HL Deb 25 March 1901 vol 91 cc1068-72

asked the Under Secretary of State for India how many churches had been built for Scottish Presbyterian soldiers, and at what cost, since the Highland soldiers on their return from Dargai were refused admittance to the garrison church; and whether the Quartermaster General would not be the fittest person to decide as to the use of garrison or cantonment churches. Several questions had been asked on this subject in the House of Commons, and the questioners had always been referred to the Blue-book now on the Table; but that Blue-book did not shed any light whatever upon the reason why a change was made, and why the disposition of the churches was taken away from the military authorities. There were two grievances in this matter —the grievance of the Scottish Presbyterian soldiers, and the grievance of the taxpayers of India. The first that was heard of this by the public was after the battle of Dargai. The Highland regiment, after they had returned from the engagement to the cantonment, were refused admittance to the garrison church. The colonel was told that he might hold the service in the open air, but this he refused to do, saying-he would not expose the soldier's to the risk of sunstroke. Two alternatives were submitted to him. He was offered a dirty barrack room, and, of all places in the world, a disused play house or theatre, in which no Scottish Presbyterian would think of worshipping.

There was great speculation as to who had proposed this alteration, and some accused the Viceroy, merely on the ground that his father was a clergyman. But the Viceroy arrived in India subsequent to this incident, so could not be held responsible. Moreover, anyone who knew Lord Curzon would not suppose for one moment that he was a man who would inaugurate such a change. It was next suggested that the alteration was made by Dr. Welldon, the Bishop of Calcutta, though the Presbyterians said that on account of his tolerance they ware not afraid of him, but of his successor. But Dr. Welldon was not always of the same mind, as might be seen from some of his public utterances. For instance, he had invited the prayers of non-Christians for Her late Majesty on the occasion of her eightieth birthday; this had raised the Bishop of Colombo against him. Lately he preached in his cathedral on missionaries in a sense which would satisfy the requirements expressed recently by the noble Marquess at the head of the Government, though he said nothing less than what a Christian bishop was bound to say; the week after he preached a sermon in support of vivisection. This was most injudicious, as both Hindoos and Mussulmans are strongly against it, besides it being against biblical teaching. Later on he committed himself still further by calling upon the Government of India to have the Bible taught in Hindoo and Mussulman schools. Against this the Bishop of Bombay protested, and said it would be the best way to empty the schools and to break faith with the Hindoos and Mussulmans. It was rumoured that Dr. Welldon was to be translated to the see of London. Since that see had been filled it was still stated that he was coming to London. He (Lord Stanley) thought he ought to be translated from Calcutta, because he was mischievous, but not to any other important see, where he might be equally mischievous.

With regard to the Scottish Presbyterian soldiers, this question had been wrongly treated as a religious question in the Blue-book. It ought to have been treated as a national political question. The Church of Scotland was equal in importance to the Church of England in the matter of the treatment it deserved. Her late Majesty the Queen used always to attend the Presbyterian Church when in Scotland. It was one of the first principles of the law of nations that countries had equal rights, irrespective of their size, and as the Church of Scotland was the Church of a separate nation it should be treated with full respect. The action of the authorities in disregarding the rights of that Church constituted a slur upon it; and the exhibition of bigotry that had been displayed was to be greatly regretted. It was bigotry such as this with regard to the keys of the shrines in the Holy Land which led to the Crimean War. The Bishop of Lahore had made a proposal that when churches were consecrated only the chancel should be consecrated, and that the nave should be left open to Scottish Presbyterian soldiers. He thought this a very good proposal. Coming to the other grievance—to the taxpayers of India—he contended that it was not right, more especially in the year of famine, that they should be put to great expense in finding more churches for an alien religion when the buildings used by members of the Church of England would suffice. He hoped it was not too late for the Indian Government to take steps to put an end to this state of things. It had a very bad effect on the Hindoos and Mussulmans to see Scottish soldiers out casted in this way, and to see that Christians were so divided that they could not even worship in the same church.


The noble Lord has travelled over a somewhat extended area in the course of his remarks, and I shall find it difficult to follow him and to give him information on all the points on which he desires enlightenment. In the first place, I think the noble Lord is under some misapprehension when he says that the question of worship in English churches in India was taken away from the military authorities. Consecrated churches in India, as the Blue-book will show, have always been under the control of the Anglican Church. The question was put to the law officers of the Crown, and they reported that the consecration of Anglican churches involved an undertaking that they would be appropriated to the Church of England, and the Government of India cannot properly require that they should be used by other bodies without the consent of the authorities representing the Church of England. The noble Lord referred to Bishop Well-don, and, though he praised some of his public statements, I understood him to condemn others. None of the matters to which the noble Lord referred in connection with Dr. Welldon's remarks, so far as I can understand, had any reference whatever to the question on the Paper; but, as a matter of fact, Dr. Welldon has stated his opinion on this subject very clearly. In a circular he addressed to the clergy of India in May, 1899, after Lord Curzon had brought in new regulations with regard to the worship of Scotch Presbyterians in Anglican churches, he said that he could not but believe that with reasonable consideration on both sides the difficulty which had arisen with reference to the churches might almost, if not entirely, disappear. He added that where there were no Nonconformist buildings, or none that were sufficiently large or suitable, it could only be a privilege to admit Nonconformists at convenient hours to the use of churches belonging to the Church of England.

The noble Lord asked me how many churches have been built for Scotch Presbyterian soldiers, and at what cost, since the Highland soldiers on their return from Dargai were refused admittance to the Garrison church. The India Office has no information of any kind as to the refusal to admit these soldiers to the Garrison church. I do not know where the noble Lord has obtained his information. There is no reference to it in the Blue-book in any correspondence that has passed between the Government of India and the Secretary of State during the past two years. As I am not able to say when this incident occurred, I cannot tell the noble Lord how many churches have been built since the incident. But I can tell him that separate churches for Presbyterian worship have already been erected, partly or wholly at the expense of the Government, at Calcutta, Madras, Bangalore Secunderabad, Bombay, Karachi, Poona, Allahabad, and Dalhousie. The noble Lord referred to a proposal that had been made by the late Bishop of Lahore to consecrate the chancel of newly-erected churches, and leave the body of the church open for Presbyterian worship. The Bishop of Lahore made that proposal at the time when the regulations of 1898 were in force. Lord Curzon introduced new regulations in 1899, and I believe the present Bishop of Lahore is perfectly satisfied with the existing arrangements. The Government has decided, wherever the Presbyterian community is sufficiently large, to erect churches for their use which will not be consecrated The places at which these churches will be erected are Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Cherat, Bareilly, Chakrata, and Peshawar.

The noble Lord next asked me whether the Quartermaster General would not be the fittest person to decide as to the use of garrison or cantonment churches. That is obviously a proposal which it is impossible to consider for a moment, because consecrated churches are by law under the authority of the Bishop. I understood the noble Lord to suggest that they were formerly under the control of the Quartermaster General. I do not think this was the case; and for the very short time in 1898 that the Commander-in-Chief had a certain control, the management gave such offence that it was speedily altered by Lord Curzon. The whole of this difficulty arisesfrom the fact that what the Anglican Church is willing to grant as a grace, the Presbyterians claim as a right. But I believe that the modus vivendi which has been arrived at is working smoothly, and since the new regulations of 1899 there has only been one small instance of any difficulty arising in the working of these regulations.