§ The Earl of Aberdeen
having presented several petitions from different parts of Scotland in favour of the Church of Scotland Bill, proceeded to say, that having occupied a very considerable portion of their Lordships' time, when, on a former evening, he laid on their Lordships' table the measure, the second reading of which he was then about to move, he did not feel that it was necessary for him to enter at length into all the details of the bill or to go minutely into the whole of the subject. There were, however, some points of consideration to which he was desirous to call the attention 1206 of their Lordships, particularly as they had reference to the special reasons which induced him to call on their Lordships to give their sanction to the principle of this measure. And here he might be allowed to say, that, after the most mature deliberation and consideration which he could give to this subject, it was his most decided conviction that if the question was to be amicably settled, if those dissensions which at present unhappily prevailed were to be terminated in a manner fairly and truly consistent with the preservation of the national Church, it must be by the adoption of some such measure as that which he now proposed. He felt, he confessed, the utmost satisfaction in knowing that this measure had been received with very great favour by a large body of the clergy of Scotland—he might say, by many of the most learned and eminent of the clergy, as well as by a vast number of the most enlightened and respectable individuals of all classes. Under such circumstances, it would be extraordinary if he did not feel the most urgent desire to urge the question forward, and to endeavour to provide for its amicable termination. It must, however, be admitted, that the General Assembly had taken a less favourable view of this measure than that which he had described others to have done; and he was ready to allow that the opinion of that body was entitled to be considered with great respect. When on a former evening the noble Marquess (Breadalbane) had asked him whether he intended to persevere in carrying forward this measure, the noble Marquess stated that he had been informed by an hon. Gentleman that a rev. divine, a member of the General Assembly, had stated that a declaration had been made, that, in the event of their being in the General Assembly a vote adverse to this bill, he would at once, and without further observation, abandon it. That any hon. Gentleman might entertain an opinion that he would take the first opportunity of getting out of the irksome duty which he had imposed upon himself, was not surprising. That such an opinion, therefore, had been given he could easily conceive. But he begged to assure the noble Marquess that neither directly nor indirectly, had he authorised any person to make any such declaration. With regard to the decision of the General Assembly, he was desirous to pay to that decision all proper re- 1207 spect; but when their Lordships looked back and saw the nature of the objections which the Assembly had made, it would be found that those objections were such as, he was perfectly confident, none of their Lordships would feel it right to sustain. Their Lordships, he was aware, might have objections of their own—strong and numerous objections; but of this he was convinced, that no man in that House would stand forward and support the objections urged in the General Assembly. And when he beheld the monstrous, the unheard-of pretensions put forward by the Assembly on this subject, he felt himself more than ever determined to call on their Lordships to give their sanction to the principle of this measure, by agreeing to its being read a second time, and thus repudiatiug those monstrous and extravagant pretensions which the General Assembly had insisted on. Some time since, when reference was made to a legislative interference on this question, a noble and learned Lord (Brougham), without denying the right of the Legislature to interfere, expressed his opinion that, in the first instance, the law as it stood should be duly executed and obeyed. This was a just principle; and it was natural for the noble and learned Lord, more anxiously even than most of their Lordships to call for a due and strict execution of the law in the first instance. It was a general sentiment in which he entirely concurred, and the force of which no doubt their Lordships felt. But when he recollected that the party in this case was the Established Church of Scotland—when he recollected that the error into which they had fallen was an error committed in good faith, founded on the assumption of powers which they conceived they had a right to exercise, and believing confidently that they were justified in that assumption—when, also, he recollected that the judgment of that House rendered their act—the act of the Assembly—null and void—and when, consequently, that act had no longer any legal existence— therefore he thought that, considering all these points, they might wholly pass it over, and, by agreeing to this measure, practically exclude those monstrous pretensions which none of their Lordships, he believed, would accede to on the part of the Established Church. It was only by a conciliatory course that they could possibly put an 1208 end to this long-protracted discussion. He had thought that in drawing up this bill he had adopted a course of this description—a course which would be calculated to terminate these evils, and at the same time to uphold that respect which was due to the Established Church of Scotland. This measure had been described as one which would dethrone the Redeemer from his seat, would establish a despotic interference on the part of the State unheard of in the worst of times. —in short, as one which would unchristianize the parishes, and trample on the rights of the communicants. All this language being interpreted meant that the measure was hostile to the spiritual independence and proper jurisdiction of the Church. Now, this was a position which to most of their Lordships must appear somewhat startling. The shortest way to answer the objections was to call their Lordships' attention to the provisons of the bill. Having been desirous to give effect to the principle of non-intrusion, his object was to give the greatest extension to the exercise of a discretion on the part of the people in objecting to the presentees offered to them in the different parishes, and also the greatest latitude to the church courts in judging of those objections. The bill provided that:—In the event of the people entertaining any objection of any kind whatever to the individual so presented, or against his settlement in that particular parish, the Presbytery shall receive the said objection either then or at their next meeting, to be without delay considered or disposed of.This included not only objections to the presentee's doctrine, but objections of any description whatever:—Due regard being had to the whole circumstances of the parish, and the spiritual welfare and edification of the people.It also enacted that the special grounds of disqualification should be stated. Now, these were the terms of the bill; and he wished that any noble Lord would inform him how he could extend the privilege here given to the people without abrogating patronage altogether. He was quite prepared to give the greatest possible extension to the right of the people to make every possible objection, fully concurring in the opinion of Sir H. Moncrieff, that "it is the part of the people to become objectors, and of the Presbytery to decide." There were, undoubtedly, cases where it 1209 might be improper to press a presentee upon a parish, though the objection urged to his reception might be entirely disconnected with religious grounds. Thus, for instance, the Rev. Dr. M'Leod had observed lately in the General Assembly, that he might happen to be appointed a minister in one of the Western Isles, inhabited entirely by Macdonalds. Now, there had some time since been a massacre of these Macdonalds by the clan M'Leod, and he felt convinced that his nomination would be consequently viewed with such abhorrence that it would be impossible for him to hope to exercise his ministry with any advantage. This strongly illustrated the necessity of giving the discretion which was provided by this bill. The patrons were the only persons who had the least shadow of pretext for a complaint. Undoubtedly a considerable restraint would be imposed on the exercise of patronage by this bill—on the exercise of patronage not according to law, but according to the practice of the last century. Yet he found it put forth in certain quarters for popular effect, that the bill was lordly and unrestricted, and high-handed, and utterly negligent of the rights of the people. He would add, that though the bill imposed this restriction upon the long acknowledged privilege of patrons, not the smallest indication had been given on their part, in any quarter, to object to this provision. Several noble Lords, enjoying the largest patronage of livings in Scotland, had one after another arisen in their Lordships' House and expressed their entire approbation of the measure. From every part of the country he had received information of a similar tendency. His bill would very much resemble in its operation that which was called the "Revolution settlement" under King William. Though the bill would involve a restriction of the existing patronage, yet he did not propose any compensation; for the provisions of the bill were perfectly in accordance with the existing law of the land. The resolutions recently adopted by the General Assembly were exceedingly vague and difficult to be understood. The first of them stated, that the civil power had no right to determine the qualifications and conditions which the church should require. This was undoubtedly true as an abstract proposition. But their Lordships had already negatived one of the conditions which they pronounced to be indispen- 1210 sable. The Assembly maintained, that the dissent of the majority of the communicants should be an absolute barrier to the reception of any gentleman presented to a benefice, and they maintained that "the civil power should not interfere with that or any other condition which they had established." Here, then, was a direct opposition to their Lordships' decision, and to the law of the land. Suppose that their Lordships assented, and that the civil power did not interfere; then they would say, that "they had ascertained the mind of Christ,"—he used their own words, though he might deem them somewhat profane. Would their Lordships give them the veto? What would follow then? Why, that they would "ascertain the mind of Christ," that there should be no patrons; and the next step would be that no person should be appointed who was not recommended by the Presbytery. This was what the Church of Scotland had already attempted at an early period of its history; but the Legislature had firmly resisted the attempt. If their Lordships now gave way, the former procedure would be shortly revived. If patronage were to be abolished, let their Lordships do it themselves. Let not the General Assembly do it in an indirect and underhand way. The principles which the Assembly were now so anxious to establish would inevitably lead to that result. In their second resolution they stated, that while they maintained the great fundamental principle of non-intrusion, still they would take into consideration any reasonable modifications which might be proposed to them. This resolution was also very vaguely worded. If they wished for an alteration of the law, let them come there as petitioners, and tell their Lordships in that capacity what they wanted, instead of dictating terms. There was no grappling with vague generalities, such as these resolutions contained; and the law had already pronounced the claims which they made to be invalid, beyond their powers, null, and of no effect. The third resolution applied to the present bill, and was equally involved and difficult of comprehension as the others. This resolution was incorrect in point of fact. The bill did not withhold the exercise of judicial functions. The Assembly, however, attached a different meaning to the words "judicial functions "from that which he did. They 1211 meant the arbitrary consent, of the people; he meant weighing the different reasons and objections urged by the people, and deciding according to the merits of each particular case. One of the most influential members of the Church of Scotland had expressed his regret, that the clause enabling the clergy to pay due regard to the circumstances of the parish had not received a slight modification in its wording, because, had it been put positively, and not parenthetically,Under cover of that they might have given full effect to the dissent of the communicants in every case.Now, he (Lord Aberdeen) did not wish to stultify himself so far as to give effect to the veto in one form, and deny it in another. He had been perfectly frank with them, and had always said that he knew their object was to give effect to the veto by some means or another, while his object was to prevent it. Their last resolution stated that the bill did not protect them from coercion and control whenever they might give effect to their solemn conviction. No, it certainly did not, nor was this intended. Although he had every desire to secure the spiritual independence of the church courts, he would never preclude the civil power from taking cognizance of acts done in an excess of injustice and oppression. This complaint, therefore, if it meant that they were prevented from doing all that they liked, was well founded. But when legal interposition was resorted to only to prevent an undue and oppressive exercise of power—a power which did not belong to them—then, he for one would never exclude the civil courts. He had, however, dwelt too long on objections with which he was sure none of their Lordships would sympathize. He now came to another class of objections to this bill, which he was informed existed in quarters for which he could only entertain the greatest respect. It was said, that this bill tended to curtail too far the powers of the church courts. Now, he must confess, that if he had any misgiving as to any portion of this measure, it was that he had given too great powers to the church courts. The powers which were given were on the verge of what was safe for the constitution. But, although the church courts could deal with all objections, still if they rejected a presentee, they must give their reasons why they had pronounced him not quali- 1212 fied. "Qualification" was the term which the statute prescribed, and so long as the courts were called upon to find a presentee not qualified, there would be a safeguard against abuse of the powers with which they were invested. He had on a former occasion told their Lordships, that in the framing of this measure he had had the advantage of the most eminent professional advice. Those high professional authorities had informed him that there was nothing in this bill contrary to the existing statutes to which he had before alluded, and that under the statute by which the church courts were constituted, those courts might still exercise all the powers with which they were invested. Since that time that opinion had been confirmed by the highest authority on the bench, as well as by one of the most distinguished persons who had lately adorned that bench. He hoped he might therefore be excused, if he did not bow at once to the authority of the noble Lord on the woolsack, and of the noble and learned Lord opposite, should their opinions be different from that which he had stated. On the contrary, with such high authorities in his favour, he trusted he might hope for the concurrence of those two noble and learned Lords in the measure which he had brought forward. The opinion which he had alluded to was founded, he believed, on the right given to the Church in the matter of collation. Collation comprised the whole proceeding of ordination and induction, and the objections of the people to a presentee formed part of the trial and examination which the Legislature had committed to the Church, and which was termed collation. He alluded to this simply because he considered it a complete answer to the objections to this measure which he had just stated to their Lordships. He would not trouble their Lordships further with these details. In the present state of this important question the necessity for the interference of the Legislature had not diminished since the meeting of the General Assembly; on the contrary, it had increased. Since the Assembly had met the veto had been confirmed. The Assembly had last year continued the Veto Act for another year, and this year, in contempt of their Lordships' judgment and decision, they had again for another year continued that illegal act. It was true they did not profess to give full effect 1213 to that measure, but it was to be enforced so far as to keep many parishes vacant. Several parishes were already vacant, and many more would soon become vacant, and this would go on if no step were taken by the Legislature for the settlement of this question. In addition to other reasons for the interference of the Legislature, was the condition of the seven rev. gentlemen of one of the northern Presbyteries. Those seven gentlemen were still suspended, and sentence had been pronounced, that if before the month of August they did not retract and consent to disobey the law, they would be proceeded against by the committee of Assembly and be then deposed. Let their Lordships recollect that the only accusation against those gentlemen was, that they had obeyed the law. Their character and their conduct were above reproach; their lives were unexceptionable, but, unfortunately for themselves, they had determined to obey the laws of their country. He had a petition in his possession from those rev. gentlemen, which he would present in the course of the present week. He should not, therefore, enter further upon the subject at that time, as he would when he presented the petition avail himself of that opportunity to call their Lordships' attention to this most crying case of injustice. He had mentioned the matter only to justify himself in asking their Lordships to consent to the second reading of this bill, as the measure upon their Lordships' table would put an end to the injustice to which he had alluded. It might, however, be said, that even were this bill passed into a law, it would not be obeyed; but for himself he could see no reason for coming to such a conclusion. It was true that a decision of that House had been disregarded, but still a judgment of their Lordships was not an Act of Parliament; and his opinion was, that an act of the Legislature would not meet with disobedience. Therefore, without going at length into the Strathbogie case, he mentioned it now simply to show the urgent cause which existed for the interference of the Legislature. There was much in the present state of the Church of Scotland which called for mature consideration, and which required to be settled; but the great grievance which pressed upon his mind, and which called loudly for the interference of the Legislature, was the cruel condition in 1214 which these seven reverend gentlemen were placed, who had been guilty of no offence, and who now came to their Lordships to ask for that redress, which would be afforded by this bill. In his opinion it laid down a mode of proceeding which would effectually settle all doubts, and remove all the difficulties which at present existed. He would again state, that he never could imagine or contemplate deliberate disobedience to an Act of Parliament by the authorities of the Church of Scotland, and he therefore hoped their Lordships would consent to this measure, which he sincerely believed was calculated to put an end to those unhappy disputes. He had said, that the case had become more urgent, and that the necessity for interference on the part of the Legislature had become stronger since the meeting of the Assembly, and under these circumstances he would once again ask the noble Viscount, at the head of the Government, what he intended to do if he proposed to resist the further progress of this measure? The noble Viscount had given him notice that he would object to the further progress of this bill, but upon what grounds the noble Viscount had adopted that resolution he was at a loss to conjecture. He hoped the noble Viscount would not exercise his mere veto upon this occasion, and that he would consent to state fully the views which he entertained upon this most important subject, and the reasons which induced him to oppose this bill. Would the noble Viscount adopt the language of the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Brougham)? Would he say, let the law as it existed be duly executed and obeyed before the Legislature interfered? If the noble Lord adopted that language and that opinion, then he would say to the noble Viscount, let him take the proper steps to carry the existing law into effect. By the Westminster confession of faith, which every Member of the Assembly had assented to and adopted, the civil magistrate might take order to preserve the peace and unity of the Church. The interference of the noble Viscount was, therefore, not excluded; and if the noble Lord thought, that the existing law ought to be fully carried into effect before the Legislature interfered, then let him take some steps for carrying that law into operation and to enforce obedience to it. But if that was not the opinion of the noble Viscount, what other 1215 course did he intend to pursue? Did the noble Lord mean, that things should continue in their present state without a step being taken for the settlement of this important question, either on the part of the Government or of the Legislature? If their Lordships looked at the report of the non-intrusion committee, they would find allusion made to a correspondence with the noble Viscount. The Members of that committee mentioned that the Veto Act and the act with respect to calls (so we understood the noble Earl) had. been submitted by them to her Majesty's Government; but they added, that after eight months of postponement, a few weeks ago a communication had been made to them, that while the Government did not feel much difficulty as to the measure which they might be disposed to introduce, yet that the Government could not hope to carry such a measure as they might propose through the Legislature, and more particularly through the House of Lords; and it was added, that Ministers must, therefore, postpone the introduction of any measure on this important subject to a more favourable opportunity. It was, however, further stated in the report, that the Government had not abandoned the intention of bringing forward a legislative measure. Now what right, he would ask, had the noble Viscount to state, that any measure proposed by the Government would not pass their Lordships' House. There could be no good ground for such a statement, and for himself he could say, that he had never considered this as a party question. He had offered, and he would still offer, to support any measure which the noble Viscount brought forward, provided it was consistent with the law of the land, and with the constitution of the Church of Scotland. Indeed, he was sure that there was no good ground for the statement of the noble Viscount, that any measure of the Government relative to this subject would be objected to by their Lordships. This was not treating their Lordships in a manner becoming the noble Viscount. [Viscount Melbourne.—I do not remember it. Does the report mention me?] No. The term is "the Government;" and his noble Friend must excuse him if he looked to him as the Government. At all events the report referred to the noble Viscount. [Viscount Melbourne.—I did not say anything of the kind.] The committee re- 1216 ferred to a meeting with Viscount Melbourne, and that person, he presumed, was the noble Viscount. In that portion of the report it was stated, that Viscount Melbourne was anxious to see this question settled, and it was added that the noble Lord had expressed his approbation of the measures of the committee, including the Veto Act. [Viscount Melbourne.—I do not remember having done so.] He would fairly tell the noble Viscount that he did not believe the statement contained in the report. In the report of the communications which the committee had had with him, they had been so unscrupulous in their statements, that it was probable they had not dealt more honestly with the noble Viscount. The statement in the report was true, or it was not, and he must say that he had given the noble Viscount credit for not having acted the part which the committee stated he had done. Still it was clear that the noble Viscount must do something; and what, he would ask, was he prepared to do? In the commencement of the session the noble Viscount had declared that legislative interference was necessary, and the noble Viscount had even gone so far as to direct the law officers of the Crown to prepare a measure for the settlement of this most important question. The noble Lord, he admitted, had acted wisely in refusing the measures proposed by the non-intrusion committee, and still more wisely in rejecting the measure of his own law officers, for that measure was certainly the worst of the three. But the noble Viscount must do something. The noble Viscount could not continue to sit chuckling inwardly at the confusion and distraction which pervaded Scotland in reference to this subject. The noble Viscount would surely not exclaim with the old anarch—Havoc, and spoil, and ruin are my gain.The noble Viscount could not sit still and do nothing, while Scotland was distracted from one end to the other on this engrossing question. If, then, the noble Viscount intended to oppose this measure, what did he further intend to do? What were the noble Viscount's objections to this measure? He could assure the noble Viscount that he had been actuated by no party motives in the framing of this bill. It was only after the noble Viscount had refused to take any steps for the settle- 1217 ment of this question that he had been induced to bring forward a measure, which, in his humble judgment, was calculated to meet the difficulties of the case, and to calm the animosities and heal the dissensions which had been created. In doing so he had been influenced by no party feelings, and he had only brought forward this measure from a sincere desire to be of use to his country. He had only now, before he sat down, to warn the noble Viscount of what was about to take place. If no steps were taken for the settlement of this question before the month of August, the condition of the seven rev. gentlemen to whom he had alluded would not only become a disgrace to the country, but a great and lamentable schism would take place in the Church. A large body of ministers would then announce their intention not to obey the orders of the General Assembly. He, therefore, entreated the noble Viscount to weigh well the whole matter, and no longer delay to take some steps for the settlement of these unhappy disputes. The noble Earl concluded by moving that the bill be read a second time.
§ The Marquess of Breadalbane
said, holding the opinions which he did on this important question, and feeling deeply convinced that the people of Scotland would be as much dissatisfied with this bill as the General Assembly had been, he could not but ask their Lordships to pause before consenting to its second reading. He was ready to acknowledge the deep attachment of the noble Earl opposite to the Church of Scotland. He was also ready to bear his testimony to the singleness of purpose and the uprightness of the motives which had induced the noble Earl to bring forward this measure. But whilst he said this much, he must also add, that he congratulated the Church and the people of Scotland that the noble Earl had given his assent to the principle of non-intrusion, and to the principle of the independence of the Church of Scotland. He was glad the noble Earl had given his assent to those principles. But whilst the noble Lord asserted those principles as the fundamental principles of the Presbyterian establishment, yet in their application, as evinced in the bill before their Lordships, there was a wide difference between him and the noble Earl. It was on the principles he had alluded to that this measure 1218 had been introduced, yet when its details were examined, he was, he confessed, at a loss to discover that they were embodied in the bill. Such, he believed, was also the opinion of a majority of the General Assembly, when that body came to adopt the resolutions to which the noble Earl had called their Lordships' attention. For himself, he was of opinion that if they did not go to the root of the evil, their Lordships would only lend themselves to a meddling course of legislation, which he was sure could not be productive of satisfaction to any party. The noble Earl opposite in the course of the speech which he first addressed to their Lordships entered into a long detail of the history of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. He told them it was a Church which had ever been at variance with civil power, but which had been constantly raised and supported by the people of that country. With equal truth and eloquence had the noble Earl entered into a history of its doctrines; for he could assure their Lordships, that of all establishments, be they what they might, the Church of Scotland was that which had most scrupulously and successfully preserved its simplicity and purity. No doubt, a great and aggravated evil at present existed in Scotland, having its origin in the zeal and sincerity of that Church, and in its anxiety to do what it had long endeavoured to do, what it considered was consistent with its true principles, its purity, and its integrity to do, and what would be agreeable to the feelings and opinions of the people—namely, to apply and act upon the principle of non-intrusion respecting the induction of its ministers into the parishes of the country. It was by doing that which was considered as a spiritual act that it had incurred the displeasure of the civil courts, and involved itself with the courts of law. He believed, however, that the courts of judicature in Scotland, had heretofore considered it as a spiritual act. The Court of Sessions, by two unanimous decisions in 1748 and 1749, had admitted:—The power of the Church exclusively to refuse as incompetent any application made to them by different patrons to prevent presbyteries from supplying vacant parishes, because their doing so, would, in their opinion, be interfering with the power of ordination, and with the internal authority of the Church, with which they had nothing to do, and that if an individual were inducted who had no right to 1219 be inducted, all they could do, was to withhold the fruits of the benefice.The Church merely wished to assert its own right to prevent any interference from taking place with regard to its spiritual concerns—a right it considered itself entitled to—because, as the noble Earl had told them, it acknowledged no civil head; unlike the Church of England, it acknowledged not the Crown as the head of the Church, it looked only to Christ and to the Bible for its authority and belief. To these views, he, as a Presbyterian, must say, that he most implicitly and cordially assented. He felt, that the pastors of the present Presbyterian Church could take no other course than that of deferring conscientiously to the principles of their faith, which taught them to believe, that the civil power had no right of interference with the induction of its ministers. Having thus briefly referred to this part of the subject, he would ask their Lordships seriously and solemnly to pause and deliberate upon this great and important question, and not rashly to do what would undoubtedly be considered as a heavy blow and great discouragement to the Church of Scotland, and what would as certainly lead to the alienation of the people, from the Church which, although it might be established by law, would not be established in the hearts and affections of its people. He, therefore, implored their Lordships to consider whether they could not devise some other means for the settlement of this question, than rashly and hastily adopting such a measure as was then before them, without being cognizant of all the minute details of the question—a question made up of details, and the constitution of the Church of Scotland, consisting of a great variety of acts, not only of Parliament, but of the Assembly. He would ask whether a committee of inquiry or a commission could not be applied to this question? In his opinion it could, and most usefully, as the question would thereby be investigated in all its bearings; the true state of it would be known, and their Lordships would be showing a desire not to come to any decision upon it without being fully acquainted with its details. He would also ask the holy Lords who sat on the bench below, whether or not they were prepared to stand forward and defend the pastors of the Church of Scotland, in doing what they truly and conscientiously believed to be in accordance with the 1220 principles of their faith? He would wish those rev. and right rev. Prelates to consider that the power which sought to encroach upon the rights of the Scotch Church, was one which might also encroach upon the Church of England. Having thus briefly and imperfectly explained his feelings on the subject, he would conclude by moving, that the bill of the noble Earl be read a second time that day six months.
§ The question having been put,
The Earl of Rosebery
said, that hitherto, when this subject was introduced upon the presentation of petitions, he had abstained from delivering his sentiments upon it, not that he did not think that incidental conversations upon many subjects might be attended with very useful effects, but because he had felt that upon this particular subject it might have been not only inconvenient but detrimental to have addressed the House. He had refrained from delivering his sentiments upon these occasions, because not being a member of the Church of Scotland, he apprehended he might have risen to address their Lordships on a question which he did not perfectly understand. On the present occasion, however, he considered it impossible for any one who had ever taken a part, however humble, in the debates of that House, not to state his sentiments upon one of the most momentous questions that affected the country to which he particularly belonged. He was the more encouraged to take this course by the circumstance, that although he was an avowed and attached member of the Church of England, he was nevertheless one of those who thought that the Presbyterian religion was as much a branch of the Christian Church as the religion which he himself professed; and although that might be considered by some individuals as somewhat latitudinarian, yet it was a principle which he sincerely professed, and which he thought most reconcileable with the true doctrines of Christianity and Protestantism. With these feelings he would proceed to offer his opinion of the noble Earl's bill. The noble Earl on a former occasion had stated, that a great difference existed between the Presbyterian Church in Scotland and in this country or in Ireland j that in Scotland it was an established church, and should obey the law by which it was established. But the Church of Scotland considered that in all matters exclusively spiritual their jurisdiction was above the jurisdiction of all 1221 civil tribunals, and they included in the word "spiritual" matters not only relating to ordination, but to the induction and settlement of the minister. He did not know whether this were right or wrong. He did not feel himself competent to state any decisive opinion upon that point, particularly as he was not a member of the Church which assumed that power. He was ready to admit, that if the power were carried to an unlimited extent, it might lead to serious evils in its application; but he must say that if the General Assembly were of opinion conscientiously that such was the fundamental principle of their Church, he could not think that they were wrong in asserting that opinion, and, if they could, abiding by it. He had never entertained a doubt as to the correctness of his judgment in supposing that his noble Friend was the fittest person, from his prudence, temper, discretion, and acquaintance with the subject, to prepare a measure which would be likely to surmount the difficulty of this question, and bring it to a happy issue, until he had seen the bill which his noble Friend had brought forward in order to accomplish that object. The question was not, in considering this bill, whether its provisions would be an excellent scheme as a fundamental law for the Church of Scotland—that was a question with which they had at present nothing to do. The question was, a collision having taken place between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities in Scotland, which it was desirable to settle by the most judicious and by a permanent arrangement, whether the bill of the noble Earl were likely, from the nature of its provisions, to accomplish that object. He objected to his noble Friend's bill, in the first place, because he did not think, should it pass, that there would be the slightest chance of its bringing about any one of those objects which his noble Friend professed to have in view; and he objected to it, secondly, because he thought that it was deceptive in its title and character, in describing itself as a declaratory act, when it was in fact a new, though inefficient, law, for the purpose for which Parliament was called on to pass it. It introduced a great many very important changes in the existing law, which a declaratory act could not do. If there were any doubt upon the point, it was only necessary to look to the principle upon which judgment was pronounced in the Auchterarder case, in order to satisfy their Lord- 1222 ships that this bill did create, and to a great extent, larger powers than the existing law of the land conferred upon the church authorities, or upon the congregations at large. The bill of his noble Friend gave to every individual in every congregation power to make every objection of every sort or kind to the admission of clergymen. The principle laid down by the judgment of the House regarding the admission of ministers, was, that no objection could be raised against their admission, unless the Presbytery should find that in one of three particular respects, life, manners, or literature, the minister was not, upon trial, qualified for the office for which he was presented. The bill professed also to be a bill to remove doubts. Now he could not ascertain what these doubts were, for he did not see in the bill any provisions for removing doubts; but this he would say, that if it passed into a law, there would be many doubts regarding the manner in which the Presbyteries were to act. It appeared to him that no two presbyteries would agree as to what did or did not form a sufficient reason for non-intrusion, and, in his opinion, if the object was to do justice, the presbytery ought not to negative the induction of a presentee, unless just cause were shewn in support of the exception. It was to be presumed that the bill was introduced for the purpose of putting an end to existing dissensions, but in his opinion it would not be productive of that effect; on the contrary, it would rather tend to create new difficulties, by placing an arbitrary power in the Presbytery. It should be remembered that the people never claimed the right of interference with respect to ordinations, which the noble Earl in his opening speech had stated, that the Church by the Veto Act most improperly yielded to them. They only objected to the introduction of a clergyman into any particular parish without the consent of the congregation, and this was a distinction which ought to be kept closely in view through the discussion of the question. With regard to this question he admitted, that he was for a long time of opinion that the Government should introduce some measure upon the subject to put an end to the unfortunate divisions which existed, and he had made some suggestions to that effect to his noble Friend below him (Viscount Melbourne): but when he saw that the measure of the noble Earl now before their Lordships, supported as it was by so many members of that House, and by so im- 1223 portant a minority of the General Assembly of the church of Scotland—when he looked at this on the one hand, and when he saw the proceedings in the General Assembly on the other, he found his own opinion on the subject was incorrect, and that her Majesty's Government were justified in abstaining from taking up the question until they could see their way more clearly with respect to it. He said this because he thought the only object of legislative enactments ought to be, to endeavour to do away with the differences and discontents which had unhappily so long existed upon the subject. The bill of the noble Earl, however, appeared to be inoperative for the purpose of bringing to a satisfactory conclusion the question which was involved in it. Nay, it would not have even a neutral effect, for by being inoperative it would tend to widen the existing dissatisfaction. It was probable that the noble Earl did not mean to carry his bill through during the present session, but only wished to procure their Lordships' assent to the principle of the bill by having it read a second time. He was not, perhaps, warranted in assuming that such was the intention of the noble Earl; but if it were, nothing could be more prejudicial to the adjustment of the question, for it would be productive of the same dissatisfaction as would be the result of the passing of the bill, and would create great indignation in the representative body of the Church, if not amongst the whole of the people in connexion with the Church of Scotland. Now this was a state of things which it was desirable to avoid with the utmost caution, as it was with that body their Lordships would have ultimately to treat in endeavouring to procure a satisfactory result of this question. He would only now add that he believed a great majority of those among the people of Scotland, belonging to the Established Church were in favour of the proceedings of the General Assembly, though of course, the Seceders who had become voluntaries disapproved, looking on with satisfaction at a conflict injurious, if not fatal to the Establishment. The majority of the lay members in the Assembly holding the same sentiments as the clerical, furnished strong evidence of this.
The Earl of Camperdown
said, he was particularly anxious to express his opinion upon the measure, though it was his intention to support the amendment of the noble Marquess. Before entering upon the 1224 discussion of the question, he should wish to guard himself from the supposition, that he had any intention of throwing any impediment in the way of any measure which appeared calculated to remove the unfortunate disagreements which at present unhappily existed, and which no one could more deeply deplore than he did. He was anything but hostile to the bill of the noble Earl, but if it were to pass in the present state, it would have the effect of violating a great principle, without even the excuse of expediency, for the majority of the Assembly had declared, that if the measure were to pass into a law, they would not obey it. Though he would not go into detail, he would observe upon one point. The bill of the noble Earl gave, and very properly, to the people, the power of objecting, but it gave that power of objecting, not only on the grounds which at present existed, but allowed a complete latitude of objection by giving the power to every individual of the congregation. He should wish to see the power vested in some defined number of the congregation, although he was not then prepared to state exactly what that number ought to be. He would now proceed to state the reasons why he objected to the second reading of the bill. The noble Earl, who had moved it, had argued, that in most cases, it was a bad principle to legislate in favour of those who set themselves up in violation of the law. Now this had at first, been a matter of doubt, but when the question was brought to an issue, and when he had the decision of his noble and learned Friend below him (Lord Brougham), as well as that of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, he should say, that any man was very obtuse of understanding who could not see, that the General Assembly was in the wrong. The noble Earl had said, that if the Assembly were allowed to act on the veto law, religious scruples with respect to patronage would follow. If it occurred to an ambitious clergyman, to take advantage of this, there would be no better way adopted for procuring the whole of the patronage for the Church, than by refusing to induct any clergyman, unless he were inducted by the Presbytery. In all that has been stated by his noble Friend behind him (the Marquess of Breadalbane) with respect to the noble Earl, the originator of the present bill, he 1225 fully concurred. It was his misfortune politically to differ from the noble Earl; but he would take the opinion of the noble Earl on the subject of the Church of Scotland as soon as that of any man. When the noble Earl first brought forward the measure, no doubt he believed, that the General Assembly would accept it. Many noble Lords entertained and expressed the same opinion. He was not so sanguine. On the contrary, he was of opinion, that the only way for an effectual settlement of the existing dispute, would be by rescinding the veto. He had, however, read with astonishment some of the speeches delivered on the subject; he would not attempt to repeat them, as they had already been so well and so accurately stated by the noble Earl. The noble Earl now stated, that though the General Assembly had refused to obey the decision of this House, sitting as a court of law, he thought they would obey that decision, if expressed in an act of Parliament. Now he (the Earl of Camperdown) thought, that as they had refused to obey a decision pronounced upon an act of Parliament, they would still refuse to obey that decision, if sent them in another shape. He must say, that the Church, in his opinion, was acting most foolishly in the matter—it was placing itself in danger, and if by agreeing to the second reading of this bill, he felt, that a stop would be put to the danger which threatened, he would support it—he thought otherwise, and as the bill would violate a principle, without effecting any good, he must oppose it. The noble Earl quoted a pamphlet published by the rev. Dr. Ure, to show, that the General Assembly would not act upon the decision pronounced by this House. It was most unwillingly, that he felt bound to oppose the bill introduced by the noble Earl opposite, and to support the amendment moved by his noble Friend behind him (the Marquess of Breadalbane). He had always thought, and was still of the same opinion, that if her Majesty's Government could devise any measure by which the question could be settled, it was their bounden duty to have submitted it to the consideration of Parliament, but on the contrary, if they could not suggest a measure likely to effect that object, he was not astonished at the course they had pursued. The difficulty of the matter was evidenced by the fact, that 1226 the majority of the General Assembly had rejected the measure of the noble Earl. He (the Earl of Camperdown) was moreover of opinion, that at present there was no occasion for the Government to interfere, the courts of law were fully able to carry the law into execution. He hoped and trusted the courts would exercise the authority they possessed, and throw the shield of protection around the clergy of the Church of Scotland. He was convinced, that if this bill were passed into a law, it would produce a schism in the Church, and on all these grounds, he should oppose the second reading.
The Earl of Dalhousie
rose and said, he must apologise to the House for offering himself, so young a Member, to its notice on this important question, but being a Presbyterian, being an office-bearer in the Church of Scotland, and having borne some share in proposing for the consideration of the General Assembly, the same views, which the noble Earl below him (the Earl of Aberdeen) had embodied in the bill now on the table, he trusted their Lordships would give him some indulgence while he stated the reason why he should give his vote in favour of the motion of the noble Earl, and against the amendment of the noble Marquess opposite. He had waited in vain to hear any noble Lord address himself to the ground on which the noble Marquess had opposed the bill. The veto law was not now the question before their Lordships, but as he had some knowledge of the parties concerned in these divisions, and as he was well aware of the injurious effect which would be produced in Scotland, if no answer were given to the terms—the bold and open grounds which the noble Marquess opposite had taken in moving the present amendment, he would make the attempt. The ground the noble Marquess had taken was, that the learned Assembly of the Church of Scotland had clone no more than its bounden duty in the course it had pursued, and that if that body had acted otherwise, it would have deserted a fundamental and vital principle of the Church of Scotland. Now he must take the liberty of saying, that the principle of non-intrusion was not a fundamental principle of the Church of Scotland, in the sense of an absolute rejection, without reason or objection stated, which objection was to be judged of by the ecclesiastical autho- 1227 rities. Such was never, since 1834, either a fundamental law, or any law at all in the Church of Scotland. This he asserted, but he would go a step further, and prove the fact to their Lordships. The passage on which this assertion was founded, was contained in two books forming the history or code of laws for Church government in Scotland; he meant the books of discipline which, since 1578, had been textbooks of authority. The Second Book of Discipline set forth:Ordinar and outward calling has twa parts, election and ordination. Election is the chusing out of a person or persons maist abile to the office that vaiks be the judgment of the elderschip, and consent of the congregation. In this ordinar election it is to be eschewit that na person be intrusit in ony of the offices of the Kirk, contrar to the will of the congregation to whom they are appointed, or without the voice of the elderschip.In this, and no other Church, was absolute rejection meant. He was not going to carry their Lordships back to a consideration of the Canon Laws, but would content himself with merely adverting to to the fact, that one of the ablest judges had said, that in no Protestant church was there admitted a principle of absolute rejection. So it was with the Protestant churches on the Continent. He would take, for instance, the Church of Geneva—the mother of the Church of Scotland. Calvin would, he thought, be admitted to be a great authority on such a question, and what had been his views and practice? Why, that a person should be first nominated, then tried as to his qualifications, and then he was brought to the people. Calvin, in 1560, had written in answer to a friend from Treves, thus,Primum eleguntur ministri a nostro collegio; ac datur illis scriptmæ locus in cujus interpretatione specemen suædexteritatis edant. Deinde examen habetur de prsecipuis doctrinæ capitibus: tandem coram nobis ut apud populum concionatur. Adsunt duo ex senatu. Si probatur eorum eruditio, eos senatui cum tes-timonio offerimus: in cujus arbitrio est non admittere, si minus idoneos judicent. Quod si recipiuntur (ut semper hactenus contigit) turn nomiua promulgamus coram populo ut si quod vitium latuerit, liberum sit singulis ante octo dies promulgare. Qui tacitis omnium suffrages probantur, eos commendamus Deo et ecclesiæComing a little further down, in point of time, he arrived at the days of Beza. 1228 He was the preceptor of Andrew Melville, the author of the Second Book of Discipline, and with whom both Andrew Melville, and the officers of state in Scotland were in constant communication. The authority of Beza, on this point, was as follows:—
Itaque illa quidem statui, istos vero in muneris sui functionem mitti non decet, priusquam cœtus ecclesiæ fuerit, eâ de re solemni et legitimâ nunciatione admonitus, factâ. cuique potestate admonendi presbyterii christianique magistratus eorum, quæ tanti esse momenti existimaverit, ut de iis cognosci oporteat, priusquam rata sint presbyterii et magistratus (sicubi Christianus fuerit) præjudicia, nempe ut neme invito gregi obtrudatur.
The simple meaning of this was, that the people had the power of summoning the presenter before the magistrates and the clergy, and upon their stating objections "nemo invito gregi obtrudatur." He now came to the history of the Church of Scotland, and took his authorities from the text books of that Church. According to the First Book of Discipline, the election was placed in the congregation; but if they did not exercise the power within a certain time, the presentation came to the superintendent of the council, and the party presented in like manner came to be tried, and was then sent to the people to preach before them. If the presenter passed the judgment of the Presbytery, the congregation was compelled by the censure of the church and council—a censure equivalent to the excommunication of the Romish Church, to admit him, "or else a reasonable cause be shown by them wherefore not." He had now arrived at the authority of the General Assembly on this point, in the year 1576. It was this, giving instructions how ministers should be placed,
Provided always, that the consent of the flock shall be obtained, or else a reasonable cause to be shown wherefore not.
Here again the dissent was not to be received, unless it was supported by reasonable cause, otherwise it was held not to be valid. But this was not left in doubt; they could produce still further authority. In the debate of 1645, on what should be the form of the dissent that the people should take, it was stated in Bailey's printed letter, "that according to the second book of discipline, the election should be given to the Presbytery, with
power to the major part of the people to dissent;" but how?—" with reasons assigned, to be judged of by the Presbytery." He would ask, whether it were possible for any man to be found so prejudiced on this question as to deny the validity of these historical documents. They had the whole practice of the Protestant Church of all ages,—of the Church of Geneva, of the Scottish Church under John Knox, and the practice after the Church was acknowledged by the state,—before them, that the dissent to be given was a dissent of the congregation, founded on objections to be produced to the Presbytery, and that they had no absolute power of rejection; that they should not be called on to produce objections to the Presbytery, but that the verdict of the Presbytery was final. [The noble Earl quoted other extracts from 1560 down to 1834, to show that ministers of the Scottish Church, on presentation, could only be rejected upon reasons assigned by the congregations, to be judged of by the Presbytery.] He therefore contended, that the ground upon which the noble Marquess opposite had founded his amendment was a fallacious one; that the principle set up by the Church of Scotland as a fundamental and vital principle never was a vital principle; that they ought not to set aside the established law of the land, the act of 1692 and the Act of Union. By a provision of the veto, if a congregation should come forward and say of a presentee, "This is not a man we conscientiously think we ought to have as our minister," the Presbytery durst not elect him and refuse attention to them. The Presbytery sat in judgment on religious qualification. The Presbytery might be convinced of the fitness of a man for the office of minister, and of his local fitness for a particular parish, and might go to the parishioners and say, "Surely you will not reject this man, no matter what are your privileges?" and they might reply, "We exercise the privilege which you yourselves have put into our hands; by this authority we declare that that man is not qualified to forward our spiritual interests, and we debar you from ordaining him." He should now direct their Lordships' attention to the statements of noble Lords as to the chance of success. It had been said that the whole kingdom of Scotland was up in arms on this subject. He would not deny that there had been a
great deal of excitement and agitation in Scotland; but he would assert that it was a church agitation, and a tumult of a section of the clergy. Many persons in this country believed that the General Assembly was a pure mirror of the sentiments of the people—that it reflected the sense of the people of Scotland, as Parliament reflected the sense of the people of England. But the General Assembly did not represent public opinion. He denied that the General Assembly represented even, the feelings of the clergy—theoretically it did, but practically it did not. In the majority of the General Assembly—and he said this in the presence of persons who were acquainted with the facts, and could contradict him if he stated what was incorrect—amongst the majority of the clergy who supported the veto, and who voted for the veto, in the General Assembly, many would accept the bill on their Lordships' table if they could. What was the reason? One reason was this: they could not bear to be bearded and termed Erastians, and reproached with a leaning to Popery. But another great cause which accounted for the majority was, he regretted to state it, a political feeling; it was that which impeded the smooth course of church government. He contended that the General Assembly represented very imperfectly the clerical feeling. Five-sixths of the General Assembly only were clerical members; the remaining sixth was of a more popular character, and represented a certain number of royal burghs. In the Assembly of 1840,four out of the five university elders voted against the veto. Ten burghs did not take the trouble to elect elders at all, and nine of the elders did not take the trouble to vote, and the rest were divided in numbers nearly, a majority being against the veto. To show the state of popular feeling, he would refer to the circumstances attending the petition he had laid upon their Lordships' table from East Lothian. la that county there had been two meetings—one to oppose the veto, and the other to support the veto. At the veto meeting the number of present and concurring proprietors and magistrates was three; at the anti-veto meeting the number of present and concurring proprietors and magistrates was 44. The clergy were nearly equal at each, but the tenantry at the anti-veto meeting outnumbered the others in an enormous pro-
portion. He had taken the trouble of having the return-books examined, and he found that the sum represented at the anti-veto meeting was 104,000l., whilst the sum represented at the veto meeting-was only 1,100l.; showing a preponderance of property at the former meeting, exceeding 100 to 1, of those who, exclusive of the clergy, were present. At another meeting the anti-veto petition was carried by 100 to 5. Still there had been a great number of petitions in favour of non-intrusion; but many of them came from Presbyterian congregations in Ireland and England, from places non-endowed; how this could be a criterion of the feeling of the people of Scotland he could not see. But he admitted that there was still a number of petitions in favour of non-intrusion; but could their Lordships say these petitions were in favour of the veto? He said the contrary; some were for one thing, and some for another; a great many were for the principle of non-intrusion; but few were in favour of the veto. And how were these petitions got up? Why, emissaries were wandering about the country; meetings were held, notice of which was given out from the pulpit, and those who were of an opposite sentiment were held up as the greatest enemies of the Church: after holding forth for a long time on the horrors and heresy of intrusion, the people were asked, "Don't you think it a terrible thing to see a minister in the pulpit at the head of a troop of Dragoons? Would you not like better to see a minister of your own there?" The answer, of course, was, "Yes." "Then sign that." He did not say that petitions were universally got up in this way, but they were frequently so got up. Petitions were hawked about from door to door, from room to room; if refused in the parlour, they were taken into the kitchen, and even into the nursery, and children were made to sign them. He asked their Lordships whether such petitions were of any weight? He admitted that the principle of non-intrusion was a principle of the Church of Scotland—none of their Lordships denied it; but he said that the principle was intended to be a protection against the intrusion of an improper person; it was the principle of the Reformation, and not of 1834—of John Knox, and not of Dr. Chalmers. Let him refer to the Perth election. Perth was a county in which there was a strong feeling on
this question, and "non-intrusion" was the shibboleth and test of qualification; the clergy engaged in the canvass addressing election mobs (in a way which he had never witnessed before, and he hoped never to witness again); and what had been the consequence? Why, in that county, at the end of one day's poll, the anti-veto member was returned by a majority four times greater than before. There was another test of public opinion. There are seventy newspapers in Scotland, and of this number, how many advocated the veto? There were sixty against the veto, five for it, and these five might be reduced to three. Newspapers were a tolerably correct index of popular feeling in the long run, and if almost all the newspapers in the country, Tory, Whig, and Radical, declared against the veto, how could it be said, that the veto was the popular feeling of Scotland. But it had been said, that the clergy would not accept the bill, and what use, therefore, would it be to pass it? That a section of the clergy would not accept it, he admitted—those who declared, that "it would be putting down Jesus Christ from his mediatorial throne." It was right that their Lordships should hear these expressions, which had been used by a rev. gentleman of ability and of eloquence, because it was a clear indication of the manner in which ecclesiastical polity and ecclesiastical government were discussed by those who had characterised this bill in terms which he would not trust himself to repeat. They said they would not submit to the civil courts, but that they would submit to the Legislature, meaning, "We never will submit to the civil courts at all, but we will submit to the enactments of the Legislature, provided the Legislature enacts only what we approve, and concedes all we demand. They said, "We are the Church of Christ; the Establishment did not make us a Church, and if we were excluded from the Church and deprived of our stipends, we shall be a Church still." Dr. Chalmers said,
She was ns much a Church in her days of suffering as in her days of security and triumph —when a wandering outcast with nought but the mountain breezes to play around her, and nought but the caves of the earth to shelter her, as now, when admitted to the bowers of an establishment.
§ But he said, that these persons did not distinguish between a Church in Scotland, and the Church of Scotland. The Church 1233 of Scotland was established with conditions, reserving certain rights, and which conditions were accepted with gratitude and joy. These conditions remained un-infringed, and in this bill were recognised and ratified, and it was strange that conditions which the earliest reformers and ministers of the Established Church accepted as scriptural and proper should now be found out to be unscriptural and apocryphal. There was no compulsion to enter or remain in the Church; but those who did enter and remain must comply with the conditions or remove from a Church established by law. It was monstrous that they should be permitted to remain in the enjoyment of all the endowments of the Church, and yet openly refuse to fulfil the conditions upon which those endowments were conferred. Whether the bill on the table would be satisfactory to all parties in Scotland he could not pretend to say confidently; but he certainly looked upon it as a sufficient security for the attainment of the objects which he had stated. In the last century doubtless there had been great abuses of patronage; but that had passed away. If any evidence were wanted, they had that of Dr. Chalmers in 1833, when he brought in the Veto Act. The language he then used, with some inconsistency as compared with later speeches, was, that the patrons never acted more faithfully than now. Certainly he (the Earl of Dalhousie) believed, that it would not be possible under this bill for any patron to intrude an improper or unsuitable person upon a congregation. He was inclined, therefore, to believe, that the people would receive the measure with entire contentment, because it certainly did secure to them the great principle of non-intrusion, as it was established by the great fathers of the Presbyterian Church, by Calvin, by Beza, by Melville, and by John Knox.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that notwithstanding the address of his noble Friend (the Earl of Aberdeen) who opened the debate—notwithstanding the length to which his noble Friend's arguments had been carried—notwithstanding the very able and powerful address to which their Lordships had just listened, but which, however, was an address expatiating more on the general questions which were now agitating on this subject in Scotland, than directed to the bill which was before them and to the question of its second reading, 1234 though he did not mean to say that the noble Earl had altogether omitted that topic—notwithstanding all this, the view he himself took of the question was so plain, short, and simple, that it would not be necessary for him to trouble their Lordships except for a very short period, for he must say, that the view he took would lead him to avoid a great many of the topics which were considered in connexion with this question by his noble Friend and others, as not wishing to enter upon the discussion of them at present. He should not then enter upon the whole question, but simply say, that in his opinion it was not so certain that the bill was adapted to decide this question—it was not so certain that the enactment of it would have a salutary effect in Scotland —it was not so certain that it would operate to bring the question to a satisfactory termination, as to make it prudent for their Lordships to proceed with it in the present times. He did not mean to give any abstract opinion on the merits of the bill; he did not wish to say whether the bill was the law of Scotland at present, as had been contended by a noble Lord; but he meant to say that it was not so certain to be of avail and advantage, as to make it prudent for their Lordships to proceed with it in the present times. The object which their Lordships had in view was to settle and determine this question in Scotland—to settle the collision between the civil and ecclesiastical powers, in which that country was at present involved—to produce religious peace. Such was their Lordships' object, and therefore their Lordships ought to take care that they did not aggravate the evils which at present prevailed in Scotland, by taking a step which might prove satisfactory to no party in I the country. His noble Friend (the I Earl of Aberdeen) had adverted to the thanks which his noble Friend said, he had offered his noble Friend at the time of his introduction of this bill; but his noble Friend seemed slightly to have misapprehended his meaning on that occasion: what he had thanked his noble Friend for was his undertaking the measure. He did not mean to thank him for the particular measure now on the table. These were thanks in which he could assure his noble Friend he was perfectly sincere, and if he could think that the measure on the table would conduce to the object his noble Friend had in view, 1235 would settle this question finally, he could assure his noble Friend that no feeling of false shame, no fear of the obloquy that might have been raised against him out of doors for accepting a measure from noble Lords opposite, no apprehension of taunts that the noble Lords opposite were conducting the Government while he was holding the emoluments, would have prevented him from accepting the measure, and lending his best aid to carry it into effect. But he had no such anticipations of it. His noble Friend said, that he had advice of the satisfaction with which this bill was viewed in Scotland, that he had letters every morning assuring him that there was a great approbation of his measure in that country; and the noble Earl (Dalhousie) had said, that a great number of persons who had voted otherwise in the General Assembly, had since expressed to him their concurrence in the principle of the measure. Now, his noble Friend had so much experience in public affairs, that it certainly was not for him to advise his noble Friend; but the noble Earl (Dalhousie) had not quite so much experience of political business as his noble Friend, and he therefore hoped that the noble Earl would give him leave to tell him that nothing was so little to be trusted as those private communications to noble Lords respecting measures in which they were known to take interest. He would answer for it, that of all those who, the noble Earl said, had voted against this principle in the General Assembly, and who had subsequently changed their minds, as appeared from their communications with the noble Earl, there was not one upon whom he could calculate as a supporter in any public expression of sentiment in favour of this bill. In short, it was impossible to rely on anything but an expression of a public opinion on the occasion, because men of this kind were always found to act with the generality of those who carried them away, and also (allow him to say) almost always with the most loud and violent. For his part, he did not believe that there was a general approbation of the measure in Scotland, and he believed that if the General Assembly did not like it before, they would not like it more after the speeches of his noble Friend and the noble Earl who had just sat down. In fact, he could not think that the bill was introduced in the most conciliatory spirit. He had only one more 1236 observation to make, and that was or what had fallen from his noble Friend when he said that this bill was the law of Scotland at present, and that it had been the law for at least 100 years. This period was rather long for Scotland, where the law admitted the principle of desuetude; but he could not help asking, if the provisions of this bill were satisfactory to the Church, why did not the Church do by its own authority what the bill proposed to do? It would surely be much more satisfactory to them to have the matter settled that way than by Parliament. No set of men liked to be compelled to do by others that which they could effect, if they pleased, by their own power and authority. But he would not go further into the subject than he had intended, and he should, therefore, only repeat to their Lordships his opinions of the inexpediency and imprudence of their pledging themselves to the measure by giving it a second reading, without any guarantee that it would answer the ends proposed, or effect the objects for which it was intended. He thought it prudent, not seeing his way before him, not to take any steps in the dark; but his noble Friend said, "what will you do?" Now, he was not prepared to say what he would do. He could tell what he would not do. He would not adopt the bill of his noble Friend. His noble Friend said, "you must do something." Now, there was no language in the world which he (Viscount Melbourne) was more afraid of than than that. There was no language more hazardous; it was the source of every error, and therefore it had never been his principle to say "I will do something" till he had determined what it was he should do. He could not view these religious differences and the vehemence with which they were urged, and the manner in which the law was appealed to on both sides, without some apprehensions, though not with the same apprehensions that were entertained by his noble Friend and by the noble Earl opposite, but he said that it was better to do nothing than pass a measure which might aggravate the present evils of the question, and which, as far as he saw, afforded no remedy for those evils. He agreed with both the noble Earls, that it was not right to anticipate that any law which their Lordships might pass would not be obeyed. He did not, therefore, argue against the bill on that ground; he did 1237 not say that the measure would not be obeyed; but he said that it would never have its due effect if the obedience rendered it were not the obedience of the heart and feelings, and if the whole measure were not satisfactory to the temper and mind of the people of Scotland; therefore, not feeling that the bill would have that effect, not feeling either that it would produce the effect which the noble Earl anticipated—not meaning to give a general opinion on the measure—not meaning altogether to say that a bill framed in that spirit might not be suited to the occasion, he must say he felt that their Lordships ought not to proceed at present with the measure, seeing that a measure exactly similar might be brought forward on any occasion, whenever time and further experience should show that such a bill would be likely to prove beneficial.
The Earl of Haddington
said, that the noble Viscount did not often address long speeches to their Lordships; but, on the contrary, generally contrived to occupy but a very short time with what he said, and to condense a very great deal of matter into a very small space. That evening, however, the noble Viscount had contrived to make a speech of about his usual length, but without saying anything whatever. The noble Viscount said, that their Lordships ought not to do anything until they could pass a bill which would be satisfactory to all parties. Now, he defied the ingenuity of man to frame such a bill as would satisfy both parties. If they were not to legislate for the purpose of establishing the peace of Scotland until they could pass a measure which would be satisfactory to all parties, the Church of Scotland would be allowed to totter to its fall without a hand being stretched out for its support. In his opinion, it was the duty of Government to have brought in a bill, and have left parties to obey it. He certainly had much rather that the law should be obeyed willingly, but it was better that the law should be settled by Parliament, and that all parties should be forced to comply with it, than that the present state of things should continue. The moment that the decision of that House was given in the Auchterarder case it was the duty of the Government to take up the question, and introduce some legislative measure on the subject. Instead of that, the Government went on hesitat- 1238 ing and negotiating, seeing how the cat jumped here, and in what direction the wind blew there, consulting expediency rather than relying on principle, and the result was that the different parties in the Church proceeded from bad to worse, and from one violent course to another. It often happened that letting a question alone effected good, but in the present case delay had increased the evil, and was increasing it still more every day. It was quite impossible but that a bill on the principle of the present must receive the sanction of the noble Viscount opposite, if he only considered the question, and if he had, with all the authority of the Government, introduced such a measure, he (Lord Haddington) could not help thinking that the Church of Scotland would have accepted the bill, that it would have met with the general approbation of the country, which would have escaped those evils which had of late occurred. But he repeated, the Government had hesitated on the subject; they wished to discover the effect of the question on Parliamentary elections, and he must confess, that as the Government was now situated, there was every temptation for them to attend to such matters. Parties in another place were running neck and neck, and one vote was of great importance; but he did think that in a case of such magnitude and serious character it was the duty of the Government of the country to come to a determination on the subject, not on account of party considerations, but from a conviction of what was just and right. The noble Viscount had not told the House whether or not he meant to support the law; and it certainly did not appear to be a proper position for the Prime Minister of the Crown to sit with his hands before him doing nothing. He (Lord Haddington) conceived, that if this bill did not answer all the purposes desired, it could not make matters worse. He, indeed, had no doubt that if the bill passed into law, it would be well received by the public, and by every rational man in the Church of Scotland. He should deeply deplore if any necessity arose for enforcing penal acts against the clergy of Scotland, and this was one of the motives which made him anxious to try the effect of an Act of Parliament. The noble Earl then adverted to the amendments to the bill suggested by Dr. Chalmers, and expressed a hope that the noble Mover of 1239 the measure would not consent to any such alterations, which, though apparently verbal, would really have the effect of altering its principle, and would establish a regular and irresponsible domination. On another occasion he might feel it his duty to make some observations on what was the most momentous part of the subject—the enormous pretensions to ecclesiastical power put forth by the majority of the General Assembly. The most painful example of the working of this spirit had been exhibited in the case of the seven ministers, and but for that, he believed that the non-intrusion question would have been settled without difficulty. It was impossible to reflect without pain on the return which had been made to the noble Proposer of this measure by those who had been in correspondence with him; but the time doubtless would arrive when they would acknowlege the debt of gratitude they owed to him. If the present bill should not pass into law, and the Government should not take measures to put an end to the present state of things, the men who were now so violent would lament, in the ruin of their Church, the day when they refused to accept the present moderate measure.
said, that considering that out of the judgment which he and his noble and learned Friend had pronounced, affirming the decision of the Court of Session, had mainly arisen many of these unfortunate circumstances, and as there was a probability, nay almost a certainty, that their Lordships would be applied to again to act in their judicial capacity, he feared that if he gave any opinion on the construction of Acts of Parliament and of clerical acts, he should be prejudging what he might soon be called upon to decide judicially. The unhappy state of excitement which prevailed in Scotland upon this subject it was hardly possible to exaggerate by any description; and if he reminded their Lordships of two delusions which prevailed on matters connected with the bill, and the decision of that House upon the general question, he should not only greatly strengthen the reason he had given for abstaining from entering into this debate, but do his endeavour at least, in part, to allay that irritation. Would it be believed that this bill was held up to the people of Scotland as an encroachment on the rights of the Church, and an attempt to diminish her 1240 power? One reason he had for voting against this bill was, that in his humble opinion, it went a great deal too far to increase the power of the Church; but that it tended to diminish that power, that it went further in that direction than declared what that power now was, no person who read it with the most ordinary degree of attention or calmness could entertain the slightest apprehension. The other delusion which had been practised in Scotland, and which it seemed still prevailed, was that the Court of Session, and their Lordships in affirming its judgment, had interfered with the spiritual functions of the clergy. He would leave that judgment to speak for itself; he would only remind their Lordships that there were two things asked of the court below, by the suitors in that case, the one to declare a certain right, and the other praying that that right might be enforced. A decision was given only on the first, the court below declaring the right. It did not go so far as to answer the second part of the prayer—to enforce the right in the way demanded. But if he referred to the second part, which was not decided either in the court below, or by their Lordships, and which went a great deal further in the direction of interference, if any step had been taken at all in that direction, which he denied, it would be found, as had been decided in another case, to go to this extent and no further—that the Presbytery should make trial of the qualifications of the party, and if they found him in their judgment, after trial and examination in common form, duly qualified, which was the ecclesiastical, the clerical, the spiritual part of the question—if they, judging upon the matter without compulsion, without any one dreaming of interfering with or compelling them to exercise these functions—if they in the free, unfettered, discretional, and if they would, arbitrary exercise of their ecclesiastical and spiritual functions, found him duly qualified, then they should receive and admit him according to law. It had been said, and he entirely rested his opinion against this bill on this ground, that we ought to see the laws already made obeyed before enacting new ones. To which it had been answered, that the parties would obey the new law, for they had never said they would disobey it. He could only say, he could see no difference between the new law they were now called upon to 1241 enact and the law already enacted, the 10th Anne, cap. 12, against which he feared certain parties had committed the act of disobedience. Whether that afforded any great encouragement to make new laws for the purpose of having them disobeyed, he would leave their Lordships to determine.
§ The Lord Chancellor
had heard it stated elsewhere that the Court of Session had assumed a spiritual judisdiction on this question. Nothing could be more unfounded; their Lordships were all aware of the course taken in the settlement of a minister in a parish. The patron had the power to present; and, according to the act of the General Assembly of 1834, a power was bestowed on the heads of families to dissent from the presentation. When a majority of the heads of families had expressed their objection to the presentee, the act of the Presbytery was at once to reject him. All that the Court of Session and their Lordships' House had done, was to declare that in so acting, the Presbytery had acted in violation of the law. Any one who looked at the interlocutor of the court below could have no ground for supposing that the civil court had assumed the jurisdiction or interfered with the duties of the spiritual court. It was the Ecclesiastical Court that had invaded the right of the patron, and not the civil court which had invaded the rights of the Church. The bill before the House gave the Church two great powers. It put it in the power of the Church to exclude the patron entirely from the civil court, and placed his right of patronage at the mercy of any one who had the right to object to his presentee.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
, in reply, said he was aware the bill gave large powers to the Church, yet notwithstanding this he had previously given it as his opinion, that the Church had the power to enact a law of its own similar to the present bill for the purpose of preventing intrusion. He admitted, that the powers recognized by the bill were large, but denied, that it would give to the spiritual courts a positive or absolute veto, because it compelled them to assign reasons for their judgment. This he thought was a sufficient guard' against any abuse of the power that was allowed to remain with them.
§ Their Lordships divided on the original question:—Contents 74; Not-contents 27: Majority 47.1243
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|De la Warr||Carbery|
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
|Duke of Beaufort||Earl of Albemarle|
|Duke of Rutland||Earl of Effingham|
|Duke of Buccleuch||Lord Strafford|
|Duke of Argyll||Lord Berners|
|Marquess of Hertford||Earl of Carlisle|
|Marquess of Thomond||Earl of Cork|
|Marquess of Exeter||Marquess of Sligo|
|Marquess of Cholmondely||Duke of Leeds|
|Marquess of Ailesbury||Lord Bateman|
|Earl of Winchilsea||Earl of Charlemont|
|Earl of Jersey||Earl Craven|
|Earl of Galloway||Lord Lyndhurst|
|Earl of Airlie||Earl of Radnor|
|Earl of Aylesford||Lord Arundell|
|Earl of Warwick||Viscount Lismore|
|Earl Digby||Lord Western|
|Earl of Carnarvon||Earl of Suffolk|
|Earl of Liverpool||Lord Stanley of Alderley|
|Earl of Mountcashell||Lord Lovat|
|Earl of Longford||Marquess of Anglesey|
|Earl of Enniskillen||Lord Mostyn|
|Earl of Clare||Lord Talbot of Malahide|
|Earl of Bandon||Marquess of Headfort|
|Earl of Rosslyn||Lord Kinnaird|
|Earl of Bradford||Earl of Oxford|
|Earl of Glengall||Earl of Leitrim|
|Earl De Grey||Lord Poltimore|
|Earl of Dunraven||Lord Wrottesley|
|Viscount Hereford||Lord Sherborne|
|Viscount Sydney||Lord Seaford|
|Viscount Hood||Lord Leigh|
|Viscount Doneraile||Lord Carew|
|Viscount Canterbury||Lord Barham|
|Lord Southampton||Viscount Torrington|
|Lord Dunsany||Lord Cloncurry|
|Lord Farnham||Earl of Meath|
|Lord Clonbrock||Earl of Morley|
|Lord Churchill||Earl of Yarborough|
|Lord Prudhoe||Lord Montford|
|Lord Forester||Earl of Sefton|
|Lord Wharncliffe||Earl of Erroll|
|Lord Fevetsham.||Lord Stuart De Decies|
|Lord De L'Isle||Earl of Gosford|
Bill read a second time.