HL Deb 02 July 1840 vol 55 cc361-4
Lord Brougham

rose to present a petition agreed to at a public meeting of the inhabitants of Edinburgh and its neighbourhood, which had been publicly convened, and which was signed as one account said, by 19,000 persons, and, as another stated, by upwards of 16,000 persons. He called their Lordships' serious attention (and particularly the attention of the noble Marquess (Breadalbane) behind him) to this petition, as affording informa- tion on many points connected with public opinion, as to the church question, in that part of the United Kingdom from which the petition emanated. The petitioners stated, "That it was in their opinion inconsistent with reason, and with the doctrines of Scripture, for human authority to mingle in matters of religion, and they conceived, that in the legislation of this empire, that principle was violated by the establishment of a State Church." Now, on this point, with reference to an Established Church, it was his misfortune entirely to differ from those, no doubt, worthy and conscientious persons. The petitioners then adverted to the baneful effects produced by the bestowal of state favour on the Church; and he begged leave to call their Lordships' especial attention to the following important statement of the petitioners, namely:— That this truth (as the petitioners called it) is at the present moment receiving painful, but instructive illustration, from the state of the Church of Scotland, which exhibits the inconsistency of rights being claimed inherently as their own by bodies salaried and supported by the State, and in active opposition to the law of the land, as it has been promulgate by the supreme and only competent authority. The petitioners cannot sympathize with them in their present conflict, because no church is entitled to lay claim to independence, while it actually depends on the State for its support; and because what these parties ask falls far short of what they would be entitled to demand if they were not thus connected with the State. The petitioners then pray, that your Lordships will refuse all applications for grants of public money for Church Extension, and that you will take all proper measures for the separation of Church and State Their Lordships were aware that he differed from these petitioners with respect to their fundamental position against the establishment of the Church of Scotland, which, if conceded, would have the effect of putting an end to all Church Establishments; but he thought that no person could read the statement of the petitioners, and be informed of the number who attended the meeting, and the great zeal and unanimity by which their proceedings were distinguished, without being convinced, that their cry against Church Establishments, and their desire for the separation of Church and State, had been mainly promoted and increased by the late proceedings of the ecclesiastical authorities in that part of the country.

The Marquess of Breadalbane

said, as the noble and learned Lord had been pleased to make an attack on the proceedings of the General Assembly, he wished to offer a few observations on the subject. The noble and learned Lord had said, that the desire of a separation of Church and State had arisen from the conduct of those who directed the recent ecclesiastical proceedings in Scotland. [Lord Brougham: I said, "was promoted."] He thought that the noble and learned Lord had meant to go further. But it appeared that the noble and learned Lord charged those parties with only having promoted the feeling. But this was not a new question. Many years ago the subject of non-intrusion, and all those points that were connected with it, had been agitated in Scotland. Why was that? Because the Presbyterian clergy then, as well as now, were endeavouring to remedy what appeared to them to be a great abuse. It was from that feeling that the cry against ecclesiastical establishments arose, and not from the proceedings that had recently taken place. What the Presbyterians wanted, was a decision on this question, namely, how far they could separate the spiritualities of the Church from the temporalities.

Lord Brougham

said, he had used the word "promoted" in speaking of the recent ecclesiastical proceedings in Scotland; and what he meant was, not that those proceedings had directly promoted the principle of separation, but that they acted as stimulants to the hopes of those who were anxious for separation of Church and State; who, when they saw what was done in the Church of Scotland, would be induced more strongly to hope that their wishes would ultimately be acceded to; and who would, in consequence, be induced to redouble their exertions to carry their favourite object.

The Earl of Aberdeen

was not surprised at what had fallen from the noble Marquess after the notice for the hearing of counsel which the noble Marquess had given on a former evening. He believed that the presence of the noble Marquess would be very necessary, that he might support and countenance the cause which he had so warmly taken up— Cum tot sustineas et tanta negotia solus. The noble Marquess need not feel any alarm with respect to the Church of Scotland. It was very well for the noble Marquess to represent that Church as being in danger, but nobody thought of interfering with its just rights. The noble Earl concluded by moving that the House go into Committee on the

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