§ 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. Frederick Edwin Smith.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question." Debate resumed.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
I desire only to finish the argument I was presenting to the House last night when the Debate stood adjourned. That argument was that the Under-Secretary had quite misread both history and law when the defended the proposal of this Bill to take away the land and property of the Church in Wales, and bring those properties back to their ancient tenure, and when he further asserted that inasmuch as the purposes of 1145 the tenure could not in many cases be fulfilled by reason of the change in the Church the tenure should lapse and the land be devoted to some other purposes. I was referring to the fact that all these tenures had been altered, dealt with, and considered by this House at a period when it cannot be supposed that it was under the particular dominance of the views of the Anglican Church. It was in 1645 that these tenures were brought before this House. All these tenures were then abolished when the Restoration took place in the year 1660, and an Act confirming the abolition of those tenures was passed Toy this House. It contained, in Section 7, one very remarkable exception, and that was that the tenure known as the frankal-moigne should remain. That means that, although that tenure could not perform the so-called services which were said to be a part of it, and the duties in respect of it had lapsed, the House at that time, and during the Puritan period, was content to free that tenure of land from all such services and still to retain that particular form of tenure, which was largely used for the purposes of the tenure of land by the Church. After that, I do not think any lawyer or historian can dispute what I said, that there is a hollowness about the argument presented so often, that this Bill tries to restore the intentions of pious donors of lands to the Church in. Wales.
It must also be remembered that a great deal of the religious gifts to the Church, gifts to the cathedrals, to' the bishops' sees, and to the parishes, were only given upon a tenure of knights' service. That service was abolished by this House in 1645, and we have had a continuous user of the land, free from all these so-called rights or duties which are so often dwelt upon by those persons who have not made deep research into history or who are not very skilled in law. Hon. Members seem to justify their attitude towards this Bill by finding some grounds for salving their consciences in some ancient law or ancient history. Let me take as an example the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones), who supposed that, inasmuch as in the year 1809 this House had put an end to the absolute right on the part of the testator to tie up the income of land, that that in some way gave this House a right to destroy trusts and to prevent testators giving land for particular purposes. If that sort of confusion of thought can exist in the brain of the hon. Member, perhaps he may be excused for his other views upon this Bill. 1146 He tells us that he is not a great lawyer. I rather wish he were a greater lawyer than he is, for then he could not have fallen into such a confusion of thought, and he would not in this House, or elsewhere, justify his views by so extraordinary a confusion of thought as to the law of his own country. An hon. Member opposite has deprecated the use of the word "cupidity" in connection with those proposals. I agree that we do not need to use such a word. I do not desire to use it myself. I think a happier word might be "wastefulness." What we complain of is the utter wastefulness in handing over property, which no one disputes is being wisely and well used, to another purpose for which it is not wanted. We complain of the handing over of money, now sorely needed by the curates, to the curators of museums. We see no justice and no good sense in it, and while we leave aside all questions of cupidity we say that is a wasteful, foolish, and would be an unworthy act of this House. I agree that it would be a happy thing if we could raise the Debate on this great question to as high a level as possible. I regret that any Member on the other side of the House should not give full weight to the objections made from this side of the House, and should doubt the sincerity of the views which are expressed. We can answer the arguments presented from the other side, and we have been waiting for a long time to find any true justification for the alteration which is proposed by this Bill. It is for hon. Members on the other side to justify this alteration. They have failed to do so. We are not unreasonably anxious to preserve the liberties and the possessions of the Church, which undoubtedly has done much for the people, and which we believe is doing really good work, in respect of which she ought not to be crippled. May I refer in conclusion to a few words, spoken in 1884, by a man who held great sway in this House, and whose opinions are still worth quoting. He said:—I cannot, and will not, allow myself to believe that the English people, who are not only naturally religious, but also eminently practicable, will ever consent, for the petty purpose of gratifying sectarian animosity, or for the wretched object of pandering to infidel proclivities—will ever consent to deprive themselves of so abundant a fountain of aid and consolation, or acquiesce in the demolition of an institution which elevates the life of the nation, and consecrates the acts of the State.These words lose none of their force or value by being words which have been preserved to us and for us by the First Lord of the Admiralty as being the words 1147 which fell from the eloquent lips of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill. Those are his eloquent sentiments, expressed at Birmingham in 1884, and I think we find in those words a truer and higher note than is sometimes to be found in Debates on such subjects in this House. It is because we believe that the Church has elevated the life of the nation, and has consecrated the acts of the State that we offer our sincere, our whole-hearted, and our constant opposition to the proposals which are put forward in this Bill.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I do not propose to detain the attention of the House for more than a very short time, and I shall endeavour to employ that time in dealing not with matters of detail, but with the larger issues of principle which are raised by this Bill. I shall not, however, enter upon the question, because I do not think it is in any way necessary to do so, or that it is involved in the argument, whether, as a matter of abstract reason or historical experience the special recognition by the State of some particular form or some particular organisation of the Christian faith is or is not in the best interests of religion. Nor, for the same reason, shall I do more than refer for a moment to the interesting point which was raised yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir. Balfour), when he claimed, if I may express my own personal opinion, legitimately and justifiably, for the Church of England that since the Reformation it had, as compared with other religious institutions elsewhere, been a comprehensive Church which had allowed to its ministers and its members the greatest width of opinion and latitude of discussion and expression. I believe that to be true, and I am not concerned to criticise the instances which the right hon. Gentleman enumerated drawn from other times and other countries, of Churches which have not followed or set that excellent example. But may I ask the House and the right hon. Gentleman whether the contrast which he drew, legitimate as I believe it to have been, is really relevant to the question which is engaged in this controversy. The Church of England is an established Church, no doubt, but so were the great bulk of the Churches—I am not sure whether I should be accurate in saying all—to which the right hon. Gentleman referred by way of contrast—established at any rate in this 1148 sense, which is perhaps the worst sense of the term, that they could call upon the coercive powers of the State to enforce their own narrow and illiberal pretensions. Therefore, the differentia between the action and the attitude of the Church of England in this matter and of the other Churches with which the right hon. Gentleman, I think, justly compares it to its advantage, cannot be that the Church of England is established, for that is a feature which it possesses in common with most of the others. It must be something else. Perhaps, without undue national self-complacency we may say it may be found in some peculiar tendency of the English mind and the English temperament working in an English atmosphere upon an English soil.
But, as I say, I do not think that a discussion on that point, interesting as it is undoubtedly in an historical sense, is specially relevant to the question which is now before the House. For the British Parliament—and this is the first proposition I wish to submit to the House—the question of the Disestablishment or Disendowment of any Church over which it possesses jurisdiction must be a question not so much of principle as of expediency. I say that because every argument of principle that is relevant either to Establishment or Endowment was used and exhausted in 1869, when, by the assent of the Crown and both Houses of Parliament, the Irish Church was Disestablished and Disendowed upon a scale with which the provisions of the present measure, if you compare one with the other, are, I will not say generous, but certainly moderate. The right hon. Gentleman yesterday put this question-begging inquiry. He said, "Is the Church strengthened or weakened by being robbed?" That is precisely the question which was put to Mr. Gladstone and was put to both Houses of Parliament in the year 1869, and when they gave their assent, as they did, to the Statute dealing with the Irish Church they put upon record a legislative precedent which, until it is wiped off our Statute Book, you cannot get rid of, and from which we may presume that it is not contrary to the ordinary laws of morality, and it is within constitutional competence to deal both with the Establishment and with the Endowment of a so-called national Church. I quite agree that when you come to degrees of expediency the two cases are not identical cases, nor has anyone ever suggested that they are; but though not identical they are, when they 1149 come to be examined, in one, and that the most essential point, similar or at least analogous, and the point to which I refer is the point upon which Mr. Gladstone, in promoting the legislation of 1869, not indeed exclusively, but to a very large extent, relied. The origin of the two Churches is no doubt different—the Church in Ireland and the Church in Wales—but their history possesses this common feature that in both cases alike for the best part of 200 years the established Church in Ireland and the Anglican established Church in Wales devoted their main energies, not to the spiritual regeneration of the population in and for which they existed, but were used by the English Government as political instruments.
I was only a day or two ago struck, in reading a volume of history, with one fact which may serve by way of illustration for what I have said in its application to Wales. Probably the two most eminent persons who occupied episcopal posts in the Church in Wales during the eighteenth century were Bishop Hoadly, in the early part of the century, and Bishop Watson, in the latter part. Bishop Hoadly was Bishop of Bangor, and Bishop Watson was Bishop of Llandaff. Bishop Hoadly, who is known and celebrated in the literature of English theology as the initiator of a very long, though not a very fruitful piece of dialectics which goes by the name of "The Bangorian Controversy," during the whole of the six years that he was in that See never once visited Bangor at all. And at the end of the century Bishop Watson, a very eminent chemist and a distinguished light of the University of Cambridge, only emerged once every three years from his comfortable seclusion among the Westmorland lakes and visited the See of Llandaff. I mention these two cases as illustrations of the kind of thing which went on there, just as it went on in Ireland. The Church was regarded as an excellent place in which to put men of distinction who wanted leisure for the pursuit of other activities, and the hungry sheep looked up and were not fed. The result in Ireland was, as everyone knows, to confirm the mass of the Irish people in their allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church. The result in Wales, where the Roman Catholic Church has never had, at least in modern times, any strong hold on the people, was to drive the great mass of the nation to seek spiritual life and teaching outside the walls of the Established Church. In the eighteenth century, the period when the episcopal annals of Wales 1150 were adorned by these illustrious names, and which, I think, may justly be described as the time of the re-Christianising of the country, the Church of England, the established Church, took no active part, and certainly no official part, in that great work, which was carried on mainly, if not exclusively, by the spontaneous energies and by the voluntary offerings of people outside.
Of course, it may be said, and I dare say will be said, that all that is ancient history. So it is, in a sense. Things have now changed. So they had in Ireland. Exactly the same thing was said there. The Irish Church, the Church which was Disestablished in 1869, had long before that date turned over a new chapter and set its house in order, and was endeavouring to keep itself more or less abreast of the spiritual and religious requirements of the people. Things have changed, and no one has acknowledged more fully than I have during the whole of this controversy the great work which the Anglican Church, in Wales has been doing for a generation past, not only to make atonement for the shortcomings of the past, but to discharge the duties which it owes to the community. But nations have long memories, and it is true of nations as it is of individuals, that ground which has once been lost very often can never be recovered. Although the roads on which the Establishment travelled were different in the two cases the results in Ireland and in Wales were the same. Despite the growth of a new spirit, and despite the attempt to overtake arrears, which were really not over takable, the established Church expresses the religious views and embodies the religious organisation of a comparatively small minority of the population. I do not think, in dealing with this matter, which, as I have said, is a matter of expediency, anyone will deny the proposition that an established Church, to maintain and to justify its title to Establishment, must be the organised expression of the spiritual and the religious life of the mass of the people. No one could say that of the Church in Ireland. No one will say that of the established Church in Wales. I should like, in view of some strong language which has been used, language which I hope I shall abstain from imitating, and which I quite agree is used by persons who feel strongly both upon one side and the other, for this is a matter which excites an unusual degree of feeling—I should like to quote a prophecy 1151 made by a very eminent man, one of the most accomplished men the Church of England has ever lent to the Church of Ireland, the Archbishop of Dublin, on the eve of Irish Disestablishment, in 1869. He said:—If you overthrow the Irish Established Church you will put to the Irish Protestants the choice between apostasy and expatriation, and every man among them who has money or position when he sees his Church go will leave the country. If you do that, you will find Ireland so difficult to manage that you will have to depend on the gibbet and the sword.That was the prophecy of this able and distinguished man, but the Irish Protestants have not left Ireland, and we know by indications to which I need not refer—for they are not strictly relevant to the subject now before the House— that they are as virile and as vocal as ever. They have not had to choose between apostasy and expatriation, and they still pursue their own faith with undiminished ardour on their native soil, and Ireland has not been handed over to the gibbet or the sword. I think it may well give pause to those who are prophesying with equal glibness and assurance almost equally disastrous results to the adherents of the established Church in Wales, when they see how history has evolved itself in the sister case of Ireland. Attempts have been made in the course of the Debates and elsewhere, to distinguish between the two cases. I quite agree there is no greater fallacy than to say history repeats itself. History does not repeat itself, and you cannot find any two cases in history which logicians would say are on all-fours. What are the substantial distinctions sought to be raised in the case of Ireland and the case of Wales? There is one which is very frequently invoked, and it was used by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour). He said that in the case of Ireland you were dealing with a nation—in another connection we sometimes hear that disputed—and that in the case of Wales you are not. The right hon. Gentleman said, as though it were a perfectly natural analogy which is argumentatively valid, that to treat the voice of the vast predominant majority of the representatives of the Principality as though in a matter of this kind it ought, primâ facie at any rate, to receive attention and deference, was an argument which, to his mind, weighs no more than if you could show the same state of things in regard to some particular geographical fraction of England. Is that seriously 1152 maintained? We do not go into this matter by numbers, and it is not a matter of counting heads, but if there is anywhere in the British Empire a community which has all the indiciaof a separate nation, in history, language, development, traditions and special needs, social atmosphere, all that makes up domestic and civic life, surely that community is the Welsh nation. This House of Commons has constantly now for generations past practically by its legislation acknowledged that is so. Why! the acts of the right hon. Gentleman himself as a legislator are very much better than his professions as a dialectician. He was himself certainly an important Member of the Cabinet that passed the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, which recognised, as regards that vital and all-important subject of national necessity, that Wales required and must be dealt out different and separate treatment from the rest of the United Kingdom. I could multiply illustrations. We all agree practically that there is a separation, not in any way inconsistent with common loyalty and Imperial unity—separation of local sentiment and local interests in regard to the Principality of Wales as well marked and defined as exists anywhere in the civilised world, and not even Ireland itself can claim precedence in that respect. That is one attempt, and I think unsuccessfully, to discriminate between the two cases.
There is another attempt which perhaps deserves more serious notice. It was made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith) who moved the Amendment, and it was repeated with great force and wealth of illustration by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London yesterday. It is that here, unlike the case of Ireland, your legislation for Disestablishment and Disendowment involves the dismemberment of the Church of England. It is said, "You are taking away four dioceses which from time immemorial, or at least for a great many centuries, have formed part of the Province of Canterbury. You are cutting them off from Convocation and from synodical connection with those with whom they have always been closely related, and turning them adrift into the wilderness to lead their own life, and to pursue a course of their own." Technically the same thing might have been said of the Church of Ireland, because by the Act of Union the Church of Ireland and the Church of England were united. I am 1153 reminded by an hon. Friend that for 150 years there was no Convocation. Convocation was only revived in, I think, the year 1852, after being in desuetude for considerably more than a century. Practically by the Act of Union and the most solemn language which could be used in a treaty the Church in England and the Church in Ireland were declared to be a united Church. I do not want to press that, which, after all, is a technical point, but what I cannot understand with all the sympathy that I really feel with an obviously genuine sentiment, and what I have puzzled my brain to understand, is how after this separation has taken place, and these four dioceses are formally sepaated for synodical and constitutional purposes from the Province of Canterbury there should be any difficulty in as close intercommunion and co-operation as there was before. That is not the case with the Nonconformist bodies. As an hon. Friend of mine said last night, the Methodists of Wales have no difficulty in co-operating on the closest possible terms with the Methodists of England. If you look to our own Dominion Churches overseas, you will find, though there is no Convocation, the difficulty conjured up is one which in practice has no real existence at all.
Then the right hon. Gentleman in what I think was the most entertaining part of his speech reinforced the argument by saying that we were not only going to dismember the Church of England, but that we were going to re-establish in Wales an Episcopal Church of its own. The right hon Gentleman, giving his imagination the wings of humour, a very useful and desirable thing if it is to make a lofty and attractive flight, by anticipation canonised my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, as the person who in history will go down as the patron saint of the new established Welsh Church. I am very reluctant to tarnish or bedim the contingent halo which would so becomingly encircle the brow of my right hon. Friend, but lest he should entertain some exaggerated conception of what history has in store for him, I am bound in common honesty to point out that his claim to this position in the hierarchy of patron saints, rests on the slenderest possible ground. What is it founded upon? It is founded entirely on the thirteenth Clause of the Bill, which provides: —
If that is the only claim my right hon. Friend may have to entitle him to rank with St. Augustine, St. Columba, Joseph Smith, and other ecclesiastical organisers, I am sorry to say that I do not take a very sanguine view of his chances of immortality. Connected with the argument with which I have been dealing, and, I suppose, corollary to it is another, again supposed to distinguish the case of Wales from that of Ireland, and which is based on the continuity and identity of the Church of England throughout all historical record both in England and Wales. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith), in support of that contention, and with the view of establishing an argumentative difference between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself quoted a speech I made nearly twenty years ago in moving the Second Reading of a similar Bill. I do not complain of the right hon. Gentleman for not having taken the excellent advice by one whose name he and I as Oxford men must revere, namely, the late President Routh, always to verify his references. But, after all, he only followed the example of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I have had put into my hands since the Debate began a leaflet, now in circulation, which I should be sorry to hold either the right hon. Gentleman or the Archbishop in any way responsible for. It is headed, "What Mr. Asquith says about the Church." It is published by and bears the imprimatur of the Central Church Committee for Defence and Instruction. I have had considerable experience in 1155 electioneering of political leaflets of one kind or another, but this particular one is a masterpiece of misrepresentation. I call it a masterpiece for this reason: It cites a number of passages which are verbally and textually correct from various speeches of mine, carefully divorcing them from the context, and conveying to the reader, as I shall show in a moment, not only a different but diametrically opposite impression to that which was intended by me, and which any reader of the speeches would see was clearly meant. With regard to the continuity and identity of the Church—I am sorry to trouble the House—I am quoted as having said, and quite correctly, and I adhere to every word of it: —
- (1) Nothing in any Act, law, or custom shall prevent the bishops, clergy, and
1154 laity of the Church in Wales from holding synods or electing representatives thereto, or from framing, either by themselves or by their representatives elected in such manner as they think fit, constitutions and regulations for the general management and good government of the Church in Wales and the property and affairs thereof, whether as a whole or according to dioceses, and the future representation of members thereof in a general synod or in diocesan synods, or otherwise.
- "(2) If at any time it is shown to the satisfaction of His Majesty the King that the said bishops, clergy, and laity have appointed any persons so to represent them, and hold property for any of their uses and purposes, His Majesty in Council may by charter incorporate such persons (in this Act referred to as the representative body), with power to hold land without licence in mortmain."It is a historical error to represent the Church of England as ever having been a mere off-shoot and dependency of the Church of Rome,And as having further said that—I am not one of those who think it is right to assume that the legislation of Henry VIII. transferred the privileges and endowments of the national Church from the Church of Rome to the Church of England. I am quite prepared to admit, what I believe the best authorities on history now assert, that there has been amid all these changes and developments a substantial identity and continuity of existence in our national Church from its earliest days down to the present time.That is perfectly true. That is embedded in a context which apparently these gentlemen who are engaged in Church defence and instruction were either too indolent to read or found it too inconvenient to repeat. I am going to read something that preceded and something that followed the passage which was selected by the Church Defence Committee. This is the passage which precedes:—The statements which I have made show conclusively and bring out in the clearest possible light the distinction which is obvious enough between the Church as a Spiritual Body, which is one which is identical, which is continuing, which does not change, and the Church as an Establishment which is subject in all its forms and all its laws to the shifting currents of public opinion, at one time being protected by Parliament to a certain extent, and at, other times protected by Parliament within much narrower and more contracted limits.In other words, I was drawing and pointing to the distinction between the spiritual unity and continuity of the Church and the shifting phases which it assumed from time to time, owing to the legislation of Parliament, as a State Establishment. I will make that much clearer in what follows. In the legislation of the Reformation some people seem to think nothing happened. I again claim indulgence if I quote the summary I then gave of what happened at the 1156 Reformation, and what that legislation was then:—The assertion of the claim on the part of the Crown and Parliament first of all to establish and define the Royal supremacy over the Church; and next to confine the Church even in purely Ecclesiastical matters as its final Court of Appeal to a Court of secular Judges appointed by the Crown; to change the doctrine and modify the ceremonies taught and practised, at one moment to prohibit and at another to permit and then to prohibit again such an institution as the marriage of the clergy.I went on to say:—I defy anyone who has studied with an impartial mind the legislation of the forty years, from 1530 to 1570, to dispute the proposition that Parliament did in that time assert and exercise their right to prescribe the conditions of the tenure upon which every Ecclesiastical benefice of this country was to be held.Does anyone deny that proposition? If he does he must find some way of escape which has never yet been discovered from the cast-iron legislation of Henry VIII. and his successors. I repeat to-day what I said then, that the Church as an Establishment and not the Church as a spiritual entity, not the Church as a continuous stream—as it has been in my opinion at any rate—on the whole of beneficent influence on the life of this nation, but the Church as an establishment is the creature of Parliament. Parliament has prescribed conditions, Parliament has altered conditions. That which Parliament has made it can unmake again at its own discretion. Now let me refer to another point which is inseparable from what I have said about Establishment, namely, Disendowment. The hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Harwood) in his very able speech yesterday, in which he frankly avowed himself an opponent of this Bill, pointed out, and I think with unanswerable force, that in point of principle you cannot separate Disestablishment from Disendowment. The principle, the right in one case is exactly the same as in the other, and depends upon the same considerations and is authorised by the force of the same sanction. The constitutional right which I have pointed out in the passages which I ventured to quote from myself was affirmed in the Reformation settlement. It was reaffirmed in 1869 in the case of the Irish Church, and there have been other cases, where you are not dealing with funds or endowments the conditions of which have been laid down by Statutes, in which Parliament has shown and exercised the most drastic powers in the public interests of revision and redistribution. I will not go back to the case, though it is a very striking one in many points of view, the famous case of the Dissenters Chapel Act of 1844, but I will take a much more recent 1157 Act. I will take the case of what was done, and done by the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) as recently as the year 1905 in the case of the Scottish Church.
What happened there? You were dealing with a fund, every penny of which had been contributed practically within the memory of living man. Disruption took place in 1813 and legislation in 1905. The Free Church which went out in 1843, resolved to unite with another Scottish Ecclesiastical organisation much older in its origin, as far as its constituent parts were concerned, the United Presbyterians. They believed, and were advised, that such a union was intra vires, and would not affect their title to the property, but the House of Lords held otherwise, and held that the legal title to this fund, every penny of which as I have said had grown up within the lifetime of two generations, belonged to a small dissentient minority who did not themselves subscribe to the Union. What did the Government of the day do? They did what I think was perfectly right, and I strongly supported it at the time. They said that it would be a monstrous thing that the whole of the funds which had been subscribed by the Free Church which went out at the disruption should become the property of a small minority; and the Government passed an Act of Parliament which distributed the fund. On what principle? By polling the number of adherents—that is practically what it came to—in particular parishes. It is worth reading from the second Sub-section of Section 1 of the Churches (Scotland) Act, 1005. It says:—The Commission in making their allocations of property under this Act shall allocate congregational property to the Free Church in any case where they consider that out of those who in the opinion of the Commission were members or adherents of the congregation on the 30th day of October. 1900, and are at the commencement of this Act both resident in the district and members or adherents of the Free Church or United Free Church congregation, at least one-third are members or adherents of the Free Church congregation.So that unless they were one-third they were not to get it. In other words, they made a most drastic distribution of this fund between the parties by polling the number of adherents of the two different bodies concerned. As to the bearing of that legislation, the Archbishop of Canterbury and my hon. and learned Friend—
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
That whole Commission was based on the supposition that the 1158 smaller body could not use the fund and that funds sufficient for their equipment should be left and the residue was not to be secularised but was to be used for Ecclesiastical purposes.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is the basis on which this Bill proceeds. So far as the amount to be allocated to the original beneficiaries is concerned it is based exactly on the principle on which this Bill proceeds.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
Surely it is entirely distinct. If you were to say that these funds were not wanted for the purposes of the Church in Wales I agree, but that was the whole basis of the Scottish case, and it does not exist here.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Let me read what was said in the course of the Debate by perhaps the most eminent Scottish lawyer at that time, who is, unfortunately now dead, and who was one of our most distinguished judges, Lord Robertson. It has a direct bearing on the question to which I am now referring. Lord Robertson, who strongly opposed this measure, speaking on the 31st July, said this:—You are going to make use of the Commission to take a sort of head poll of the adherents of the Free Church. If they fall short of a certain standard, then you are going to deprive them of their property. Now I want to know how far that is to be applied elsewhere?He goes on with great prescience to use these words: —Suppose we have a Welsh Disestablishment Bill, is the property of the Welsh Church to he taken away in those parishes where they fall below a certain standard, and are my Noble Friends on the other side of the House going to back up the Government in that system? You see now the kind of enterprise you are going to embark on.Lord Robertson foresaw that the precedent which was being set could well be followed in the case of the Welsh Church. In regard to this matter of Disendowment, the present Bill, as everybody knows, is more generous in its provision than those which preceded it. I was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman speaking, as he said with authority, declare that the Church would not be content to get 10s. 11d. in the £. That, of course, means, if it means anything at all, that you regard the whole operation, even if it were only to deprive the Church of a penny in the pound, as spoliation and robbery. Precisely the same argument was used in the case of the Irish Church.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Noble Lord says it was true. Lord Salisbury voted for the Second Reading. I cannot understand anyone who conscientiously maintains that a particular measure is a measure of spoliation and robbery supporting it in any shape or form. If it is a question of degree or expediency, I can understand; if it is a question whether these terms are just and generous or those terms are just and generous, then I quite agree that it is a matter of accommodation and not of principle; but if it is spoliation and robbery, if you will not accept even 19s. 11d. in the £, then the thing is wrong in principle and nothing can justify it. I can only say, in regard to that, so far as we here are concerned—I speak for my colleagues and myself—we shall welcome, and welcome in the fullest degree, when we get into the Committee stage, discussion both as to what is just and generous to leave to the Church, and also as to what purpose the residue which is not left to the Church, can in the best interests of Wales be most usefully applied. I have only one word to say in conclusion. I approach this matter, not as a Welsh Nationalist, which by birth and other disabilities I am not entitled to, though with the strongest possible sympathy with the Welsh nation, and certainly not in any sense as antagonistic to the Church of England. I should be sorry to submit myself for examination in orthodoxy unless I were quite sure who the examiners were to be, but I believe I can say that I am sincerely attached to what I conceive to be the essential teaching of the Church of England and its forms of worship, and in the office which I have now held for some years—which carries with it the trusteeship of matters very important to the Church—I think I may say honestly that I have spared neither pains nor time to advance the best interests of the Church, and, above all, to maintain and promote its comprehensive character. Therefore I trust I may be believed when I say that when the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith) suggests that those who support this Bill are animated only by the lust of cupidity, or when, as I much regretted to hear, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) said yesterday, that all we care about is, not the benefit or advantage of those who were to receive, but to wound and despoil those from whom we are going to take—when the right hon. Gentleman said that my withers, and, I believe, those of the vast 1160 mass of those who support us, were altogether unwrung.
I would not raise my voice in support of any scheme which was dictated by such motives, or which in my conscience and judgment I thought would lead to such a result. I do not believe the Church in Wales, with its beneficent and growing activity, which we all of us, willingly or unwillingly, and for my part most willingly, are constrained to recognise and rejoice in—I do not believe it will be crippled by any measure of Disendowment which Parliament would in the least degree be likely to carry through. I know how strong are the feelings, both on one side and the other, but I would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to enlarge their imaginations far enough to believe that a person may be sincerely attached to the Church of England honestly desirous for its progress, not only in England, but in Wales, and yet think that by promoting this measure he is not only not hindering but helping the best interests of the Church. I should hope that is not too great a task for the imaginations even of the most ardent opponents of this Bill, and I will make one more appeal. Let them stretch their vision outside the comparatively narrow limits of this United Kingdom of ours, and look at what is going on among the great English-speaking communities in. and outside our Empire. Some of them have had established Churches and have disestablished them. Some of them have never tolerated any official recognition by the State of any particular form of religious organisation. Is there a man here, or outside these walls, who is acquainted with the actual facts, who will allege that in those great communities the sense of religion is less deep-seated or less widespread, or that the standard of public or of private life is less pure or less exalted than in this country? I do not believe there is. For my part, I support this Bill, partly in the light of that experience in addition to the special and particular grounds upon which it rests, in the firm and honest belief that if it is passed into law, it will remove in Wales the greatest obstacle to charity and co-operation among Christians, and so far from degrading or lowering the level, you will find in the long run it will benefit the whole spiritual and religious life of the Principality.
§ Mr. CAVE
In endeavouring to the best of my ability to follow the Prime Minister, 1161 I will try to conform to the moderation of language which he has impressed upon us by precept and also by example. If I wander even for a moment from that moderation of language I hope the House will believe it is only because there are some subjects so grave and some feelings so intense that it is impossible to veil or conceal them. May I refer quite briefly to the argument used to-day by the Prime Minister, and used, I think, in other speeches which he has made on this and on the last Bill. He began those speeches by referring to the Irish precedent, and lie suggests to us that because in 1869 Mr. Gladstone's Act was passed for Ireland, therefore the principle of Disestablishment ought no longer to be questioned in this House. I join issue entirely with him on that argument. Even if the Irish precedent were on all fours—and it is far from being so—I decline to accept the view that because Parliament in 1869 passed an Act disestablishing the Irish Church, we may not to the full question the principle of Disestablishment to-day. That you have been unjust once is no reason why you may be unjust again. That you have taken property from one Church, or one part of the Church, is no reason why you may take property from another part of the same Church. But I submit that the Irish precedent is in no sense on all fours with this case. The Irish Church was the creation of a Statute, of a Statute then not seventy years old. Irish Disestablishment was proposed by Mr. Gladstone expressly as one means of relieving Irish discontent and disorder. No one can say that of Wales. Again, as to Irish endowments, they were said, I do not say truly said, to be excessive and to be misused. No one says that of the Church of Wales. In any case this Bill is far less generous to the Church of Wales than is the Irish Act to the Church in Ireland. There is more than one point under this Bill in which the Welsh Church comes worse off, and far worse off, than the Church of Ireland under Mr. Gladstone's Act. I will only for the moment remind the House of this—I will refer to one or two points later—that today the Church in Wales is poorer before Disestablishment than the Church of Ireland after Disestablishment; and that fact alone, I think, is an answer for any fair-minded man to the Irish analogy. Then the right hon. Gentleman went back to what he admitted to be relatively ancient history—he went back to the eighteenth century. He said there were bishops then 1162 who did not do their duty, and hinted that it was too late to remedy such neglect. I do not think the English sense of justice will accept that view. I do not think Englishmen will permit you to say that because the Church might not have done its duty 100 years ago, therefore, though the Church does its duty to-day, that Church must suffer. Englishmen will look to the present, and see how matters stand in the present day, and will decide on that basis. I want to dwell for a short time on the question of Disestablishment, because it has been to some extent made little of by some previous speakers, and I do not think it a small thing. What is meant by Disestablishment?
I listened with very great care to speakers in this Debate—speakers on the other side—hoping to understand what is their point of view, and if I have correctly understood them there is one thought which runs through all the speeches in favour of the Bill. I mean the speeches of Nonconformists especially, and that is that they desire equality—equality of privileges and possibly equality of means. Let us consider how far under this Bill you obtain equality of privileges. The word Disestablishment by itself may mean nothing, or it may mean a good deal. When you say that the Church shall cease to be established by law, that is a phrase of doubtful meaning, and one must look at the later Clauses of the Bill to see what the measure really effects. I say nothing of the so-called social privileges which are not touched by the Bill—those privileges which were dealt with so fully by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour) yesterday—the Doctorate of Divinity, the presence of the Archbishop at the Coronation, and other things. There is only one privilege attaching now to the Church of England which this Bill affects or touches in any way—I mean the fact that some of the bishops of the Church sit in the House of Lords. That, I agree is a privilege, although as a set-off ministers of the Church cannot sit in this House. Still, the privilege does exist, and that will be taken away by the Bill. What you are doing by this Bill is to exclude the Welsh bishops from the other House with the effect which follows under the existing law, that you bring four more English bishops into the other House. Is that the right way to deal with this question? Is it not better to deal with it on general principles and 1163 on broader lines? I venture to associate myself entirely with what was said by my right hon. Friend yesterday, and I think it is a pity to exclude from the House of Lords almost the only element which comes into it from outside, and almost the only element which sits there by virtue of office. I would far rather see all of the Churches represented in that House. I am quite sure no one who belongs to the Church of England would view with the least jealousy a proposal of that kind. But when you deal with the matter as in this Bill by exclusion, you make it impossible for the future to deal with it by inclusion. The matter is dealt with on wrong lines, and should be considered as a whole if and when your time conies to deal with the whole Constitution. With that one exception the changes are not in the direction of abolishing privilege at all, although they are, nevertheless, gravely injurious to the Church of England. Let me refer briefly to the question of what has been called dismemberment. You propose to forbid the summoning of the Welsh clergy to Convocation. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think there is little or nothing in that because it will still be open to the clergy of the Church of England to confer with the clergy of the Church of Wales. Of course they may, and so they may with the ministers of any denomination, but what you are doing is to destroy the union of the Church. You are taking no privilege from the Church, for the constitution of Convocation affects no one but Churchmen, but what we desire, and claim is that representatives of the whole Church, which to-day is one, shall be permitted to be summoned and as one body to deliberate and decide on matters affecting the Church, and affecting the Church only. I think that to forbid that, and to break up the spiritual unity of the Church, is nothing less than a wanton and useless act of tryranny.
What more is there in this Bill? You take away the nomination by the Crown to archbishoprics and bishoprics and to Crown livings. There is not in this Bill what was found in the last Bill—that is a recital that the Crown has consented to place its patronage at the disposal of Parliament. I do not know whether the Government have obtained such a consent, but if I understand the matter rightly the precedent of the last Bill ought to be considered and followed in this. Even if that consent be obtained, the nomination of the Crown 1164 to those offices is by no means a privilege of the Church. It is a privilege of the Crown and of the nation, and, of course, the power is exercised on advice. Therefore you are not by that method weakening the Church or putting it on a par with other denominations, you are relieving it from a burden which at the moment rests upon it. Then you dissolve the ecclesiastical co-operations and you destroy the parochial system. That is not destroying a privilege. The parochial system is a burden on the Church, because it represents an obligation that every parish in the country shall have a representative of the Church to whom every man and woman in the parish, whether churchman or church-woman or not, shall be entitled to look for help, and to whom anyone can go for baptism, for marriage, for birth, and for alt the offices of religion. That is an obligation on the Church, and not a privilege.
You abrogate the ecclesiastical law. Somebody seemed to think that to have the ecclesiastical law recognised in the Courts was a privilege of the Church and not of other denominations. Nothing of the kind. Every religious community is governed by law, and the law of trusts governing the free Churches, to call them that, are recognised in every court in the country. There is not a lawyer who has not had experience of cases where those laws have been considered and enforced. The position of the Church only differs in this respect, that the Church, having at one time covered, and still claiming to cover so far as ministrations go, the whole country, the law of the Church is so generally recognised and so enforced that it has become part of and recognised in the law of the country. Therefore, though enforced through ecclesiastical courts, it is enforced in the end in the civil courts in respect of the property of the Church and the trusts by which it is governed. All you are doing by the Bill is to declare that it shall be no longer the law, but that every member of the Church shall be deemed to be bound by contract to observe the doctrines and the regulations and the ritual of the Church. That only means that, instead of going to an ecclesiastical court as you do to-day, and having your Church question considered there, and if you succeed taking it to other courts, you must go at once to the civil court. Thus you cast it on the civil courts of this country to interpret and to consider, and if need be to enforce, the law as to the 1165 doctrine, and even the ritual of the Church. You are opening the door to an enormous change, because that means that you may enforce those laws by injunctions in the civil courts.
§ Mr. CAVE
I do not think there is any case where the Court has had to interpret the doctrines of any Nonconformist body. In any case, they are laid down in writing while the other rests upon long history and usuage. These questions are of great complexity, and it is undesirable that civil courts should have to deal with them. What I desire to impress on the House is that this is not the abolition of a privilege, but it is only the substitution of one remedy for another. Those are, I think, the real effects of Disestablishment. With the one exception about the bishops, I do not think there is one of them which can be said to destroy a privilege of the Church, or to go towards giving equality to other bodies. I was rather startled by what the Prime Minister said just now about Clause 13 of this Bill. I had rather understood Clause 13 as giving the power, or at all events recognising and confirming the power in the Church by proper means to consider and define its regulations and ordinances. The right hon. Gentleman sought to minimise that, and said that after all it was only a negative Clause and only meant that nothing in the Act prevented that from being done. I hope he does not mean that that is going to be left open and that the Church is not to know whether it has or has not that power. In any case, even that power would require the ultimate assistance of the civil courts.
I have dealt with Disestablishment quite briefly, and I want now to say something upon what I agree has been treated as more important still, and that is the question of Disendowment. Let me point out to hon. Members, and there are some I know on the other side, who expressed their willingness to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill and yet say they are opposed entirely to Disendowment, that you cannot so separate the two things. The Prime Minister has said that Disendowment is bound up in Disestablishment. Therefore I do not think that, if there are Members who are opposed to Disendowment, they are entitled to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, for in 1166 so doing it may be said that they are voting both for one and the other. As to Disendowment, just consider what you are doing. You are taking £173,000 per year, not from the Church, because you are taking it from the poorest dioceses of the Church, not even from the Church in Wales, because you are taking the bulk of the money not from the Church itself, but from the scattered benefices throughout the Principality. It may be that in some little village the rector now has £120 or £150 per year at his disposal, and after this Bill, so far as endowments is concerned, that will be reduced to £10 or £20 or £30 per year. That is what you are doing, and I shall say one or two words about the details before I come to your reasons. As regards tithes, I am not concerned to go into the history of centuries ago; I do not care whether tithes began in Wales in the ninth or the tenth or the eleventh century. What Giraldus Cambrensis wrote docs not interest me very much. I am much more concerned in what Georgius Cambrensis says to-day. It is enough for me that for seven or eight or nine centuries the legal right of the ecclesiastical corporations to tithe has been recognised, and there is not, I think, any prescriptive right which rests on a stronger basis. The Chancellor of the Exchequer rather endeavoured to lead the House to believe the other day that tithes had been given in order that masses might be said for souls.
§ Mr. CAVE
Then it does not apply to tithes. The gift of land, which the Chancellor quoted, was not a gift to the Church; it was a gift to a monastery, which is a very different thing. You may find several such gifts to monasteries for masses, but you will have difficulty in finding gifts even of glebes to ecclesiastical corporations for masses. Even if it be so, you are not really taking the glebe from the Church, because by this very Bill you compel the Church body to repurchase the glebe at its value, or in other words you 1167 are not taking the land, but you are fining the Church body a certain sum representing the value of the glebe. The glebe is worth, say, £28,000 a year, and the Church body must repurchase.
§ Mr. CAVE
No, I think it is compulsory according to the Bill. But no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will make that clear. As I read the Bill you make the Church pay, but out of what fund? You have not left the Church body any funds at all out of which that purchase can be made. I hope we shall find out sooner or later, whether it be voluntary or compulsory, out of what fund you authorise or compel the Church body to make that so-called re-purchase. One word about other sources of income. Take Queen Anne's Bounty. You profess to take nothing but old endowments before 1662. But Queen Anne's Bounty was an endowment of 1703. Tenths and first fruits were the property of the Crown down to the reign of Queen Anne, who gave that income to the Church, which then, if ever, was a Protestant Church in the full sense of the term. Therefore, in taking away anything which comes from Queen Anne's Bounty, you are taking away a modern endowment. More than that, you are actually taking away the savings from that income. As the House knows, a great part of the property to be taken, called Welsh ecclesiastical property, is property purchased for the benefit of the Church in Wales out of the yearly savings from the income of Queen Anne's Bounty. So that you are not only taking a modern endowment, but you are making your Bill retrospective and taking away from the Church savings in past years out of its income. Anything more grossly unfair cannot be conceived. I say nothing about the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, because my right hon. Friend (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) dealt with them last night. A similar point arises with regard to the Parliamentary Grants. The Parliamentary Grants are surely modern gifts. They represent what is left of grants made to the Church between 1809 and 1820. They were given by the nation for the maintenance of poor clergy—that is, of course, poor clergy of a Protestant Church. On what ground does the State claim to retake Grants made under those circumstances? You made like Grants to dissenting ministers at the same time, and, indeed, for a longer period. Are those going to be repaid? It may be that 1168 they have been spent. Then you draw this distinction: the dissenting minister has spent his grant and the Churchman has saved his; therefore, you are going to take his savings and not reclaim the grant from the dissenter. You did not so deal even with the Irish Church in 1869, because, as hon. Members know, under the Irish Church Act compensation was paid. You paid the Irish Church fourteen years' purchase for grants of that kind, but you are going to reclaim from the Church in Wales gifts which Parliament made to the Church as a Protestant Church less than 100 years ago.
§ Mr. CAVE
Yes, given by Parliament. But Parliament is not in the habit of reclaiming its gifts; otherwise a very heavy claim might be made upon other Churches in this respect. I am not going into Committee matters; therefore, with regard to the provisions for existing interests, I will merely say that they seem to me in every respect insufficient and clearly less generous than those made by the Irish Act. You are not providing for curates in this Bill. You are not providing for commutation. In Ireland you gave power to commute incomes, and you added a bonus of 12 per cent, to the capital value of the commutation. The effect of that arrangement has been to make it possible for the Irish Church to some extent to survive to-day. You are not doing that for the Church in Wales. I do not know on what principle you are so much less generous to the Church in Wales than you were to the Irish Church.
But I want to go to a broader question, although I hope the details are not without interest. If you want to test a principle, very often the best thing you can do is to see how it is proposed to carry it out in detail. The question I want to ask is: Why are you going to disendow the Church in Wales? I have made it my business to ask that question of every speaker who did not voluntarily answer it. I have listened with great care to all the answers. No two of them agree, but all of them are worthy of consideration. In the first place, throughout the Debate no one has said that the income of the Church in Wales is not well used, or is not fully required to meet the Church's needs. A generous tribute has been paid to the work which, in our generation has been done by the Church in Wales. No one has 1169 said a word in favour of the substituted purposes to which you are going to apply this income. Not even the Home Secretary, who introduced the Bill, nor the Prime Minister has said a word about those objects. No one says that money is wanted for museums or for the eleemosynary and other charitable purposes to which the income is to be applied. Surely that is a strange omission. When you are transferring property from one purpose to another you ought to show that it is not needed for the purpose from which you are taking it and that it is needed for the purpose to which you are transferring it. But this is what has been said. The Home Secretary defended Disendowment on the ground that the majority of the Welsh voters were in favour of it. The argument of numbers is often relevant, but on a question of taking away property it seems to me to have no relevance at all. If ninety-nine men out of one hundred in this country desired to take away property without compensation I would not yield to them, nor do I think that the argument ought to weigh an ounce in the scale. If it be true that Disestablishment and Disendowment are bound up together, and that the one goes with the other, and if it be true that no majority justifies Disendowment, what becomes of your majority for Disestablishment? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his well-known way, said that the property was given for masses. I have dealt with that. I think it historically untrue. Carrying rather further the view of the Prime Minister, he relied on precedent, and fell back on the authority of Henry VIII. Henry VIII. we know took property, not from the Church, but from the monasteries, which no doubt stand on a somewhat parallel footing, and he was referred to by his contemporaries as a stout and sturdy thief. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer prefers to take him for his model I do not know why we should object. The Solicitor-General gave his own reason, again quite different from the others. He said that the Church was endowed because it was established and therefore if it is disestablished it must be disendowed.
§ Mr. CAVE
I think I am summarising fairly the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument. It sounds very logical, but it is historically untrue, because the endowments of the Church were given before the establishment of the Church. In any case, those who say this confuse the motive of 1170 the gift with the conditions. It may be that the money was given to the Church because it represented for the time being the religion of the greater part of the country, but no condition was imposed. To say that because the conditions change you may take away that which was given unconditionally, seems to me to open the way for the destruction of every kind of charitable gift. The fact is that the money was given for religious uses, and you are taking it away from religious uses. That is the answer to the Scottish precedent which the Prime Minister adduced. In the case of the Free Church of Scotland, the money which had belonged to the Free Church was divided amongst the elements which were said to make up the Free Church, to be still applied for the same purposes. The Leader of the Welsh Parliamentary party (Sir D. Brynmor Jones) was taken rather off his guard when asked why he was in favour of Disendowment. He said: —Disestablishment necessarily involves Disendowment, because it means the dissolution of the corporation in which the funds we propose to deal with are vested. [HON. MEMBERS: Why?] Because the dissolved corporation ceases to exist. When a man is dead does he enjoy his property?That is a splendid reason. Because a man is dead you take away his property. The first answer is: Why kill him? I have yet to learn that robbery can be defended on the ground that you first murdered the possessor.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
I said that some provision was made by law for the property of the dissolved corporation unless there was to be a resumption by the Crown.
§ Mr. CAVE
I am much obliged to the hon. and learned Member. I was going to deal with the second point arising from his argument. It is quite true that provision is made in another way for securing to the Church an endowment of one-third of its property. But if one-third, why not the whole? If a man is too dead to possess £l I do not see how he can keep a firm grip on 6s. 8d. To nobody would I more like to put that question than to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Then there came the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy. He had a brand new argument. He said: "Oh, we are taking the £173,000 from you, but all you have to do is to replace it; for that purpose you need only save a £100,000 every year for forty years. At the end of that time you will have your endowment back again." In other 1171 words, "We are going to leave you £87,000. You can save £100,000 a year, and you will have no complaint against us." Of course, the answer to that is that there are other uses for the money; every penny that can be saved by the Church in Wales is wanted; that will be even more true when you have passed this Bill.
I have practically got to the end of the reasons given for Disendowment, except one which was given by the Undersecretary for the Home Department, and, I think, was endorsed by the Secretary to the Treasury yesterday. These hon. Gentlemen state that Disendowment is for the good of the Church. I cannot accept that from them. The Under-Secretary—I am sorry he is not here—has been in the country one of the most violent assailants of the Church. He called it "a parasite of aristocracy," and other things which I do not remember. If he thinks that sincerely he must dislike and detest the Church, and I do not think he is able to advise as to what will or what will not be for the good of the Church. As regards the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Treasury, only yesterday he quoted as an accusation against the Church to which he claims to belong, that it was guilty of "complacency, arrogance, cowardice, and worldliness." If he thinks that of the Church I do not think he is a good adviser for us either. The hon. Gentleman said yesterday that he thought that where the Church had succeeded it had done so in spite of its endowments and not because of them. I have here a quotation from his work, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for the Walton Division referred, and I would ask the House to compare what the hon. Gentleman said yesterday with what he has written. He was dealing in the book with the influence of the Nonconformists. He said:—Nonconformists are strongest among the middle classes.…As one penetrates from the border regions into the actual depth, they are found to become a less and less operative force in the life of the people. This seems due to two main causes. In the first place they do not possess the machinery necessary to maintain endowed Churches throughout this vast district, and few of the scattered missions are in a position to support themselves. There is nothing corresponding to the parochial system of the English Church, with its buildings, parsonages, and certain, if small endowments. The consequence of this is manifest; as the ghetto rolls forward, driving before it the middle class element, so the Free Churches become submerged in the flood; some altogether disappearing, some carry on an uncertain existence as missions run by wealthier churches on the outskirts or beyond the borders.The hon. Gentleman's conclusion was this—and here he is dealing with the 1172 question of how the masses are to be reached—I am profoundly convinced that this must come through the only body possessing at present machinery adequate to the needs, and claiming authority to cover the whole ground—the National Established Church of England.I ask the House to consider that. The fact is that we have no reasons for Disendowment.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Will the hon. Gentleman forgive me for a moment. In his arguments he has not touched upon the real argument that influences most of us on this side, and that is that these endowments are national property and not the property of the Church.
§ Mr. CAVE
I did not hear the hon. Gentleman's argument, as I was absent when he spoke; but if he gave that reason, I think I have disposed of it in the first-part of my remarks. It is founded upon history—what I believe to be a false view of history. Endowments never were national in any sense of the word, and if they were the property passed eight or nine hundred years ago, which I said was enough. That is another of the long series of different reasons given for Disendowment. I think I am not uncharitable in inferring that they are not the real reasons which move hon. Members opposite. They are excuses. I wish hon. Members would give us their real reason—I mean the motive which impels them to do this. What good do you expect to do by this Act? I was told the other day by a Nonconformist friend of mine that what moved him was that if you disestablished the Church without disendowing it the Church would still be too strong. I have not heard that said in public, and I do not think it will be avowed in this House. But I hope hon. Members will search their minds and see whether some feeling of that kind, perhaps without their knowledge, does not move them. If it be true, that is not the way to pursue equality—to weaken the Church in order that your Churches may be more nearly equal to her. If there is any injustice, any inequality that can be brought before the House as between the different Churches in this country, I think I may say of all of us that we will gladly try to understand it and do our best to join in trying to remedy it. But if you, the free churches, prefer to follow the other course, if you are determined to wreck and spoil the Church to which we are attached, then that Church will indeed rise above you, for you will sink below 1173 her level. If you take everything from the Church of England, she will still possess the memory that through the dark years she, almost unaided, kept alive in the villages and slums of this country that light of faith which it is often difficult to keep, and always bitter to lose, while your Churches, if they join in this attempt, will have marred their annals of which, so far, they are justly proud, by complicity in what I believe will be an unforgettable wrong.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
The very remarkable and very lucid speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman seems to me to make one despair of there ever being a possibility of any kind of understanding between the two sides of this House on the question at issue. In the year 18S6 a resolution was moved, and was supported by a large majority of the Welsh party, to the effect that the Establishment of the Church in Wales was an injustice to Wales. If hon. Members opposite cannot realise that the Welsh people feel that this Church is an injustice to them, the whole of our Debate is an absolute waste of time. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, and other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side, are continually asking what is the Nonconformist grievance in Wales? The curious thing is that it is so difficult for some people to realise that the opinion of many of us is that the establishment of any one religion—much more any one denomination—by the State, must be a direct derogation of every other denomination which exists. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Certainly, because the State assumes by its action that that one denomination is in some way superior to the others, otherwise it would not establish it. Supposing, for instance, we propose to establish the Baptist religion; that the Baptist denomination should be put in the place of the Church of England. Is there a single member of the Church of England who would not enter the most vehement protest, and would not feel that his Church was being derogated and lowered from its present level? I would like to draw the attention of hon. Members opposite to a speech made by an eminent leader of theirs. I refer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. Speaking in 1885, at Glasgow, he said: —I say, then, that for political as well is for social reasons, and in the interest of religion itself. I am a Liberationist. I would free the Church from State control, whether in England, in Scotland, or in Wales: and my opinion on the subject is entirely strengthened 1174 by my belief that the appropriation to the service of a single sect of funds which were originally designed for the benefit of the whole nation is an injustice.That statement was made by one of the leaders of the party opposite in 1885. To-every word of that statement we adhere to-day. I have no reason to believe that the right hon. Gentleman himself has changed his opinion one iota since he made that speech. It is absurd to come here and pretend that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not know what our position is. It is absurd to come here after all these-years and say, "What is your grievance1?" Those grievances have been stated very clearly, specifically, and definitely. We maintain that the union of the State and the Church is a bad thing both for the Church and for the State. We object to it as a fundamentally wrong principle. One would like to quote historical research, and I think we should prove without contradiction that from the days of the Priest-Kings of the Egyptian Dynasties, during the times of the Pope and Kings of Rome, and through all the days of the Priest-Kings who ever existed, the religious life has always suffered; religion has suffered, and the State has suffered. You will not find a single great reformer in the Church in these periods. They dominated the so-called established Church at that time, whatever the religion may have been. Look over the great names of those who were reformers in religion or founders of religion, and who desired to put new thought and the quickening light of spiritual interest into the apathy of the established organisations. They all have to fight the Establishment in existence. Apart from questions of majorities, and Wales, many of us believe that the union of Church and State is a thing fundamentally wrong.
The union of Church and State in the twentieth century is an anachronism which cannot be defended. All through these-Debates, when we are discussing what ought to be a most vital subject, you find that the average Member of Parliament feels, and feels rightly, that it is no longer his duty or business to enter into theological controversy or to attack or defend this system. The idea that we are still living in a time when we have the Church in this country subject to legislation and subject to the jurisdiction of this House, and that we as Members of Parliament are bound in duty to occupy ourselves with legislation on that subject by this House is an anachronism which nothing but long use has made hon. Members opposite believe in. If 1175 anyone came down to this House to-day and proposed to endow any Church in Wales, or elsewhere, how many Members could he find to support him, and because this thing has existed so long, and because you are used to it, and because you have long history and tradition behind it, is no argument why a change should not be made, or why it should continue. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken denied the analogy between the Irish Church, Disestablishment, and the proposals with regard to the Welsh Church. The only point he made was that the connection between the Irish Church and the English Church was much more recent than that between the English and the Welsh Church. I suppose he meant that the former connection between the Irish and the English Church dated from the Act of Union, while that between the English and the Welsh Church dated from somewhere about the thirteenth century. I do not think that point affects the analogy in the slightest degree.
Looked at broadly, what is the analogy? You have two Celtic Churches, the Irish and the Welsh Churches, they both had forced upon them what was an outside Church, namely, the English Church. In both of those countries you find, in varying degrees and different lines, that the population never accepted this Chucrh forced upon them as a national Church. It is quite true that in the case of the Irish Church the Irish people clung to their old Irish faith and never joined the Reformed Church of England, and that was one of the most potent arguments used by Mr. Gladstone in 1869. But let me point out that the Welsh case is much stronger. Why? Because in Wales this Church at one time had possession of the whole soul of the people, and it was due to nothing but their own attitude that they lost the unanimous majority and became the Church merely of a small minority. Mr. Gladstone in 1869, and not only Mr. Gladstone, but the House of Commons and the Sovereign used the argument that the Church of England in Ireland being the Church of a small minority, and a Church out of keeping with the desires of the great majority of the population of that country, was good and sufficient and reasonable ground to Disestablish and Disendow that Church.
Surely, if you admit there is such a thing as the Welsh people, then even a more unanswerable claim than Mr. Gladstone ever had for the Disestablishment of the 1176 English Church in Ireland exists for Disestablishment in Wales. In both cases the Church of England is the Church of the minority; in both cases owing to voluntary effort among the poorest of the community they have supplied their own religious needs, and that is a point which I wish to enforce, that in matters of religious opinion the Nonconformists in Wales say they do not ask for the Churches which you put into their parishes. The hon. and learned Member and hon. Members opposite generally keep on explaining that the English Church has churches in all the rural parishes. But what is the use of having churches if you have not got congregations for them? It is a notorious fact that in most of these churches in the rural parishes on any Sunday you will only find the clergyman and the members of his family as the congregation. The people of the Principality, with great sacrifice to themselves, put their hands in their own pockets whenever necessary to provide for their own religious needs. Every argument used in this Debate was used in 1869. I am very glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down admitted that Disestablishment and Disendowment go hand in hand. That is a very valuable admission from our point of view.
§ Sir A. MOND
He does not agree then that Disestablishment and Disendowment go hand in hand. That question was argued at great length in 1869, and neither Mr. Disraeli nor any of the Conservative leaders of that time had any doubt upon the subject. That point has been examined, and perhaps it might be advisable to emphasise it now. It was one of the points very seriously raised in 1869, and it was said and agreed by all parties that to leave a Church Disestablished, and a non-State institution in control of State funds was an unthinkable proposition. The novel doctrine has sprung up now, and a school has sprung up, who wish for all the privileges of State Establishment and none of the disadvantages. They want to be relieved from the control of the House of Commons, but to keep their endowments secured by Act of Parliament. The 1177 hon. and learned Member made an extraordinary statement when he talked about Queen Anne's Bounty as an endowment. It was not an endowment; it was the alienation of Crown property to the Church of England. Queen Anne had no right to alienate that property; it was the property of the Crown and of the nation, and the hon. and learned Member admitted that from the time of Henry VIII. to Queen Anne this property had been Crown property, and we claim we have right to realienate that property much better than Queen Anne ever had to alienate Crown property to particular Churches. When hon. Members ask why we want to Disendow the Church it seems to me the argument, from our point of view, is very simple. The hon. and learned Member says, "You want to take away our property." We say, "You are in possession of our property," that is the whole difference. If the hon. and learned Gentleman convinced me that tithes and Queen Anne's Bounty and the glebe lands were the property of the Church of England, I never would seek to disendow it, but I maintain that tithes are a tax, and I have such eminent authority as Mr. Justice Phillimore for that statement. Mr. Justice Phillimore, on 31st May, 1803, in a letter to the "Guardian," said:—The earliest tithe payers acted, no doubt, under the influence of the idea (derived, I believe, like some other Judiac ideas, from the clerical and literary circle of Charlemagne) that they were under religious duty to give the tenth of their income to the Church. But when this idea had once taken root in public opinion, anyone who refuses to pay tithe was treated as a breaker of the law of the Church and was subject to excommunication. If this had no terrors for him, the aid of the secular arm was implored, and by a process which ultimately took form in the writ De excommunicatio capiendo, he was cast into prison. Thus the voluntary subscription became a tax. If this bit of legal history be correct there was no 'giving' of tithe except by some early Saxons during their lives. All subsequent tithe is a tax imposed by the State for the benefit, in the first instant, of the Church.I have never seen that seriously controverted by any serious lawyer. Caxton, Coke, and Seldon all agree that tithes were essentially a tax, and the Statute Book of this country is full of Statutes from the time of Edward to 1836 dealing with this matter. There is one point which hon. Members opposite never deal with in this controversy. If tithes are not a tax, and if tithes are grants of land, how do they explain the coercion, and how can anybody grant a portion of any man's labour, which is certainly as large a part of the ordinary tithes as any part of the increase in the produce of the land? Is it seriously maintained that once upon a 1178 time tithes were personal. If, on the other hand, it is maintained that tithes were a tax enforced by law, and that you have a fight now to have them granted, then why introduce the pious ancestor? Hon Members opposite address themselves to entirely opposite bases; one moment it is the pious gift of tithes by a pious ancestor whom we can never discover, and when they find that inconvenient they brush it aside and answer, it is enough to say we had them since the Reformation. They must either drop one of these arguments or the other. They cannot one moment contend that they are in possession of them for 900 years, and the next moment that they are in possession of them only for 300 years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Obviously they cannot say at one moment we do not care what happened before the Reformation, and then when they find that argument does not suit them, turn to the other. They must either deal with the whole historical case or none of it. In this Debate they use these arguments for different purposes.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir A. MOND
I did not say you could not hold the same property for 300 years or 900 years. I say you cannot argue that your title is derived from a pious ancestor 900 years ago, and when we ask who was the pious ancestor, they answer, we hold it for 300 years, and that is enough for us. It cannot be disputed that a great deal of land which is titheable to-day was never titheable until recent times, neither is it disputed that a portion of the tithes belonged to the poor, and that, some time or other, they got into the hands of the Church. Now, if tithes were originally a tax enforced by the State for the purposes of a religious denomination, surely they cannot be defended in a place like Wales, where four-fifths of the population no longer belong to that body, and surely we are entitled to say that this tax ought not to be enforced any longer for the benefit of one small part of the community. That leads me to another point. Hon. Members opposite admit that there is some unfairness and injustice in the fact that the body which provides by law the spiritual service for Wales, is a body which is now in a minority. We are told that this Bill proposes to take money from the spiritual service and utilise it for secular purposes, 1179 and we are asked why cannot we have concurrent endowments? Concurrent endowment was one of the points of discussion in the year 1869, and then neither Nonconformists nor Catholics would accept, any more then than they will to-day, any form of State endowment. You cannot endow people who will not be endowed, and the Churches which have grown up on their own basis are not prepared to go back on State control merely for monetary advantages. Therefore you cannot concurrently endow, and if that is so, what is the only other course open to us. It is to utilise this money for other objects, and such objects as are for the general benefit of the whole community, including members of all religious bodies and beliefs, and that is what we propose to do under this Bill. It is easy to say that we are taking money from a spiritual organisation and handing it over to museums. I do not know why hon. Members opposite have such a contempt for museums. I am glad that in this House we have been spared some of the language which was addressed to us outside the House, and which has been sent to us in resolutions, accusing us of robbing God in order to benefit secular institutions. To my mind I think a great many of those who have framed those resolutions have not really thought what the meaning of their words is. In this connection I cannot say anything in a better way than that which was said in 1869 by Mr. John Bright on the charge of sacrilege and spoliation which was brought against the Irish Church Bill. He said:I hope it is not fur from Christianity to charity, and we know that the Divine Author of our Faith has left much more of the doings of a compassionate and loving heart than He has of dogma…Do yon think, therefore, that it will lie a misappropriation of the surplus funds to apply them to some kind of object as that which is described in the Bill? He you not rather think, from the charitable dealing of the Bill, that a sweeter incense may arise than when these vast funds are applied to maintain three times the number 'Of clergymen than can be of the slightest use to the Church with which they are connected?The hon. and learned Member opposite said nobody had alleged that the funds of the Church of England in Wales were not required in the rural districts. I wish to point out that that is not altogether correct. We maintain that in the rural parishes of Wales you are carrying on a large organisation for which there is no demand. I will admit, if you like, that in some urban districts you could do with more money, but you do not propose to find that money under the present organisation. We have been told that it is 1180 impossible to reallocate the money which is now being wasted in rural districts to densely populated centres. That, however, is not so, and there is a much closer analogy there than the hon. and learned Member seems to think. I will quote in this connection the words of a bishop of this very Church, Dr. Thirlwall, the Bishop of St. David's, who, speaking in the House of Lords on the 15th June, 1869, in justification of his vote for the Second Reading of the Irish Church Bill, denied that the property of the Irish Church was in any special sense the "property of God." He said:—Charitable donations, whether of a cathedral or a market, were equally acceptable as offerings to God. If a trustee were given discretion to appropriate the one or the other funds bequeathed to his care, his decision ought not to depend on the superior sanctity of the destination, but on the local need or the general usefulness. It was not a question between God and man, but between one kind of gift beneficial to society and another.Those arguments hold absolutely good to-day. Those of us who are supporting this Bill are not animated by any blind hatred of any one Church or any desire to cripple it, but we feel an injustice is being committed. We feel in Wales that the Welsh Church is anti-national, anti-democratic, out of touch with the people, and out of touch with the majority, and yet it is in a superior position. The funds it is using were originally meant for the nation as a whole, and were national funds. I do not say that in a legal sense, but more in the sense in which Mr. Gladstone spoke on the Irish Church Bill. Mr. Gladstone put the point more clearly than I have ever heard it put by any speaker. Speaking in the House of Commons on 23rd March, 1869, he said:—There is a trust—whether in the legal sense I know not; but in the political, the social, the moral sense, there is a trust impressed upon this property from first to last for the benefit of the nation. It was for the nation that the property was given. It is true it was given to corporations. Yes; but why? Not that they might enjoy it as private property, but that they might hold it on condition of duty. They were only convenient symbols - convenient media for its conveyance from generation to generation. The real meaning, scope, and object was that through them it should be applied for all time to the benefit of the entire population of the kingdom.That is what we mean when we speak of this property as national property. We know that legally it belongs to the Ecclesiastical Corporations, but we maintain, as Mr. Gladstone maintained, in 1869, that there is a trust imposed upon this property which the Church of England in Wales cannot carry out, and therefore they have no longer any right to that property. You may be anxious for people to come to 1181 your banquet, but if they will not accept your invitation you are not bound to go on providing banquets. You may be anxious that the people of Wales should come to your Church, but they do not belong to your Church, and however good your intentions are, or however excellent your work is, you cannot claim that you are fulfilling the original trust. I am astonished that hon. Members opposite who are members of the richest Church in the world, whose congregation consists of all the richest men in the country, attach such an enormous importance to the relatively small amount of money which is dealt with under this Bill. There are plenty of Churchmen in Wales well able to fill up this gap. I notice in one of the circulars which has been sent to me it is stated that if this Bill passes Churchmen will no longer be able to give anything to the poor because they will have to find the money for their own ministers, a thing which Nonconformists are doing every day throughout the length and breadth of the land. I really wonder sometimes whether that is an argument which will impress any one.
I am astonished that there are not more hon. Members on the Opposition side anxious to throw off the control of the House of Commons over the Church, and I am surprised that they are not prepared to make the necessary financial sacrifice to achieve this purpose. The hon. Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith), whose knowledge of Wales I should think is extremely limted, told us that this Bill would produce bitterness and strife, but that is not the opinion of those who understand this question a great deal better than he does. I am speaking on this question with an impartial mind, and I have been more than surprised to find the intensity of feeling which exists on this subject in Wales. The right hon. and learned Member for Walton, in the reference he made in his argument to the Minimum Wage Bill, showed an absolute ignorance of the Welsh working classes. There is sitting in this House one of the oldest leaders of the miners of South Wales, and I am sure he will agree with me when I say that there is not one Welsh Labour Member who would get himself adopted in a Welsh constituency if he did not declare himself in favour of Disestablishment and Disendowment. It is useless to tell us that there is no demand and no mandate for this Bill in Wales, and I defy any hon. Members of this House to get elected for a Welsh constituency who is 1182 not sound on this question. Hon. Members opposite tell us that the people of Wales do not want this measure. But what further proof could they have than the state of things which has existed for the last twenty-five years. When the hon. Members for Denbigh boroughs states that the Welsh people do not want this measure he is simply making a travesty and a farce of a serious matter. The Welsh people want this Bill and they mean to have it, and if they do not get it now they will have it some day.
What you have to recognise is that you cannot meet this demand by a blind foolish policy. I am sure there are many people in Wales and out of it who would be glad to see an end to this controversy, and there are many who will be glad to see the matter settled with more or less common consent. It is not a pleasant task to go about the country arguing that one religious body is much superior to another, and yet that is bound to continue until this question is got out of the way. Surely it would be much better for all parties if a bridge could be built in order to get this matter settled once and for all. I shall not be disturbed in the least by all the invective that will be poured on my head in regard to this question. There is the Church Defence Organisation with almost unlimited resources, devoting its time to inflaming the Welsh people against this Bill, and some of us felt it was only right our case should be presented to them in the best way. We have not the privileges of the Church, and neither do we want enormous sums left in order to—
§ Sir A. MOND
The amount is a good deal less than that of the Church Defence Committee. The point I am making is, that it is not fair to represent my endeavours in that direction as an attempt to raise money to obtain a mandate. The mandate is clear. If some hon. Members opposite could attend the Convention in Wales, they would find there is not so much the necessity for obtaining a mandate as for explaining why we have not got this Bill. The Welsh people and Welsh Liberals have been very patient, but they are not going to wait patiently for ever. Some hon. Members on this side look askance at this Bill, but, if they think the patience of Welsh Liberal Members is to be disregarded, and that we are going to stand that treatment for ever, 1183 they are very much mistaken. This Bill has got to be passed. The Welsh people will see it is passed. The Welsh Liberal Members have only got one duty. It is to make it certain this Bill will be passed, and we shall certainly all do the best we can. It is useless to ask us to wait another twenty years, and I suppose another twenty years, and another twenty years, a process of eternal procrastination lasting apparently to infinity. One hon. Member opposite interrupted my hon. Friend who said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) said twenty years ago, "Disestablishment must come," and said, "Why not wait another twenty years?" We have waited twenty years, but we have no intention of waiting another twenty years, and I do not think the great mass of the Nonconformists of England intend that we shall wait another twenty years.
§ Sir A. MOND
The Welsh people. They are the people concerned, and they are the only people we represent in this matter. I would like to draw the attention of the House—I think it is right it should be done—to a resolution which was passed on 3rd May, 1912, by the General Committee of the National Free Church Council, an English organisation, representing the whole of the Free Churches in this country:—That in view of the repeatedly expressed declaration of the National Free Church Council at its annual assemblies in favour of the principle of religious equality and definitely of the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Anglican Church in Wales, we confidently look to all progressive representatives in Parliament to stand loyally by the Government in securing the passage of the Bill now introduced. We also appeal to all friends of religious equality to stand by the just demands of the Welsh nation and help the wider movement for liberating the Church from State control.As our mandate is sometimes questioned, I would like to read a resolution I received the other day from the Quarterly Association of the North Wales Calvinistic Methodists:—That we, the Quarterly Association of the Calvinistic Methodists of North Wales representing 168,364 adherents, express our gratification that His Majesty's Government, by introducing their measure for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church of England in Wales, has met the demands which Wales, consistently and by overwhelming majorities for forty years, has made for religious equality.That, while we adhere strongly to the conviction that the ancient endowments are national possessions, we are prepared to approve of the provisions of the Bill of the Government, although it grants to the Anglican Church much property which, in strict justice, should be restored to the service of the nation as a whole.1184 Yet we have been told the Welsh people do not know what they are talking about, and that Disendowment has never entered into their minds. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who said that?"] It was said, I think, by an hon. Member who recently exchanged a Welsh seat for a seat in Nottingham, and' the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Bridgeman) said something similar. One-thing is certain, and that is the demand1 has been consistent. We hold, and I think it cannot be contraverted, that our demand is just. The fact that the Church requires funds is no reply to the demand of a nation which requires these funds, and the application of the funds is also a question for the nation and for nobody else. We are told it is not our business to give advice to the Church of England. I heartily concur. It is the last thing I would endeavour to do. I agree it is not for us to ask whether endowment or Disendowment is better for the Church or not, but it is not for hon. Members opposite to argue whether the Welsh people want to spend this national money on cottage hospitals or on churches.
§ Sir A. MOND
It is their money. Who is paying the tithe? It is the Welsh, people. Nobody else is paying it. That is the whole fundamental difference between us, and that is the reason we consider we are entitled to Disendow the Church. We may argue this question in as friendly manner as we may, but we-shall have difficulty in convincing the one side or the other. The hon. and learned Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave) said, "You have got some sinister, hidden motive." I say that is not the case. Our motives are based on what we consider justice. The Welsh people have stood firm and true to the country in which they live and to their faith in election after election for generation after generation, and hon. Members may make up their minds that as far as Wales is concerned, as there has been no going back in the fight, neither will there be in the future. We expect and hope that once and for all this question will be settled in this Parliament, so that we may be able to devote ourselves to other purposes with energies equal to those with which the Welsh people have-devoted themselves to the struggle in which we are engaged to-day.
§ Captain TRYON
I am very glad it has fallen to my lot to have an opportunity of 1185 speaking on behalf of those Welshmen who are members of the Church of England, and who view this Bill with its crippling effect upon their work with the greatest anxiety. I have seen something of them in other parts of Wales, and also in the constituency of the hon. Member who has just addressed the House, and I venture to say it is not for him to charge these Welshmen who are also Churchmen with being anti-national. I do not quite know the definition of a nation, but we had one last night from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Masterman), who told us that a nation was—an entity, mystical and immortal, composed of varieties of race."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th May, 1912, col. 1069.]I think that definition must have been made to include the hon. Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond). The Financial Secretary to the Treasury used certain terms of grave reproach against the Church, and those words were quoted by my hon. Friend just now. He charged the Church of England with complacency, arrogance, cowardice, moderation, and worldliness. But my hon. Friend, when he quoted that, did not add that in a very different part of his speech the Financial Secretary took, and I think wisely took, the precaution of saying he was "a loyal Churchman." I do not much care for loyalty which takes that form, and I should like to ask him, and others who throughout this Debate have been making strong and I am afraid sometimes bitter attacks against the Church of England, why, if this is a Bill to benefit the Church, it is necessary, in order to justify it, to make such a violent attack upon the Church? If the Bill is really to benefit the Church, surely it is not necessary to bring a series of charges against the Church in order to justify the introduction of the measure. I will not go further into the speech of the Financial Secretary except to allude to two parts. In one place he brought charges which ought never to have been made against the faith of congregations in London. Beyond recording the fact that this charge was made, I think it is best not to make any comment, but I cannot see what the faith of those who worship in St. George's, Hanover Square, has got to do with the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. I think it is all part of a campaign against those who are believed to be well off, and it is not religious but purely political in its motive. As part of that campaign, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury told us that in some parts 1186 of the country men are working longer hours or are working for less wages than they might receive in order that these tithes may be paid. Used in this House, that language deceives nobody who has read the Bill, but, if those speeches are going to be made about the country, we shall know that attempts are being made to get votes by promises which are false. Nobody knows better than the Financial Secretary that tithes will go on being paid under the Bill as before, but to try to get votes by promising the Welsh people shorter hours or higher wages is to make promises which have no foundation whatever in the Bill. I must ask the pardon of the House for alluding to one or two small arguments which have been put from the other side, and which ought to be answered. The hon. Member for Mid-Glamorgan (Mr. Hugh Edwards), whose speech certainly formed a very remarkable contrast to that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), said:—As far back as 1623, Dr. Lewis Baily, Bishop of Bangor referred to the wicked neglect and degradation of the clergy.What is the object in going back to those times? The truth is they have to go back a long time in order to discover material for any charges against the Church. There was one hon. Member who had a complaint to make against St. Augustine. Another complained because a certain archbishop went down into Wales guarded by mailed warriors, but that was too far ago to be of material import concerning this Bill. If the hon. Member thinks that a mission is to be condemned because it is guarded by "warriors," perhaps he will get the First Lord of the Admiralty to develop that argument in the debate on Home Rule at Belfast. Then we have been told by the Home Secretary that it is a charge against the Church that it sometimes has bishops who cannot speak Welsh. I do not believe the Liberal party make a knowledge of the Welsh language a condition compulsory in the case of their own candidates. When the Home Secretary made that charge he knew well that there are now in the Church in Wales bishops of Welsh origin speaking the Welsh language. But I have only brought up these points to emphasise this, that at a time when charges are being collected against the Church in order to justify this robbery, those who bring those charges have to go back and ransack all history in order to collect a little mud to throw at the Church.
1187 If you want to condemn the Church let us be told what it is is wrong with it today. The Prime Minister spoke of its "beneficent and growing activity." If the work of the Church is beneficent, what is the good of going back hundreds of years in order to get material for charges against it? I can tell the House why it is done. It is an endeavour to justify a measure of which you are beginning to be ashamed. It is an endeavour to justify a spoliation which you know to be wrong. It is an endeavour to justify your attack on the Church, and in order to do this, you find you have to bring up charges hundreds of years old. The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones) spoke with natural pride of the fact that his father had worked in the Congregational Church. I have seen something of the work of that Church. I feel the hon. Member had something of which he may naturally be proud. But what did he say? He said his father became chairman to the Congregational Union of England and Wales, thus showing that his father although a Welshman [An HON. MEMBER: "He was not a Welsh minister; he was a minister in London."] My point is that the Congregational body have a joint union for England and Wales, and that this Welshman went to London and was appointed chairman of that body. I want to emphasise the fact that it is a union for England and Wales. We claim the same rights for the Church of England. The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division spoke on the question of endowments, and suggested that circumstances might arise which would prevent the wishes of the pious founder being respected, and that, if they were respected in his lifetime, it was as much as could reasonably be expected. Surely that is a new doctrine—that the wishes of a founder who gives his money for definite purposes should only be respected during his lifetime. Obviously with such a doctrine you can do anything you like with money left for public purposes after the death of the testator.
I am not moved by the statements which have been made with regard to the proportion of Members for Wales who are in favour of this measure. We do not look at this point as a question of arithmetic. It is with us a question of honesty. We also are unmoved when we are told that the Home Secretary is going to leave us 6s. 8d. in the £. We do not feel at all grateful to him for that. Again, I must 1188 say honesty is not a question of proportion, it is a question of principle; and we hold that this money is clearly money which was, in the first place, devoted to religious purposes, and that it ought to remain so devoted. When hon. Members attempt to justify a certain thing which may not be very wise, they frequently use high-sounding words; for instance, when the Labour party are resisting the reference of some measure to the people they generally open their argument by describing themselves as strong democrats. Much in the same way, where any measure of unfairness or of an arbitrary character is put forward it is generally defended at the beginning by some talk about liberty. In the name of liberty the Church is going to be deprived of its property against the overwhelming desire of its membership. This is to be done in the name of equality, and you are to have this arrangement, that, subject to certain regulations with regard to trusts, twenty-five years will give the Nonconformist bodies a Parliamentary title to their endowments, while 250 years means to the Church not a Parliamentary title, but Parliamentary confiscation. We have heard something about charity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that we had really high authority for giving to the poor. So we have; but are you giving to the poor under this Bill? The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of the desire "to relieve distress of those who suffer." But what is it people are suffering from? Is it from the lack of museums? He tells us that the money will be devoted to "the highest and most sacred Christian purposes." But I do not think anybody will contend that endowing a museum is the highest and most sacred Christian purpose.
There was another part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which had more hope in it and which had a better spirit in it, and that was when he spoke of the great ceremony at Carnarvon. Nobody who reads the right hon. Gentleman's speech can do so without feeling that he realised how much that great ceremony meant to the people of Wales, and how, into the dry bones of what might have been otherwise a mere legal ceremony, there was breathed a live spirit, which made the Welsh people feel that they were taking part in a great religious ceremony in which all the Churches joined. When we think of our Coronation services here in London last year, and of the great ceremony in Wales to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer 1189 referred, we must feel it is rather in realising these great truths of religion, it is rather in working together in co-operation among the Churches, that we shall advance on the line of progress. I cannot believe those who contend that the road to reconciliation lies through robbery. We shall oppose this Bill to the utmost of our power. I, for one, believe it will never become law; but at least this we can promise: we shall throughout offer it most uncompromising resistance.
§ Mr. LEACH
I listened with a good deal of interest to the speech just delivered, and to many of the other speeches made on this subject from the other side of the House. I have been not a little distressed to find that so many speakers on that side, and especially on the Front Bench, have imputed improper motives to those who sit on this side. They have charged Liberal Members, indirectly if not directly, with wishing to destroy the Church of England. Whatever may be the case with others, that certainly is not true of the Member for the Colne Valley. I rejoice greatly in every word that has been spoken in this House which refers to the increase of the Church of England. I am glad that at last she is awakening from her long sleep and shaking herself free from the indifferent slumbers which have marked her course in days gone by. A true Christian rejoices in the success of that Church, especially should that success quicken the other Christian Churches to put forth efforts to achieve a like success. I say with all sincerity and earnestness that those who have charged us with wishing to destroy or injure the Church has slandered us. We wish her every blessing that she can secure, and every blessing that she deserves. If I may speak for myself, I may say that the Church of England in Wales has no greater admirer than I in regard to the devotion displayed by her clergy. I have often sat in my study at the feet, so to speak, of her great scholars; I have often entered her ancient and historic buildings, and not once, but often, in my public ministries have I prayed for the success of that great Church which all my ancestors, as far as they had any religion, once belonged to. I will lift no finger so far as I am concerned to injure the Church as a religious institution.
But we distinguish between the Establishment of that Church and the Church as a spiritual and religious institution. In the first place it is created by the State.
1190 It is a Church established by Parliament. In the second place religion stands on an altogether different footing; it should not be a function of Parliament at all. If I could injure the Church as a spiritual institution, I could not find it in my heart to do it. But I do want to destroy the Establishment, and to sever the connection between Church and State. I am glad I have lived to see the introduction of this Bill, and to have a seat in this Parliament at its introduction. I want to give the House in a very few words—I never occupy its time very long, I believe I have never exceeded ten minutes, and I wish others would follow my example in that respect—I wish to give some reason why I think that this Bill should be carried into law. This Episcopal Church in Wales is no longer the Church of the Welsh nation. Whatever may have been true of her in the past that cannot be said of her now. We are told that three - fourths of the Welsh people are outside the Episcopal Church in Wales, and that they are outside by their own choice. They do not attend her ministry, and they do not want that ministry, though they are a very religious people. The Welsh people demand separation, and I think that they make that demand in the most constitutional way known to them. They have sent for many years a large number of representatives to this House, and you have been told this afternoon that no person can be nominated as a Liberal candidate in Wales if he does not believe in Disestablishment and Disendowment.
The Welsh Members, who come to this House pledged to Disestablishment and Disendowment, are simply the mouthpieces of the Welsh people who elect them. They would not be here otherwise. Wales asks for this separation as the extension of what she believes, rightly or wrongly, and what I have believed for a long series of years to be what is right and just. She asks for religious equality. She believes that so long as one Church is connected with the law there will not be that equality she desires to see. The Welsh people hold, and I agree with them, that all forms of religion should be equal before the law, and that the law should protect all in their religious rights. I hold, and the Welshmen hold, that no civil, nor social, nor political advantage should be given to any man because of his religious belief, neither should he suffer because of his non-religious belief. I am a Nonconformist by conviction. I have 1191 already stated that all my ancestors, so far as they had any religious convictions— and I have traced them back a very long way—were Church of England. I was born into its atmosphere, and one of my earliest recollections is that of being taken to the parish church by my relatives. I am a Nonconformist, and it is by conviction. As a Nonconformist, I claim equality before the law with any Churchman. But you will not give it to me. I live in England, and I speak of English conditions. You put upon me, as a Nonconformist, a civil disability, and upon mine a disability. For instance, my daughter is a teacher and distinguished as a certificated teacher. She could not have obtained the post of head teacher in one of the many thousands of schools which are supported by the State unless prepared to forswear the religion of her mother and forsake the faith of her father. I say that is wrong, and that you cannot expect me to support any religious disability being placed upon any man because of his religious belief.
Religious belief is a question between the man and his Maker. The State cannot create religious faith; it can create the Establishment, but not religious faith. It cannot destroy it, and it ought not therefore to attempt to control it. The Establishment of the Church, like that which now exists in Wales, makes the Church a Department of the State, makes her clergy Civil servants, and places at the head of the Church the monarch of the realm. We Nonconformists, who understand Nonconformity, say that we are as loyal as any living man to his gracious Majesty in his own sphere, but we say that in the Church of Christ, Christ Himself is the Head, and, as the old Puritans used to say:—To think any other is a derogation of the Crown rights of King Jesus.I have heard it said again and again in this Debate that if the Church in Wales is Disestablished there will be no Christian service in a large number of parishes. Only one of two things can be said of those who make that statement—the first I will not say is true of any Member in this House— that they are either very wicked or very ignorant of what Nonconformity is. Anybody who understands Nonconformity could not stand up in this House and say that a clergyman of the Church of England or a regular ordained minister of any denomination is necessary for Christian service. Without a clergyman you can have 1192 Christian service. We hold that all the Churches can go on without an ordained minister. The Churches over which I have had the honour of presiding as pastor were complete without me. The deacons and elders of those Churches, men selected because of their devotion and spirituality of life, could administer, and do administer in Wales and in England, where there is no recognised minister, the ordinances of the Church. So we say that without a recognised duly ordained minister all the services can be continued. It is for those on the other side of the House to show that without a clergyman no religious ordinances can be administered. The Holy Sacraments will be administered in Wales, and are administered in Wales, without the aid of a clergyman. I am not speaking against the clergyman, he is my brother, and I respect and love him. Visitation is carried on where there is no clergyman, alms are distributed, and, if I may say so with all reverence, the consolations of our holy religion are administered to the dying even where there is no ordained clergyman. We believe in the priesthood of believers. Where they call an ordained minister to preside over them it is so much to their credit, but they can, and do, carry on all these religious services.
Men and women in Wales have built their churches and chapels. They are not always beautiful, sometimes they are ugly, but the people like them, and they subscribe the money for them. The men and women in Wales are among the most religious people in any part of the United Kingdom, not excepting even Scotland. I hope Scotchmen will excuse me for that reference. They may have no stately cathedrals in which to worship. I should like to see them have them. They have no ancient liturgy, they have no surpliced choirs to lead them in their service of song, they have no ornate service at all, and yet they worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness in the hills and valleys of Wales, as sincerely and as devoutly as any worship in the Epispocal churches throughout the Principality. To say that there can be no worship where there is no clergyman is to represent what I know is not true. Welshmen believe, and I believe they are right, that the best interests of the Church as a spiritual institution will be promoted by a separation from the State. I need not refer to the example of the Irish Church, beyond saying that I made inquiry some years after 1193 that Church was Disestablished, and before the Royal University of Ireland was abolished. I was speaking to one of its officers, he being an educated layman in that Church, and I asked him the effect of Disestablishment upon the spiritual life of that Church. He said that so far as the spiritual life of the Church was concerned, nothing ever happened which was better for the Church than its separation from the State. With the example of the Irish Church before us, we feel that the spiritual life of the Welsh Church will be greatly improved. I say most sincerely, most earnestly and devoutly, although I am a Nonconformist and an ardent Radical—too Radical for many of my comrades—that if I could believe that this Bill would injure the Church in Wales as a spiritual institution, nothing would induce me to vote for it. I love religion too well, and have served her interests too long, ever to lift my finger to do what I thought would injure the progress of religion in any Church, but I do support this Bill, because I do not believe that it will injure, but rather that it will assist the Church in Wales.
I want to say a few words about endowments. I have been a pastor, but I am no longer an ordained minister. I resigned my Church and salary to be a candidate for this House, and, if I may say so, I served the House and the nation by winning the seat I did win. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad you acknowledge it; you have never acknowledged it before, and, if somewhat tardy, I am glad that you see it now. I do not quite agree with all that has been said in this House about endowments. I have in my lifetime been the pastor of four churches. The social position of the people in those four was very much the same. One of those churches had an endowment, not a very ancient endowment, but still an endowment. I say it reverently and respectfully, that the other three churches contributed more in proportion towards the upkeep than did the endowed church. It was not sufficiently endowed for the endowment to pay all its expenses, but my belief was, and still is, that the endowment, small as it was, did not a little to prevent the outflow of the gifts of the people, although they were a generous people, and gave largely to the support of religion and to the support of the poor. As to these endowments, I can well understand that the Church of England has had them so long, and has come 1194 to rely so much upon them, that she is very unwilling to surrender them. If I could have my way I would give her more than this Bill gives her. I do not mind what my hon. Friends think of me, but I would take a date very much further back than the date of 1662, which is taken in the Bill. I would go back to 1534, the date of the first Act of Uniformity, when Henry VIII. finally broke with the Pope of Rome and made himself the Pope in England and established the Church here. But I shall support this Bill heartily, although it does not go quite so far in that direction as I could wish. I am sure that these endowments were intended for the welfare of the whole of the Welsh nation when they were created. Long since have the Welsh people as a nation ceased to enjoy those endowments. They are held by one Church, and one Church only. The other Churches do not want them, for we do not believe in concurrent endowment. But, having held them so long, it seems to me somewhat hard that you should take from them as much as you can. I would give them rather more than the Bill gives them. Be that as it may, we shall have to fight out the matter in Committee, and in Committee, perhaps, I shall have more to say about being more generous, although this Bill is more generous in regard to this matter than the two Bills which preceded it. These are the reasons why I shall heartily support the Bill and vote for it and hope that it will become law; because the Church is no longer the Church of the Welsh nation; because all forms of religion should be equal before the law; because religious belief is a matter between a man and his Maker, and because the best interests of the Church, its spiritual interests, will be served by its separation from the State.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CATOR
It is exceedingly difficult for many on this side of the House to follow the arguments which have been used from time to time by hon. Members opposite, but we gather, at any rate, that there is a considerable divergence of opinion among those who are in favour of Disestablishing and Disendowing the Church in Wales. Some hon. Members are in favour of both Disestablishment and Disendowment; while others lay more stress on Disendowment and others again on Disestablishment. Although we are all most anxious to do our best to see the case from the other point of view, it is very difficult for us to hear hon. Members 1195 who are not themselves Churchmen assure us that they wish well by the Church and are in earnest in their desire to do her no harm whatever, while at the same time they are anxious to defraud the Church of England in Wales of £173,000. I think we must be forgiven for suspecting such statements as those and the Gentlemen who make them. It is true it would be more easy for us to understand the motives which inspire those statements, if we did not see Nonconformists themselves displaying the very greatest anxiety to build up endowments for themselves, and one has only to look 500 yards from the very Chamber in which we are sitting to see a very handsome building being erected, which, presumably, has some endowment and which goes far to prove that the Non-conformist bodies themselves find that endowments are a great necessity for them. If they do find this to be the case, it is extremely difficult for us Churchmen to understand how they can imagine for a moment that the Church will be a stronger spiritual influence without the £173,000 than she is at present. It has been said by more than one hon. Member that £173,000 is a very small sum, and that it will be very soon made up; but these endowments will not spring forth immediately like Minerva from the head of Jove. They will take at least two generations to build up, and we have to look to the fact that this is going to be a period during which the Church of England will have very great difficulty in fulfilling the spiritual needs of the people she is ministering to at present.
Of course, it is possible to look at the Establishment from many points of view. We have heard a great deal of the privileges which Establishment gives. It is perfectly true that the Establishment of the Church in this country does give certain privileges; but they are worth very little in themselves. But it also imposes considerable restrictions, and the double argument has been used on the other side of the House that it is surely not fair that the Church of England should possess the privileges she does, while on the other hand it has been repeated over and over again that she cannot be in the position which she should be in on account of her dependence upon the State and on account of the number of restrictions to which she has to submit. Churchmen with regard to the restrictions, at any rate, must be the best judges of what they prefer, and I cannot help feeling that what must be our 1196 cardinal point and the bed-rock of all our arguments in regard to this is that we do believe that national recognition is of utility to the State. That seems to me the foundation of our position, and that is where, of course, we differ very largely from hon. Members on the other side. Judged by her history, we ask whether it can truly be said that the Church has failed. I do not think it is possible to say this; but if you are going to destroy the influence that she undoubtedly possesses at the present time, what are you going to put in her place? It is perfectly obvious that no Nonconformist body can take and fill the place that the Church now holds in the country. There are plenty of evidences to show that Nonconformity is not the growing body which many of its members would lead us to suppose it is; and there is no spiritual corporation which can minister to the wants of the people more fully than can and does the national Church of this country. I think one of the strongest points of our established Church, although I daresay there will be numbers of people in the House who will not agree with me, is that from its very composition it is able to follow the national life of this country. That national life is derived in its source from the fact that many of the clergy of the Church of England come from our large universities, and if you compare our national Church with the Churches of any of our dependencies, I do not think it can be denied for a moment that the Church in this country, Established as it is and in connection with the State as it is, is in a far stronger position than any of the Churches, Disestablished as they are, in our Colonies.
How different is the attitude of the State to-day from what it was fifty years ago. Then it was merely concerned in considering the liberty of the subject, the security of property, and the prevention of an invasion by an enemy. Having achieved those objects the State was called upon to do nothing more, but now the whole position is altered and the State enters more and more into our daily life. It has an influence first upon the body of the citizen in that it has established infirmaries all over the country, and even the National Insurance scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer directly deals with the actual bodily wants of the citizen of our country. When you take the mind, you have education in a way that was not the case fifty years ago. You have education and you have Cowper-Temple teaching, which is 1197 strictly established in this country and you may say practically endowed. If you are going to consider the aspect of the body and of the mind, why in the world is no national recognition to be given to the soul? There are many Acts of Parliament dealing with Nonconformist bodies. That has been more and more the case, and the State only quite recently has found it necessary to recognise the claims of labour in the minimum wage. Why in the world, if it is necessary and right to establish the principle of State recognition with regard to labour and with regard to the various aspects of civic life, should it be wrong to give national recognition to spiritual matters? Surely the Church and the State must go hand in hand. There must be an alliance between the two, and it is only when the Church trespasses unduly on the affairs of the State and the State treads unduly upon the heels of the Church that there is disaster. I do not think that we can be sufficiently proud of the comprehensive character of our English Church. I should like to quote the words of the late Cardinal Newman in 1864, which many of us read in the "Times" this morning:—If there were no such thing us absolute truth in religions matters, there is great wisdom in the compromise and comprehension of opinions, and this the Chinch of England exhibits.The analogy between this question and the question as regards Ireland has been mentioned several times. I am not going through all the reasons which have been adduced to prove that there is any similarity between the two. I consider myself that there is none whatever. It seems to me that the only point in common between Ireland and Wales at present is that the Government, for reasons best known to themselves, are intent on trying to pass measures of what we on this side of the House consider to be of the character of destruction at the very moment when in each case there is advancement and certainly increase in prosperity. It is a curious fact that to pass either measure it is necessary that an alliance should exist between the Roman Catholics in Ireland and the Nonconformists in Wales, and that in order to pass Home Rule the Nonconformists in Wales should be prepared to turn a deaf ear to their brethren in Ireland, who right or wrongly, believe that if Home Rule is brought in in Ireland liberty will be denied to them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer on 23rd April, said:—One thing, at any rate, they have a right to determine is the arrangement made for their own spiritual welfare…No nation or individual, however 1198 powerful, has the right to dictate to any other nation, or any other individual, with regard to their spiritual wants."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April, 1912, cols. 1263–1264].That statement was no doubt cheered at the time it was made by a great number of the right hon. Gentleman's supporters. But, as a matter of fact, it possesses this curious point: it is in direct opposition to the very line the Government are taking with regard to their Home Rule Bill. They are prepared to grant all kinds of concessions to the Irish people; but one thing they do deny them is the right to endow any religion whatever. That is denied to those who are to be responsible for the government of Ireland in future. It is in direct contradiction of the plea which has been urged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Another argument used by the hon. Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) is that the Church funds were intended for the whole nation, and since many of them do not need the services of the Church themselves the funds ought to go to other public purposes. As a matter of fact the whole nation has the benefit of the offer. It does not follow that because the entire Welsh nation do not care to avail themselves of the services of the Church that, for that reason, the Church should be Disestablished. I might as well argue that because the contents of the British Museum, the Wallace Collection, or any other collection of objects in London which you can think of, are only inspected and enjoyed by a minority of Londoners, for that reason, these museums and their contents should no longer be at the service of the public. I, in common with many other Members of this House, have listened with the greatest care and interest to the arguments which have been used by hon. Members on the other side, but none of us have been able to convince ourselves that a single speech, including even that of the Prime Minister, has been sufficiently strong to convince us that it will really be a good thing for the welfare of this country that the great Church of England, of which the Church in Wales is only a portion, and which has a history of over 800 years, should be destroyed, and that its funds should be taken away for secular purposes.
§ Sir JOHN BARLOW
My reason for speaking in this Debate is that, although I am not a Welshman or a representative in this House of a Welsh constituency, I have for over forty years spent a very substantial portion of nearly every year in Wales. In fact, I have had a residence 1199 there, as had also my father before me, so that I have had an opportunity of ascertaining and observing the feelings of the Welsh people in regard to this matter in a way that perhaps the majority of Members in this House have not been able to do. Anyone who has had that opportunity must have been forcibly struck with the overwhelmingly predominant feeling in favour of a measure of this kind. It matters not whether you go to the country districts of Wales or to the towns, there is this feeling. Figures have been quoted in this controversy, showing that a large number of the representatives in this House from Wales are in favour of the measure, and have been so for a long time. Figures have also been quoted showing that a large and overwhelming number of the people who voted at recent elections voted in support of such a measure. But striking, and I think, perhaps to those of us who believe in representative government and conclusive as these figures are, I do not think that they adequately or sufficiently express the intense depth of feeling that exists in Wales among the Welsh people from one end of the Principality to the other in favour of a measure of this nature. The feeling is stronger in Wales than anyone who has not had ah opportunity of examining it closely for a long period of time can, I think, possibly realise or imagine. The Welsh are in the main a nation of Nonconformists. I have watched many times the people pouring into their chapels and filling them to overflowing, and I have also watched those going to the established Churches, and I have observed the meagre, miserable attendance which I regret to say there often is at the Welsh services of the established Church. Perhaps you may say that some Welshmen attend English services in these chapels. A few do, but not a large proportion. There is, I think, no doubt, that any fair-minded man on whichever side of the House he sits, if he looked into and investigated this matter, would, from the evidence of what happened around him in Wales, come to the conclusion that the Welsh people are terribly in earnest about Disestablishment. It is the thing which they place before everything. I found that out when I once unsuccessfully contested a seat in Wales, whose representative at the present time is sitting on the other side of the House. The Welsh people undoubtedly use their 1200 chapels far more than they use the churches of the English Church. It seems to me that the Welsh Nonconformists have successfully proved what has been, to some extent, doubted in these Debates, that they are able to cope not unsuccessfully with what sometimes has happened, namely, a large increase in the demand for religious ministrations. I remember hearing the late Lord Swansea, who was a Member of this House for a Welsh constituency for something like forty years, speak on this subject. He drew attention to the fact that the Nonconformists in Wales were, at any rate, able to meet an increased demand for religious ministrations more rapidly than the Anglican Church, because, as he said, they had fewer formalities to go through. They built their chapels and opened them, while there was still debt existing, whereas there were often difficulties in connection with that in the established Church. Welsh Nonconformists resent, and deeply resent, what they consider the inequality under which they are placed, and I do not think that that feeling of resentment, which is, I may say, a national feeling in Wales, is in the interest of religion as a whole in the Principality. I think it is a distinct drawback to religious progress and to the religious work done in the Principality as a whole.
The Welsh people are naturally by the bent of their minds, by training, and by education a Nonconformist people. They are democratic, and the system of Church government adopted by Nonconformists appeals most to them, and undoubtedly it suits their needs best. That being so, they are more attracted by the Nonconformist form of Church government than by that of the established Church. The immense majority of the voters who voted in favour of this policy has already been referred to. At the present time we have only three representatives in this House who were elected in opposition to what I may term this demand, and their total majority was a very small one. In 1906 the Welsh Members of this House were unanimous, and if you go back you will find that time after time this feeling has prevailed in an overwhelming and surprising degree. This is the first question in regard to which Welshmen ask the view of candidates, and it is undoubtedly the question to which they attach most importance. If you say that the minority is not represented by the representation of Wales, I would point out that you seldom find under our system of representation 1201 that the representatives so accurately express the views of those who voted for them as they do in this case. Some efforts have been made in this Debate to make a distinction between Disestablishment and Disendowment. The Disestablishment of a particular Church in this country has always been followed by some measure of Disendowment. That was so in the case of the Reformation. It was the case when the Roman Catholic Church was Disestablished in Scotland. It was the case more recently when the English Church in Ireland was Disestablished. Therefore we cannot find a precedent for doing anything else than dealing with the question of Disendowment if we once tackle the question of Disestablishment. It seems to me that the Church originally had these moneys handed over to it when it was to a greater extent than it is now, in Wales at any rate, the Church of the whole nation. The whole nation benefited then in a way it does not do now. The Church also had some duties to perform which have been taken from it by the State. The State or associations do more now in connection with looking after the poor, and other matters, than they used to do in the olden times, Therefore the conditions having changed surely some of this property which we contend, though hon. Members opposite do not agree with us, is national property, may be reasonably diverted to other and national objects, instead of those for which it has more recently been used. There is one matter of which we have not heard so much in this Debate as I expected, though we have heard something of it in the country. That is the question whether this subject was submitted to the people of the country at the last General Election. Speaking of Welsh Disestablishment and Disendowment in September, 1910, the Bishop of St. David's said:—As you are aware, the present Government will introduce a Welsh Disestablishment Bill. They are definitely pledged not only to introduce, but to carry it through Parliament.That is a definite statement and a warning to all whom it may concern that the policy of the present Government was one of Disestablishment. Therefore, I do not think that those who object to this Bill can say that they are being taken unawares. The Bishop of St. Asaph's said at Oswestry, on the 15th November, 1910:think that the fate of the Church in Wales, so far as Disestablishment and Disendowment and her position are concerned, may be decided within the next six or eight weeks.And as regards the universal feeling in Wales in favour of this question being 1202 dealt with, Dr. Jayne, the Bishop of Chester, who had considerable knowledge of Wales, wrote to the "Times" on the 8th June, 1911, as follows:—We are confronted, it is true, by the impressive, significant, undeniable fact, that the persistent, almost unanimous, Parliamentary voice of Wales, is in favour of at least Disestablishment.I think, after all these warnings, it cannot be said that the question of Welsh Disestablishment was not before the country at the last election, and we cannot deny that the present Government is pledged to carry it out. When you have a national feeling like this, I think that we, at any rate on this side of the House, must necessarily do our best to give effect to that feeling. I was looking up the other day some of the speeches which were made in connection with the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, and I find that the late Lord Salisbury, speaking in the House of Lords on the 9th June, 1869, on the Irish Disestablishment Bill, said:—I am one of those who cannot give sufficient reason to justify me in voting against the principle of this Bill.Then he went on to say:—It is not courage, it is not dignity to withstand the real opinion of the nation. All that you are doing thereby is to delay an inevitable issue, for all history teaches us that no nation was ever thus induced to reverse its decision.That, I submit, is the position with regard to Welsh Disestablishment to-day. I submit that it has been proved, and proved up to the hilt, that the feeling in Wales is overwhelmingly in favour of it. I submit that it is proved upon evidence which no one can doubt, and I submit that it is to the advantage of the Church itself that it should cease to hold a position which makes it suspect of the great majority of those in that country whom it would like to get to its ministration. I submit that it is to the advantage of religion and to the advantage of the State that this intolerable state of things should cease to exist, and I believe that you will best consult the highest interests of this realm if you give a Second Reading to this Bill and put it upon the Statute Book with as little delay as you can.
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down told us, as other Members have told us constantly in this Debate, that the Church in Wales was not a national Church, and that the great majority of the Members representing the Welsh constituencies were in favour of this particular measure of what I cannot help characterising as robbery. 1203 The argument of nationality has been used so constantly in this Debate that I cannot help thinking that there is a certain amount of mixed thinking on this point. I quite understand that the Government are quite committed to this Bill, and I quite see the cause of it. When they dealt with the Irish question, the Government talked so much about the Irish nation that it was quite obvious Wales was not to be left out. We had the Prime Minister, in answer to an interruption on this side, replying, "The Irish nation" and the Welsh nation was not going to be left out. So this argument, I suppose, will be used very frequently, that the measure is brought forward in the interest of the national life of Wales and that whatever its character, Welsh Members want it, and whether it is right or wrong, just or unjust, or connected with any sort of principle, it must be granted and need not be argued, as forty Welsh Members have said that it must be and it must be. A worse argument from the point of view of honesty and elementary principles of right cannot possibly be used. I do not care whether forty or 400 Members representing Wales were in favour of this act of robbery I should still be quite convinced that it was an act of robbery and would fight against it to the best of my power. It is all very well saying that Nonconformists in Wales go to their chapels in greater numbers than those who belong to the Church of England. After all, the whole spirit of a nation is not dependent entirely on whether a man goes to church or chapel. When you say that a man is in a minor position as regards his religion in any particular part of the United Kingdom because he does not go to the Church, you must take the work of the Church among those who do not attend the Church. We have been told that this is an alien Church in Wales. That point can be refuted by an authority which perhaps hon. Members may not think very great, but it is that of a man who has lived and worked among Welsh people and is a Nonconformist. I have not the honour of knowing him myself. He is the Rev. W. E. Sellers, Wesleyan Methodist superintendent of the Llandrindod Wells, and Brecon circuit. He wrote a letter to the "Church Family Newspaper" a few weeks ago. He said:—Let us look at this question not through our fathers' eyes but through our own, and in doing so we are bound candidly to admit that the Church of England is doing its very best to make amends for the past.1204 [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members are blaming us now for what took place in 1800 or 1600. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I have heard it said constantly during the last few days of this Debate, and I think the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Dr. Leach) has also said that the iniquities of the Church in the past were the reason why you are going to punish the Church in the present. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members are now saying "No," but I have heard that stated.
I have been patiently waiting the opportunity of saying a few words on this great question and I have not time to make for an argument. This Methodist superintendent goes on—and her ministers are Welsh.I read a short time ago an article in the "Contemporary Review" from an hon. Member opposite, I think the hon. Member for Carmarthenshire, which stated that the Church was alien, and that no services in Welsh were held in the cathedrals in Wales. The Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Acland) took up that statement as being reliable, and made it down in the West Country, and later on he had to write a long letter to the paper explaining the great mistake he had made in taking the authority of the hon. Member for Carmarthenshire. That seems to me a dangerous line to take. The letter continued:—She is the most progressive Church in the Principality, and the fact that she is so proves that to-day she is suiting the genius of the larger portion of the Welsh people. The Church of England cannot be called alien to-day. Whether she be alien or not she is by her earnest preaching, her splendid stand for morality and her discipline, doing great things for the Kingdom of Christ.What excuse are you going to give for preventing that work from being carried on?
We were told by the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Hobhouse) last night that it did not matter very much to Churchmen— and he himself was a Churchman—that the Welsh Church was going to lose £170,000 a year. It is one of the most extraordinary arguments I ever heard in this House that to take away these endowments from the Welsh Church is going to be for her good and enable her to do her work better. We perfectly well know that hon. Members of this House are not prepared to 1205 give up endowments in connection with their own Churches, and the, Welsh Church, if they are to carry on their work, ought not to be called upon to give up their endowments. To say that it will be for the benefit of the Church in Wales to give up their endowments really makes me angry; I cannot conceive how any hon. Member can use an argument like that. The Church of Wales will go on whatever you do—we know that perfectly well—but you also know perfectly well that the Church in Wales, in the work she is doing amongst the poorest of the poor, is going to suffer because of lack of funds. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Master-man) made one of the most extraordinary speeches I ever heard in my life. He is an ardent Churchman, and I feel sure he is a most earnest man, and that he made a most earnest, though certainly a most extraordinary, speech. He is going to take away the endowments with which the Church in Wales carries on her work, and yet he says that Church will be far more free and powerful than before. It is so much germane to the point that I ask your indulgence while I quote a passage from the hon. Gentleman's interesting work entitled "The Heart of the Empire." In that work he makes this surprising statement:—As one penetrates into the actual depths of the abyss, Nonconformists are found to be ever less and less operative. That is through no fault of their own. They have nothing corresponding with certain small endowments of the English Church. If the masses—Not those who worship in St. George's, Hanover Square—are to be reached, this must come through the national Established Church of England.That is from the hon. Gentleman who said it will benefit the Church in Wales to take away her endowments, which are, as admitted by every single Member of the House who has studied the question at all, entirely out of proportion to the work that is to be carried on by that Church, yet here we have his words that if you are to get at the masses you must look at the small endowments that have been given to the established Church. I want to ask two or three questions, which I will not elaborate, because I am very much in sympathy with the idea of short speeches. Is the Church in Wales doing its work properly now? I do not think that a single hon. Member, whatever his view may be on Disestablishment or Disendowment, will refuse to admit that the Church is doing its utmost now to carry on its work, despite what it did a few 1206 years or a few centuries ago. Another question is: Is it a good thing or a bad thing that the State should recognise religion? In these days, under the conditions which at present prevail throughout the country and other countries, I say without the slightest hesitation—I do not ask hon. Gentlemen to agree with me—that you must have religion recognised just as much as you have any other thing recognised, if you think it is good for the State as a whole. I believe myself that the State connection is doing good rather than harm, and that the State should recognise that at the bottom of everything is the question of religion.
The third question is: Is there a superabundance of money being spent on work that has been carried on for centuries? It is quite obvious that there is not sufficient money at present, yet we are told by the Chancellor of the Duchy that it does not matter about taking away £170,000 from the Welsh Church because she will very soon get it back again. There is the further question, which I consider very germane to this particular controversy. Could there be a permanent minister of religion in dozens of parishes if it were not for these endowments? I have just shown that the masses of the people are dependent on the Welsh Church, and it is these small endowments that enables the people to be reached. Is it contended by Liberal Churchmen that the money, entirely inadequate as it is well known to be, could be better spent than it is being spent at the present time? When you tell me that you are going to take away those endowments and give them to museums and other objects, I ask Liberal Churchmen whether they can in their conscience say that the work which is being done now, right throughout the Principality of Wales, by these clergymen of the Church of Wales—whether they agree with or whether they do not, have they the assurance to say—that this work is not far more valuable than anything which can be accomplished by taking away those endowments and devoting them to museums or any other scheme contemplated by the Government at the present moment? I, for one, believe that the position taken up by the Government and by many Members on the other side of the House, is entirely unjustified, and I, for one, shall do my best to fight this Bill to the bitter end.
§ Mr. HAROLD CAWLEY
I wish to say a word or two from the point of view of a 1207 Liberal Churchman. I am neither a Welsh Churchman nor a Nonconformist, but I must say, for my part, that the idea of Disestablishment and Disendowment has never appealed strongly to me, and does not now. I do not wish to take a single halfpenny away from the Church. As a politician I do not see any material advantage to be gained from this Bill, at any rate to justify its position in the programme of legislation in this House, but if the Welsh Members can show that there is a real and sustained demand for this Bill in Wales, and that the Bill is just— and they must prove both—then I do not see how anybody who believes in democracy and representative government can refuse to support this Bill. No matter what a man's personal opinions are as to the value or importance of the Bill, if you once show that there is a real and sustained demand by the people for the Bill, and that demand is just, I conceive it to be the duty of this House to give it the place in the legislative programme which it occupies. But you have got to show both that there is a real demand for it, and that the demand is just. The hon. Member who has just spoken said that we on this side of the House were continually saying that the Welsh Members demanded this Bill, and that therefore it must pass. I do not believe that has been put forward in a single speech on this side of the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Over and over again."] It is quite easy, with an argument made up of three or four things taken in conjunction to form an unanswerable argument, and to pick out one portion of it and say, "That is not an argument." I quite admit that it is not an argument to say that the Welsh Members demand this Bill, if that which they demand is unjust. We have got to see first of all if there is a demand for it in Wales. There is a large number of Welsh Members who say that not only they but their constituents are very anxious for the Bill. We have a large number, mostly Englishmen on that side of the House, who say that the Welsh do not really demand the Bill. We have had the question of numbers at elections brought out ad nauseam; I think that argument has been brought out to the fullest extent. Rut I believe there are some other considerations which show that the Welsh nation are behind the Members of this House, and demand the Bill. too.
There is one fact which was mentioned by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury 1208 (Mr. Masterman) yesterday, that the Conservative party did fight certain seats in Wales, and that they put up candidates who declared themselves in favour of Disestablishment. That does seem to show that there are some Unionists, at all events, who believe that there is a demand for this Bill. It is a very common thing to hear from that side of the House that the Bill is not brought in by the Government because they believe in Disestablishment and Disendowment, but merely as a vote-catching device. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Yes, but is a Government likely to bring in a Bill as a vote-catching device if those who have votes do not want it? Are they likely to go out vote-catching and bait their hook with something which the fish dislike, and which they know the fish dislike? It is not only that the Welsh Members come here and vote for it in season and out of season, but they have pressed it upon the Government, and Members, as a rule, do not press upon the Government things that their constituents do not want. Does the hon. Member for Devonport, who asks strings of questions about dockyard labourers, desire to waste the time of the House? Do Scottish Members who ask about the Moray Firth do so out of idle curiosity? When for some reason the Welsh Members press forward Disestablishment is it not because they believe that it is a great and vital question with their constituents? I believe it is beyond argument, amongst impartial men at any rate, that it has been established that there is a real demand for this measure in Wales. Then there remains the other and greater question: Is it just? I have satisfied myself that this measure is just largely on historical grounds—apparently very unpopular in the House—on the ground that my reading of history shows me that a large part of the revenues of the Church at present are really national revenues, and on the ground that at the present time those who hold the revenues of the English Church owe the allocation of those revenues to the action of the State only.
We have heard a great deal of deprecation of the digging up of the past, but it seems to me that the origin of tithe at any rate is of vital importance in this matter, because, if tithes were, as is suggested by some people, given in the form of a charge on land to the Church, then no length of time can change that into a tax, but if the first binding obligation of tithe 1209 payment was imposed by the State, then I think that is a tax and nothing but a tax, and no length of time can make it anything else. I myself read about this question in the book of a controversialist, Lord Selborne. I find, even in the work of a partisan like that, brought out very clearly what the origin of tithe was. Tithe was first of all a voluntary contribution of a certain number of people exhorted to pay by the Church, then there comes the stage when excommunication is imposed on those who will not pay, and then there comes the time when tithe is made payable by law of the land by Statute. There is dispute as to when that come into existence. Bishop Stubbs, again a controversialist on the other side, holds that it became the law of the land in 780, and Lord Selborne puts the first obligation to pay tithes as in the year 970, or shortly afterwards. In that Statute there is direct injunction to pay tithes. It proceeds in these terms, which I think are rather significant. [The HON. MEMBER quoted the terms of the Statute.] There you have a statutory injunction to pay tithes, and a method of enforcement, and a penalty if it be not paid. I may point out as to the method of enforcement that the landlord got part of the tithe, and I think he probably helped in the enforcement of that law. That was reflected in other Statutes subsequently, and it has continued the law of the land in other forms and with other methods of enforcement to the present day.
To my mind that is a tax, and is nothing else but a tax, and it has all the qualities which are usually attached to a tax. The only argument I heard used to show that it is not a tax was the one used by Lord Selborne, who said that it never came in to the Treasury. I do not think that is conclusive. At any rate, hon. Members are in the habit of talking about a servant tax, and that tax will not come in to the Treasury. I do not think, if hon. Members were asked to pay a certain amount every year, say, to temperance societies, that they would deny that that was a tax. The other thing said about tithe was that it was paid voluntarily. It was paid from year to year by a certain number of people voluntarily. If at any time a man ceased to be a member of the Church he could have ceased to pay tithes, but when the Statute came the tithe had to be paid ever since. Take another illustration. There are a number of people at the present time who pay, say, £100 per year to hospitals. I 1210 do not think anybody will deny that if everybody in the country were obliged to pay £100 of his income to hospitals that that would be a tax. I think, taking everything into consideration, there is no question that tithe is nothing more or less than a tax which is paid year by year, which is part of the national revenue, and which the State has the right to choose the objects for, and not only the right, but it is the duty of the State to see that those objects are not to benefit, as in Wales, a small minority of the people, but for the national uses of the country as a whole. That constitutes by far the greater part of the money that is taken.
There is just one other part, and that is Queen Anne's Bounty, to which the hon. and learned Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave) referred this afternoon. That, too, I regard as part of the national revenue. He suggested it was a kind of pious gift on the part of Queen Anne. Green said it was given at the dictation of the Duke of Marlborough, and that it was part of the national revenue. It was given probably by a statesman who was hard-up and pressed and endeavouring to propitiate his own political party, and in no sense a private gift of the Queen. Those two account for what is by far the larger part of the fund, and as far as they are concerned I do not think there can be any doubt that that part is purely national revenue. The old revenues of the Church were, prior to the Reformation, the property of the national Church and the property of a nation as a whole. Since that date they have been allocated by the action of the State to a certain section of the country arbitrarily chosen by the State. No doubt prior to the Reformation the Church and the nation were simply the same thing regarded from different points of view. I think it is Green's phrase that the Church was the nation regarded in its religious aspect. By the events that occurred at the Reformation that ceased to be true, as first one Monarch and then another limited the property, the organisation, and the fabric of the Church to the uses of those people who believed a particular set of doctrines, first to those who believed in the Papal supremacy and to those who did not, and first to those who believed in transubstantiation and then to those who did not.
The ancient Catholic Church was first disendowed by the Reformation, and afterwards at the time of the Restoration, Charles II., it became the turn of 1211 Puritanism. The more extreme Protestant section of the Church was cut off from the benefit of the endowments, one-fifth of the clergy were dispelled from the Church, and Puritanism joined Roman Catholicism in that body of the country which no longer had the benefit of the endowment that used to be meant for all. That was not done by the Church, and it was as a rule not done with the consent of the Church. The Forty-Two Articles were put forward without consulting Convocation, and there was no proof that either of the Prayer-books of Edward VI. were submitted to Convocation. Queen Mary quite openly made her changes without any attempt at consulting her Church. As to Queen Elizabeth., the Lower House of Convocation passed a resolution just before that in favour of the doctrine of transubstantiation, and in favour of the supremacy of the Pope and in favour of the sacrifice of the mass. When the Bill for the Act of Uniformity came before the House of Lords every single bishop present voted against it. Thus you have a constant series of changes, first one way and then the other, allocating and limiting the funds of the Church to people who believe in one particular set of doctrines without the consent, and, in some cases, against the wish of the Church. You have that done by the State and by the State only. It seems to me that this action of the State, and the fact that the State had limited to the few, and in Wales to quite a small minority, what was originally the property meant for all, that that does establish the right of the State at the present time to devote those revenues to the objects of the nation as a whole, and as nearly as possible to the objects for which they were originally intended.
I do not want to go further into historical contentions as to the tripartite division, but nobody doubts that the mediaeval Church regarded the objects to be served by this money as religious uses. The purposes of education and the purpose of benefiting the poor were regarded as religious uses. I do not think any fair-minded man can deny that there are certain good things in compensation for and against the loss of endowments. I, for my part, should not think that the loss of endowments would be a good thing, but there are certain things which compensate. It is an advantage that no longer will laymen, or people who have no religion at all, direct who are to 1212 be the ministers of the Church. It is an advantage that the Church should be able to allocate its revenues in future in the best possible way, and though it may have only four-fifths of the present revenue it will be able to economise and to redistribute that money in a better and more efficient way. I think there is an advantage in the fact that a clergyman will no longer have a freehold in his living, and that a very stupid, or, it may be, a very incompetent man will no longer be able to retain his hold on the living against the wishes of all the parishioners and of the Church. That is not a reason for the Bill itself, but it is an argument forgiving our consideration to the case, and became I think Wales demands this, and because I believe that that demand is just, I believe this Bill fully merits the support of English Churchmen in this country.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—[Lord Hugh Cecil]—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Thursday).