The Duke of Argyle
wished to state to their Lordships that if no other Peer undertook the task, he should feel it to be his duty to introduce a bill upon the subject of patronage in the Church of Scotland.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
observed, that the bill which he had brought forward in the last Session of Parliament upon the subject of Church patronage, had had the advantage of the support of the noble Duke. He took it for granted, therefore, that the measure which the noble Duke now proposed to introduce could not be very materially different from that which their Lordships had already considered. To any proposition coming from the noble Duke, he (the Earl of Aberdeen) should be disposed to pay the utmost attention. At the same time, he could not help saying, that he thought the noble Duke would find the task he proposed to undertake somewhat more difficult than he was at present aware of. He (the Earl of Aberdeen) knew it had been said, and by some of the leaders of the General Assembly, that there were ambiguities in the measure which he (the Earl of Aberdeen) had introduced, which, of course, might be removed by any subsequent measure brought forward by the noble Duke. If the noble Duke thought lit to introduce a bill for that purpose, it should receive his (the Earl of Aberdeen's) most respectful attention. With respect to the anti-patronage desire, on the part of the dominant party in the Church of Scotland, he could only say, that he most cordially wished, that the noble Duke might be right, and he wrong upon that point. He was, last year, of the same opinion as the noble Duke. At that time, he believed, that the dominant party did not wish for the abolition of patronage; and he expressed that conviction over and over again, in their Lordships' House, fully believing the declarations, that were made to him upon the subject. But when he 1338 now saw synod after synod, and presbytery after presbytery, all adopting by large majorities petitions praying for the total abolition of patronage, whilst in the last Session of Parliament, the very same parties contented themselves by limiting their prayer to the point of non-intrusion, he could not but think, that a complete change had taken place in the views of the dominant party in the Church, and that their desire now was for the abolition of patronage alone. There was not a petition presented to the House in the course of the present Session, that did not pray for the total abolition of patronage. When the noble Duke mentioned, that he had been in communication with a deputation of the committee of the General Assembly, by whom he was informed, that the desire of the dominant party did not extend to the total abolition of patronage, he asked him who those deputies were, and the noble Duke mentioned the names of two gentlemen who particularly described themselves as not entertaining a desire for the abolition of patronage. Now, in August last, a great public meeting for the abolition of patronage took place. At that meeting violent resolutions were adopted. The meeting pledged themselves solemnly, before the face of God and man, to use their utmost endeavours to procure the abolition of patronage, and an association was formed, whose exertions were to be confined to that object alone, all secular objects, as they called them, being laid entirely aside. Upon the committee appointed to carry those resolutions into effect, and to form other similar associations throughout Scotland, he found the name of one of the two gentlemen mentioned to him by the noble Duke. Again, he found, that so late as the last week of November, 1840, the presbytery of Edinburgh met, and a motion was made by a very influential person, in a very violent speech, for the abolition of patronage:—The question of patronage,(said this speaker), was now thrown loose from the difficulties which were formerly said to attach to it. Formerly anti-patronage men were met with a cry, that they were making a change— that it was impossible to get a suitable settlement, and a great many weak pretences; but all these were now out of place—they were now in a situation in which they would no longer tolerate patronage; but were compelled to go to Parliament and demand its abolition.Now, both the rev. gentlemen mentioned by the noble Duke were present at that 1339 meeting, and voted for the motion. How, after that, they could assure the noble Duke, that they did not desire the abolition of patronage, he was at a loss to conceive. From the circumstances to which he had alluded, coupled with many others, he had been led to draw the inference, that the non-intrusion feeling had given way to an anti-patronage feeling in the minds of the dominant party in the Church of Scotland. He sincerely hoped, that they might be ashamed of the course they had taken, and that the noble Duke might be right in his estimate of what their wishes really were. If so, no one would be more happy than he to assist the noble Duke in legislating upon the subject.
The Duke of Argyle
thought it very extraordinary that he should have received such strong assurances from the gentlemen to whom he had referred within the last ten days. If the dominant party in the church should continue to press their views upon the subject of non-intrusion without aiming at all at the abolition of patronage, he should certainly feel it to be his duty to bring forward a measure in the course of the Session.