confer on the recipients. What spiritual 1011 benefit are museums going to confer upon remote farmers in distant parts of Wales? They may be wonderful engines of spiritual improvement, but then hon. Gentlemen ought to tell us so! I have not heard one of you say a word in favour of museums. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman.who has just spoken knows what the museums are that are going to benefit. I do not know. I have not been told by the Government who are bringing in this Bill.
As a matter of fact, they are perfectly indifferent to what is going to be done with this money. It looks fairly well on the face of the Bill. There must be an air of decency about the recipients of this national money, but it is not the recipients that the Government are thinking of. Certainly not. It is the persons from whom they are taking it. Rather than not take it they would throw it into the sea. That being the central policy of the Bill, I think we must all feel, on whatever side of the House we sit, to whatever denomination we belong, that a Bill of that sort requires some better justification than the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down was able to give it. He was Secretary to the Treasury. He told us that after all we were only taking £4,000 a year. We on this side of the House were under the impression that we were losing £170,000, but the ex-Secretary to the Treasury has, by some process of calculation which I regret to say I am unable to follow, made out that this £170,000, by judicious manipulation, might be reduced to £4,000. I do not know whether that is the kind of arithmetic that now finds favour at the Exchequer. I wish the magnitude of our taxation could be dealt with in the same manner, and that when we are asked to pay £180,000,000 a year it would turn out, by what we might suppose would be a parity of calculation, to be really only about £5,000,000. Putting aside what I may call the arithmetical defence of the Bill, what substantial defence is offered by the Government? The authoritative exponent of this particular portion of the Bill is the Under-Secretary for the Home Department. He told us that Nonconformists had already obtained liberty; what they wanted now was equality. He said that the grievance that this Bill is intended to relieve was want of equality to which they had a right, and in the absence of which they had suffered a serious loss. After that preface I listened with great interest and anxiety to know what were these 1012 grievances, what were these inequalities, from which the great Nonconformist bodies in Wales suffered? They were of two kinds. They were partly social and partly political. What were the social grievances? One was that the Coronation of the King was carried out by the Established Church. This Bill does not put that right, and if you want to put that right you must alter the Act of Settlement. I do not know whether the Prime Minister proposes to alter the Act of Settlement; at all events, this Bill will leave that grievance precisely where it stood. Then I think the hon. Gentleman mentioned the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury had some social precedence. No doubt that is true. The precedence of great ecclesiastics dates, as the House knows, from times of immemorial antiquity, and I do not know whether the House regrets it or views it with jealousy or disfavour. For my part I rather like it. It reminds me of the fact that through the Middle Ages there was one great body of men, not chosen for their waelth or their birth, who nevertheless could, and habitually did, rise to the highest positions both in Church and State and were recognised by the proudest hereditary nobles as being their equals or superior, and therefore I should regret personally to see this ancient custom disallowed. I should have no objection whatever to its being extended; none! Personally I should like to see recognised, for all those who hold great offices in great ecclesiastical organisations, whether in the Established Church or in the great Nonconformist body, if that carried with it the general respect of men, and the corollary of that general respect, some formal recognition of precedence. But, after all, you are not taking £173,000 a year away from the poor because the archbishop goes into dinner before a duke, and yet I do not know what other social inequality there is that was mentioned by the hon. Gentleman; absolutely none. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman who reeled off this list of grievances is here. Oh, yes, he is here. Did he mention any other social grievance? I do not wish to misrepresent him.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Ellis Griffith)
This was an answer to one of the many interruptions to which I was subjected yesterday. I spoke of the State Establishment, and someone said, "What is it?" and thereupon I mentioned what I 1013 thought were the privileges of the Church under the control of the State; but that was in answer to interruptions from the other side.
If that is so, I think the hon. Gentleman ought to be most grateful to his questioner, because the questioner appears to have provided him with all the more important parts of his speech. I leave the social inequalities, which are quoted as one of the great reasons for taking £173,000 a year from the Church in Wales, and I come to the political inequalities. I thought under that head I should hear something of importance. What I did hoar was that these four bishops, the bishops of these four Welsh dioceses, sat in the House of Lords. They do sit in the House of Lords, and I suppose they will sit in the House of Lords until the Government fulfil their honourable promises and give us again a Second Chamber. I hope that in that Second Chamber we may see not merely bishops, but other representatives of ecclesiastical bodies; but, however that may be, there is no use anticipating what apparently is going to happen in the very distant future. I venture to suggest to the Under-Secretary that the true remedy for the political grievances is not to Disestablish the Church in Wales, but to give us the new Second Chamber we are promised. That would be a simple remedy, an honest and honourable remedy, and one that would have the double advantage of enabling the Government to say that they have fulfilled their promises and to leave £173,000 a year for the purposes of religion. I take that to be absolutely the complete list of the Nonconformist grievances which the Undersecretary for the Home Department put before an astonished House as the reason for robbing the Church in Wales. Was there ever so petty a catalogue of offences for punishing the Church at the cost of the people of Wales in such a manner?
I quite agree that there were some other inequalities between the Nonconformists and the Established Church which the hon. Gentleman did mention, but those were inequalities adverse to the Church which he, in his goodness, desired to relieve the Church from. I am sure the Church is grateful for his goodness. I agree it is the business of the House to relieve the Nonconformists of grievances which they feel. It is not the business of this House to relieve the Established Church from the burden of grievances which it does not feel. Perhaps I ought to 1014 apologise to the House for one thing. I have not gone into the question of the number of people in Wales who voted for Members of Parliament pledged to Disestablish the Church. I think that may be quite an important subject, but if it is a conclusive argument I do not see why we need here discuss the matter at all, nor do I see why a similar vote taken with regard to any fraction of England should not be followed by a similar Bill dealing with that fraction until the English Church is gradually destroyed by little snippets being taken out of it here and there, in every place where, for one reason or another, historical or political, the Church happens to be in momentary disfavour. It has often been said and said with perfect truth that this cannot be regarded as purely a Welsh question. It affects on the face of the Bill the finances of the whole established Church; on the face of the Bill it affects the organisation of the whole established Church and in any case I say it is not a question which can be or ought to be decided merely by the vote of a particular area of the community, though I am quite ready to admit that the opinions of Welshmen are well worthy of consideration and cannot be neglected or ignored.
But there is one inequality in the proposed treatment of the Church to which the hon. Gentleman opposite did not refer. Has any Nonconformist Church ever been cut up before by Act of Parliament? In the very interesting speech made at the beginning of our proceedings by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bolton (Mr. Harwood) he appeared to attach no value to that argument; but surely he is almost alone among English Churchmen in taking that view. You cannot perpetrate vivisection on a great living organisation like the Church and say it is of no moment to cut off an arm or a leg, and that the remaining part will go on as before, and that the part you cut off will go on much better. This, at all events, is not equal treatment, and I wonder whether the Home Secretary, who introduced this Bill quite realised what an extraordinary legislative anomaly he was guilty of. This Bill is not merely a Bill for Disestablishing a part of the English Church—the Anglo-Welsh Church, or, however you choose to describe it—it is also a Bill for re-establishing an Episcopal Church in what are now four dioceses included in Wales and Monmouth. The right hon. Gentleman comes before us not merely as a man who is liberating four dioceses from the historic trammels of the established Church, but he come before 1015 us also in the character of a man who is making a new Church and making a new Church with geographical boundaries, and making a new Church in circumstances and conditions which every single Nonconformist body in Wales repudiates for itself.
Many speakers have emphasised this point, admirably put in the brilliant speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Walton (Mr. F. E. Smith) yesterday. But has any answer been given to it? The Wesleyans say, for example, "do not confine us to Wales; we draw vital sustenance from our brethren in England, just as our brethren in England are aided and assisted by us." This is the claim made by every Nonconformist body, but your new Church that you propose to create by a charter that is to have no such privilege. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Is it then to remain part of the English Church? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Let us get to the bottom of this. Am I to interpret the interruption I hear as meaning that these four dioceses are still to be in the old position? [HON. MEMBERS; "NO, no."] Why was I interrupted then?
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
They are to be the same as Nonconformists. Under the Bill the four dioceses will be able voluntarily to associate with Canterbury exactly as the Nonconformists in Wales associate themselves with Nonconformist bodies elsewhere. The parallel is to be kept up exactly.
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. In the first place, when he says they will be able to do this and that, what he means is that they will be able to do this and that when the Home Secretary advises the King that they may do this and that.
That is so, but, apart from that, are they not cut off from convocation? Is there any parallel for a surgical operation being performed on any Nonconformist Church by Act of Parliament. No, Sir, I do not think the hon. Gentleman can escape in that way. This does sever, and is intended to sever, the English Church; and for the first time, it seems an amazing paradox, a Welsh Member and a man holding high office in a Radical Government is going to establish a Church in Wales whose borders are exactly 1016 co-terminous with Wales, and he is going to do this with a Church of which he disapproves. I think that is a very extraordinary thing.
I will tell the House exactly what I mean. The right hon. Gentleman is going to create the organisation of a Church, and that Church is going to have property, the amount of which he determines. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO."] That is exactly what he proposes. It is going to be the difference between £173,000 a year of which he is robbing it, and the amount he chooses to leave it. He determines the area of the Church, he determines the endowments of the Church, and he determines the constitution of the Church. That is as good an account of the Establishment as he has been able to give us.
Is there anything inaccurate in my statement. Really, I suppose this Welsh Church of the future is to look back to the right hon. Gentleman as its founder, and as we talk of St. Augustine and St. Colomba, so posterity will talk of St. McKenna. [Laughter.] Really, I am rather sorry I made the House laugh, because there are aspects of this question which I am sure the House feels, and which I assure the House I feel, to which laughter is in no sense germane. If I may, in conclusion, I will just touch upon those which move me most, and which I think have not been dealt with greatly by other speakers. I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bolton did mention the evil that would be done by this process of dismemberment, and others have spoken upon the bitterness which must inevitably follow, not only upon Churchmen in Wales, but among Churchmen all over the country if you insist upon driving this policy through against their will. That this will injure the ordinary harmonious ministrations of religion no man can doubt, and no man does doubt. There is a special aspect of that which greatly appeals to me. I think it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who spoke of the great change that occurred within his own memory in the attitude of Nonconformity which affords great religious truths. He did not develop that thought, and I do not know that this House is the 1017 proper place in which it should be developed. I do not blame him for that, but the fact remains, as all who are interested in these religious questions know well, that one of the great tasks which our forefathers never foresaw, and with regard to which they did not organise their forces or arrange their creeds, one of the great problems and difficulties before all Churches now is how to deal with the great access of knowledge, historical, critical, and scientific, pouring in every day—new matter poured into ancient moulds—how to combine the absorption of all that new knowledge with the continuation of the great teaching of religion which has gone on continuously through all these centuries, and which I trust will go on through an indefinite and immeasurable future.
That is a tremendous task. It is a tremendous task, because it requires great knowledge, great toleration, and sympathy, and those who have got to carry it out have to deal with congregations in very different stages of education and mental development. I have always wondered and admired the success with which on the whole that great operation is at this moment being carried on, and has been carried on through my life ever since I have been able to take an intelligent interest in these things. I do not believe that it has been carried on better by any Church than by the Anglican Church. Partly because they are the Established Church, and largely because they are by history and tradition a comprehensive Church, they have, I think, been able to meet this great crisis in the history of Christianity in a way which will move the admiration of future generations. Most worthily have they been seconded by great divines and great preachers of the Nonconformist bodies, and if I may, as a Scotchman say so, above all Churches in this country by the great Presbyterian bodies of the Established and the United Free Churches of Scotland. In all these Churches men of great learning, great piety, great devotion, and saint-like lives have devoted these great gifts to dealing with the situation. It seems to me that with this immense task before the Churches there is something incredibly petty and incredibly mean in all this squabbling over pounds, shillings, and pence for social work, and all the other pettinesses which modern political controversy has not invented, but inherited from the controversies which our fathers choose to carry on thirty or forty years ago. I 1018 cannot tell the House how deeply I feel upon this aspect of the question or how much injury is done by making the public feel that what the House of Commons which represents them, or ought to represent them, are really thinking of are not the great problems of religion, not the great problems of fostering spiritual love, but all these small, outworn petty divisions that had an importance perhaps once under historical conditions which have long vanished, but which surely have no importance, not the smallest importance now.
The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me has counted heads, as many others have done, and told us that the people of Wales are overwhelmingly in favour of this change. He brought forward what is called the only true test that can be applied—the list of the Divisions Welsh Members have taken when the Disestablishment Bill has been brought before us on previous occasions, and the voted given by them or their constituents. Well, we are politicians in this House, and those are things which cannot be put aside. But let us remember that sometimes those votes and majorities and numbers represent not the cause that is coming in, but the cause which is going out. The old cries repeated at election after election to be seen on hoardings all over the country, reproduced time after time, may not always represent the living faith of the people but the beginning of those new convictions, not powerful now in numbers, not to be counted by wirepullers at the poll, of no interest to your election agent, but which are really going to mould the society of the future, and which are the true beginnings of social progress. I do not venture to prophesy, but I ask each man to put to himself the question, looking forward to the future of religion in these islands—Do you, or do you not, think that perhaps all these old quarrels seem to deserve, as the phrase is, to be scrapped, and we should turn our attention to new and greater issues, working harmoniously in whatever ecclesiastical organisation we may be called to, and whatever ecclesiastical organisation we may look to for aid and assistance, we should all feel that the spiritual good of future generations largely depends upon our forgetting that which ought to be forgotten, putting aside the quarrels which, whatever their original justification, have no justification or life left in them now, and that every man 1019 anxious for the development of the spiritual life of the people should combine to work harmoniously under the great difficulties and the great stress of modern discovery and modern invention to preserve, to expand, to help, to foster, and to promote.
Mr. HUGH EDWARDS
I feel sure I can count upon the indulgence of the House in following the very eloquent speech which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. The right hon. Gentleman devoted his speech to a very glowing eulogy of the history of the Church of England, but I should have been glad if in his eulogy of the past work of the Church he had said something about its history in regard to Wales. Let me quote something as to what the history of the Church has been in Wales. As far back as 1623 Dr. Lewis Bailey, Bishop of Bangor, referred to "the wicked neglect and degradation of the clergy," while Dr. Thomas Llewelyn in his "Historical Account of the Welsh Version of the Bible in 1793," wrote:—For upwards of seventy years from the settlement of the Reformation by Queen Elizabeth, for nearly one hundred years from Britain's separation from the Church of Rome, there were no Bibles in Wales, but only in the cathedrals or parish churches.I should like the right hon. Gentleman in his glowing eulogy of the work of the Church to remember the fact that the Church of England woefully neglected its duty, and even the Archbishop of Canterbury has bemoaned the work of the Church of England as far as Wales is concerned. When the right hon. Gentleman speaks about "robbing the Church," I would like to know whether he is prepared to admit that the Church of England has, as far as Wales is concerned, been absolutely anti-national? Whatever the Welsh people has set its heart upon the Church of England has always set its back against. We have heard something about the number of parishes which have no resident minister. Well, I think it has been made clear already that we in Wales do not accept these parochial divisions. You may have a small parish or two or three small parishes within a radius of a mile, and I should like to have the testimony of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University who sat on the Church Commission who heard Nonconformist ministers give their evidence, that he must have been impressed with the character, the ability, and 1020 the calibre of these men, and he must have learnt on that Commission that not only do Nonconformist ministers in Wales administer spiritual instruction but also that deacons do it. It is no criterion at all so far as we are concerned to say there is no resident minister there. What the Chancellor of the Exchequer said is perfectly true. There is not a parish in the whole of Wales without a Nonconformist chapel, and if there is no resident minister there during the week you have a staff of deacons who look after the spiritual needs of that community. The Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) I am sure, is quite prepared to pay his tribute to the quality and ability and intellect of the men whom he came across. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is prepared to admit that the Welsh people have any grievance at all. He to-night, if I may say so, sneered because my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Home Department spoke about the advantages and the privileges that the Church of England enjoys, but will the right hon. Gentleman deny for a moment that the Welsh nation has a grievance?
I understood the grievance was that there was a privileged Church, but when I listened to what the privileges were—I have given the House and the hon. Gentleman an account from a high authority of what the privileges were—they did not seem to me impressive.
Mr. HUGH EDWARDS
Then I will put this question to the right hon. Gentleman, if I may. Is it not a grievance that the Welsh peasantry, the overwhelming majority of whom are Nonconformists, that the very men who create the tithe by their labour derive no benefit from it? They create the tithes for the maintenance of a Church whose ministrations they never attend. They never go into these parish churches. They never derive any benefit from it. They support their own minister. Surely that is a grievance. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman another question. I wonder what he thinks of the statement made by his Friend and colleague the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain), who declared not long ago, after he became a Unionist and a pillar of the Unionist party, that—Welsh Disestablishment must come.
Mr. HUGH EDWARDS
Yes, but surely twenty years is not so long. Twenty years make very little difference in the life of a nation.
Mr. HUGH EDWARDS
No, we have waited too long. Why have we waited too long. Not because of any lack of goodwill on the part of the Government, but because of the veto of another Chamber. We knew it was hopeless. Will anyone say that, if a Disestablishment Bill had passed through this House, it would have got through the other House?
Mr. HUGH EDWARDS
We should have been "ploughing the sands." But now, whether it goes through the House of Lords this year or not, we are determined to have it in the life of this Parliament. I, like the right hon. Gentleman, am not a prophet, and do not indulge in prophecy, but I am quite certain that will happen. The right hon. Gentleman quoted with approval the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith), who last night said:—The Government is treating the Church and the Nonconformists in Wales in a manner which they would not, and never have themselves tolerated. Nonconformist bodies in Wales, with the exception of the Strict Baptists, belong to the Council of the Evangelical Free Churches in England and Wales and not of Wales only, and they have strenuously resisted, through every spokesman authorised to speak on their behalf, any proposal for the dismemberment of that Council." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th May, 1912, cols. 801–2.]The Noble Lord has made a statement something similar in print, and the right hon. Gentleman who spoke to-night referred to it again with approval. First of all, every Nonconformist body in Wales has an organisation distinct from that in England. There is the Congregational Union of England and Wales, but there is also a Welsh Congregational Union. There is a Welsh Baptist organisation, and there is an Association or Synod of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists.
Mr. HUGH EDWARDS
They are Welsh Churches, and are not in union with the English Church. They are under the jurisdiction of the Welsh organisation. The right hon. Gentleman, as I have said, heard with approval the statement of the Member for the Walton Division, that there was no Free Church Council for Wales. Here is the National Free Church Council for England and Wales. What happened last week? On Saturday last the representatives of all the Nonconformist bodies in Wales met in Shrewsbury for the purpose of organising a National Council for Wales.
Mr. HUGH EDWARDS
They met at Shrewsbury, where the four Welsh Bishops met when they wanted to organise an Anglican-Welsh Church, and what is good enough for four Welsh Bishops is good enough for the Nonconformist bodies in Wales. The Nonconformists of Wales realise they owe something to the distinctive nationality of Wales, and this council is being formed on that basis. I feel in this Debate that hon. Gentlemen opposite have not the discernment of their own Leader. When he spoke for Ulster he never cried down the nationality of Ireland. He admitted that the Irish are a nation, and he never for a moment sought to cry it down. "But," he said, "So is Ulster; Ulster is a nation," and he spoke of "the soul of a nation." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London has been in Wales, and I think he has very happy memories of the Investiture of the Prince of Wales. He must have recognised the intensity of the nationality of Wales. I think he will agree that a Welshman is as distinct as a Scotchman from a Englishman. I think he will give his assent to that. Last night the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division spoke of the dismemberment of the See of Canterbury, but he forgot that Wales is more than Canterbury, and that you owe something to Wales. We have had separate legislation for Wales. We have Sunday closing for Wales, and you have not for England. You have given us a scheme of intermediate education. You recognise the national entity and individuality of Wales, and, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division speaks about the dismemberment of Canterbury, we say the dismemberment is due to the 1023 operation of the very principle which you yourselves have recognised by your past legislation. There is another point in regard to which there is a good deal of divergence of opinion. We do not seem to be agreed as to the meaning of terms. When you speak of "State Establishment" you seem to speak of religion. "State establishment of religion" and "religion" are not synonymous terms. You can have the one without the other. I do not think the Noble Lord will contradict that statement. The late Lord Selborne said—Establishment is a political privilege.I pass on this quotation to the Noble Lord,It is giving the Church a superiority, a rank, and an exclusive rank, a rank which no other religious body in a country possesses.I think the Noble Lord must admit that "State establishment of religion" and "religion" are not synonymous terms. You can have the one, as I say, without the other. You have State establishment of religion in Spain, but not in Canada. Would the Noble Lord declare that Spain is a more religious country than Canada? I do not suppose he would for a moment. Surely a country with its bull fights on Sunday is not more religious. Is there anyone on that side of the House who denies the late Lord Selborne's statement that "Establishment is a political privilege." It is preferential treatment on the part of the State, and I should like the Noble Lord, the Member for the University of Oxford to oppose preferential treatment in religion as earnestly as he has opposed it in the domain of commerce. I think Lord Rosebery once declared,Oh, but a State can, if it so chooses, single out a particular sect and establish it by law.Bishop Welldon, as the Noble Lord knows, has laid down two conditions which in his opinion a State Church ought to fulfil, and I shall be very interested to know whether the Noble Lord approves of those two tests. These are the two conditions laid down:—First of all, the Church should embrace half the nation within her pale; and, secondly, the Church should be broadly sympathetic with the temperate current of the national religious life.We agree with a good deal of the glowing speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London. We recognise the depth and earnestness of feeling with which he spoke, but I am sure he is also prepared to acknowledge we enter upon this struggle with earnestness and depth of feeling. Apply these two 1024 tests to Wales. Does the Church in Wales comprise half the population? There is no one in this House who is better versed with regard to the facts than the Noble Lord himself. He sat for months and for years on the Commission, and he was most regular in his attendance. I venture to say that sitting on that Commission did him a lot of good. It gave him an insight into Nonconformity he had never had before. That Commission took the year 1905 for the basis of their statistics. They found that the population of Wales in that year as roughly a little more than two millions. Then they came to discuss the basis in regard to the members of the Church of England and of the Nonconformist body. They agreed to call those connected with the Church of England "communicants," and those connected with the Nonconformist Churches "members." The Noble Lord will not for a moment claim that there is a uniformity of basis in regard to what constitutes a communicant in the Church of England.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I am quite ready to answer the hon. Gentleman, but it is rather difficult to answer occasionally and not continuously, and I should be interrupting him incessantly if I began.
Mr. HUGH EDWARDS
I am sure the Noble Lord will save me from that infliction. They are only rhetorical questions. I am simply following his example, because I know he frequently asks questions and thus gives material for the speaker who is to reply; and I have no doubt when he speaks, he will be able to give me a little information on these points. What constitutes a communicant in the Church of England? I should like here to draw the attention of the other side first of all to what constitutes membership of a Nonconformist Church. There are many men on the Opposition side who know what Nonconformist membership is. The late Leader, the present Leader, and the future Leader of the Tory party are all Nonconformists. But for the benefit of hon. Members opposite who do not know what membership of a Nonconformist Church means I will just give the information. A man comes forward, either on transfer or confession of faith, and is received into the Church at a meeting of the members, all of whom present take part in his election. His name is recorded. It is entered on the Church roll, and if he does not attend or is absent from communion for six successive communions—it 1025 is three among the Baptists—then his name is struck off the list. The member of the Church has his name registered quite as much as a Member of this House has.
What constitutes a member of the Church of England? A communicant. Mr. Frank Morgan said the rule was that he should communicate three times a year. Several incumbents had taken an even stricter standard, but if the communicant had communicated three times during the year, according to the Church rubric, he was a member. A more lax standard still would include people who called themselves communicants, but unfortunately were not very regular in communicating. What was it the Bishop of Bangor said on this point. He was asked: "Is it the practice in your diocese for the clergyman of each parish to keep for private purposes a roll of communicants? His reply was, "I should say it should be done. I used to do it myself, but there are some who do not. There is no compulsion." The bishop added, "When I first went to my parish I found no roll there, and I began to make my own roll." An endeavour was made to ascertain what kind of roll a parish clergyman kept, and the answer was that people who said they were communicants would be put on. There you have the whole thing. Some communicated six times a year, some three times, some not at all, and some were put on simply because they told the incumbent that they were communicants. There was no regular list kept. We have the figures relating to the Church. There were 193,000 members, as compared with 550,000 Nonconformists. The Noble Lord will admit that some of his colleagues on the Commission did not accept these figures. There were two different sets of figures produced. There were the figures showing the number of communicants, statistics contained in the visitation returns and issued in the ordinary course of diocesan work. Then there were the ad hoc figures specially prepared for the Commission. I would like to draw the attention of the House to the facts connected with the diocese of St. Asaph. According to the visitation figures secured in the ordinary way the number of members was 22,757. The ad hoc figures amounted to 29,300—a difference of 6,500. What do these figures mean? It means that this great Church has occupied the ground of Wales since the days of the Reformation, has had the field entirely to herself, has had an annual 1026 revenue of £240,000 a year, and has had among her adherents all the great landowners and nobility in the Principality, and the net result is, as certified by the Noble Lord himself, that out of a population of over 2,000,000 she can only claim 190,000—less than one-fifth of the population. Her revenue has been £240,000, and her membership is only 190,000 of the people!
It has been said that the Nonconformists in Wales are dwindling in number each year, and that the Church of England is the only progressive body. What are the facts? In yesterday's issue of the "Manchester Guardian" some figures were published on very high authority as to the number of Church communicants. In 1903 the number was 212,000; in 1906 it was 193,000, and in 1912, according to your own Church Year Book, it is 152,148. So the Church has declined every year except in the special year when the ad hoc figures were prepared for the Commission. What is the position with regard to Nonconformists? There are three denominations in Wales. In 1861 they numbered 239,000, in 1910 they numbered 480,000. We have heard a good deal about decline and decrease, but I venture to say that not a single Member who has followed these statistical returns as laid down in the Year Book, can say that the Church is increasing or that the Nonconformists are decreasing. I am not going to deal with the question of endowments. There is a general consensus of feeling on this side of the House that the property belonged to the parish and not to the Church. The almshouses and hospitals were maintained by the parish and the poor were looked after by the parish. There was no poor rate previous to the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Up to the fourteenth century all was taken from the common fund that was necessary to promote the spiritual, moral, and intellectual well-being of the parish.
With regard to the future. The right hon. Gentleman the late Leader of the Opposition, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith) summed up the whole position in the one phrase when they referred to "the Church of England in Wales." They did not for a moment claim it as the Welsh Church. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last never once referred to it as the Welsh Church. He spoke of it as part of the Church of England. Throughout its existence the Church of England in Wales has been English 1027 in its origin, English in its sympathies, and absolutely anti-national in its activities. When St. Augustine met a deputation of bishops in 601, they protested against being brought within the See of Canterbury. They protested against it for 500 years, and when at last, as a result of Norman aggression and Norman conquest, the old Welsh Church was brought within the Province of Canterbury, the Welsh Princes made a special petition to the Pope to be relieved from the "yoke of Canterbury." Wales is the only country in Christendom which still has an alien Church established by law. No one can deny that. In England you have the Church of England, a Church which, all admit, reflects the English national character, more specially in its love of compromise. In Scotland you have the Church of Scotland, a Church which is essentially Scotch in origin, in tradition, and in sympathy. In Ireland, you had the Church of England. In Ireland, as in Wales, you had the Church of England established by law, and, as the House knows, these fetters were struck off by one of the greatest and most devout Churchmen of the nineteenth century. We have heard from the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) a reference to the national recognition of religion. He suggested that the severance of Church and State might prove inimical to the best interests of literature. The House need have no fear about that, as far as Wales is concerned. One of the leading statesmen of America declared a short time ago that the Welsh could always be found casting their votes, giving their influence, and yielding their enthusiasm to the cause which stands most conspicuously for the Ten Commandments. I should like to quote a statement made by John Bright, and I should like to ask the attention to it of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last. Speaking in the House on 27th April, 1860, John Bright, on the Church Rate Abolition Bill, said:—Look at Wales! There you have a poor population who are mainly Dissenters—Welsh Dissenters. They do not own great estates They have no ancient endowments, no grant from Parliament. Eight-tenths of the people have no connection with the established Church; and yet, poor as they are as compared with the population of England, there is no nook or corner of the Principality in which there is no chapel or school or minister, or in which you do not see the influence of religious teaching on the character and habits of the people.The House need have no misgiving as to the effect on religion if this Bill be passed into law. In Wales you have the most religious peasantry in the whole of Europe. 1028 The Noble Lord makes a mistake in his summary of the political position. He is the author of a most interesting book, which many of us have read lately with great profit; and in the course of that book he says that the championship of religion is the most important of the functions of Conservatism. If that is true, if the championship of religion is the most important of the functions of Conservatism, how does it come to pass that there is no part of the United Kingdom where Conservatism is at so low an ebb and where the religious sentiment of the people is so strong and so pronounced? The only explanation is the confusing of Church of England religion with the Christian religion. No one doubts the earnestness of the Noble Lord; but we do doubt the clearness of his wisdom. I should like to refer hon. Members on the other side to the remark made by an old Welshman to the victorious Henry II. He said:—Nor do I think any other nation than this of Wales, whatever may come to pass hereafter, shall in the day of the severe searching before the Supreme Judge answer for this corner of the earth.7.0 P.M.
We are indebted to the Government for introducing this Bill. We are not prepared to wait twenty years longer, as the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last would like us to. If we wait twenty years the position of Wales would not be changed. He spoke to-night about the need of co-operation between the various religious bodies You can never have that co-operation in Wales so long as this question is unsettled. The Chancellor of the Exchequer addressed a large Conference in Cardiff, with the Bishop of Llandaff in the chair. What happened there? Certain of the bishops held aloof, because they said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in favour of Disestablishment, and the High Church clergy of Cardiff held aloof for the same reason. The shadow of Disestablishment fell upon the assembly. You can never have co-operation in any way between the various religious bodies in Wales until you have removed the incubus of State establishment, and placed them upon an absolute level. Wales looks to the House upon this occasion to do it justice. The men who first articulated this demand of the Welsh people for religious equality, and the men who first formulated it on the floor of this House—men like the late Mr. Dillwyn, Henry Richard, Osborne Morgan, and Tom Ellis—they are now no more. Their eloquence has become hushed among the eternal 1029 silences of our hills; but the demand of our nation knows no abatement, and it will never know any abatement until the grievance has been redressed. So long as the veto of the House of Lords was in deadly operation there was absolutely no hope for Wales. Now that that has been removed, we appeal with confidence to the House for the redress of our grievance, and for the fulfilment of a demand we have been making for more than two generations, and I venture to say that when redress is given to us and when the demand of our people has been complied with, then, and not till then, shall we be able to realise the dream and the vision of the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
Nobody who has heard the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down will have failed to have been impressed by the sincerity with which he approached the subject. Some of the historical allusions which he made seemed to strangely conflict, not only with some of the statements I have been accustomed to hear, but with many that have been made on his own side. I have not had time to verify the references, but I hope that somebody else in the course of this Debate will be able to call attention to the variations in the statements made by different speakers on the historical side of the question. The old question of numbers has been brought forward prominently by the hon. Gentleman with the object of proving —if he can prove—that the Church in Wales is an alien Church. He quoted the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) had spoken of the Church of England in Wales as being a proof that the Church of England in Wales is an alien Church. Everybody knows that when we speak of the Church of England in Wales we are alluding to those dioceses which happen to be in Wales, and which are a most ancient part of the Church of England. The hon. Member may know that no less an authority than the late Mr. Gladstone said:—You might really speak with as much justice of the Church of Wales in England as of the Church of England in Wales.What Mr. Gladstone meant by that, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is that the two are indissoluble parts of a great whole. Whatever the term may be, I decline to agree that the Church in these dioceses should be severed and dismembered from the Church in the rest of England. I deny the right of this House to do it, unless better 1030 reasons can be shown, and unless reasons of corruption can be given. This Bill has been justified on the other side of the House by a desire for the removal of privileges and the establishment of religious equality. We were told by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that religious equality will mean the elimination of religious differences. I wish that were always the result of such a measure as this. Can anyone say that in Ireland religious bitterness is very much less than it was before the Bill of 1869? I wish it might be. That was the only precedent to which the hon. Gentleman could point. He certainly cannot say that it has been followed by the elimination of religious bitterness up to the present time. A curious thing about the arguments used on the other side is that very few hon. Members have actually dealt with the Bill as it is. The Under-Secretary for the Home Office dealt largely with the question of the privileges of the Church. He said, and the same thing has been referred to several times during the Debate, that no one can deny that the Church is in a privileged position, or that it has legal, political and social privileges. The President of the Board of Agriculture, speaking very sweetly to a meeting of very young Liberals, I think it was at Liverpool on Saturday, took a different line. He said:—Look what a disadvantage all these matters of Establishment are to the Church of England.And the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy took the same line this afternoon. He said: "Look what a disadvantage it is that the Church of England should have this Establishment." Hon. Gentlemen opposite speak with two different voices. How is it possible for these matters of privilege, which justify this great measure, if not of spoliation at least of diversion of funds, to be at the same time the great disadvantage which they are described to be by the President of the Board of Agriculture and the Chancellor of the Duchy? I agree with the Chancellor of the Duchy, to a large extent, that the matters he dealt with are certainly not matters of privilege. Let us consider them. There is the question of the bishops in the House of Lords. Is it not a greater advantage to those who support this Bill to have the advocacy of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, who I believe has held the office of minister in a Nonconformist body—would it not be of greater advantage for any Nonconformist body to be represented by a 1031 Gentleman like him in this House, which is not allowed to the Church, than to have the bishops in the House of Lords, which is in a state of suspended animation, and which will have no other position so long as the present Government hold office? That is a privilege which is not of very great importance, and I should be only too glad if in some reconstitution of that House, when the resurrection comes, for Gentlemen of other denominations to have their full share in the deliberations of that House. There is the question of the appointment of bishops by the Sovereign, in other words by the Prime Minister of the day. Does anyone suppose that any Nonconformist body desires that privilege? Is it a privilege which hon. Gentlemen would take if we gave it to them? I should like to know what they would say if we suggested that the Leader of the party which now sits in Opposition should have the privilege of appointing the pastor to White-field's Tabernacle or to any other great Nonconformist institution. It is obviously ridiculous to call that a privilege. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad that hon. Members agree with me.
There is also the question of the control of the doctine of the Church by the House of Commons. I admit that is an important point, but you have no right to call it a privilege. There is not a single Gentleman opposite who wishes to have it. The House of Commons is an unfit body to exercise it, and therefore it has not exercised it at all. That is one of the reasons why there is greater freedom of thought throughout the Church of England than there can be within the narrow and confined limits of a Nonconformist body, which might have to adopt the wishes of a few wealthy subscribers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I do not say that to their detriment. It is a great disadvantage, which a body that is not established, and which has no endowment, is under as compared with the Church of England, which is established and has endowments, and which can save its ministers from being evicted through the whims of wealthy members of the congregation. The privileged position which hon. Gentlemen talk about is not the result of such things as that, it is the result of the great historic position which the Church occupies, and which no efforts and no Bills issuing from the other side of the House can possibly shake. You have a great historic position 1032 behind it, and no more recently constituted body can possibly create that position for itself. The feeling with regard to these privileges, for which so much has been said, really amounts to nothing more than a feeling of dissatisfaction, almost amounting to jealousy. If it be merely a matter of social privileges, I say that this Bill does not touch them, and that no Bill can possibly affect them.
I am not going to argue the question of numbers. Figures have been flung about on both sides of the House. I am certain that if hon. Gentlemen opposite had a really good case, they would not be afraid of the census which we proposed from this side of the House, and which we are constantly urging upon them. The last speaker said he was not afraid of the census. If they have this strong case I think they could so arrange a census—because they have it in their hands to do so—by which a perfectly accurate computation could be made as between the various bodies. Everybody knows that when the hon. Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) was challenged in regard to the matter, and when it was supposed that his answer meant that he would not abide by the census if it went against him, he meant that his object in asking for the census was to correct the figures constantly given by hon. Gentlemen opposite, which we say do not really give an accurate idea of the numbers.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
The figures we used are those to which the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) subscribed in the Royal Commission's Report.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
They were accepted because they were the best that could be put before the Commission. We desired that a census should be taken to give really accurate figures which could be accepted without question.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
The members of the Commission were willing to have a census taken if any body of men could arrange for a question to be put with general acceptance.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
I entirely refuse to accept the suggestion that the census was not taken, because hon. Gentlemen on both sides were not able to arrange for a definition upon which the census could be taken.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
Hon. Gentlemen opposite will have to decide what in their opinion constitutes members of the Church of England, because they will have to decide who are going to elect the Synods under this Bill, and how the Representative Body is to be constituted. It will have to be decided before the Bill leaves Committee. Then we shall have an opportunity of getting the numbers accurately decided, and then we shall have the figures which the hon. Gentleman desires, and with which I hope he will be satisfied when they are produced. The real difficulty of the Government, of course, is the question of Disendowment. I do not believe there is any section of those who are opposing this Bill who will be in the least conciliated by the offer now made of making the terms, as it is called, more generous to the Church. We know that the reason why those terms have been altered is because hon. Gentlemen opposite are frightened. They know quite well that the country is not with them. They try to be generous in order to improve their case in the eyes of the country, but for myself, as long as one shilling is going to be taken away from the Church in Wales, I shall be prepared to fight against this Bill. Everyone knows that the strong feeling of the country is beginning to be more and more roused against this Bill, and though hon. Gentlemen may go on making concessions, we shall merely accept them as proofs of weakness.
I listened with interest to hear what the Chancellor of the Exchequer could say in defence of the principle of Disendowment. I believed that this proposal was indefensible, and when I heard his speech on the First Reading I was perfectly convinced of it. If there is any man in the House who can make a case it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What are the two arguments which he used? He, first of all, told us that Disendowment was not a new thing. Then why all this outcry? It was practised, he said, by Henry VIII. Is it not a new thing for a Chancellor of the Exchequer of a Liberal Government to plume himself on following in the footsteps of that remarkable monarch. He was a Welshman, and he had developed the faculty of taking the revenues of property 1034 which was in the possession of other people and applying them to the benefit of his own friends. There are many parallels in the comparison between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Henry VIII. They never occurred to me before, but the more I think of them the more apparent they become. Henry VIII. was a peculiar person in many ways. He had many wives, and there were many other peculiarities which I hope will not be followed up by Ministers sitting on that bench, but Henry VIII., at any rate, was a gentleman. He was not mean. He found the monastic bodies fallen on evil days, but very wealthy, and he took their revenues from them, but he did not deprive the poor vicars. He left the glebes and the vicarages and the parsonages and the whole parochial equipment, and it has remained till the present time. If it had not been for that you would not be bringing in this Bill to take them away. We ought to remember that there is a very great difference between what Henry VIII. did and what is suggested under this Bill. At the Reformation the bishops remained in the House of Lords, and to anyone who uses the argument which has been frequently used, that the continuity of the Church was not preserved, and that therefore we cannot claim that we had any right to what has come down from centuries gone by, I will only give the answer which was made by a well-known divine of some eminence not many years ago, who, when asked "Where was your Church before the Reformation?" replied, "Where was your face before it was washed?"
In what seemed to me rather a sanctimonious peroration, the Chancellor of the Exchequer reminded us that he who gives to the poor lendeth to the Lord. Is that really a quotation to apply to a Bill which gives, if it gives anything, by taking away from the Church, and which has no moral justification, because it is founded on what seems to us a gross and a wicked act of robbery? We have been constantly told from that side of the House that it is absurd to talk as if all the endowments of the Church in Wales, or any part of them, were being taken away. We are reminded of the possibilities of private benefaction, and we are asked, "Are members of the Church going to be so mean that they will leave all these poor beneficed clergy without any further assistance at all?" Everyone knows that what really is going to happen is that the absolutely guaranteed income on which they can rely now is going to be taken away, and when hon. 1035 Gentlemen opposite pretend that there is no difference between an uncertain and a guaranteed income, what justification have they in coming to the House of Commons and saying that they must have salaries of £400 a year guaranteed to them and that the present position was an impossible one, by which many members had to be privately helped, and by which there was no certainty of that help being given? That was the argument which was constantly being used when we were discussing the question of salaries for Members of the House, and hon. Gentlemen who used this argument as to the uncertainty of the voluntary method cannot now, in dealing with the endowments of the Church, claim that voluntary subscriptions are a perfectly fair basis and are in every way identical with a guaranteed income. This is too serious a matter to be tossed about between political parties as a matter of political controversy. I suppose it is inevitable that this Bill will be passed through the House. The majority in the Smoking Room will see to that. They do not attend these Debates very largely, but there are plenty of them somewhere on the precincts who will force the Bill through the House. But I believe if an opportunity be given for the Bill to be subject to the consideration of the country, every month and every day that the country has the Bill under its consideration it will be more convinced of its meanness and more determined that it shall not be put upon the Statute Book.
§ Mr. FRANCE
I appreciate the fact that the tone of the Debate has been greatly raised to-day from the unfortunate level on which it was started by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith) yesterday. I do not intend to follow in detail the remarks of the hon. Member (Mr. Lane-Fox), nor to follow him into his historical investigation as to the habits and practices of Henry VIII. The only comment I would wish to make on what he said is to ask the House not to follow him in believing that anyone who ventures in any way to part company from the Government with regard to their proposal in the whole of this Bill is actuated by motives of cowardice. I hope the House will realise that for anyone on these benches to adopt in any respect any different opinion from those who sit on the Front Bench is not an act of cowardice, but rather a difficult one for a young Member of the House.
§ Mr. FRANCE
The hon. Member suggested that if anyone took a view which departed at all from the lines the Government took in regard to Disendowment it was a line which was actuated by motives of cowardice because they feared the verdict of the country on their action. I should like the hon. Member to understand that there are some who come to this House whose feelings and actions are not actuated by fear of their electors or of any opinion which might attempt to divert them from the course they believe to be the right one.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
I was imputing no motive to any individual member. I was alluding to the action of the Government in granting more concessions.
§ Mr. FRANCE
I quite understand that the hon. Member did not refer to me, because he did not know I was going to speak. I am asking the House not to follow him in believing that if I in any way depart from the view of the Government I am actuated by cowardice. I wish to state a point of view which I feel very strongly, and which I believe is shared on these benches by a large number, and certainly shared in the country by those who, like myself, are Liberals and Nonconformists. In the first place I approve and support heartily the proposal to Disestablish the Church in Wales. I was rather astonished just now that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) should have practically disfranchised me from expressing any opinion on the point in the House. He said that right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench had a right to have an opinion, but Nonconformists had not a right to have an opinion as to what should be done with the Church, or what should be done in regard to the Establishment—a curious doctrine for one who holds the view that it is a national Church. I understood that some time ago he held the view, or perhaps carried into practice the theory that those sitting on the opposite benches should have a predominating influence in politics, but I never before knew that he would deprive Nonconformists of the right of judgment in matters affecting the Established Church. I support Disestablishment because I believe in the first place it is a right policy, that it will be good for Wales, and that it will be of advantage to the Church—a view which I should not put forward if it were 1037 not shared by many honest and conscientious Churchmen. When I come to Disendowment I wish to make it perfectly clear that I agree with a great deal, if not most, of the arguments, historical and logical, which have been put forward by the Government in regard to dealing with the endowed funds of the Church of England, and I have not been affected by the arguments which have been put forward by the other side. I part company with the Government in regard to their proposals in this respect and to this extent, that I question very greatly whether it is right to take from any Church moneys which they may not have any legal or moral right to, but which have admittedly been used for at least two centuries for religious purposes, and which are being used at present for those purposes, and for which there is every intention to use them in the future.
I have heard speeches in this House which might justifiably provoke the question, "Which side are you on?" I have heard speeches which have given cogent and forcible arguments against a Bill, and which have finished with the tame conclusion, generally received with derisive cheers by the Opposition, that the speaker intends to support the Bill in all its stages. I want to say what action I shall take, in the first place, so as to remove uncertainty in the minds of those who hear me, and secondly, that any argument or any statement I may make may have perhaps a little more weight with right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench if they find that my words are supported by some conscientious action on my part. I intend to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill because I believe in the principle of Disestablishment, and I regard the Bill as one to Disestablish the Church in Wales. I regard Disendowment as incidental thereto, but as not so necessary a corollary as some speakers have tried to make it. I desire to see, and I will do my best to secure, or to assist in securing, such changes in Committee as will give the most generous treatment to the Church, and I am not deflected in this course by the statement of hon. Members opposite that they are opposed to the Bill in every shape and form, and that no treatment, however generous or just, will affect their action. I desire to see the most generous treatment given to the Church which is compatible with this principle, that no one shall be asked, much less compelled, to pay by tithe, tax or 1038 rate for the future upkeep of a Church in whose doctrines he does not believe, and which is not in fact and will, if the Bill is carried, no longer be a national Church. Therefore I shall make it perfectly clear that I shall not vote for the Third Reading of this Bill unless I am satisfied that such changes have been made in Committee as will carry out the principles I have endeavoured to put before the House.
I will tell the House why I intend to vote for Disestablishment. I will do so, in the first place, because I believe with all my heart that with perfect sincerity the people of Wales by every way, constitutional and democratic, open to them, have expressed the wish consistently and persistently, that the Church in Wales should be Disestablished; and, in the second place, because I do not consider that the Church of England has any right to be regarded as the national Church in Wales when its real members represent less than half the people of Wales. Much has been made of the question of a census. The question of a census seems to diminish in importance after the admission of the hon. Baronet that he would not abide by the verdict of a census. I was much amused to hear the new recruit of the party opposite the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) state that he expected a census would enable him to find out what Roman Catholics in Wales thought of Disestablishment. That is a new view of a census, which I recommend to hon. Members opposite. May I ask this with regard to a census? How could it be fairly carried out? In the first place, it is a known fact, which nobody disguises in this country, that very often those who are unfortunately described as of no religion are put down as members of the Church of England. It is inevitable where you have an established Church. In the second place, communicants are regarded as members of the Church. While speaking in terms of the greatest respect of the Church, it is impossible to disguise the fact—and from my own experience I know it to be true—that there are those who may be communicants of the Church at very rare intervals, but in whose lives we never detect any great semblance of or any great force of religious life, and who are, owing to the system, described as members of the Church of England; whereas in the Church to which I myself belong, the Wesleyan Church, there are many men who are devotedly engaged in religious work, who are regular in their attendance 1039 at all the services of the Church, but do not put themselves down as members, because, at the present moment, they have not taken the form of membership, as to which, as the House knows, there is a controversy going on just now. Therefore, the question of a census is a very difficult one if we are to arrive at and have a correct conclusion on that matter.
The third reason, and perhaps the strongest, for voting for Disestablishment is that I do not believe myself, and I believe the people of Wales do not believe in the advantage of the State connection from the point of view of religion itself. Whenever the ties, which are purely legal and formal, have been broken, my reading of history, at any rate, impresses me with the fact that there has been great advantage to the religious life of the community, and not the disadvantage which hon. Members opposite put forward. My fourth reason for supporting Disestablishment is that I think there would be benefit to Wales and to the Church. I was very much astonished by some of the arguments and some of the illustrations which came from the other side. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) asked us to name one single advantage which would benefit any single soul which is going to be derived from the passing of this Bill. I hope I shall be able to show that there will be one great advantage coming to Wales. But before doing so, may I refer to the language of exaggeration used in this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Lyttelton), in his opening speech—a speech which, if I may be allowed to say so, we all regarded as a fair and moderate statement of the case, and which impressed the House very greatly—spoke in picturesque language of mutilating an oak tree at the time of reviving life, and the hon. Member for South Bucks (Sir A. Cripps) spoke of destroying the institution of the minority. Who spoke of destroying the institution? Who is going to destroy an institution like the Church of England? The Church of England, we believe, cannot be affected adversely by being Disestablished, and it cannot be destroyed. Such language is the language of exaggeration, and it cannot greatly affect the minds of people in this House or the country.
To free a Church is not to kill a Church. To divorce religion from the State will not bring less religious life to the people who form the State. But there is this good, in 1040 my opinion, and it is a good that will come. Undoubtedly, there has been a grievance. An hon. Member who spoke this evening stated one grievance, namely, the question of the payment of tithe. There has been unrest and bitterness which have been spoken of in nearly every speech from the other side of the House. I think it does infinite harm to religion in the two countries that time which should be given to religious work is taken up in quarrelling. People outside the Church wonder what it is all about and what it all means. If that could be removed, then the attention of all the Churches could be given to the religious work of the country, and the Church of England and all the other Churches would be free to do the work we all desire to see them do. That leads me to the question of Disendowment. I was very much startled by the statement made by the hon. Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond). Speaking on the First Reading, he supported the argument that Disendowment must follow Disestablishment by using the expression—"Why when a man is dead, does he not enjoy his property?" That language is quite as exaggerated as that of which I complained on the part of Members on the other side of the House. There is no question here of the Church being dead. Our contention is that it is alive, and it is idle to speak of what would happen if it were reduced to a position which we believe will never be.
It has been said that the dissolution of a corporation must necessitate the giving up of funds. When asked last night why Disendowment must follow Disestablishment of the Church the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Leif Jones) took refuge in a legal quibble. He said that if the Church was dissolved you must go through the legal process of giving the money back. It seems to me that if you are going to leave any portion of the endowment, you have done that. It is largely a question to be decided on principles of justice, equity, and right as to what you should do in regard to Disendowment. To save time I am willing to admit that what is put forward on the Front Bench may be historically and logically the correct view in regard to the position, but these arguments are only effective in my view in two ways. You should only use these arguments, and they are only valuable, in the first place, if you really want to do what you say you are going to do. If you really want to disendow the Church, then I believe you can 1041 substantiate that view by historical and logical arguments, as in the case of the Irish Church; or if you have any reason arising from the conduct of the Church or the use or abuse of the funds, then such arguments might be used for a strictly legal right. But that position is not taken up. The Government makes no such allegation. No one makes such an allegation. No one wants to hinder the work of the Church. Everyone hopes that it will do as much good in the future as in the past, and as much more as it is capable of doing. No one alleges the improper use of the funds at the disposal of the Church at the present time, and the conclusion at which I arrive from a consideration of these facts—and this view is shared by a good many on this side of the House—is that I would do nothing in disestablishing the Church to injure the Church in any of its activities. I would leave everything to the Church it is possible to leave, in the hope and belief that they would use the funds wisely and distribute them in future a little more fairly within their own organisation, and do the good they speak of and which we believe they intend to do.
I maintain that at this time of day, when we all realise there is great need for the regeneration of the individual and of the social life of the country, when there are new problems coming before us which require every force to be in active operation, the Christian Churches ought and must take their part more in the social life of the people as a whole. I agree with those, whatever their politics may be, who say that this is not the time to do anything which may in fact or appearance do any-harm to the Christian Church. If that is so, as I firmly believe, I cannot do anything that would deprive the Church of any endowment or any sum with which such operations may be carried on. We may differ as to the effect of wealth on the spiritual power of the Church. I may have my own views, and others may have their views about that. My own opinion for what it is worth is that increase of wealth in a Church sometimes means decrease in effective spiritual force. But it is not my business as a Member of this House and a Nonconformist to teach the Church what is good for it, and how it is to save its own soul. I might as well wish to take money from some man in order to teach him self-reliance. It would be an effective method, but in my opinion it would savour of hypocrisy in the end. I 1042 would leave all endowments to the Church, with a solitary exception, and on this point I think I should be able to carry with me many hon. Members. The exception is what is generally expressed as tithes. I am necessarily only speaking generally, because it is impossible to go into details at present. I would follow the Irish Church precedent in regard to that fund. The amount obtainable from tithes according to the figure which I got in answer to a question recently is about £120,000 a year. That comes from tithes payable in some form or another at the present time. The effect of my proposal would be something like this. From that sum I agree there is to be deducted the consideration of all life interests, but with regard to life interests I would be more generous—I would be more wide—in my treatment than is suggested even in the Bill of the Government.
The proposal of the Government, I understand, is the treatment of life interest by a capitalised sum representing in interest, over the period of years which these life interests have of commercial value, a sum of £62,000 a year. In my view that £62,000 a year should be taken as the sum leaving everything else to the Church, so that if you deduct the £62,000 from the £120,000 you arrive at a sum of about £58,000. I would even go further than that. I would follow the precedent of the Irish Church, and should be glad if the balance of that sum were not used in ways which I quite agree lend themselves very easily to ridicule, to ordinary secular matters of which hon. Members will only speak of one, that is museums, because it lends itself to ridicule and to rhetorical effect, and I would devote the balance of the sum, somewhere about £50,000, to the elaboration of a scheme which I believe would be for the national good; a scheme for superannuation or pension fund, or something of the kind, for the ministers not only of the Church of England, but of all denominations, so that all Churches might receive a benefit in that respect irrespective of their denominations. And I believe that that would give satisfaction as a whole to the people of Wales. I only throw out that suggestion as dealing with the balance of the sum, which would be only about £50,000. I urged the point of more generous treatment within the Church in dealing with life interests from the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's used very grave language 1043 criticising the proposals of life interest. He said:—You propose to take away from him,".(i.e., a pastor)—a man who does not receive a larger income than many of your own servants, a part of the pittance which he now receives.A more serious indictment of the Church as conducted in Wales I never heard from any Nonconformist. This state of affairs can be provided against by dealing with these funds in the way I suggest.
There might be a new fund created which could deal more adequately with such cases as those, and the life interest of those who undoubtedly should receive due consideration. The only other suggestion which I would make to provide further funds for the purpose of increasing these miserable pittances would be to call upon generous supporters of the Church to assist as members of the Nonconformist Churches do, to provide funds for the upkeep of their own Church and ministers.
I am convinced myself that no good will result from taking away any more endowments of the Church than is actually necessary to establish the principle that no man should be called upon to contribute by tithe, rates or taxes, whatever you like to call it, anything to the upkeep of the Church to which he does not belong. I do not believe in indiscriminate charity with money which other people think belongs to them, and which they have reason to think is theirs. I am quite sure that I may appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill, the Home Secretary. I believe it has been said for him that this Bill is generous. It is more generous than other Bills, but generosity is a matter of comparison. The Home Secretary, I believe, has had some experience—I am not quite sure that he has had it yet, but I am sure that he will—of tempering justice with mercy. I have no doubt that in the exercise of those powers in advising as to the Royal prerogative he may have to change the sentence of death into something less severe; but the poor fellow who is not hanged, but sent to penal servitude for life will look with qualified approval on the generosity of the Home Secretary. If you want to be generous and just be thoroughly generous and thoroughly just. Do not in removing one grievance create another, but give the proposal to free the Church in Wales a real 1044 chance to bring the peace healing and revival to the religious life of Wales which we all desire to see.
§ Mr. HEWINS
I am not going to devote myself in any way to trying to estimate the suitability of different religions to the Celtic temperament, or to go at all into the question of numbers. From the point of view which I take I do not regard the question of numbers as the test which comes into question in considering this particular Bill. I wish to find out as closely as I caji—we have had very little light from the Front Bench opposite—what this Bill is going to do, who are doing it, what is going to be the power and position of the Church after Disestablishment and Disendowment have taken place, and what is the attitude of the several parties in this House to the questions involved in this Bill? The title says, "A Bill to terminate the Establishment of the Church of England in Wales and Monmouthshire." Looking at Clause 1, I find that the Church is to cease to be established by law. Disestablishment is ceasing to be established by law. When I read the first Clause I at once turned to the end of the Bill to find the Schedule of Statutes which were repealed, or partially repealed, by this Bill. Where are they? Where are the Acts of Parliament which established by law the Church of England in Wales? There is no Schedule. There are three miserable Clauses dealing with one of the most complicated questions which I think the human mind could ever go into, the question of our religious movements during the last three or four hundred years. And I find that in spite of the fact that the Statute Book is full of Acts dealing with the Church, there is not a single reference to any of the Acts which are repealed or not repealed. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "Established by law"? The Church of England never uses the expression established by law. It is used in certain Acts in which the Church of England is mentioned. It is used, if I remember rightly, in connection with the Act of Settlement. I do not think it is used at all before the middle of the seventeenth century, and, if you turn to the question of membership of the Church, nobody is ever made a member of the Church of England established by law.
If you look at the rite for baptism or confirmation or the office of Holy Communion, if you look at all the distinctive utterances which affect the position of a 1045 member of the Church of England, he is never made a member of the Church of England at all. He is made a member of the Holy Catholic Church, and when you look through all these doctrines you never find a single reference to this extraordinary body which is to be dealt with in this extraordinary Bill. We know the popular manner in which the phrase "established by law" is used. It is really a Whig invention. Established does not express anything that is true with regard to legal statutory position. It is a popular inaccurate phrase. But it puzzles me to know how the Courts—for this new Church will have to be controlled by secular Courts—how Courts of secular judges and barristers will say what is to be the effect of this mysterious repeal of a popular phrase upon these complicated laws which govern the religious situation. We are familiar with the phrase, but what actually are we referring to? Establishment and Disestablishment in a popular ordinary sense I suppose really refer to what I may call the Elizabethan settlement and the subsequent Acts. The two fundamental Acts I presume which are referred to are the Act of the Royal Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity of the year 1559. Those are the two fundamental Acts, I suppose, which people generally carry in mind when they use the expression "established by law." If that is so, if we are dealing with the position which is defined by those two and subsequent Acts and which constitute what is establishment by law, then there is no other way of Disestablishing the Church except by the repeal of those Acts of Parliament.
The right hon. Gentleman cannot Disestablish it except by repealing the Acts of Parliament affecting the Church from the 1st of Elizabeth, Chapter 1. I will give the titles presently, because they are very important. Supposing he does decide to Disestablish the Church, he cannnot do it except in the way I state, and I really think that it is the incompetence of this or any Ministry to achieve this end which has led to this wonderfully drafted Clause. Suppose you decide you will Disestablish the Church and give it the freedom which hon. Gentlemen opposite are anxious that it should have and you repeal all these laws up to the 1st of Elizabeth, you are then under the Act of 1554, and that Act said that the Pope was supreme. You repeal those Acts; you get back to papal supremacy 1046 and to the reign of Queen Mary. When you say you cannot do that and that that will never do, then you go back a little further, and you get the position as defined by Acts of Henry VIII., and Edward VI., and in the end you get back to the middle ages, and you are landed in a mountain of argument as to what the position was, as to what was the relation of the Church of England to the Church in other places, and as to the whole question of continuity. The right hon. Gentleman can decide the question of continuity with the greatest ease. He is perfectly ready to express an opinion upon the validity of Anglican Orders, and upon the extent to which the Church of England ever accepted the Papal supremacy. All these things are perfectly easy to the right hon. Gentleman. He is not doing what he purports to do. He is not giving the Church or the dioceses of the Church in Wales that freedom which he says he intends to give. Let us take the arguments a few steps further. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) pointed out this afternoon, and it was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Walton. (Mr. F. E. Smith), that what the Home Secretary is really trying to do is found a new Church. I would like the House to consider what body it is that takes upon itself spiritual functions. We have, and we are very glad to have, in this House representatives of all religions. We have members of the Church of England upon both the Conservative and Liberal benches. Then we have the Roman Catholics; we have the Irish Catholics. We have Presbyterians, we have Nonconformists of every school and every creed, we have Jews, we have people who regard labour as a sort of religion, we have Atheists, and this Government is inviting its supporters of all those different religions to vote and decide upon what are to be the doctrines of a great Christian Church. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no."]
§ Mr. HEWINS
Clause 3. I will show the right hon. Gentleman that he is wrong in his interpretation of his own Bill. But apart from that, supposing he is not inviting the House to decide upon the doctrines of the Christian faith, he is determining the ecclesiastical organisation and performing a great many other functions which, though proper to a fully 1047 constituted Church, have nothing whatever to do with this House or with the different types of religion represented in this House. I do not desire for one moment to reflect on any religious body or the representatives of any religious body. I am merely interested in considering what should be their attitude in regard to those particular duties which are being prescribed for them by the Home Secretary. I take the Nonconformists. What is a Nonconformist? When the Acts of Parliament to which I have referred were originally passed, the Act of Royal Supremacy, and the Act of Uniformity, they were generally compulsory upon every citizen. The same was true of the later Act of Uniformity. What happened? Certainly people entirely objected to the regulations, and I admit that the arrangements of that time are to be deplored in many ways. But that is not the question. Those grievances have gradually been redressed; there is not a single Clause or detail of any of those Acts, constituting what we call the Elizabethan settlement, compulsory upon any class of citizen at the present time. All the grievances have gone. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no."]
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
Even at the present day a Nonconformist who would not attend a service of the Church is liable to a penalty.
§ Mr. HEWINS
This Bill does not remedy that or any other grievances. I have heard for the first time from some hon. Members opposite that Nonconformists of the early days considered it a privilege to be under a State arrangement. I thought they considered it one of the most abominable and most objectionable things that could possibly be imagined. Roman Catholics have died rather than agree with it, but now we are to understand from Nonconformists that this arrangement was considered a privilege.
§ Mr. HEWINS
Then what does the right hon. Gentleman propose? At any rate, 1048 this Bill does re-enact certain provisions of the Elizabethan and other Acts of Parliament. It says that those doctrines and Articles are to be deemed adopted by consent. If that is not re-enacting them, I do not know what is. Here we have Nonconformists whose history centres round resistance to these ideas—here we have those very Nonconformists going to reimpose them. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, because these things are no longer compulsory on the laity, and you have got to define this new Welsh Church very closely indeed; and if you cannot tie up the Church people of Wales to these doctrines and cannot bind them to this or that, I do not think you are carrying out the object of your Bill. There is another party which is going to vote for this Bill—I refer to the Irish Nationalists—on the Second Reading. I am under the impression that on this great Church question you are raising issues far greater even than the Bill; you are getting into a situation which is extremely dangerous if the great questions you are touching upon in this Bill are to progress to their fruition in their influence upon the public. The Irish Nationalists are going to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, which re-enacts the Articles, and re-enacts many of those things in those Acts of Parliament to which they object, and which govern the ecclesiastical situation in England and Wales at the present time—Acts of Parliament spreading over a period of 350 years, and in which there are a great many things which members of the Church of England would willingly see altered, because they have not the least desire to reflect in any way on the religion of other people, and are satisfied with their own religion. It is not a question of whether members of the Church of England accept the thing or do not accept it; we simply consider it improper and undesirable to comment severely upon the religious tenets of other people. Every Irish Nationalist who votes for the Second Reading of this Bills votes for the re-enactment of the statement laid down that "the Church of Rome has erred in matters of faith."
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is impossible to carry on a Debate if hon. Members engage in conversation. Let each hon. Member speak in turn.
§ Mr. HEWINS
There is no doubt whatever that if Irish Nationalists vote for the Second Reading of this Bill they are voting for the imposition of certain Clauses of those Acts to which I have referred on the Church people of Wales—matters in regard to which Catholics died rather than submit. I say there are a great many statements amongst other Acts and Declarations which must be taken as the basis of this new Church.
§ Mr. HEWINS
Will then the right hon. Gentleman explain what doctrines he is selecting? I have read the Bill, and I cannot find out. But is it worth while in the present industrial and labour unsettlement, to thrust a religious quarrel among the people of England and Wales. I am not sure if this Bill gets through that the Nonconformists will obtain from it exactly what they think they will. I am rather inclined to think that the Nonconformists who vote in favour of this Bill in the form in which it is drafted, and with the effect which it proposes to bring about, are voting less to the injury of the Church of England in Wales than to the Nonconformists. Those who have followed the work Nonconformists have done both here and in Wales regard the future of Nonconformity with no small degree of anxiety. The religious basis of Nonconformity has been greatly affected by modern criticism; it has experienced growing difficulty in raising money. What is going to be the effect upon the situation of the introduction of a religious quarrel of this kind in Wales? If I might speak to the representatives of other bodies, I would say that, apart from the question of numbers, apart from most of the tests which have been brought forward by Members on this side, the Government have no right to deal with the Church of Wales in the way in which they are dealing with it. The House is not competent to do what the Bill proposes. The power does not reside in this House to do that, and when we reflect that this body, this collection of motley creeds, is going to reorganise and re-establish in the way I have described the Church in Wales, the most spiritual part of the Church of England, by the re-enactment of those Clauses to which I have referred, it is an abomin- 1050 able outrage that anybody in this House should be asked to vote for it. When you reflect, at the time you are doing it, on the nature of the outrage, on the work of the Church, and the pettiness and meanness of the provisions, I say it is one of the most disgraceful incidents in the history of this House that it should be asked to consider such a Bill.
§ Sir EDWARD BEAUCHAMP
I find myself on this question at variance with the leaders of my party and with the great bulk of the Members who sit on this side. If I were to consult the ordinary dictates of party loyalty, I suppose I should go into the Division Lobby and vote in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill, but there are times and there are occasions when the ordinary obligations of party allegiance have to give way to higher considerations. I feel that I should be false to my own convictions, and I would fail in what I conceive to be my duty, if I did not oppose this Bill, which I believe is viewed with great regret by no inconsiderable number of Members on this side, and which has drawn forth earnest and emphatic protests from a large number of Liberals outside this House. The question has been asked, and, as far as I am aware, has not been answered, and that is, what earthly good is this Bill going to do to anyone? If you proceed further and ask the additional question, whether this Bill, if carried out, is going to strengthen or weaken the Church in the conduct of its business of providing for the spiritual and religious needs of the people, that I think is only capable of one answer. I have tried to find out what is the real meaning and the object of the introduction of this Bill. I hold in my hand a book which bears on its title-page, the name of he Under-Secretary for the Home Department, and I see there that he says he desires at the very outset to state that—we are not, as is too often stated by our adversaries actuated by any feeling of jealousy or vindictiveness towards the Anglican Church in Wales. We have no quarrel with the Church as a spiritual organisation. We do, however, wish to remove the religious inequality which now exists and restore to the people the inheritance of which they have been too long deprived.And, so far as I understand, in order to remove religious inequality the advocates of this Bill are seeking to deprive a religious body, with which they have no quarrel, of a certain portion of the means which are admittedly necessary in order that she may maintain her work and carry it out effectively and efficiently. I do not think that now, at any rate, there is any contention that she is not doing her work, 1051 but even supposing she were not fulfilling her duty and that she were misusing the funds committed to her charge, then I say there might be some cause, some grave cause, I think, both for Disestablishment and Disendownent, but if you were going to Disendow and Disestablish the Church for those reasons then I should have thought you would have made some provision in order that the fund originally intended for religious purposes might be distributed amongst other religions bodies more zealous and more capable of ministering to the needs of the people. I have looked at the Report of the Royal Commission and they say there is one feature of religious life to which they called particular attention, and that is the pastoral care of the people. They say—that pastoral care is, in the circumstances of our time, or growing importance, in view of the tendency apparent on the part of a considerable part of the population in industrial districts and large towns to neglect regular attendance at public worship.Yet by this Bill, as it seems to me, we are going to limit the power of the Church to give that pastoral care which seems to be so necessary.
Nobody at the present moment, I believe, accuses the Church in Wales, however much she may have neglected her duties in the past, of not carrying out with a zeal and with energy her missionary efforts. I do not intend to quote what the Prime Minister said in the year 1909, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Alfred Lyttelton) quoted them on the occasion of the introduction of this Bill, but I would say this, that the Prime Minister did bear eloquent testimony to the way in which the Church in Wales is carrying on her work at the present time. He said that she was overtaking, or endeavouring to overtake, the arrears of the past. I want to know whether the advocates of this Bill are desirous of hindering her in carrying on that beneficent work. One of the witnesses called before the Royal Commission, a Nonconformist witness, said it would be a disaster to the whole of religion if any denomination were crippled in its resources. The Archbishops of Canterbury and of York, speaking on this subject before this Bill of 1912 was introduced, said that if the Bill follows the lines of the one of 1909 it would cripple for generations to come the religious usefulness of the poorest and most ancient part of the national Church. This Bill, and we must be thankful, I think, for small 1052 mercies, does not deal so ungenerously with the Church as the Bill of 1909, but that, I think, only brings into stronger relief what I think is the almost incredible means of the present proposals. I have not been able to follow the arithmetical calculations of the Home Secretary, nor do I agree with his argument that the gradual extinction of the life interest is the same thing as a perpetual annuity of £62,000. I am willing for the purposes of my argument to take his figure, although I do not think that on the matter of figures he quite agrees with the Chancellor of the Duchy. But supposing the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and Queen Anne's Bounty carry out the intentions which they are said to hold with regard to their funds, then the Church in Wales is to have taken from her at least £80,000 a year, and if the money is taken away from the Church other bodies are to be gainers to the same amount. I cannot help thinking that the appropriating of this money, especially for secular purposes, must be accompanied at any rate on the part of Church people with great bitterness of feeling which it will take years to eradicate, and which will hinder cordial co-operation on other matters between the Church of England and the Nonconformist bodies.
A great deal of argument has been used to support the idea that the religion of a nation does not rest upon having an established Church. I am quite ready to admit that. But although the existence of an established Church is not necessary to the religious life of a nation, still I think it may have its advantages. What I feel is that if you have an established Church it is a very great mistake to sever the link which unites the State with religious life. We have been told not only in this House but outside that the Disestablishment of the Church and its severance from the State will strengthen the Church itself. I ask the advocates of this measure in all sincerity, is it their intention by this Bill to strengthen the Church? I put this question to the Nonconformists who are advocating this Bill. I do not refer for the moment to members of the Church of England. We have heard from the Chancellor of the Duchy that he is in favour of the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, and all the force of his argument went to show that he is in favour of the Disestablishment of the Church in England. But I refer more particularly to the Nonconformists. I think the Church itself ought to be able 1053 to form the best judgment of that which is best for itself. This policy is quite inconsistent with the view taken by the Nonconformists of Wales when a proposal was made to have a Free Church Council for the Principality. It was declined on the ground that it would not be to the advantage of Nonconformity in Wales, and that nothing but good could come of the uniting of England and Wales in one solid force. The same consideration applies with equal force with regard to the unity of the Church of England and the Church in Wales. Some light has been thrown upon what actuates the minds of those who are in favour of this Bill. The President of the Board of Agriculture (Mr. Runciman) made a speech the other day, in which he said:—He had no compunction whatever in saying that in regard to Disestablishment the Welsh Church was only first in order. It would be a thoroughly good thing, not only for the Welsh but for the English Church, but unfortunately they were not able to deal with the English portion at present.That leads us to the consideration that in the minds of a great many people this is merely the thin edge of the wedge, and they are looking forward to the time when they will be able to mete out the same measure to the whole of the Church of England. The Church in Wales is, to my mind, an integral part of the Church of England. Its fate appeals, not to Welshmen only, but to Englishmen also, and must be decided by English Churchmen as well as by the Welsh people. In the full belief that this Bill deals a blow, unintentionally perhaps, but none the less surely, against the work carried on in the cause of our common religion, dear alike to Nonconformists and Church people, I shall give my vote, reluctantly indeed on party grounds, but with a clear conscience, against the Second Beading.
I should like to point out to the House the attitude of an English Member for a Welsh constituency, and not only a Welsh constituency, but one in which there is a fairly equal division of opinion on this question. I should like to show how very acute is the feeling on this matter, and how earnestly it demands a settlement at the earliest possible moment. Having listened to most of the speeches on this Bill, I realise the absolute divergence of opinion that exists between those who advocate the course we propose to pursue and those who oppose it. I believe that both views are based on firm conviction, but I regret very much that hon. Members opposite will not try to look at this question from the point of view of 1054 the Welsh people. In fact, I think the Opposition are surprised and rather shocked that Wales should speak at all in this matter, or that she should express an opinion on nationality in any sense. Further, they seem to have a view that the unity of Great Britain is to be affected by our proposals in this Bill. They feel that unity and uniformity are one and the same thing. I would say that by granting, to a section of the people of this country a measure which they have demanded I with such urgent insistence you are far more likely to obtain unity than by denying it. In fact, they sustain the right of the minority, both in this Welsh question and in the question of Ireland, which is at present before the House, to coerce and dominate the majority of the people.
I have listened to the speeches of hon. Members opposite, and I have tried to analyse what are the main contentions that they have against this Bill. The first, I believe, that they have is that Wales is in no sense entitled to separate treatment in this matter. It is because I want to try and show that we believe that Wales is absolutely entitled to separate treatment that I shall take that point for one moment. In the first place, the temperament of the Welsh people is entirely different to the temperament of the people of this country. I think, if I may say so, that their attitude towards religion is different to the attitude of the people of this country. I do not think there is any difference in the amount of religion that there is, but I think that religion affects the Welsh imaginative temperament more so than it does the imagination of the people of this country. Secondly, if they are compelled to live under an Establishment to which they are not inclined that is a perpetual irritant to that peculiar temperament of the imaginative Welsh people, an irritant that is far more acute than any such grievance would be to-people in England. It also has this effect, that Dissent appeals to their imagination, not only from their attitude of mind, but also because it reminds them of the ancient times of their country and the ancient national Church which they once possessed.
You must, in dealing with questions like this, take into consideration not only the wishes of the people, but the temperament of the people. I feel we shall never satisfactorily settle social conditions in Wales until we have put this question on a lasting, sound basis. The ordinary division that there is in social life in Wales is accentuated by this question of religion. 1055 Nobody denies that there is a majority in Wales in favour of this or some such measure. The majority who are in favour of the measure are in the main the actual real Welsh people, and they also are the poorer people of Wales. The minority who support the Church in their view of this question are very largely the bigger interests, landed interests, and the Anglo-Welsh communities of the country. These differences, at least, already make a great division of opinion. When one realises that they are accentuated and increased by this religious controversy, we see the deep cleavage this question has already made in the whole social life of Wales. It is for these reasons that we who come from Welsh constituencies, and represent what we believe to be the feelings of the Welsh people, advocate that Wales is entitled to separate treatment in this question.
The second argument that has been used against the principle of this Bill is that both England and Wales would lose both morally and religiously if Disestablishment took place in Wales. I cannot see how England could lose in any sense if there is Disestablishment in Wales. The people of Wales and the people of England in regard to the question of Disestablishment are entirely separate and apart. If there is any fear that the people of Wales might lose because of Disestablishment I would point out that it was when the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that the activities of the Church were at their lowest ebb, and were practically a negligible quantity that religious opinion in Wales formed itself into what is now this great feeling of Nonconformity throughout the country. I further think it would be a very rash assumption for us to make in this House that we in England and Wales, who, till the present time, have lived under an established Church are in any sense either morally stronger or more religious than the great English-speaking communities that exist throughout the world who have discarded the establishment. The third point, I think, made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hitchin and several other speakers, was that Wales herself would not gain by any measure of this sort. I should like for one or two moments to draw the attention of the House to the conditions of things in Wales at the present time. This controversy has divided Wales into two separate camps. We find that the clergy of the Church and the ministers of Nonconformity 1056 do not in any sense willingly co-operate in the settlement of great social questions.
This not only applies to the question of the ministry in Wales. You find that political differences are accentuated by means of this question. You find this question going into the municipal life of the Welsh towns. You find it even affecting the friendships that men make. I admit that this grievance is accentuated by the feeling that Nonconformity has to the Church that her adherents have an advantageous social position. That may be well founded or it may not be, but it exists, and, as such, it bulks largely as a factor in this problem. The cleavage that exists in the social life of Wales and religion does not stop there. It goes into the whole educational problem of Wales. You find, in the main, that the adherents of Nonconformity attend the council schools, whilst those who adhere to the Church attend the Church schools. These factors all intensify the present feeling that there is in regard to the matter. If hon. Members opposite doubt when we, or some of us, say that we think the Church in Wales herself will gain by Disestablishment, I would reply that surely the question as to whether or not she would gain is a matter which Wales ought to decide. If you look back you find that Wales has consistently demanded this measure, and has made her opinion clear to the world.
The fourth argument I think adduced against this Bill is that it is the forerunner of Disestablishment in England. As far as Wales is concerned, I do not think that Wales cares in the least whether England lives under establishment or not. Wales is interested in her own religious life, and I do not think she is interested at all in the question of establishment here. With regard to the expression of Welsh feeling upon the question of Disestablishment I can only say from my own Constituency that if I did not believe in the justice of this measure I most certainly would not have been representing a Welsh constituency in this House to-day. I think it is very mean that such motives as cupidity should be ascribed to those, who are in favour of this Bill. Hon. Members opposite when they speak should give the same credit to Nonconformists for sincerity as we are willing to give to them in their defence to what they believe to be right, as far as their convictions carry them. And I believe that speeches such as was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton (Mr. F. E. Smith), who 1057 moved the rejection of this Bill on Second Reading, do far more to undermine the Church establishment in this country than any Bill that might be introduced for Wales.
I turn for a few moments to the question of disendowment. I know that it is usually said that disendowment must necessarily follow Disestablishment. I do not think that it is necessarily so, but each case must be judged upon its merits, and justice must be made out in each case as the merits decide. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Walton, who spoke yesterday—and the argument was repeated to-day—maintained the position that whatever action the Government may take with regard to a measure of disendowment, it will not affect their attitude or the attiude of the Church on this question. Still, I do not think that ought to affect us in any sense on what we believe to be right and just both for the Church and for Wales. When the Home Secretary introduced this Bill for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales he divided the funds under certain heads. The first item that he took, in speaking of the funds of Wales, was the sum of £41,000 a year, which was the result derived from Welsh property, and which were in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. I asked a question of the hon. Gentleman who represents the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in this House on that subject, because it seemed impossible to ascertain what the origin of these funds was, and I found from his answer, which is printed in the OFFICIAL REPORT, that the great majority of that sum of £41,000 a year is derived from tithes from land and from sales of land. I believe that the tithe is a grievance in Wales, and as such I support the alienating of the tithes from the Church of England in Wales. With regard to the land, the people of Wales have got a deep national feeling for the land of their country, and they feel that the land which is Welsh land is assuredly and rightly Welsh property. I support them entirely in that view.
The next item the Home Secretary mentioned was £116,000 a year for parochial endowment before 1662. That, again, is derived almost entirely from tithes and from land, and the same argument applies as applies to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' property. The next point which he spoke of had reference to certain moneys that came from Queen Anne's Bounty. A certain proportion of that comes from English funds and a certain 1058 proportion comes from Welsh funds. The amount which comes from Welsh funds is £15,000 a year, and is divided into two heads. The first amount is derived from the payment of first fruits and tenths, which have been made during a long period by the clergy and dignitaries of the Church themselves. That sum I feel has been subscribed by the Church of England in Wales, and as such should not be alienated under this Bill. The next item is an item of £6,000 a year, which is the result of income from Parliamentary Grants made by this House from 1809 to 1820. I believe these Grants were made to the Anglican Church as such. There were endowments made during that period to Nonconformity as well, and I hope the Government when they come to the Committee stage of this Bill will make over these two sums—£9,000 as the result of first fruits and tenths and £5,800 a year, which is the result of the Parliamentary Grant to the Church in Wales. I know hon. Members opposite may say anything like a concession, even a concession of opinion, will be due to fear. I do not think, after what was said by the Mover of the rejection of the Bill, that we need care in the least bit what attitude they take or what taunts they throw at us if we are determined and clear that we are extending to them and to the Church a measure of justice, while at the same time satisfying what I believe and know to be the national demand from Wales.
§ Mr. EDWARD WOOD
I think all of us on this side of the House, if we are prepared to admit, as I think we are, that those Members who, like the hon. Member who has just sat down, claim that in their concessions to the Church they really wish to be generous, and that they are not haunted by fear, may equally claim that when we refuse these concessions it ought to be sufficient proof that in this controversy we are not actuated by anything lower than a desire to stand upon the same kind of principle which animates hon. Gentlemen opposite. I wish, as far as possible, to confine my remarks within the briefest possible compass, for this reason, that I cannot help regretting that the Government could not see their way to give us more than three and a half days for this Debate. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite say that that is two days too long, but I do not think that is an opinion that will be shared by the vast majority of those interested in the matter. I say that, for this reason, that in my opinion I certainly 1059 feel that this Bill is of far greater importance and much more far-reaching even than the question of the Union between England and Ireland. I think that anybody who listened to the speeches in this Debate, as I have done, cannot fail to have been struck by one thing in particular, and that is the extent to which arguments in the presentation of this case from the opposite side, have been allowed to depend upon what are not in the strict sense of the word arguments, but more strictly speaking some form of assumption. The only argument used, and it was used by the last hon. Member who spoke, was the argument that Wales was entitled to and deserved separate treatment. I think the question is whether Wales is or is not a separate unit in the United Kingdom that governs itself? If it is not, and it obviously is not, then the demands of Wales, just as much as the demands of any other section, have to be judged upon their merits, and judged by the whole House. You recognise this because the last piece of work you want the Irish Members to do before you get rid of them is to carry this Bill, which you could not possibly do without them. I do not think anybody will have the temerity to say that all over the Kingdom this question is one upon which the Government have won support. This question is one which has waited for 700 years, and surely it is possible for it to wait two more years in order that we may take the opinion of the people upon it. We heard a great deal from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech on the First Reading of this Bill, about the question of continuity. I am very well aware that hon. Members on both sides of the House hold different opinions on this matter, but I believe that in 1836 the Roman Catholic bishops in this country expressly disclaimed by some form of manifesto any claim to the endowments of the national Church. I think that is an historical fact not without interest.
Whether you judge the question of continuity by the legal or the historical test, in either case the claims the English Church has always made are substantiated. I do not think any lawyer would venture to say that there has not been substantial continuity and substantial identity between the pre-Reformation and post-Reformation period. With regard to the historical argument, I cannot conceive what anyone of the leading reformers from 1060 Henry VIII. to the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth would have said, if you had gone to them and told them they were creating a new Church. They would have wished to burn you, and they would have laughed in your face at the idea. The one thing upon which every reformer insisted upon was that they were always keeping the same Church, and the only way in which they could minimise opposition in regard to such changes as they wished to make, was to insist that the Church afterwards would be the same as it was before, and by that means they hoped to keep together those who had been members of the Church and were members at the time. We have heard a great deal about tithe, and on this point I do not want to do more than ask a question. The question which I would put on behalf of the plain man in the street is in what respect is tithe different from any ordinary legacy that begins by being voluntary, and eventually becomes legal and carries the right of recovery. I do not think you can get away from the broad fact that in its origin tithe was voluntary and has become recoverable. I know that in all these matters the onus of proof rests upon hon. Gentlemen who support this Bill. We have heard a great deal about Establishment, and that is a subject which I do not wish to deal with at length. We have heard something about the bishops in the House of Lords. We have heard about Church law. I am glad to see the Solicitor-General in his place, because this is an argument he made great use of in the excellent speech he made on the First Reading. The question I wish to put is, does the Solicitor-General seriously suppose that Church endowments were the result of Establishment? I do not think that is an argument that will bear one moment's examination, or that it is justifiable to say because you Disestablish you should at the same time take away endowments on the ground that they were given to a Church positively established, and when you Disestablish that Church it loses the right to property it held before. There is no logical connection between Disestablishment and what is supposed to be the corollary of Disendowment. In the first place, if you had told endowers that they were endowing the Church because it was established they would not have understood the meaning of the word. In the next place, it is a complete delusion to suppose that what people call, loosely, Establishment has ever been the essential credential of 1061 the English Church. The Church has been essentially Catholic, and accidentally established: not essentially established and accidentally Catholic. That is the meaning of Church history, and if we depart from that we shall be wandering far from the true path of historical accuracy.
I began by urging that this was not a question in which we were principally concerned about the money. We are only concerned about money so far as it affects work. I used to believe in the value of unpaid work, and I still think—and in this perhaps I am an old-fashioned Tory—that unpaid work where you can get it is the best. But the point is, can you get it? We have decided in this House that you cannot get unpaid work. I should have thought that the ordinary parish priest in Wales was doing at least as much good as the ordinary Radical or Conservative Member of Parliament, and yet as hon. Members know very well, under this Bill he will receive scarcely more than an old age pensioner who is not paid on nearly so liberal a scale as the ordinary Member of Parliament. How can you defend that? Just conceive for one moment what it means. We have heard of parishes where there is only one minister, but I do not want to repeat that argument. All I wish to say is that if you take away money which is the sinews of war for work you automatically destroy work. The Under-Secretary said the best work the Church did was done by voluntary effort in our big towns, and that is where the very valuable work was done. Surely when the Under-Secretary made that statement he must have known that if he withdraws £173,000 out of £260,000, or whatever it is, that the strain of the work that has been done up to now by endowments and by voluntary money will fall upon the voluntary money alone, and therefore you are bound to starve work either in the form of new departures or of existing work. I confess that when one reflects on the one side upon the materials by which hon. Members seek to form a judgment on this matter, namely historical doubts as to the origin of tithes, continuity, establishment, and so on, and on the other side the facts with which we approach it as to the value of the Church's work, I cannot see how any hon. Member who approaches it with an impartial mind can have a moment's hesitation as to the side on which the truth lies. Everybody agrees that the Welsh Church Commission established one thing if it did 1062 nothing else, and that was that the Church in Wales is doing excellent work at the present time. It is growing where other bodies are declining, and, further than that, the voluntary offerings of the Church are not starved by the fact that it is endowed, for the simple reason that they exceed the endowments. I say those facts throw a very heavy burden upon hon. Members opposite who are prepared with a light heart, as I think, to go a long way towards destroying that work.
If the onus of proof lies heavy in any case, surely it lies heavy in view of those wider considerations of which we have heard a good deal. Let me remind the House what has been the history of our thought upon these matters. We began by intolerance; we then, by slow and painful stages, got to toleration; and then, I think, we passed from toleration to an age of indifference. The eighteenth century and the early part of the nineteenth century was an age of indifference. Now, for the last twenty-five years, we have been trying to conceal that form of indifference under a theory of politics that enables you to cut a man in half and say of him that on the one side he is a citizen, and that on the other side he is a religious being. That is fundamentally an unsound theory. A man is one being, and you can no more divide him into that kind of body and soul division than you can take the stone out of a peach without destroying the peach. Yet that is what we have been trying to do. We have had forty years of what is called free board school education. I do not think that has entirely justified expectations. Look, furthermore, where we stand with regard to such things as the marriage laws, and so on. There is a Divorce Law Commission sitting now, and shortly going to report, and I believe the one thing which has emerged more clearly from the discussions of that Commission than anything else is that once you get away from the Christian law of marriage there is no logical ground for stopping anywhere. If you get on to the ground of convenience and deal with men merely in the character of their citizenship you may at one time think a man should be allowed a divorce after ten years, and at another time after five years, or two years. There is no logical limit. Is it not true to say that, on the whole, we have in recent years given the go-bye to religion in the State and have preferred to be led by utilitarian ideas?
1063 If all that be true, and if we are discovering now that we are largely on the wrong tack, is it the right moment to come down and try and starve what may be the competent instrument for giving you what you want? What we need to learn is that every citizen is individually responsible for any other citizen, and that there is a real social membership in the State. I am quite sure that the Labour party will agree with that, and I submit that you can only establish that on a moral basis. There is no body as far as I know in existence except religious bodies which inculcate that idea. It is obvious the State cannot do so itself. It must call in the aid of some form of religious body, and therefore what it cannot create itself it ought to be prepared to foster. The very moment when you ought to be trying to inoculate politics with the spirit of religion you choose to inoculate religion with the spirit of politics. It has been said that after all the sum of £173,000 is a small one. I quite agree. It represents a good deal less than the ordinary business turnover of a good many wholesale houses. Yet for that you are prepared to take the risk of crippling the work of the Church in Wales. I could not help being struck by a remark of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Davies) that if the Church had pooled its resources he would be less anxious for Disestablishment and Disendowment. If that means anything, it means that the hon. Member thinks religious influence in the State vital. He evidently thinks it is the one motive out of which we can hope to see light in our social problems and difficulties to-day. He thinks, as probably a great many of us think, that our social problems would be vastly more easy of solution if England were a Christian country. Surely his argument leads to one of two conclusions: It is either an argument for compulsorily pooling the Church's revenues or for concurrent endowments. I should be perfectly prepared to support any Bill that would have the effect of enabling the Church to make better use of her own resources. If we are going to take the Church's money I would far sooner let it go to the Nonconformist bodies. I should he prepared, in certain circumstances, to extend my support to hon. Members opposite in each of those solutions, but I am not prepared to see endowments which have been used for religious purposes diverted to secular purposes.
1064 I honestly think some hon. Members, who have not for various reasons taken the interest in these Debates some of us have, do not quite realise what they are doing. I cannot conceive, if they put together the facts as they are to-day, and as they will be if this Bill is carried, that they would support it further. We are all grateful to those hon. Members who have had the courage—it is no easy matter—to announce their intention of voting against their party on this matter. I think hon. Members opposite need be under no misapprehension as to the effect of this Bill. I think the unpopularity of the Insurance Act may in time largely disappear. It will disappear probably because we shall alter it. There are a great many agitations the unpopularity of which will fade but in this question you are doing something which those who dislike what you do will never forgive. I know, and probably everybody in this House knows, among their own constituents Liberal Churchmen who say that if this Bill is carried no Liberal Government need in future look to them for support. If the Government think it right to proceed with this Bill I do not blame them for it. Indeed, I would rather praise them, for they could hardly be so stupid as not to know that thereby they are losing support every day. They will not be able to keep this Bill alive for two years. Of that I am certain, and, therefore, my advice to the Government—it is a great impertinence, because I am only a humble Member while they are almost the almighty Government—is that they should tell the Welsh Members that they have done the best they possibly could by introducing the Bill, but they have found the opposition in the country so strong, and the reports from the country so discouraging, that it is with the utmost reluctance they feel compelled to abandon the measure. The Welsh Members will return to their Welsh homes and explain to their Welsh constituents, in language they know so well how to use, that they, too, have done their best and, although they have failed, they have secured a promise from the Government that if they are returned to power after the next election, a Welsh Disestablishment Bill shall be the first item on their programme. I may claim that that is absolutely impartial advice. I believe it also to be sound advice. I believe that, whether the Government accept it or not, they will inevitably have to follow it be fore their life as a Government comes to an end.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
I do not often trouble the House with speeches on Second Reading Debates, but I do stand towards the subject of this Bill in a special relation, which may incline hon. Members to bear with a short intervention. It is not to be supposed that because I have the honour to be an Ecclesiastical Commissioner I am deputed by that body to make any communication on their behalf. The position of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners towards this Bill must not be misunderstood. The House knows that they are not in a position to declare or mould doctrine, or to enforce discipline. They have no patronage to exercise; they are concerned only with the mundane affairs, of the Church, and their business is to husband its temporalities and to distribute its surpluses. They are just the trustees of its assets with the added duty of ascertaining and grading the claim of the too many poor clergy who are the ultimate beneficiaries of their trust. Under these circumstances the House will not be surprised to hear that as long as I have anything to do with this matter I shall do my best to prevent, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners from intervening in our politics here as such. It is not for them to formulate political or corporate opinions which are not incidental to the discharge of their administrative and other duties. My intervention in this Debate is the outcome of some very strong personal views which have not been diminished or deflected by the experience I have gained as an Ecclesiastical Commissioner.
There is also the added fact that in the speech of the Home Secretary in introducing this Bill it appeared that communications have passed between the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the Government upon which it will be my business to offer some commentary and some explanation. Correspondence did pass between the Home Secretary and the Commissioners as to the concessions proposed to be made under this Bill in mitigation of the operation of Disendowment. The Bill proposes to empower the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty to make over to the Disestablished Welsh Church body a sum of £68,000 per annum, being the amount whether as interest on capital, or annuity charged on income which the Commissioners have in the past secured to Welsh Church purposes out of English resources. This provision of the Bill confers a discretion. It does not impose an obligation. It is true that the Ecclesiastical Commis- 1066 sioners and the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty did, before the introduction of the Bill, intimate their willingness so to exercise this discretion as to effectually make over these particular resources to the Disestablished Church in Wales. But it is proposed to go further than that. The Bill invites the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty to do more than that. It seeks an object with which the Commissioners and the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty are very much in sympathy, but it proposes a method of carrying out that object which the Commissioners and the Governors cannot approve. The good though not very logical object is that out of their future surpluses, as ascertained after allowing for existing charges, they should go on making grants to Welsh Church objects of about the same average amount as they have been giving year by year in recent times from English resources. So much for the good object.
Now for the bad method which we cannot approve. It is to leave them no way of doing this except by charging their funds with a fixed perpetual annuity in favour of the Disestablished Church of the average annual amount actually given in each of the last seven years. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not exceeding."] However much we may agree with the object, we cannot approve of the method, and we have so informed the Home Secretary. We cannot approve of it because to create such an annuity would be to assume that future surpluses are going to continue to be for ever as large as they have been of late, and to make that assumption moreover in disregard of all the unfavourable influences which are likely to affect incomes from landed property, agricultural, urban or mineral. It means that unless what you do is to have the absurd result of putting the Disestablished dioceses in Wales in a preferential and safer position as compared with the undisestablished dioceses in England the Ecclesiastical Commissioners ought to charge a corresponding annuity of £280,000—ten times £28,000—in favour of the English parishes, so that they would be charging an annuity of £308,000 against a present free income of £400,000. There is only one description of such a financial operation, and that is it is not business. The Home Secretary will therefore have to agree in Committee to some other method if he is to continue to take credit for having allowed any concession to the Disestablished parishes over and above what he 1067 calls the minimum income and the supposed equivalent of the life interests not taken away. The Home Secretary has discovered by a mathematical process which I cannot and do not impugn that some 900 odd life interests in emoluments, aggregating £173,000 a year, are actuarially and logarithmically equivalent to a perpetual income of £62,000 a year. The curse of the politics of the Manchester school is, and always has been, that there is too much of trigonometry and not enough of human nature in it. Perhaps the Church would be in the position to create a perpetuity of £62,000 a year if the Church in Wales were in a position to do the one thing which in this case by the conditions supposed she cannot do, namely, to withhold, to invest, to compound, and to accumulate all those incomes for the lifetime of the persons whom by the conditions supposed these incomes exist to keep alive. The proposal is nonsense, or, rather, the calculation is one which has only to be stated to be rejected with contumely.
I said I had some personal views of my own outside those special and administrative views acquired by experience. I do stand here to-day to say that here is the case of a trust, which holds its property by almost immemorial prescription, whose property is not excessive for the purposes to which it is applied, the purposes of whose trust are admittedly good, and whose trust is to this day being executed with increasing range and width of its operations, and with increasing acceptance to the masses of the people. In these circumstances there is a diminishing cause for Parliamentary or any other interference. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite if they can give a name to any one inspiring principle, any one generous impulse, any constructive ideal as being at the back of this Bill? The best that can be said is the demand for its introduction in Wales. As to that demand, if I may not deny its existence in the face of the Parliamentary majority, which, of course, according to modern doctrines we must look at in total disregard to minorities in the same country—although I may not deny its existence, I may surely ask whether it has the widespread spontaneity it is said to have. The demand is said to be of very long standing. I am not sure that it is much the better for that. Whether from age or from want of spontaneity, I do observe that the repetition of this formula becomes somewhat mechanical in recent 1068 elections in Wales. We have been pointing out that in many addresses and speeches of the campaign it has neither been seen or heard at all. When we point that out we are told that it is a sort of implied item in all programmes, and for that reason it is seldom formally restated. Seeing that it is about forty years since it was first started, and that it could not even then be set going except by politicians on platforms pointing to what had gone on about fifty years before that, to a state of degeneration and atrophy in the Church, that had been shaken off and left behind well-nigh fifty years before that, we may be forgiven for suggesting that this demand is now so seldom restated because it cannot with decency or truth be restated at all. The case for it has gone, and too many things have happened altogether.
We are asked to believe that the Welsh villager, with what I may call a Roman love for symmetry, and an academic devotion to the maxims of the mid-Victorian copybook, sits brooding at his fireside yearning to see his political surroundings approach more nearly the ideally correct. It is nothing to him that religious toleration is as well secured in Wales as in the rest of the United Kingdom; that the freedom of public worship is everywhere complete; that university tests have gone. It is nothing to him that the Burials Bill of 1880 was passed by the House of Lords with a majority of the bishops, present and voting, voting in its favour, before this House ever passed it. It is nothing to him that the grievance as to the fees for burials in cemeteries was removed by a Unionist Government in the early nineties, and that, by another Act passed by Churchmen and Unionists, the presence of a civil officer at Nonconformist marriages was made unnecessary to the validity of the solemnity. We are asked to believe that he has no interest in or gratitude for free education, or intermediate education, or university education. He is not anxious about Free Trade, he did not care about the Agricultural Holdings Act, or the Small Holdings Act, or the new land taxes, or the powers and constitution of the House of Lords. He is not asking for a minimum wage, nor better housing, nor in any way asking for any better chance of a place in the sun. We are asked to believe that the crumpled rose leaf that intervenes between him and his rest, the canker that gnaws at his vitals, 1069 is all the time the spectacle of this sad imperfection of the institutions under which he has to live, this failure to square to the normal rule, this theoretic ascendancy of a Church to which no one need adhere, whose doctrines no one need accept, this regrettable lapse from orthodoxy, and the recognition of religion by the State. All I can say to that is, that it is very difficult for me to believe.
Even if we are wrong, even if we ought to believe in it, I want to know how far is this doctrine pressed, that numbers should be taken to be the ultimate criterion of justice and virtue. The Solicitor-General in his speech on the First Reading said he would put an extreme case. He put the case of public opinion in England being as strong in favour of this Bill, or a Bill dealing with England as we think this Bill does with Wales, and he said, "What would you say." I want to know, supposing that of one million voters, 510,000 said, "We want the property of the 499,000," would that be justice, or would it be virtue? I only want to know how far this doctrine is going to be pressed. Let us test it first by its application to the principle of Disendowment. When we are told it is a question of principle, are we to have no regard to the prospect that we all know was held out before the eyes of the tithe-payers in Wales, that if some Bill like this was passed they would be able to keep it in their pockets. There was the Act of 1891. I know that after that Act was passed there was left a large class in Wales of owning cultivators of the land and small occupying owners on the part of whom, and in sympathy with whom, there would necessarily be some feeling about retaining the tithe on their property. As regards the abstract principle of Disestablishment, are we to take no account of the sort of confusion of ideas that pervaded the speech of the Under-Secretary for the Home Office, and the kind of wild talk probably indulged in in Wales about what are called the privileges of the clergy in Wales? I do not want to go to the Latin or archaic meaning. I will quote Dr. Johnson, who said that privilege means—Peculiar advantage; immenity; right not universal.That means an exclusive right not enjoyed by others. If we turn to Dr. Murray's Dictionary we find it described as:—A right, advantage or immunity, granted to or enjoyed by a person, or a body or class of persons, beyond the common advantages of others: an exemption in a particular case from certain burdens or liabilities.1070 Let us lest this talk about the social privileges of the Church in Wales. What are those privileges? I admit that the clergy in Wales have a differentiated status; but a status does not consist of rights alone, and when you come to look at this status of the Church in Wales, what you find is that it does not consist of rights so much, and still less of exclusive rights, as of an exclusive burden of liabilities, disabilities and obligations. I suppose that we shall hardly be told that it is a privilege that the Welsh clergy are paid for their services, or that their payment is secured upon endowments just as the payment of some Nonconformist ministers is secured on endowments in their case. No, the position of the Anglican clergymen in Wales, as elsewhere, is one which, though he is well content with it, is not one of exclusive right but of exclusive burdens and obligations. He has to submit to interference from Parliament such as other clergy do not suffer from in respect of liturgy, doctrine, ceremonies and discipline. He has to go without sadly needed and long overdue improvement in Church government and organisation for which this House finds no time nor inclination, and there are two ways of curing that, not by abolishing the connection between Church and State, but by amending the policy of the majority of this House. He has to perform burial, marriage and other services upon the demand of parishioners who may have been active in undermining his authority or casting obloquy upon his office. He has to obey and submit—no other minister of religion has to do that—to the secular power as no other denomination is bound to. I have searched diligently for any countervailing exclusive rights which may be set against the obligations and disabilities which I have, recounted, and I suppose I should be charged, if I did not mention it, now, with omitting to mention the fact that he still has the privilege of exemption from toll and turnpike gates when on his way to conduct religious services, if indeed you can still find any turnpikes, and if by no Statute that has passed since the like privilege has not been extended to dissenting ministers.
In considering this process of counting heads to arrive at justice, you must not forget that most of the political impetus in this propaganda is the result of the efforts of those worthy persons who are such very useful electioneering agents—I mean the more politically aggressive of the ministers of the Nonconformist 1071 Churches. We all respect the ministers of the Nonconformist Churches except and unless when they come into the political arena. But we are also apt to forget that it is constantly urged that self-interest is a thing which ought to disentitle a political advocate to be heard, and in this case it seems to me that the activities of the militant Nonconformist ministers are those which least of all deserve that their electoral results should have either the respect or the attention of this House, for if there be anything in the case that there is social superiority in the position of the clergy in Wales, of course it follows that these active electioneering clerics stand personally to gain by Disestablishment, if not in actual endowments at least in social position. I want to know what would become of all this political zeal if it were realised in Wales that, after the Bill passes, tithe will still be payable and will be collected. An hon. Gentleman (Mr. France) made a speech to-night of admirable temper and matter, in which he tried to head us off from the argument about museums, so I will not talk about the glass cases and the fossil fish in the museums, which I should otherwise have pointed at as being the substitutes for true religious guidance and inspiration which this Bill provides. I want to know also what would the earnest and single-minded Welsh Disestablisher say if on the morrow of Disestablishment he found that the main or only change to him was that he had lost the right—and it is a right for which, as statistics show, he has a very strong predilection and attachment—of baptism and marriage and burial by the parish clergyman in the parish church.
We have had some historical researches in this Debate on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not propose to add either to the literature or the rhetoric on that subject, but we have been asked to bear in mind that Henry VIII. took away the property of monasteries, and that under the immediate successor of Henry VIII., influenced by the advisers of Henry VIII. grammar schools were founded with the lands and goods taken from the suppressed chantries and so on. All your most serviceable precedents seem to go back to Henry VIII. Henry VIII.'s confiscations were perhaps more grasping and vindictive than anything could justify, yet he had some justification even for what he did in the great abuses that he found. So far as this Bill rests upon ancient history and by-gone grievances, it rests 1072 upon a purely vindictive, and no other or better, basis. I want to know whether the supporters and advocates of this Bill are going to insult as well as to injure by pretending that in the present condition of the-Church in Wales you have anything approaching or remotely resembling the depravities of monastic life of 400 years ago, which were the justifications for the policy of Henry VIII. We know, on the contrary, that the facts are all the other way. In the case of the Church in Wales to-day every added modern fact, every change, every movement of growth, every sign of future or further change—all these things are such as should stay your hand and make you desist with shame from what you are doing. This Bill has neither opportuneness, nor expediency, nor moral sanction to justify it. It is stale in time, it is barren in principle, and it is self-condemnatory in method. It is only persisted in to-day because in an age of pedantic and sterile thought self-seeking incendiaries lit a flame which to-day would not be burning if you had had the sincerity or the courage which if shown in time would easily have sufficed to put it out.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Masterman)
The right hon. Gentleman commenced his speech with some interesting and important statements concerning the action of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. I need hardly say that we on this side of the House recognise fully how much he was justified in making those statements. I think, on the other hand, he will agree with me also that these are, in the main, Committee points, and that certainly it would be very much out of place on my part to give to them any detailed discussion on the Second Reading of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman essayed to do in the latter part of his speech what the right hon. Gentleman. (Mr. Balfour) declined to do this afternoon. May I say I think the House is to be congratulated in the whole of this Debate on the fact that it has refused to do what I saw prophesied it would do, that is, degenerate into a wrangle between Churchmen on the one side and Nonconformists on the other. So far, indeed, is that from being the case that in the last few hours at least it has almost carried out the historical duel between Hamlet and Laertes, for while all the most important speeches delivered yesterday and to-day by Front Bench Gentlemen opposite are speeches of those who confessedly are not Members of the Church of England, the only 1073 two speeches which have been delivered to-day from our Front Bench are delivered by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hobhouse), and myself, whose only claim is—and I am glad to say it is generously acknowledged on the other side—that we are loyal members of the Church of England, that we believe this Bill will benefit the Church of England in Wales, and that if the principle of this Bill were extended to cover the whole of the Church of England, we believe the benefit would be immeasurable to the Church of England in England.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
There will be time for that when we grow much older men. I have listened to the Debate with some care, and I hope I shall not indulge in any criticism of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) in his absence which I should not do in his presence. I noticed that he avoided what most of the speakers in this House have indulged in, and that is the assertion of premises in connection with this matter which I quite honestly believe are unarguable. There are many things on which we profoundly disagree with hon. Gentlemen opposite, but which we realise may form the subject of reasonable discussion. Such questions as whether Establishment is good for the Church or bad for the Church; whether the Establishment of any one religion is good for the State or bad for the State; whether Disendowment must of necessity accompany Disestablishment; to what particular purposes the endowments should be put different from the purposes which apparently accompanied their original inception, how you should define those works of charity and mercy which may rightly be classed with religious and not with secular objects when dealing with endowments which, after all, have been given for works—not more religious—of charity and mercy:—These are arguable propositions between honest men on both sides of the House. The unarguable propositions are ones which I noticed with much interest the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London refused to argue. They are two. The first is that the people of Wales with no sudden or passionate verdict, but with deliberate judgment extending over a generation, refuse to recognise the English Church as the national exponent of their religious life; and the second is that Wales, being a 1074 self-conscious community which has the right to term itself a nation, has also the right to decide whether it will possess an established religion or not. I do not think I am doing any injustice to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, when I say that although his speech excited admiration from all quarters of the House, and although he indulged in a variety of topics, some relevant and some irrelevant to this particular Bill, and although he seemed to approach this particular problem, he always sheered away from it. As far as the bulk of his speech was concerned, the opinion of the people of Wales on the subject might seem as relevant as that of a race of insects or black beetles. He admitted that there had been election verdicts which were very interesting and ought to be taken into consideration, and then he left it at that. But to some of us that is essential. It is the vital heart of the problem. Some of us long before we had the honour of sitting on this bench, and when we were sitting in the House as independent Members, pleaded for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church for the purpose of freedom and for the sake of our Church. But undoubtedly the special and particular claim made at the present moment is made owing to the unarguable propositions which have never really been seriously contested' all through the Debates which I had the honour to listen to on this matter.
I do not want to repeat what my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hobhouse) urged with such unanswerable force this afternoon—the bare, plain recital of statistics and facts on this matter, and I would summarise this particular line of defence which has been bandied about from one party to another in a very few sentences indeed. In the year 1892 the people of Wales sent thirty representatives to demand Disestablishment, and three to oppose it, or a majority of something like ten to one. A keen observer of political forces, who also played a great part in the history of this country, endeavouring to prove that the Liberal party had not a majority for Home Rule in 1892, announced, as the result of the election, thatit is notorious that the Welsh voted for Radical candidates, not for their love of Home Rule, but for their aversion towards the Welsh Church.Or, what we should prefer to claim, their demand for religious equality in Wales. That was said by Lord Salisbury. In 1895 our party was swept out of office by the 1075 greatest political disaster, except one, since the Reform Bill. Time passed, and public attention was turned to other fields. Imperialism ran its noisy, dusty day, and ceased to be. We had an inglorious war, and the nausea that followed an inglorious war; and the commercial and financial classes of this country found their interest concentrated on a great commercial and financial question which absorbed all their interests. In 1912, when the mists lifted, there again is exactly the same condition as in 1892—thirty Members from Wales demanding Disestablishment, and three voting against it. The average majority per seat was 2,000 in 1892, and the average majority to-day is 2,000 in favour of Disestablishment.
In 1892, in the Western counties of Wales, the Tories put up Tory Disestablishment candidates. To-day they put up no candidates at all, and our representatives get in unopposed. It is not merely that the feeling against Disestablishment as represented in this House is slowly disappearing. It is that in the lifetime of a generation you have made no progress at all in Wales. If you go on at this rate it will be 400 or 4,000 years before you can get a Welsh majority in favour of Establishment in this House. What about the three distinguished but lonely representatives who still advocate the continuance of the Establishment in Wales from those benches? The hon. Member for Cardiff will be the first to acknowledge that extraneous circumstances entered into that particular election. We all heard yesterday the naive explanation of the method by which the present Member for East Nottingham passed through Montgomery Boroughs on his way from India to the House of Commons, and how that he had declared himself in favour of the Establishment in Wales "not that he loved Cæsar less, but that he loves Rome more"; and I think that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) who sits on the -corner bench is perhaps the best argument we have in the matter. He is a Welsh Nationalist, and a good Welsh Nationalist, but I am quite sure that if he produced on his platform some of the speakers whom we have heard in this House to explain that Wales was no more a nation than Holloway or Hampshire, even the substantial working majority of nine which he possesses at present would probably disappear; and no one knows it better than the hon. Member himself. A demand is made by the hon. Member for Dudley 1076 (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) for a religious census. A religious census would not settle the question whether the people of Wales were in favour of Disestablishment or not. Mr. Gladstone, when confronted with a similar challenge, stated that "it would be idle to talk of the question of census. The Nonconformists may be right or wrong to resist a census, but there is no question about the matter in Wales," and Mr. Gladstone described himself as a kind of a Churchman. In his speech on the Suspensory Bill in 1892 his final answer was at the age of eighty-four:—I have an old Parliamentary habit which the Noble Lord has not yet acquired, that of looking to the constitutional representations of a country as the proper and legitimate organ of the expression of public opinion.I never can make out when I hear the hon. Gentlemen talk about opinion in Wales whether they have deceived themselves in the matter or really believe what they say. Go to any man—I have met scores of them—any honest Conservative living in Wales and with knowledge of the people and they will tell you that if only this question were out of the way there would be some hope of Conservative representation in Wales.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
Perhaps the Denbigh Boroughs will revert to their primordial liberalism in the matter; but I am giving actually what has been said to me over and over again, and I believe that if the hon. Gentleman went to his own Whips they would tell him the same thing. Nor is their any real hope in the mind of hon. Gentlemen opposite, if I am not misrepresenting them, of any immediate change in the matter.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
It has not been strongly reflected in the representation of the people, though it may be reflected in the fact that the hon. Gentleman increased his majority by one at the last election. Lord Selborne, speaking in this House on the Disestablishment Bill when he was Lord Wolmer, in 1893, taunted the majority by saying that though they had a majority in this House at present, twenty years before they had no majority in favour of Disestablishment, and twenty years later they might not have one. Nineteen of the twenty years have gone, and there has been no change, and no approach 1077 to a change. There will be no peace in the land, religious or otherwise, until this question is settled, and it will have to be settled on the terms of religious equality. I would recommend to hon. Gentlemen opposite the verdict of a very great representative of our own Church: "Things are what they are. Their consequences will be what they will be. Why then should we seek to deceive ourselves?"
And the second of the affirmations which I must confess I regard as unarguable is the affirmation that Wales is a nation. I wonder at the immensity of the difference between debate and reality when I hear hon. Gentlemen get up and explain that Wales is only a fraction of England and that any argument that may be applied to Wales can equally be applied to Cumberland or Cornwall or Croydon, and that it is absurd that we should make a distinction which does not exist in the real world outside. Paradox describes it as the four Welsh dioceses of the Province of Canterbury. Sanity describes it as the ancient and historic people of Wales.
We have been challenged by no one more vigorously than by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University as to what we mean when we call Wales and Ireland nations, and we have been asked to define what are nations. The Noble Lord knows as well as I do that there is no possibility of defining nationality. Nationality is a mystical and not a definable entity, and you can no more define a nation than you can define a deity or the affection between friend and friend, but when a nation knows that it is a nation, it is a nation. If I were asked to describe it I should describe it as an entity, mystical and immortal, composed of a variety of race, language, characteristic, sentiment, memories, hopes, and dreams, to which all the transitory generations contribute, but which transcends all the transitory generations, and which is able to command that utter devotion and service which can only otherwise be evoked by a lover or a God. When I see a distinguished bishop of the Welsh Church explaining that we are merely dealing with an obscure corner of England, I do not wonder that the Welsh Church has lost the affection of the Welsh people. No man ever set himself out to war against nationality but nationality beat him in the end. I would venture to submit to the Noble Lord that while he fails to recognise this, despite all the brilliance of his talents and sincerity, 1078 which no one recognises more than we do on this side of the House, such dialectic, as he bases on such an assumption, when it comes to the world of real affairs, is as barren as the east wind. Given those two assumptions, that Wales as a nation has a right to demand some readjustment, and, as a nation, does demand it, I think the great bulk of this Bill follows by a national and logical sequence. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith) made great play with what he called the dismemberment proposals of this Bill, and his language was largely re-echoed in a unity of spirit, but in a singular difference of tone, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) today. I cannot for the life of me understand why, if the Welsh Church becomes an independent Church—liberated, and given its freedom, even if that freedom is to be purchased at a great price—it should still desire to be linked up with a Church which continues to be bound and fettered and rendered so largely impotent for good as our Church is under the conditions of Establishment as we see it at present. What comparison can there be between the unity of one free body of Nonconformists in Wales and of another free body of Nonconformists in England on the one hand, and enforced unity between the Free Church of Wales on the other hand, with a Church which is waterlogged and shackled in all its operations and conditions by the decision of State, as any such combination would be if the desire of the hon. Gentleman were carried into effect?
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London has asserted with great eloquence that the English Church had established greater intellectual freedom than any other established Church of Christendom. I do not know that any of us would deny that; but intellectual freedom is not the characteristic of any established Church in Christendom. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was not his point."] I think you will find that his argument dealt with established Churches, because my hon. Friend behind me asked what about the Quakers, and the right hon. Gentleman replied that the Quakers were not an established Church. Of course, I do not want to misrepresent him, but he spoke of any supreme religious organisation, any organisation which has the assistance of the State, and is allied to it. The point I was trying to make was that the right hon. Gentleman put very great emphasis upon the possibility of 1079 individual freedom, but he said nothing about the possibility of collective freedom of the Church as a whole. When we have the Church to-day, as confessedly acknowledged by its most strong supporters. A Church which cannot appoint a bishop, which cannot change any of the organisation, which cannot even create a new diocese, which cannot alter a comma of a rubric, or the colour of a garment without coming for permission to the House of Commons, which consists and rightly consists of members of all religions and of none, some of us think that in order to get out of that condition it is worth while sacrificing a good deal of material possessions. If I were a Welsh Churchman and devoted to the Church of Wales, as I believe I am devoted to the Church of England, the last thing I should want would be the linking up of this new free Church with the established Church as it stands. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking with full knowledge of his own people, declared, and I believe declared rightly in his very remarkable speech on the First Reading of this Bill, that the particular type of religion that we have been accumstomed to associate with the established Church in England, will never be acceptable to any Celtic race, and specially to the people of Wales. I do not believe it will be. I do not see why enthusiastic Welsh Churchmen—and I know that some among the younger of them are already looking forward to that—should not maintain a Church as much in communion with the Church of England as is the Disestablished Church of Ireland or the Episcopal Church of Scotland, or all the great Anglican Churches in the Dominions beyond the seas, but still specially adapted to the needs and desires and free religious life and aspirations of the Welsh people, and therefore make for the first time for many centuries a Welsh Church in Wales. I believe that Church will more nearly represent the Church of the Day of Pentecost than the Church of St. George's, Hanover Square. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] I was referring to the Church, and not to the constituency.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I mean the ethos and temper which is associated with such an Anglican Church as St. George's, Hanover Square. [An HON. MEMBER: "What peculiarity?"] I mean 1080 all the Churches, like that of St. George's, Hanover Square, where great wealth assembles in order to carry out dignified ceremonials which it largely disbelieves in. The second point of the right hon. Gentleman, after dismemberment, was Disestablishment. I must honestly confess that I find it difficult to approach the question of Disestablishment of the Church in Wales as a mere isolated question concerning Wales only. My distrust of Establishment is everywhere so great, my conviction of the injury done to real religion is so strong, my desire to get rid of that everywhere is so intense, that I cannot isolate this question as a specially Welsh problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Mr. Harwood) in a very remarkable speech this afternoon, which was listened to with pleasure by both sides of the House, gave us a list of particular vices and evils associated with free and independent Churches. But what is the verdict of great members of our own Church, from John Wesley to John Henry Newman, or even, if you will, on to the Bishop of Oxford—what is the verdict on the particular qualities which are encouraged by the establishment of religion? They are complacency, arrogance, cowardice, moderation, and worldliness, which have been the besetting sins of the Church of England for three centuries. I am not giving you my own verdict; I am giving you the verdict of greater men than I can ever hope to be.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
It is the Church these men loved most themselves, but who, on their own confession, were driven from it because of those qualities which they themselves denounced in it, and they were very reluctant to go from it. What does the real life of the English Church depend on to-day? As I have seen it in the slums of our big cities it depends entirely on the breaking of the very laws, the continual breaking of the very laws, which are supposed to govern the Church of England. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division did me the honour to quote a sentence out of a book which I wrote some time ago as to the progress it had made in the slum districts in our great cities. What is the fact about that progress? The progress has not been made by the Establishment, it has been made despite of the Establishment. It has been made in its great bulk by voluntary contributions and by 1081 the calling of the young men of the Church to one of the really heroic crusades in a materialistic age, without money and without established endowments. And it is made to-day by men, dead and alive, great saints of the Church like Father Dolling, men like Father Stanton, and Charles Gore, and Stewart Headlam, and who have been consistent Disestablishes, and who ardently advocate Disestablishment as the only remedy for the evils from which the Church suffers. When has any established Church in history been on the side of the poor? I hear some scornful laughter, but I do not hear any reply. [An HON. MEMBER: "Now."]
And although I agree that Establishment everywhere injures and limits what I regard as real religion, there is not the slightest doubt that it becomes all the more intolerable when it exists in a religious community. Why has the cry for Disestablishment so largely died down in England during the past thirty years? It as not because the country is approaching to a nearer realisation of the Christian religion, but that the country is slowly drifting away from the Christian religion. It is not a symbol of our enthusiasm, it is a symbol of our indifference. The most passionate advocates of Establishment to-day are men who repudiate all belief in the Christian religion in actual writings to which I could refer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name."] Men like a great philosopher who was a friend of mine at Cambridge, and who always announced that he was in favour of the Establishment because it was the only bulwark against Christianity in England. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name."] The country is rapidly approaching the condition when it really does not care about those matters at all in England. I cannot say it is a case where all religions to the poor are "equally true," because that is not so, but certainly where all religions to the philosopher are "equally false" and all religions to the magistrate are "equally useful." But in Wales that does not prevail. Wales is a religious country, one of the few religious countries in Europe, and it is in that religious country, passionately devoted to its own faith, and passionately desirous that it should not be associated through its religious life with the Church which it regards as an alien Church, it is in that case that we are asked to effect this act of elementary justice. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Shropshire (Mr. Bridgeman), in a speech 1082 which, if I may say so, for its seriousness and earnestness, impressed all those who heard it, asked whose image and superscription was borne by these particular endowments? I would venture to reply to him in historic words, which I believe to be as true to-day as when they were uttered, from the Act of Faith of the Presbyterian Church of England—to own the magistrates authority in spiritual things and his right to employ the national resources for the support of any section of the Church is to place Cæsar on the Throne of Christ.What arguments have been advanced to us to-night why this act of justice should not be done? It is said that these things are so small that it is trivial and absurd of us to bother about them. If they are so small why do you defend them so passionately against the wish of a nation? The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil), in a speech to which I listened with great admiration, declared that the chief reason for the maintenance of the Establishment was that the State should be officially associated with some form of the Christian religion. What is there to be gained by such an official association if the official association is a sham and a lie? We axe told that European observers will regard Disestablishment as a disaster, and that people at home will be disappointed. I do not know if there are any other powers outside for whom this deception should be kept up. If the nation is a Christian nation, no artificial link between Church and State will make any difference to the great reality. If the nation is not a Christian nation, then, for Heaven's sake, let us tell the truth about the matter.
The last of the three points the right hon. Gentleman referred to was the question of endowments. There I recognise fully the very candid admission made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Mr. Harwood). He agreed wholeheartedly and unfeignedly that when it is recognised that a Church is the Church only of a portion of the nation, and therefore we should no longer keep up the delusion that it is the Church of the whole nation, endowments which have been inherited from the dim past, when the Church was the Church of the whole nation, can no longer be claimed by that Church. I thought that that question was settled once for all in the great battles of 1868 and 1869. There are three reasons, if not more, why the claim of the Church to possess all these endowments cannot be for a moment entertained. I have no authority for indulging in the long historical argument which has gone 1083 on on this matter from day to day. To me, I must confess, it is not a matter of great importance what the origin of tithe was in the first, or the fourth, or the ninth century. I think there are three points which all fair-minded hon. Gentlemen opposite will acknowledge are good points in this matter. The first is that money bequeathed for one purpose has been alienated to another purpose by Parliament—[An HON. MEMBER: "NO"]—that some money bequeathed for one purpose has been alienated by Parliament to other purposes, and that therefore what Parliament has done once Parliament may justly do again. Does the Noble Lord say that money which was left for the Masses of the souls of pious donors has not been alienated to a Church which by its very constitution is unable to Bay Masses for the soul and has been unable for three centuries? A large quantity of the endowments of the Church were for saying Masses for the souls of the donors. The second point is that money which was left for a Church, one and indivisible, which represented the whole spiritual and social life of the nation, cannot be claimed by that Church when, on its own confession, it has ceased to represent the whole spiritual and social life of the nation. The third point is that money which was left, and confessedly left, to a Church which then represented not only the functions of the provision of clergymen and buildings, but also practically all the functions of education, poor law, sick nursing, and every kind of social amelioration, may very rightly be diverted where it can be enjoyed in these no less Christian services, as I believe them, not by a fraction of the nation, but by the nation as a whole. From the way some hon. Members here talked about this matter you would think that the Church of Wales possessed a kind of Niebelungen hoard of gold, stored up in some cavern, from which it drew tithes and sustentation funds. I heard the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bolton say that the money the Church received was taken from nobody. It comes from somebody. Somebody pays from year to year to it. In some part of the country some men are working long hours, or some men are working for less wages than they might receive, in order that this money may be paid.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
The Noble Lord, if he considers me worth noticing, may, in the course of his remarks, refute that ridiculous proposition. I have the right to state it. Lord Acton, a great Liberal, was never afraid of saying that "the earth belongs to those who live upon it, not to those who lie beneath it." However great a prescriptive right may, through the centuries, be accumulated by any great trust or corporation, no nation in any part of the world has ever granted that that trust or corporation possessed the inalienable right to levy tribute upon all future generations. Really I am almost ashamed to repeat these statements. It has all been said so much better, in the great historical Debates which give us the precedent for our Bill. I have had the pleasure, during the last few weeks of reading through the Debates of 1868–9, dealing with the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Irish Church. There is not one argument that I have heard advanced by hon. Gentlemen opposite, concluding by the statement, made with much fury, that the Church was being robbed, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) this afternoon, that was not repeated and repeated* again in these particular Debates.
There was the same contempt for the alienation of part of the revenues of the Church for works of mercy and charity. There were the same assertions of meanness and hypocrisy. There were the same threats of resistance—I think even of armed resistance, and the same assertion of the curse that would come upon this nation for robbing God. There were the same Albert Hall meetings addressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mr. Disraeli, and I am delighted to see that the parallel is completed by the announcement of an Albert Hall meeting to be addressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mr. Bonar Law. The difference between the two Bills is this: Whereas in 1869 so great was the fear of the Conservatives that the House of Lords would throw the Bill out, and consequently precipitate a crisis, that Lord Salisbury had to be brought in to ask the Lords to pass it; now we speak with some confidence that when this Bill passes the House of Commons in due time, it will receive the Royal Assent with or without the assent of the House of Lords. The hon. Gentleman opposite threw out a direct challenge, which I think I ought to answer. He asked, do you believe, or do you not believe, in 1085 endowing any Church? If you do not, why not take away the endowments from the Nonconformist religion? What we believe is this. I do not want to talk any cant about Apostolic poverty, and I acknowledge the resentment of hon. Gentlemen opposite when such is talked even with sincerity, but I say this without any hesitation: if you have a Church enjoying historic endowments, whose title is not universally recognised, not devoted to the whole people and causing infinite dissension in the religious life of that people, and situated in such a condition that there can be no peace in that religious life and no unity in that religious life while this prevails, I think the question would suggest itself to every man that it would be better for the Church to sacrifice endowments and go forward in its particular work of reformation, "Its property would no longer mean estrangement, but it would hold it with the sympathy and good will of all sects, parties, and persuasions." I wonder if the hon. Members opposite will stigmatise that as cant. It was "cant" uttered in 1864 by the most distinguished layman who gave the most splendid gifts freely to the service of any Church in Christendom, Mr. Gladstone:—From the very moment that its title was cancelled as an established "Church.This was his contention:—It must receive that freedom of action, that power of falling back upon its own internal energies and development which so many religious communities value far greater than all that the State can protect or that the law can give.We have had many accusations of diversion from the policy of our forefathers. At least here is one particular in which the Liberal party has not changed in its principles. The last point I venture to make is this. A distinguished Churchman remarked the other day that if he could sincerely believe that the passing of this Bill would produce religious unity and religious common effort in Wales, with all his objections to the Bill, he would gladly see it become law. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton yesterday offered us "generations of strife and bitterness in Wales" as a result of the passing of this measure. I am not so sure that he is competent to pronounce upon feeling in Wales. I have no sanguine hopes of unity immediately being produced as a result of the passing of any Disestablishment or Disendowment Bill; nor do I believe that we should immediately gain by modifying our creeds into a general undenominational system—I have never concealed my 1086 feelings upon that—nor in any interchange of pulpits or of common belief. There will undoubtedly be bitterness. But there will be one great gain. The Church in Wales and the Nonconformists in Wales will be able to go about their business. What has been the result of the last twenty years, and what will be the result, as hon. Members opposite know very well, if, for any reason, this Bill was defeated and controversy followed for twenty years more? I have no claim to speak for the injury done to the Nonconformist Churches in this controversy, but I believe that injury to be great. Hon. Gentlemen opposite made appeals, which I know are sincere, that such trivial questions as Disestablishment and Disendowment in face of the great questions at issue should be put aside, and that we should all unite together for the defence of truth and the welfare of the people.
Their argument is all based on the assumption which my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty declared the other day he had not the face to defend in the House of Commons, "be patriotic, be contented and united, and leave us in office." The life of the Free Church in Wales is injured by the continuance of this controversy, and their energies, are absorbed in a warfare which they believe to be a sacred warfare for religious equality. There is not a man who has listened to this Debate and who has heard the representatives of Wales who has not been willing, freely and generously, to acknowledge that this is no question of trying to do injury to a Church which they hate and despise. If energy in the Free Churches is thus directed to other channels instead of to channels in which it is most needed, how great is the loss to the Church. When I was a member of the House of Laymen in Convocation and of the representative Church Council we had to consider important questions dealing with the interpretation of historical creeds in face of the newer knowledge, and we had to deal with the urgent question of social unrest. Whenever we received a representative from Wales we found that he was a man living in an atmosphere utterly alien to our own, because instead of being engaged in a war between darkness and light or wealth and poverty, he was engaged in a war between the Church and other Christian bodies. He spoke always with exceeding bitterness; and he turned away from the real function, of any body that calls itself Christian.
1087 The right hon. Gentleman opposite, in a most impressive ending to his speech, declared that all Christian Churches were faced with a problem which might baffle the bravest of them in the absorption of the newer knowledge in connection with the historic faiths of European civilisation. I am more concerned with another problem as insistent in South Wales as in South London, the problem of an unrest which is destined to strain our civilisation to an extent as yet undreamt of. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Nottingham told us that the Church was operative in those districts, because when the great strike was proceeding large benefactions were given through the instrumentality of the parish clergy. The problem before the Church in the poorer districts of England is not the bestowal of charity but the demand for justice.Let the Establishment stand or fall, but let us build the City of God,were the words of probably the greatest of all English Churchmen, John Wesley. Because I believe that without Establishment, and without endowment, and with this morbid growth in the life of the Welsh nation removed, in all humility and all patience, all Christians may unite in the building up of that City, that I give whole-hearted support to this Bill tonight.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
We have listened to a very very remarkable speech. At times we have been listening to the rhapsodies of the poet, but during most of the speech we have been listening to the schoolmaster. If I were to reply to that speech in full, I should not be responding to the invitation which the hon. Gentleman made to us at the commencement of his speech to keep this Debate up to a high level and not to show resentment. If I were to respond to that speech, I should respond with the most bitter resentment I could possibly command, and I believe I shall best consult the dignity of this House and the wishes of my lion. Friends if I say very little about it. I am going to say this. If the hon. Gentleman thinks he will keep up the level of Debate by making an attack upon the Church and on some of us on all sides of the House who have the honour and privilege of worshipping in it, and making an attack by saying we have a florid and sumptuous ritual in which half of us disbelieve, then he is rousing resentment on this side of the House and is 1088 provoking us to retorts which it would be below the dignity of this House to make. Let me ask the hon. Gentleman, who tells us he is a loyal Churchman, to believe that we are loyal Churchmen, and that we, as loyal Churchmen, whether we attend St. George's, Hanover Square, or some of those many other Churches where there are devout and humble-minded and loyal and true members of the Church of England, attend in order to show publicly our belief in the worship that is conducted and rightly conducted in those Churches. But I said I would not follow the hon. Member in his speech, and I will endeavour to carry out what I said. He dwelt, in the opening part of his speech, on the fact that the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) had not answered the figures which he quoted, and he, with all the adroitness of the Financial Secretary of the Treasury, has got a good many figures about Wales and its elections and so on. If he had paid attention to the great speech, the magnificent speech, that was delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, he would have heard that argument completely answered. Indeed, he answered it almost entirely himself, because he told us he could not regard Disestablishment as being specially a Welsh problem. The answer which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London gave to those figures was this. He said: "This is by no means a Welsh question and Welsh problem only. It is a matter which concerns and deeply concerns, the life of the inhabitants of England." He said this too: "If the question is to be decided, and decided simply by the Members who come from Wales, then why do we meet in this House at all to deliberate." The answer is that we are here as a constitutional assembly from all parts of the United Kingdom, and if you are to meet the demands of thirty, forty, or fifty Welsh Members by saying that they are at once to have what they wish it is no use our deliberating—or of our coming here from all parts to deliberate on questions before this country.
Let me pass from what I may call a most unfortunate speech to what I think was much more interesting—the arguments presented by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which appeared to me to be well worth considering and answering—the arguments as to the grounds on which he considered that the claim for Disestablish- 1089 ment would assist the Church. He presented what was no doubt a true picture, but it was one painted in rather florid colours, about the way in which the Church of England is hampered in its selection of bishops and as to the way in which Church patronage is administered. He told us he hoped we shall have a Church in Wales so reorganised that the laity would be brought in to give breadth to the views of the clergy. But does he forget that, it may be in a very anomalous way, the way in which breadth is now introduced into the Church is by the curious form in which Church patronage is exercised and Crown appointments are made in the Church. Without overlooking the fact that persons who are not necessarily Churchmen have the duty and responsibility, which they exercise uncommonly well, of appointing bishops and many other high dignitaries the Church thus has an opportunity of publicly expressing that breadth of view which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to see expressed. It is a curious way of making the laity take a greater interest in the fortunes of the Church and of adding breadth to the views of the clergy to take away the present right of the laity—the right of patronage. Only yesterday a patron complained to me of the difficulty of exercising patronage, and asked would it not be better to at once hand it over to the bishop. I pointed out to him that the fact the whole responsibility for the appointment rested with him gave him the opportunity of appointing men with broad views, and he admitted that he could not hand over the patronage to the bishop or any other clergyman without being satisfied of the breadth of view of the person to whom he handed it over.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say it was very unfortunate, but it was proved by the Welsh Church Commission that there was no interchange of ministers between Nonconformist and Free Churches and the Church of England, whereas among the Free Churches themselves such interchanges did take place. But the right hon. Gentleman seems to have overlooked the fact that each Church must be governed by its own doctrines and its own beliefs, and if there is one factor which prevents such interchanges it is the belief in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Anglican Church that there is a certain sanctity about the order of the ministry, and that if the persons who are ministering cannot fulfil the require- 1090 ments of their orders they are not qualified to hold a position in the ministry of those particular Churches. Therefore, whether you disestablish a Church, whether you sever it from the State or not, I doubt very much whether it will be possible to have what he called an interchange of pulpits. Certainly you will not get it under this Bill. I have paid such attention as I could to these points, because they seemed to be of some importance. Then he dealt with one more point: he said that you will find that there was a tithe war in Wales in or about 1890, and that, although the question of tithes has been settled, yet you still have the same demand for Disestablishment in Wales. Has he given himself the trouble to look at the Tithe Act, 1891? Does he remember that the same payments have to be made? Although not in name, they are exactly the same payments which represent tithe. Although the tithe is now paid by the landlord, the occupier has to make a payment which is equivalent to what used to be the tithe. If the tithe war had been founded on the fact that payment was made, the passing of that Act did not remove the root grievance at all; it simply altered the incidence of collection, and left the matter where it was before. Once more I answer the right hon. Gentleman by saying that there is no intention here of releasing the payment of tithe. It is merely a question whether it would be wise to pay that sum over to museums or kindred objects.
I can ask any Member who is a sincere adherent of any Church one question, which, I think, really contains the answer to the foundation on which this Bill stands. Is any member of any Church satisfied with the present payments which are made to the members of the ministry of that Church? Is any member of the Nonconformist Churches satisfied with the payments which are made to the ministers in those Churches. Are members of the Church of England or of the Church of England in Wales satisfied with the sums which are paid to the ordained ministry of that Church? If they are, I am sorry to hear it. I think one of the most unfortunate things possible is to see the poor pittance which is granted to ministers of all denominations. Is this the time to take away £170,000, which is largely used for the purpose of paying income to men already poorly paid, and to devote it, not to Church purposes, but to museums? I would far rather seer under this Bill, the money diverted to one 1091 of the Nonconformist Churches than I would see it taken away for the purposes of museums, which may have uses, but uses which will be confined to a comparatively small number of this nationality that lives in Wales. May I answer the legal points which have been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Under-Secretary for the Home Office? The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that he bases his views upon the fact that the tithe had been divided into three portions—one for the poor, one for the upkeep of the fabric of the Church, and one for the parson—and he told us that he preferred to go to an absolutely impartial authority upon that point. It is almost interesting, perhaps even a little pathetic, to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer turning back to his well-thumbed Black-stone to find out about these matters, and he based his view of the Bill on the First Reading on what he found in Blackstone. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has very few opportunities of bringing his legal knowledge up to date. If he goes to more learned books than Blackstone he will find that modern criticism and modern translators of Norman French, and modern law books have set aside the force and the weight of Blackstone on matters which happened before the days of Edward I. Therefore if he is referring to the division of tithe which took place m the eleventh and twelfth centuries he will find that Blackstone is no longer regarded among lawyers as an authority. Professor Maitland's book on the history of real property and the law before Edward I. is a book which I hope the Chancellor has read or will read from end to end. I doubt very much whether he has at present read it. He will find in that book an authoritative statement that Blackstone can be no longer regarded as an authority for the proposition of the party for which he speaks, and he will find proof of it in Blackstone. The authorities whom Blackstone quote are so modern that they are far too recent to be really of any authority at all in the matter. Therefore I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will shortly be in a position of greater freedom and less responsibility, and once more be able to take up his legal studies. If he reads Professor Maitland's book he will once more be able to find what was the true origin of tithe. I am quite sure when he comes back to the House he will not then cite Blackstone upon that matter.
1092 The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ellis Griffith) stated that all property that was held by the Church was held for the purpose of saying masses, and that as you can no longer have masses said—the tenure having gone—the property ought to be returned. If he also had made his researches a little deeper he would have found that, according to the great lawyers of past times these gifts were made to God and not to man. The gifts were made firstly and primarily to God, and only secondarily to canons and parsons. If he therefore wants to bring back these Church gifts to the purpose for which they were intended, he cannot give this money or these lands to museums. He must give them back for religious purposes. Therefore, if he wishes to justify the present Bill by suggesting that they were given for what might be called a mundane use which cannot be fulfilled, he must make his researches go to the full extent, and he will find them in the law books, and he ought to establish, that having been once given to God, he ought to give them back for religious uses, and if they were to be handed back to religious uses he could justify his position far more than he can at present. All these questions of tenure were swept away by the Long Parliament in 1645. That was confirmed in the time of Charles II. and in the Act of 1660, and from and after that time all these questions of tenure have been done away with entirely. To talk of these lands being held for particular purposes is to fly in the face of history and to deny the validity of a Statute which has been passed by this House itself.
§ And, it being Eleven o'clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Wednesday).